dirty martini

old music for new people

less is more: real divas don’t oversing October 15, 2007

breaking-glass.jpg 

the principal objection to r&b, from those who remain unenamoured, is usually the tendency for certain singers to attempt to fit ten notes into a space where one will suffice.

its often viewed as showing off and the results are often hysterical, and i don’t mean funny. whilst a good range and the ability to scale is impressive, it can detract from the meaning of the lyrics. how many times have you sat there and cringed whilst a singer trills their way through an entire album?

vocal gymnastics aren’t big and they’re not clever.  plus – they’re just so 90s,

top 10 offenders/songs

1. christina aguilera – singing anything. i hate her voice. oh look its a little girl with a big voice. lets see what she can make it do…

2. mariah carey – singing ballads. i actually think the whitney criticisms are off – she controls her voice too well to make this list. on occasion, mariah’s lunacy shines through her vocals. bless her.

3. kelly price – on ‘friend of mine’, she actually sounded the death knell for the melisma that had built into a crescendo up until that point in the 90s. too much.

4. beyonce – especially the dangerously in love ballads and most of destiny fulfilled. she was constantly trying to outsing kelly and michelle. and seems to have gone nuts since letoya crashed onto the scene and jennifer stole her thunder.

5. mary j.blige – now i love mary, and god knows if anyone should be histrionic, she’s had a hard time of it. but i like her better when she reins it in.

download here

aaliyah – the thing i like

too cool to coo. i heard that aaliyah’s laidback style was due to her undivalike tendency to allow the backing track to play centre stage and let her vocals wash over them. so effective.

alicia keys – a woman’s worth

content with showing her all round musical ability with her vocals only one of the instruments at her disposal. which is the mark of a real musician. she remains classier than her contemporaries and will far outlast them.

amerie – crush

maybe the reason amerie isn’t as successful in the US is her apparent refusal to screech and holler. i think she has a nice tone to her voice and knows she doesn’t need to dress it up that much.

angie stone – wish i didn’t miss you

it would be easy for a curvy lady like angie to overcompensate with her impressive range. oh and this is one of the best uses of a classic sample, ever.

beverley knight – queen of starting over

sounding more like aretha as time passes, and one of the only r&b singers who is actually good enough to oversing if the mood requires. i just wish she didn’t feel the need to MOR all her work.

sarah anne webb (d’influence) – there can be

criminally overlooked singer sarah anne webb has since left the group to be replaced by a host of others. and it doesn’t sound like d’influence anymore.

deborah cox – sentimental

ok, now that she’s a gay icon, some of deborah’s vocals are sailing close to the edge. but when she arrived in 1995, she was the queen of understated cool with this 2 step classic.

leona lewis – what you do to me

leona could so easily have alienated last year’s x factor viewers by oversinging but she managed to rein in her musical upbringing and used her range appropriately, rather than unnecessarily.

n’dea davenport (brand new heavies) spend some time

acid jazz was never about excessive vocal gymnastics anyway, but n’dea is a prime example of a powerful voice not trying too hard.

sade – the sweetest taboo

sade just doesn’t look like someone about to holler and whoop. and i can’t think of a single occasion in her lengthy career when she would have needed to stoop to that level.

shola ama – you’re the one i love

honey voiced shola has always been the uk’s understated export and it may have cost her in some ways. which is a sad indictment of the industry.

teedra moses – be my girl

ok so, i have criticised the smokescreen surrounding teedra’s real age lately and been scolded. what i will say is that she’s grown enough to realise that runs are for kids.

 

the truth about boy bands August 19, 2007

06-02-09_tokio-hotel-fans1.jpg

firstly, i am not a fan of boybands.

but tonight itv1 ran a show about them and i was surprised at how many songs i liked.

and no, i couldn’t bring myself to include northern line, topical or not since ziggy is in the big brother house. i don’t like liars and there is no way on god’s earth that man is only 26. i also haven’t included 911 cos they were too short and i can’t remember even one of their songs. 

i’ve also looked back to put together posts on the original 70s boybands and 80s hair flickers.

lastly, there are no irish boybands of any description as i absolutely cannot stand them.  i don’t like irish pubs either. my idea of hell? basement of an o’neills. low ceiling, limited spirit and cocktail menu and irish bloody dancers kicking me in the shins.

the best of the worstdownload here

bros – i owe you nothing

bros have gained immortality via a classic episode of only fools and horses that saw rodney win a spanish holiday courtesy of a drawing of the arc de triomphe he did at school. whilst pretending to be 14 throughout the holiday in order to keep his prize, he is stalked by a 13 year old bros fan called trudy. and thus, if matt and luke’s music hasn’t stood the test of time, they have cemented their place in history. smash hits, amusingly, used to call the other one ‘ken’ when his name was actually craig.

brother beyond – the harder i try

the only member of this band remotely in the public eye these days is nathan moore. nathan manages desperate lisa scott-lee and her long suffering brother andy. mtv’s totally scott-lee show hilariously saw the agent more in demand than his tragic and talentless client. poor old andy was also in a boy band, 3sl, with his brothers. he’s one of those people you want to do well, but you know never will.

nkotb – the right stuff

the only boy band i ever really loved, jordan in particular, rats tail and all. sadly, some cringeworthy interviews and an incident in which they turned up to going live completely pissed one saturday morning, accelerated their decline. i was 17 by then and was nursing a hangover myself. i had to stop myself hotfooting it to the hard rock cafe a few years back when i heard jordan was going to be there. he seems to have grown up now and so i have i (sort of) but at the time, he was a sorry indication of my taste in men.

take that – pray

when this song was no1, i had to pretend that i hated it as i was in sixth form college and liking take that would be about as bad as admitting you liked noel’s house party. i’d actually met them in a club just before they were famous, and it took me until ‘could it be magic’ to cotton on that it was the same band, as they hadn’t been wearing the leather perv suits on totp. my mum was furious when i told her this recently – not because i had sneaked into a club on a school night but that i had met mark owen and she still hasn’t.

east 17 – deep

again, east 17 did the rounds just before their first hit, and i saw them at a radio one roadshow (remember those??) and thought ‘god, they’re shit.’ and they were, at the time. deep is a great song though – ‘…outside it’s raining, inside it’s wet…’ – and their later reincarnation as essex soul boys was pretty impressive. brian looks like the template from which all chavs were created, but he has a great voice. in recent years he has become something of a comedy figure, like bez of the happy mondays – somehow he nearly ran himself over a year or so ago.

eyc – the way you work it

eyc had this hit and er, maybe a couple of others. they were like color me badd on speed. incidentally, color me badd didn’t make this list as i have posted ‘i wanna sex you up’ before and quite frankly, there’s nothing else going on there.  in fact i’m increasingly convinced that color me badd and eyc are the same group so unless forensic evidence to the contrary is produced, i’ll treat them as such.

mn8 – if you only let me in

it was a toss up between this lot and damage. i just think damage were more of an r&b band. they did a decent cover of earth wind and fire’s ‘after the love has gone’ and i’m not ashamed to have ‘ghetto romance’ on my mp3 player. mn8 had silly hair and were clearly targeted at those not old enough to know better. i wonder where they are now? yahoo answers says ‘probably working in tesco’ and i think that person is probably right.

backstreet boys – as long as you love me

i resisted this song for a good few years but, what can i say, i like it. despite not being very likeable people, with the possible exception of brian, they seem to have a hardcore fanbase of the same intensity of take that. but they are squarely responsible for boosting the career of little brother from hell aaron carter, and for that i can’t quite forgive them. uk people – doesn’t brian look like ashley from corrie?

5ive – when the lights go out

5ive, for a time, were huge. this is not entirely evident as J sits in a shopping mall in milton keynes alongside dane bowers and lisa scott-lee, waiting for people to turn up and pay £10 for an autograph. abs has also tried and failed at a solo career. i can’t remember any of the others. when will these groups get the message that the sum of the parts is not always equal to the collective value? tsk.

n*sync – girlfriend

this was when justin trousersnake as we know him really came into his own. the first (and last) n*sync song that i took any notice of, and i am reliably informed that i should leave it there. as if the curly frightwig and dull relationship with britney hadn’t put me off already. i did hear an effort by jc chasez post-split though. yikes.

another level – i want you for myself

another level were dane bowers (fat rent a gob who milked a one-time collaboration with victoria beckham), bobak…something, the one who looked like andy abraham off the x factor and the one who looked like jamie redknapp. as if this in itself wasn’t enough to warrant chart success, they actually made some decent music. had a bit of a step-up thanks to early collaborations with jay-z and shola ama, and a sassy cover of silk’s ‘freak me’.

blue – if you come back

i did like blue i can’t deny it. like another level before them, they took a big r&b tune (too close by next) and didn’t butcher it, rather stayed true to the original but made it more accessible. something about them just worked and i can’t understand why they split so soon. you want to dislike duncan james but you can’t. lee ryan is the village idiot and therefore always good value. simon webbe just seems like a nice bloke, and anthony costa is…dane bowers post slimfast!

 

everybody loves the old skool August 16, 2007

old-skool.jpg

this whole nostalgia thing is taking over. reminiscing used to be the preserve of old people, and at school, our biggest exposure to anything outside the early 90s was when we used to have to visit old people’s homes on what was known as ‘biddy patrol’.

in these, cough, fragrant environments, we just sat and listened to endless tales of ‘it was better in my day’ – a sentiment i’m starting to empathise with. we would smirk when they asked us if we were ‘courting anyone’ as we walked them round the garden. they then proceeded to tell us about the kind of music they listened to during the war, which most of us had never heard of. because it was fifty years ago.

a lot of people are scathing about the whole retro thing, especially the ‘i love…’ series. for most people, retro is several generations ago, not the 90s, a decade many people are still dressing in. i remember at the time of this series’ first run in 2001, the face magazine ran a pisstake article called ‘i love last week’. despite the fact that i loved the series, i found this right on the money. at the time i was 25 – should i be pining for my childhood already and oohing and aahing over such er, long lost groups such as take that and nkotb? nkotb haven’t even reunited yet, six years on! (although i am so anticipating that one).

we have long been encouraged to look backwards, its not an entirely new phenomenon. before the 00s, where the new, old and just-happened appear to share an equal platform in the nation’s consciousness, the first song i can remember that celebrated the old school was kylie’s ‘step back in time’ an ode to the disco era. there seems a unspoken agreement that old equals better – i think its just personal taste. i won’t listen to queen because they’re retro, anymore than i would listen to coldplay now.

my teenage cousins are more likely to listen to music made around the time they were born than i was at their age. this give us some common ground, but i do think its a shame if they can’t find anything new to relate to. we recently had a 15 year old work experience girl who listened exclusively to jungle, which was only really produced between 1993 and 1995. she was born in 1991. there is absolutely no chance that she could experience the culture behind the music. when i was 15 it was all about the new for me.

twelve artists who dig the cratesdownload here

aaliyah – old school

nostalgia’s an odd sentiment for a 15 year old but still, this is a nice mid 90s midtempo swing track from aaliyah’s first, r.kelly produced album.

amerie – reminisce witcha

from amerie’s new album ‘because i love it’ this track sees amerie nostalgic for a past relationship. there’s something very likeable about amerie and her voice sounds unique against the current crop of babyvoiced divas.

chante moore – old school lovin’

chante moore was a model-turned-singer and this is from her 1992 album ‘let’s stay together’. she had an early 90s supermodel look about her – lots of lipliner, pencil thin eyebrows and shiny, rollered hair.

estelle – 1980

this is an enjoyable romp through uk rapper estelle’s childhood, citing fresh prince, connect 4 and jheri curls as influences.

jill scott – family reunion

hazy happy barbecue days with the family. in a land where summer lasts longer than four days…

lauryn hill – every ghetto, every city

with more than a dash of inspiration from sir stevie, lauryn reminisces on an 80s childhood. its such a shame she couldn’t get it together to follow up ‘miseducation’. 

missy elliott and jay-z – back in the day

a look back to the 80s hiphop era – who knew british knights trainers actually orginated in the us? of course, missy was a huge five star fan, as well. hands up who wore their trainers with the tongues pushed up.

o’jays – family reunion

classic soul from one of the greatest groups of the 70s. used in the film ‘poetic justice’ for a barbecue scene, perhaps inspiring jill scott’s version.

shola ama – granny’s yard

cool. a very british excursion into shola’s 80s/90s upbringing. any song that namechecks soda stream, charlie brown and choice fm is ok with me.

stevie wonder – i wish

i watched a documentary about stevie wonder’s childhood and loved the fact that he didn’t his blindness affect his little boy instinct to leap off walls and sheds. ouch.

uness – old skool joint

newcomer uness pays homage to his girl and the old skool in one easy step. i’m loving uness.

will wheaton – old school soul

appreciation for the old school in the old school style. no its not that will wheaton…: )

 

00s brit soul – national identity June 3, 2007

finally, after the copycat 80s and highs and lows of the 90s, british soul was ready to take on its own identity.

one of the first ways in which it achieved this was by redefining soul. house and garage were big business in the 90s, but the urban clubs and superclubs rarely mixed. typically, r&b was a smaller room adjacent to the the cheesier, townie clubs and didn’t even get a look in at cream, renaissance and the ministry of sound.

 

the speed garage scene that took off in the late 90s eventually slowed to a two step beat, and created a completely new sound. r&b vocals were married to stuttering, club-friendly beats and for a few years, between 1999 and 2002, uk garage was the sound of young UK.

 

after the inevitable drop in demand, uk hiphop and r&b were faced with a decision. either they could continue to emulate their US counterparts or they could use elements of uk garage to make their output distinctly british.

now we have traditional soul, copycat r&b, grime and some artists that defy classification and confuse the hell out of the yanks. we’re back in business…

 

twelve very different uk tracks from the 00sdownload here


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

lemar – if there’s any justice

the only good thing to come out of the dull fame academy, simon cowell surely wishes he’d been able to get to lemar first. lemar, like girls aloud, has truly transcended his reality show beginnings and is pretty much the best current british male r&b act.

 

 

misteeq – why

south london girl band who leveraged links with the so solid crew to create a successful career in the early 00s. swiftly shook off their uk garage roots by the time they reached their second album in 2002. the group split largely due to their label, polydor, sinking after investing way too much in tone deaf victoria beckham. that’s got to hurt.
 

unklejam – love ya

relative newcomers who have been blessed/cursed with the ‘sounds a bit like prince‘ tag. time will tell if there is more to them than this track, but the odds are in their favour with the hype reaching all corners of the globe right now. another myspace success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sadie ama – so sure

shola’s little sister had a valuable induction into the industry at an early age, and she’s making some good choices production-wise, collaborating with the likes of kano and terror danjah amongst others. looks and sounds exactly the same – with shola expected to relaunch anytime soon, could be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

conner reeves – oughtabelaw

irish soul boy who first came to prominence in the late 90s. this track from last year deserved way more attention. possibly one of the breed of artists that has suffered greatly from the download revolution as his image doesn’t quite fit his music. i always think people navigate this poor fit by just grabbing the audio.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

emmanuel and terri walker – flirtin’

always tipped to break through. hopefully it will happen for her before she is talked into a beverley knight-style commercial compromise. this track is from emmanuel‘s 2006 project that featured numerous british soul artists on his productions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

keisha white – open like so

came through around the same time as keyshia cole, and is far more talented, but received about 5% of the promotion. so, keyshia collaborates with p diddy and is set to release her second album whilst keisha‘s future is unknown. harsh. a good example of why leona lewis has been whisked off to the us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nate james – universal

actually received some promotion around his debut in 2005, and it did ok. i’m going to be lazy and say he’s a hybrid of stevie wonder and lenny kravitz and worthy of your attention. hopefully an association with next big thing, sway, will catapult him back into the limelight.

 

 

 

 

 

craig david – seven days with mos def

back in 2000, referring yourself in the third person was even more ridiculous than it is now. the ensuing bo selecta parody may outlive his music in the nation’s consciousness if he doesn’t pull his finger out soon. craig, unfazed, still refers to himself in the third person when appearing on mtv cribs showing us how all his cash has enabled him to construct a state of the art pulling den. no women in sight though, and you can’t swing a jocasi bag round london without hitting someone he’s tried it on with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ms dynamite – fall in love again

made a good contract choice and got the promotion other uk artists would kill for. this resulted in numerous awards for her debut album which, although nice enough, sounds dated only five years later. this track, from her largely ignored second album, will hopefully age a bit better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spl2rge – scuse me

like unklejam, appear to be on the verge of big things, promotion notwithstanding. i never hold my breath on these things anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

taio cruz – i just wanna know

mario soundalike who can’t be accused of trying to create a british identity. which is fair enough. we don’t want to end up like the irish, who have to be irish all the time.

 

 

90s brit soul – quality over quantity April 30, 2007

at the turn of the decade, it looked as if uk soul had found an identity. for the most part, artists eschewed the trappings of new jack swing, with its distinctly american, over-produced sound, for a truly local style.


soul ii soul spearheaded this movement, that whilst fiercely british, paid homage to the daisy age, summer of love principles of artists such as de la soul. some stayed true to their soul roots, some moved into dancier territory and others built the foundations of new genres – acid jazz and jungle/drum and bass.


it was looking positive. but as r&b moved into the mainstream in the mid 90s, uk artists gazed enviously at their us counterparts and tried to emulate their success. usually this resulted in a diluted experience that wasn’t street enough for the clubs, yet still too urban for the dinner party set.


these are the ones that survived despite the odds.


ten 90s brit soul survivorsdownload here

shola ama – you’re the one i love – 1996
shola
signed a deal on her 16th birthday that would lead her to become the UK’s most successful r&b female singer in the late 90s. in good rags-to-riches tradition, she was discovered singing at a tube station and released her first single ‘celebrate’ on an independent label in 1995. amusingly, her wikipedia entry declares an addiction to pork pies as a reason for her downfall. when ‘pork pies’ became a euphemism for ‘cocaine’, i’m not sure…





kele le roc – my love – 1999


kele has perhaps become more well known for guest appearances with artists such as basement jaxx than for her solo career. her debut arrived at a time when every r&b single was subjected to the 2-step remix treatment and the uk garage mix of ‘my love’ is one of the best known examples of the genre and certainly eclipsed this underappreciated ignorants‘ r&b mix at the time.


caron wheeler – i adore you – 1992

a stalwart of the uk black music scene since her days in teenage lovers rock band brown sugar in the mid 70s. in the late 80s caron hooked up with legendary dj jazzie b and the rest is history. her role in soul ii soul laid the foundations for a renewed solo career and her album ‘uk blak‘ was released in 1990 to critical acclaim. ‘i adore you’ is her best known solo track, from the 1992 soundtrack ‘mo’ money‘.


elisha la verne – i may be single – 1996

elisha seemed destined for bigger things when she arrived in 1996. like many other artists, she has found enduring success in japan. i can remember a pa she did at my local club in 1996 that was met with cool indifference by the predominantly house-loving crowd. if she’d arrived a few years later things could have been quite different.


tongue ‘n’ cheek – nobody – 1990

tongue’n’cheek’s initial outings, covers of cheryl lynn and patrice rushen disco-era classics, were met enthusiastically after the foundations for brit soul were laid by soul ii soul. this track, remixed from an 1988 original, had a new jack swing feel to it and was far more interesting. tongue’n’cheek suffered somewhat from being difficult to pigeonhole as either a soul or dance music act.


kenny thomas – thinking about your love – 1991

cheeky chappy kenny thomas charmed his way in to the british record buying public’s hearts with a cover of the gap band’s ‘outstanding’, together with winsome video in which he strolled through an east end market. this track was another cover, but not many people realised at the time. he also covered the force md’s ‘tender love’ as if it was his own soon after, capitalising on the fact that mainstream britain knew fuck all about soul music until quite recently. fair play to him.


celetia – missing your love – 1995

with aaliyah, monica and brandy on the scene, it was decided that the UK needed its own underage r&b starlet. enter brixon girl celetia martin, sort of. her debut album failed to ignite, with the then 14 year old slammed for her raunchy lyrics. sometimes i wonder what these critics were doing when they were 14 – knitting? it wasn’t really that shocking… her second album ‘runaway skies’ saw her adopt a more unique and organic persona and was infinitely more successful. she now lives in LA and is working with big name producers such as soulshock and carlin. impressive.


lynden david hall – do i qualify – 1998

could have been one of the biggest artists in the uk if his life wasn’t cut short last year due to hodgkin’s lymphoma. first album ‘medicine 4 my pain’ was a huge success in 1998, and was the first uk artist voted as best male by blues and soul readers. he went on to star in ‘love actually’ as a wedding singer.








don-e – love makes the world go round – 1992

don-e arrived in 1992 with this sunny track, from his debut ‘unbreakable’. although his career stalled after this brief success, he resurfaces occasionally, and joined forces with deni hines to cover new edition’s ‘delicious’ to great effect in 1995.

beverley knight – flavour of the old school – 1994

the most consistently successful artist on this list and owner of an amazing voice. beverley started out in 1994 with ‘b-funk’, and i prefer this early material to her later more poppy/mainstream offerings as I get a bit annoyed when uk r&b artists feel the need to start including guitars in their work to get any kind of recognition…