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From The Vault: Nelly & Christina Aguilera – ‘Tilt Ya Head Back’

This week, From The Vault salutes two of the most notable artists of the 00’s.

Today’s pick comes courtesy of Nelly and Pop princess Christina Aguilera and their collaboration ‘Tilt Ya Head Back.’

Issued as the second single from Nelly’s ‘Sweat’ LP in 04, the track was developed as a duet with Britney Spears which never materialized because of her management.

It was then shopped to Janet Jackson and eventually Xtina – who would end up the Hip-Pop star’s female counterpart on the single.

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The horn-heavy number was produced by Dorian Moore and Tegemold Newton and samples Curtis Mayfield‘s ‘Superfly’.

Only reaching the 58th position of the Hot 100 (after being overshadowed by Nelly’s own  ‘My Place’), rumor has it promotion for the track was cooled because of Aguilera seemingly outshining Nelly on his own song.

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Little X directed the 1940’s inspired video which depicted Nelly as a dapper gangster who falls for a Marilyn Monroe esque Aguilera. The visual, together with the pair’s MTV VMA’s performance, led the press to believe that the pair were an item.

[Sidenote: It’s safe to say this was the very first musical and visual indicator of Aguilera’s next move, which turned out to be the ‘Back To Basics’ era.]

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Today, both names remain relevant in their own right – a testament to their respective staying power.

Musically, though…

We are salivating for new Christina material in a special kind of way.

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From The Vault: Terror Squad – ‘Lean Back (ft. Remy Ma & Fat Joe)’

While the world impatiently waits for Nicki Minaj to strike back at Remy Ma for the back-to-back blows, From The Vault journeys back you to the year 2004 for yet another Urban classic.

Today’s pick is ‘Lean Back’ by a Fat Joe and Remy fronted Terror Squad.

Helmed by 00’s producer-extraordinaire Scott Storch, the track is the definition of club banger and sees Joe and Rem trading verses while commanding the listener to pull up their pants and… lean back.

A Billboard smash, it topped the Hot 100 tally for 3 consecutive weeks during Summer 04 and placed #10 on the Year End Chart.

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DJ Khaled, Kevin Hart, Lil Jon and N.O.R.E all make appearances in the Jessy Terrero and Raul Conde directed visual where the clan can be seen hanging out in the streets of their beloved New York City and getting crunk with scantily clad ladies.

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Hopefully the explosive beef between the Terror Squad Queen and Hip-Hop’s current leading lady Nicki Minaj brings more attention to the talent that is Remy Ma and gives her a big enough platform to really shine on her own.

As heard on ‘Shether,’ her raw energy, her unapologetic and aggressively explicit content paired with her deep tone – as well as her life story – makes her one of the most interesting artists at the moment.

As always, we’d love nothing more than to see, or should we say HEAR. the ladies make peace on a fiery track which would not doubt would be a home-run.

If Jay Z and Nas can, why couldn’t they?

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From The Vault: Aaliyah – ‘Journey To The Past (Live At The Oscars)’

As Hollywood saddles up for its annual biggest night, we invite you back on a special jaunt with this week’s From The Vault.

Today’s pick is Aaliyah‘s rendition of ‘Journey To The Past’ at the 70th Academy Awards in 1998.

Serviced as a single from 20th Century FOX animated movie ‘Anastasia,’ ‘Journey’ was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Vocally and sonically, it was departure from the brand of edgy R&B the beauty had become renown for.

As much as her vocal abilities have never been looked down upon, this very track allowed the then 19 year old to truly set all the power in her voice free.

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The single never charted in the US, but was a moderate UK hit. Still, all of that chart business didn’t prevent the song from being nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

And though James Horner and Celine Dion ended up going home with the prizes for the ‘Titanic’ smash ‘My Heart Will Go On’, it was still an amazing look for Ms Haughton who was, at the time, the youngest artist to ever perform on the Academy stage. And oh did she make it count.

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From this performance, to the reception of her eponymous final record, all signs were pointing toward mega superstardom for this R&B princess.

15 years later, it’s hard to rationalise the loss of such a talent and we can’t stop imagining what the musical landscape would look like had she never left this earth.

Still, there’s some solace to be taken in the fact we still have showings such as this to cherish.

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From The Vault: Madonna Rocks The Super Bowl Halftime Show 2012

Another year, another Super Bowl game. But like millions of music lovers across the globe, we’re most buzzed about the Halftime show.

So as Lady Gaga is literally getting ready to take the stage tonight, we journey back to 2012. This week’s From The Vault comes courtesy of Madonna and her mesmerising turn as Halftime headliner.

The Ancient-Egypt themed affair saw the Pop Queen perform a 13-minute set – during which she rocked Givenchy, Miu Miu and Prada fashion and most importantly shut the place down with the help of a number of notable guests.

Visualized by the Cirque Du Soleil, with Jamie King as music director, the show opened with the ever vivacious ‘Vogue,’ followed by ‘Music’ during which the Pop queen was joined on stage by LMFAO.

Not one to rest on the laurels of her classics, Madge seized the moment to spotlight her then-current single ‘Give Me All Your Luvin’ with the help of Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.

The track was the first offering from the ‘MDNA’ album which – like the song – didn’t really catch on with the masses. Still, the trio swung the bat as hard as they could and scored a relative homerun.

Cee-Lo Green would serve as the final collaborator, ushering the stadium into a mass sing-a-long-song to medley of ‘Open Your Heart’/’Express Yourself’ medley climaxing with the classic ‘Like a Prayer.’

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Amidst controversy of M.I.A. flipping the bird midway through the performance, the spectacle was met with almost universal acclaim. Indeed, the every facet from the fashion, to the guests, and the staging earned praise aplenty and re-affirmed Madonna as an electrifying envelope-pusher.

With recent headliners such as Madge, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry, scoring A+ for their respective showings, all eyes will be on Gaga tonight to see if she can outdo or, at least, slay as well as her predecessors.

Being firm believers in Mother Monster, we know she has it in her to do exactly that!

That said, what we’d like most of all is a piece of ‘old Gaga’ to make an appearance at tonight’s Halftime. Because as much as we love ‘Joanne’ and this era’s aesthetic, a pink hat is not going to cut it when it comes to the biggest stage in the country.

Hopefully she’s watched showings such as Madge’s and more to ensure she prescribes the “right level of extravagance.

Tidbit: What will the prominent material be made of on Lady Gaga’s first outfit during Halftime Of Super Bowl 51? Click here to make your pick.

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From The Vault: Usher – ‘Burn’

Re-Live The ‘Confessions’ Smash!

From The Vault is back this week with an R&B classic which certainly stood the test of time. Today’s pick is Usher‘s ‘Burn.’

The second piece of one of Pop’s most immaculate trifectas, ‘Burn’ followed monster hit ‘Yeah!’ and preceded #1 ‘Confessions (Part II).’ All three were lifted from the diamond-certified ‘Confessions’ LP, which was released in 2004.

Produced Usher’s right hand man Jermaine Dupri, the track reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 where it reigned for 8 non-consecutive weeks – replacing ‘Yeah!’.

The definition of a worldwide smash, the cut also peaked at #1 in the UK, reached the second place of the Australian tally, and climbed to #11 in Germany.

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Jake Nava was the director selected to bring the fiery song to life and he opted for a sensuous yet dramatic visual. The clip  showcases Usher and his love interest drifting apart before he drives away for a dance solo on the street.

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Unfortunately Mr Raymond’s latest effort ‘Hard II Love’ found itself being exactly that commercially.

Sure it didn’t have a huge single akin to ‘Burn’ to propel it to the top of the charts, but one would think Usher’s name alone should be enough to do so.

It goes to show that “hit singles” are still a necessity in today’s “new rules” obsessed industry. Rather than trying to “out edgy” one another, we wish more artists would realize that made-for-radio (or Apple Music) doesn’t equate to inferior quality, superficial depth or lack of authenticity. Such songs, much like Usher’s ‘Confessions’ singles proved, serve as a powerful vehicle to drive to album success too.

Food for thought.

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From The Vault: Destiny’s Child – ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’

Re-Live The 1999 Smash…

Today we go back to the end of the last century to salute one of the greatest bands the music business has ever birthed.

This week’s From The Vault is Destiny’s Child‘s sassy ‘Bills, Bills, Bills.’

The first offering from the original line-up’s sophomore set ‘The Writings On The Wall,’ ‘Bills’ joined the list of male-bashing tracks which were all the rage in the late 90’s into early 00’s.

An attitude soaked song with a direct approach, the cut finds the girls lamenting about “good for nothing type of brothers.” Interestingly, the now-iconic quad stressed that they were unable to stay with their baes as said lovers couldn’t meet their financial needs. Needless to say this was released prior to ‘Independent Women’.

Penned by the ladies and produced by Kevin “Shek’spere” Briggs, it served as the first DC’s four Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits – dethroning Jennifer Lopez’ ‘If You Had My Love.’ Helping establish the R&B outfit internationally, ‘Bills’ became their breakthrough hit peaking at #6 in the UK, #7 in Canada and charting inside the Top 10 in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Many a DC fan will recall the countless stories shared about times spent at Beyonce’s mother’s hair salon while growing up. Hence, it’s fitting that the group drew on this theme for the tune’s accompanying video. Set at a beauty salon, perhaps as a homage to the matriarch of the Knowles clan, the Darren Grant visual amplified the “girl talk” angle.

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We’re certainly not alone in forming a prayer circle for a new Destiny’s Child project. Whether an album, a tour, or an edgy “new rules” kind of venture, we’d readily welcome newness from DC3 . Or “DC of any number” to be honest. Because while there are a growing number of great group’s populating the modern day scene, there are arguably no true “super groups.” A title Destiny’s Child continue to hold.

For now, we can only celebrate the past in hope that the future delivers amazing things.

DC, once again, we salute you.

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From The Vault: B2K – ‘Bump Bump Bump’

Remember This 2002 Jam?! Relive It Here…

Today’s From The Vault pick comes courtesy of a boyband who somehow managed to leave a mark in the masses’ minds despite their short-lived stint at the top of the charts.
This week we give you B2K’s ‘Bump Bump Bump.’

The track served as the launching single from the group’s sophomore set ‘Pandemonium,’ which was released in late 2002. As with most of the set, it was written and produced by the Pied Pipper himself, R. Kelly, and benefited from a guest verse from Diddy – or P.Diddy as he was known at the time.

A post-00’s serenade of sorts, the track sees lead Omarion set his sight on one girl, trying to make her his “main squeeze.”

Clearly the group’s breakthrough as well as well as their signature single, it reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to become a worldwide hit peaking at #4 in Australia, #7 in France and entering the UK Top 20.

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The song’s accompanying video was directed by Erik White and presented the quad dancing in colorful rooms with Diddy and lady dancers shaking it for the camera. You know the drill, a classic 00’s Urban male visual.

Though already blatant at the time, looking back something doesn’t feel right about the way Omari is apportioned the spotlight in this video. A practice that was essentially the case in most of the band’s offering’s more broadly.

Still, it didn’t stop legions of loyal fans lapping up all things O, J-Boog, Lil Fizz, and Raz B. Even if only for a short time.

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Watching this reminds that we’d like to see update of the R&B boyband formula. As much as we reminiscence fondly on the likes of B2K and groups which came after them, the truth is that this would never fly in 2017.

We can’t wait to see what a new age boyband would look and sound like. With music, fashion, and “masculinity” defined altogether differently to what it was a decade + ago, it’d be interesting to see how the concept will have evolved.

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey – ‘Oh Santa’

Re-Live Mimi’s Festive Number

Given today’s festive focus, the latest instalment of From The Vault comes courtesy of the Christmas Queen herself, Mariah Carey.

We give you 2010’s ‘Oh Santa!’

A “classic Christmas with a modern twist”, ‘Oh Santa!’ picks up exactly where the singer left off with her biggest hit ever ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Lyrically, it remains a call for help that she issues Santa’s way. Her wish? That he brings back her lover in time for the holidays.

Produced by frequent collaborators Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox, it was the first single from the belle’s second Christmas album, the aptly titled ‘Merry Christmas II You’.
Commercially, the cut reached the number one spot of both the US Adult Contemporary and US Holiday Digital Songs.

Pregnant with “dem babies” at the time of shooting, it didn’t stop the elusive chanteuse from showing a little bit of skin… and we love her for that!

Directed by Ethan Lader, the video with its 60’s mise en scene displays Mariah and her band performing the song to a cheering variety show audience. Much like OutKast in ‘Hey Ya.’

No other pop star has left their mark on Christmas time quite like Mimi has.

With an annual Christmas residency, TV Movies and holiday specials aplenty, it will be interesting to see just how far her and team will continue to push that sleigh in the years to come.

In the meantime, we wish you and your loved ones a happy Christmas.

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From The Vault: Christina Aguilera – ‘Can’t Hold Us Down (ft. Lil Kim)’

Today we travel back to a time when a certain siren was shedding shackles and coming out of her shell.

Christina Aguilera‘s feminist anthem ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ is this week’s From The Vault pick.

Helmed by Scott Storch and penned by the producer alongside Xtina and Matt Morris, ‘Can’t Hold Us’ saw the singer encourage women the world over to stand together in a bid for respect from the opposite sex.

The fiery track reunited Aguilera with ‘Lady Marmalade’ collaborator Lil Kim and was the 4th single serviced from her sophomore set ‘Stripped.’

Grammy nominated, the song peaked at #12 on the US Billboard Hot 100, #6 in the UK and #5 in Australia; it also reached the Top 20 of many other European countries.

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David Lachapelle – who devised the diva’s  ‘Dirrty’ video – directed the 80’s inspired visual . Its theme? A street battle of the sexes, which erupts after a sun-kissed, dark-haired Xtina  is groped by a hopeful suitor.

For all its good intent, the video was criticized for being an argued example of “cultural appropriation.” Still, that hasn’t stopped it from amassing views on VEVO and spins on TV channels.

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Another year ends and still no signs of new new music from Christina.

Hopefully, all this waiting means the belter is baking something as inspired and layered as ‘Stripped’ and ‘Back To Basics.’

In the meantime, we’ll keep blasting ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ and the rest of Aguilera’s back catalogue.

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From The Vault: Beyonce – ‘Irreplaceable’

From The Vault venture back ten years to a time when a premium Pop star was on the cusp of releasing her biggest single to date.

This week’s pick is Beyonce’s humungous hit ’Irreplaceable.’

Written by Ne-Yo and Mrs Carter, the track was produced by Norwegian maestros Stargate and was issued as the third single from the artist’s sophomore solo album ‘B’Day.’ 

With its now inked-in-pop-culture catchphrase “to the left, to the left,” the song stands as one of the sassiest breakup offerings of all time. Its Folk-meets-Pop production also helped popularize acoustic guitar-led songs among mainstream acts. Indeed, many a subsequent smash rested its back on the sound of the omnipresent hit.

Commercial, ‘Irreplaceable’ remains Beyonce’s biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a glorious 10 weeks at the top; it was also a chart topper on the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B and managed to take over the world scoring Top 10 placements in Australia, the UK, France, Canada and Italy.

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Anthony Mandler directed the visual which depicted Bey taking a literal approach to the song’s lyrics. She’s seen throwing her ex-bae out of her house and recollecting everything she got for him when they were together. Prior to meeting her upgrade, she’s shown serving up her trademark fierceness throughout – proving she can channel Sasha on a mid-tempo too. The vid also serves as the debut of Bey’s all female band The Mamas’s.

The clip was included in her first video anthology for the ‘B’Day’ LP and was nominated for Video Of The Year at the 2007 MTV VMA’s.

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As much as we love post-2013 Beyonce and her “unconventional” ways, we do miss the artist that was ready to perform at the opening of a door and that released songs which still had even a tiny flair of “made for radio” to them.

Whatever the case, it’s been fascinating experiencing the star’s growth over the last decade: a transformation from singer of Pop tunes to a mogul in full charge of her career.

Salute, to an artist who – even ten years later – remains irreplaceable.

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘Rhythm Nation’

People of the world unite, strength in number we can get it right…

In 1989, Janet Jackson released her fourth album, the socially conscious ‘Rhythm Nation 1814.’ Given recent political events, we thought there was no better time to spotlight the album’s title track as our From The Vault pick.

Released as the LP’s second single, ‘Nation’ was – once again – the result of the work between Jackson and legendary duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. It contains a sample from Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Thank You’. Like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell before her, Jackson used this track to urge the youth to join forces and work together in order to improve their way of life.

A Pop-song-with-a-message, the release caused a colossal storm on a global scale. And although it missed the top of the US charts by one position – peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, it still it reached #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B tally.

Dominic Sena took the directorial helm of the anthem’s Grammy-winning video – which skewed more mini-movie that any of Jackson’s prior or subsequent efforts.

Set in a post-apocalyptic warehouse, it is arguably one of the most iconic dance videos and sequences in Pop Culture. Influenced by brother Michael’s own short film ‘Captain Eo’, the hard-hitting choreography remains a staple and an inspiration for even today’s biggest stars.

Ever the idealist, Janet’s idea behind shooting the video in black and white was so that everybody had the same skin color: grey. A minor detail to some, but the semantics of this reaffirm how well-thought-out the message and execution were.

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From the US President-elect, to the BREXIT, to the one year anniversary of the Parisian terrorist attacks, it tends to be complicated to keep a positive outlook on life in such uncertain times.

Songs like ‘Rhythm Nation’ are what the world at large needs at this very moment; songs about hope, love, peace and unity.

Unfortunately, over 25 years after its release, the need for people to unite is stronger than ever. Hopefully 25 years from now we’ll finally be singing another tune.

More than ever, Janet, we salute you!

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From The Vault: Solange – ‘I Decided’

Solange has been receiving rave reviews for her new album ‘A Seat At The Table,’ yet her journey to emancipation started  five years ago.

This week’s From The Vault journeys back to 2008, a time when the rising star released her first single in 5 years.

Today’s pick is retro number ‘I Decided’.

Serviced as the first single from Solo’s sophomore set ‘Sol-Angel And The Hadley St. Dreams,’ the track was produced by the mighty Neptunes and sampled the iconic handclaps from The Supremes‘Where Did Our Love Go.’

In the US, the cut performed moderately well on the Billboard Hot Hip-Hop/R&B peaking at #44.

For its European incarnation, the throwback cut received a sonic facelift by British DJs The Freemasons which allowed it to access the UK and France’s Top 30 as well as Ireland’s Top 50.

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Acclaimed director and family friend Melina Matsoukas directed the cut’s video which retraced different eras in Pop culture. Travelling through time, the talented songbird can be seen as part of a Supremes-like ensemble performing during the Civil Right Movement era, as a Disco queen on Soul Train, an 80’s popstar in the MTV generation, and finally romancing a love interest in the future.

With its vivid vibrancy and use of pop art, the visual shared similarities with Rihanna’s ‘Rude Boy’ which was released a year later and was also directed by Matsoukas.

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We’ve long been rooting for Ms. Knowles – ever since ‘Hadley St. Dreams’ days. As such, we couldn’t be more amped about seeing her finally getting the recognition she deserves. What’s interesting with ‘A Seat At The Table’ is that its material isn’t far removed from what Solange has been servicing already for years.

Hopefully, the buzz surrounding the project won’t be temporary and will only allow Knowles to expand the conversation with her newly recruited supporters.

In there here and now, though, congrats to Solange for breaking through. At long last.

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