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Former Glory Vs. Future Gain: The Plight of the (Aging) Pop Queen

An array of awards line their shelves. Millions line their bank accounts and album sales statistics.  Adoring fans line concert venues, fan pages, and front stan wars in defense of them.  Yet, interestingly, even with all the aforementioned, stars like Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Madonna find themselves placed in quite the pop pickle.  For, in their hey day, they revisited, revamped, and, to then contemporary music fans, replaced the divas of old.  Putting the Chers, Diana Rosses, Aretha Franklins, Barbra Streisands, and co.s ‘out to pasture’ while they dominated the pop charts.

But, insert a 20 year fast forward, and they find themselves in (or approaching) somewhat of the same jam.

Redefining the standards of pop excellence, the latter 21st century divas (unlike those before them) used the music video medium to push their agenda.   Glossy visuals, accompanied by high octane choreography, cinematic quality themes, and live performances to match.  But, now the pop queens that paved the way for Britney Spears, Beyonce, Rihanna, and more are now finding themselves in their direct competition – sonically and visually.  Some will argue that no copy will ever trump the original, while others say they’ve had their day and should step aside.

We at TGJ want to know:  when one reaches a level of legendary status…what’s to gain from continuing?  You’ve paved the way, had the fame/fortune, and the adulation.  What’s next?  As Madonna’s 12th LP ‘MDNA’ landed on shelves this week, and Janet and Mariah (amongst others 40+ year old divas) are hard at work at their latest offerings,  sales dwindle and once universal praise turns into mock.

The inescapable age/gender bias leads us to ask:

Former Glory Vs. Future Gain:  Do stars who continue to push “pass their prime” ruin their legacies?  Is the gain – at the risk of ridicule, changing one’s sound for the sake of sounding “current”, or dressing/acting much too young – worth the gain of a new generation of followers?

Your thoughts?


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LeToya Luckett: Product vs Promotion

Review of R&B charts of late boasts an alarming diva deficiency.  A circumstance all the more alarming when just a few years ago so many showed promise.  Arguably, none more than LeToya Luckett.  The comeback kid, whose tale (reportedly) told of triumph, tragedy, betrayal, and rebirth, seemed to finally have the stars aligned in her order when suddenly, it seemed no more.

Such is a circumstance the young singer is no means unfamiliar with.  For, some say it was luck or maybe destiny that this Houston-bred beauty would find her star initially rising with the most successful girl group of all time.  As fate would have it, Luckett aligned with Pop megastar Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Latavia Roberson to ascend to the top of charts as Destiny’s Child – a fierce R&B foursome with heavenly looks, voices, and moves to match.  But, as the 2000s rolled on, the very rocket that launched her into stardom ultimately left her behind in what came as an unceremonious ousting from the group.  Accompanied by a host of headlines citing tension, contention, and Matthew Knowles‘ interventions as the cause of dissension, the remaining group members still rose above to find themselves topping charts again while Luckett and Roberson stayed behind.

Trying their hand as the group Angel – the two later disbanded finding Luckett at square one yet again.  That is, until 2006 when Lady Luck tore up the charts with ‘Torn’ – the ‘You Are Everything’-sampled R&B groove that obviously struck a chord with listeners as it propelled the singer’s debut solo album ‘Letoya’ to the top of the charts.  Critics hailed the underdog the champion as she made her rounds performing the hit single.  And, while its follow-up ‘She Don’t’…well…didn’t, Ms. Luckett’s debut was still widely received as a success, earning the singer her first (solo) platinum plaque.

On the other hand, her 2009 sophomore album ‘Lady Love’ didn’t receive much love from record buyers.  Despite boasting an all star collaboration list (Ludacris, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo) and a more mature sound, Luckett’s gamble at “refined” showed promise but quickly fell on deaf ears.  And though shortly reigning at #1 on Billboard’s R&B charts, the singer, who at the time was very vocal about her label’s mishandling of the project, also cited the length of time between albums as the blame for its failure.  The past weeks have seen the singer work her way back into the spotlight, taking promotion into her own hands.  And, with album #3 reportedly due this year…

That Grape Juice wants to know – who (or what’s) to blame? Are the shortcomings a musical misstep or a mix of marketing mishaps? The talent is certainly there and, unlike so many artists, was clearly being cultured.  The growth in vocal showings alone from album 1 to album 2 was noteworthy.  Add on an all-star team for production (on album 1 and 2) and killer looks, one would think the ‘Regret’ singer had the perfect recipe for success.  But alas, such was not the case.

Now you weigh in:  Has Luckett’s luck run out or will destiny see her on top again?   In other words:

Product vs. Promotion?  What’s to blame?

Your thoughts?


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The Artist Of The Decade Is (Finals)…

The last decade has served Pop culture with a healthy stream of ground breaking  acts.

From Beyonce in 2003 to Lady GaGa in 2008, the last ten years have seen many of its newbies become some just as iconic as the acts they themselves were inspired by.

Now we want to know:

Which artist do YOU feel has done the most for their respective genre in the last ten years.

You decide below…


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Hot Topic: The Secret Behind Girl Group Success

From The Supremes to The Spice Girls, girls groups have always been an integral part of Pop culture.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen a decline in the number of all female troupes on the charts, following the disbanding of Destiny’s Child, Girls Aloud and Danity Kane, to name just three.

So, ever eager to hear your take on the issue, we want to know:

What do you think it would take to form and maintain a successful girl group in 2012?

And, why do you think so many girl groups fail to stand the test of time?

Weigh in below!

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Is Drake ‘Too Soft’ For Contemporary Hip Hop?

As one of Hip Hop’s more ground breaking acts to date, Young Money Prince  Drake can often be found at the center of heated Rap centric debate.

Loved by some while loathed by others, his arrival and subsequent success on and in the scene has made him the  undisputed figurehead of Contemporary Rap/Hop Hip Hop.

Of course, with such attention comes just as much criticism.

With Lil Kim stating that ‘he just wasn’t built for this hood sh*t’ and Common revealing  his upcoming release ‘Sweet‘ was written all about him, the suggestion that Drake’s singing has made him ‘less of an MC ‘ is one estimation that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

So,  ever eager to bring attention to the topics you are most passionate about, That Grape Juice asks the question:

Is Mr ‘Marvin’s Room‘ ‘too soft’ for Contemporary Hip Hop?


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How To Solve Ciara’s Career Problem?


Beautiful. Talented. Personable.

While the above are all words  oft used to describe Epic diva Ciara, the last few years have proven that not even these desirable qualities have been enough to secure the success and notoriety she has struggled to achieve on a number of occasions.

For, despite the critical acclaim her first four LP’s have garnered over the years, her latest studio effort- ‘Basic Instinct‘ left many fans wondering if she would ever be able to match or better the commercial heights  the likes of Rihanna  seem to remain atop of.


Now That Grape Juice weighs in.

Answering the question:

Just how do you solve a problem like Ciara’s career?


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Nicole Scherzinger: Product vs Promotion

To say that former Pussycat Doll frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger may be nearing the end of her 9 musical lives would be a fair assessment.  For a singer whose bids to fame have boasted killer looks, discernible talent, and (not to mention) multiple sturdy platforms for lift off yet no solid launch, begs a striking question:  where is the miscalculation with Miss Scherzinger?

Initially brought to the public’s eye during the infancy stages of the now-common ‘reality talent show’, Scherzinger was one of 5 finalists for the American Idol copycat ‘Pop Stars’ (on WB).  The pop collective, called Eden’s Crush, saw an impressive beginning on Billboard with both a top 10 single and album. Yet, after a record label folding and no follow-up in sight, Scherzinger fell from public view until landing her next (and most successful gig to date) – Pussycat Doll frontwoman.  ‘Doll Domination’ would prove to not only be an understatement, but also the purr-fect set up for its leader as the pop composite conquered Billboard charts with hit after hit.  Millions sold and in the bank (not to mention a real lick of ‘celebrity’), Scherzinger leaped from her sturdiest post yet to pursue a solo career.

2007 saw the Hawaiian beauty attempt to make her first solo splash on charts with ‘Her Name Is Nicole’.  Led by the thunderous T.I.-assisted, Polow Da Don-produced ‘Whatever You Like’, the debut single from ‘Her Name’ surprisingly left her name nowhere to be found on Billboard charts.  With the record later shelved, Scherzinger seemed to have lost yet another footing on Billboard charts.

…until 2010 saw yet another attempt to return to charts with ‘Killer Love’.  Marked as the official debut album of her solo career, the album boasted production from heavy hitmakers like RedOne and others and lifted the sex kitten to her highest heights on UK singles charts (#3 and #1 for singles ‘Poison’ and ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath‘).  And, joining media mogul Simon Cowell‘s judging panel for the (once) highly anticipated ‘X Factor USA’, Nicole finally looked to board the vehicle that relaunched Jennifer Lopez’s once failing career.  That is…until the ‘Try It With Me’ maestra actually…umm…tried it.  ‘Poison’, ‘Don’t Hold Your Breath’, and ‘Wet’ barely made splashes on the ‘Bubbling Under Charts’ in the U.S. and quickly fizzled out.  Add their parent album’s ‘Killer Love’ pushback after pushback, these shortcomings collectively all but indicated ‘Love’s’ death sentence.  And, of course, Scherzinger is slipping right back into a wash, rinse, and repeat of album #1.

With killer looks, dance moves, marketable music, stage presence, and three major platforms, the singer may have hit the nail on the head when she sang ‘I got that poison’ as U.S. record buyers are sleeping on this beauty’s every musical venture.  Could Nicole simply be missing the very X Factor she hopes to help Simon Cowell find?

Now you weigh in:  Has Nicole’s career been just a monstrous musical misstep or a mixture of marketing mishaps?

Your thoughts?


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