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From The Vault: Michael Jackson – ‘Liberian Girl’

Yesterday marked what would have been the 57th birthday of the legendary Michael Jackson. And, with Kanye West getting ready to receive the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award at tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards, we thought it apt to dedicate this week’s From The Vault to the one and only King Of Pop.

Today’s pick is the love song and its star-studded video ‘Liberian Girl.’

The ninth and final release from the record-breaking, genre-defining, game-changing blockbuster ‘Bad’ LP, it was only released in Europe and Australia in 1989 where it was a moderate hit peaking at #1 in Ireland, #13 in the UK and #50 in Australia.

Written by MJ and produced by musical genius Quincy Jones with additional production from Mike himself, the song features a Swahili intro by South African singer Letta Mbulu. Back in ’87 when the ‘Bad’ album was unleashed, there had been much speculation concerning who Jackson was referring to… he has never disclosed who the recipient of this serenade was.

Way before Taylor Swift surprised the world with ‘Bad Blood’ and its cameo-heavy visual, the Jim Yukich-directed video for ‘Girl’ housed a plethora of A-listers (most of who remain household names today) waiting for the King to show up to shoot the visual for that very song. The big reveal? He was there all along documenting their every single move and capturing the conversation that occurred throughout the night.

A simple, yet clever concept.

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Six years removed from his passing, it’s still difficult to digest that “Michael Jackson” is no longer with us. His unparalleled creativity and constant appetite for raising the bar are just a few of the reasons why – even in the afterlife – he remains untouchable. Invincible, if you will.

MJ, we love you, we miss you and once again, we say THANK YOU!

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From The Vault: Eve & Gwen Stefani – ‘Let Me Blow Ya Mind’

Long before Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX made the masses move with their infectious Hip-Pop collabo ‘Fancy’, a fierce duo were already bridging the gap between the Urban and and mainstream arena.

This week’s From The Vault is ‘Let Me Blow Yo Mind’ by rapstress Eve and Gwen Stefani.
‘Mind’ was the second single released from E.V.E.’s second offering ‘Scorpion.’. Unleashed in 2001, it was the first of two songs produced by Dr. Dre for the duo – with the second coming a few years later in the form of ‘Rich Girl.’
The single was a chart hit reaching #2 in the United States and peaking inside the Top 5 in the United Kingdom. It was ranked the 7th biggest song of the year 01 on Billboard.

The track’s visual sported “party crasher” theme with Stefani and Jeffers inviting themselves to a chic soirée before transforming it into a titanic “turn-up.” Humorously, producer Dr. Dre makes a cameo and bails out the girls (who are arrested for their antics) from their cell.

Helmed by Phillip G. Atwell, the clip won a MTV Video Music Awards in the ‘Best Female Video’ category in 2001.
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It’s pairings like these which make us root for “cross-genre” ventures. Indeed, with most of today’s collabos reeking of “convenient”, it’s refreshing to see two artists, completely different from one another, bring the best of their distinctive worlds together to make sweet music.
Eve and Gwen, we salute you!

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From The Vault: Keyshia Cole – ‘I Changed My Mind’

Keyshia Cole’s debut single is this week’s From The Vault selection. ‘I Changed My Mind’ serves as today’s pick.

Produced by then-man of the hour Kanye West and written by Cole alongside John Legend, ‘Mind’ sees the songbird take back her love from an unfaithful companion. As it was customary at that stage of his career, West relied heavily on the use of samples, in this case a Dr Dre selection which itself uses a portion of Solomon Burke’s ‘Get Out Of My Life’.

The launching single off the singer’s ‘The Way It Is’ album, ‘Mind’ sadly didn’t set the charts alight in similar fashion to other material such ‘Last Night’ or ‘Let It Go’ and had to settle for a peak position of #71 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Benny Boom took charge of bringing the song to visual life and delivered a video that saw the chanteuse parade around her block as well as confronting her cheating boyfriend after finding out about his infidelity. Mr West can be seen in the clip alongside Cole.

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Artists such as Keyshia are very rare in this day and age; she’s an artist who doesn’t compromise her sound and brings much needed grit to the R&B genre.

And while her recent releases haven’t rouses the masses, we hope the songbird hasn’t gotten to that point of no return where the masses start singing back to her “I changed my mind, I don’t love you no more “.

While only time will tell whether Ms. Cole can make a successful comeback, we’ll keep rooting for her – as she’s an undeniable talent.

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From The Vault: 3LW – ‘No More’

If today Fifth Harmony and Little Mix are waving the flag for girl bands, 15 years ago the scene was occupied by the likes of Destiny’s Child, TLC and then newcomers 3LW.

This week’s From The Vault selection comes courtesy of the young R&B trio and their 2000 hit ‘No More.’ 3LW – short for  ‘3 Little Women’ – consisted of Kiely Willams, Naturi Naughton and Adrienne Bailon.

Very much their breakout hit, ‘No More’ was produced by Sean ‘Sep’ Hall and penned by Nate Butler and Cameron Giles, and provided the band with their sole top 30 on the Billboard Hot (hitting#23) and UK Top 10.

For the video, the girls turned to Chris Robinson who blessed them with a fresh summery visual, which sees band members Adrienne and Naturi supporting Kiely who just found out her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Bummer!

Like every solid Pop video at the time, the clip comes armed with energetic choreography and an MTV dance-break.

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From our vantage point, the industry could benefit from more girl groups – of every genre. Through the years we’ve seen how impactful females coming together can bet and if the 60’s had The Supremes, the 90’s TLC and the Spice Girls and the 00’s had Destiny’s Child, we are yet to have defining female ensemble for the 10’s. Hopefully it is more a case of “not yet” than “not at all”.

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From The Vault: R. Kelly & Jay-Z – Fiesta

From The Vault this week journeys back to the beginning of the new millennium with a party-anthem – the aptly titled ‘Fiesta’ by R. Kelly and Jay-Z.

Released in 2001 in remixed form, ‘Fiesta’ was the third single from Kellz’ fourth studio album TP-2.com which saw the light of day the previous year. Joining the two heavyweights was Hip-Hop duo Boo & Gotti.

Commercially, the track hit #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B tally and #6 on the Hot 100, and is believed to be the catalyst for R. and Hova’s ‘Best Of Both Worlds’ joint LP released a year later
The video for the cut was directed by Little X alongside R. Kelly and was set on a tropical beach full of scantily-clad ladies roused and ready to keep the party going.
With murmurs of joints albums for both R. Kelly and Jay-Z respectively with fan Trey Songz and wife Beyonce, we must say that we’re all for projects as such. Whether considered a side project like Pink’s You+Me and Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz or a continuation of the artists involved’s sound like Lucy Pearl – fronted by Raphael Saadiq – and Chris Brown and Tyga’s ‘Fan Of A Fan’, we feel it is a great way to refresh one’s brand by giving something unique especially in an industry where being confined in a box is the norm.
Hopefully the future will see more talented artists like Robert and Shawn get together to create undeniable jams like this.

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From The Vault: Gwen Guthrie – ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent’

“Bill collectors at my door, what can you do for me?”

This week From The Vault journey’s back to the era when Gwen Guthrie let the world know that there was “no romance without finance.”

Today’s pick is the late chanteuse’s classic anthem ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent.’

Written and produced by Guthrie, ‘Rent’ is a R&B song which sassily details how she is only interested in the matters of the heart if it comes with advantages of the cha-ching variety. An ancestor of sorts to Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, the track was a minor hit in the US where it reached #42 but fared better in the UK where it was a Top 5 smash.

Filled with faux-subliminal messages like “BUY”, “SPEND”, “MONEY”, the music video showcases footage of men at actual work as well as projections of dollar bills, fancy cars and even a yacht.

Though the message feels somewhat dated in a post Girl Power, Independent Women world, we applaud Guthrie for getting herself out there and stand behind such a bold statement.

Rest In Peace, Gwen!

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Bad Girl’

This week’s From The Vault pick goes out to Pop titan Madonna and her hauntingly poignant music video for underrated gem, ‘Bad Girl.’

Released in 1993 as the third single from M’s controversial ‘Erotica‘ LP, ‘Girl’ lyrically tells the tale of a woman’s reckless behaviour after an intense break-up. It was produced and written by the artist herself as well as her go-to-guy at the time Shep Pettibone.

Rolled out during a window when Madonna was making headlines for her overtly-sexual image – the ‘Sex‘ book, anyone ? – the track wasn’t as successful as its predecessors like ‘Like a Prayer’ or‘Justify My Love’ but still managed to peak at a respectable #36 on the Hot 100 and occupy the ultimate position of the UK Top 10… not bad for an artist going through a media backlash.

The most unfortunate thing about the single’s moderate performance is that its accompanying video seems to be forgotten despite being – if you ask us – one of the entertainer’s finest visual offerings.
Helmed by David Fincher – whom had previously collaborated with Madge on videos such as ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘Vogue’ – it stays true to the song’s lyrical content and presents the Material Girl as a chain-smoking, moody female-executive who drowns her sorrow in alcohol, cigarettes and one-night-stands.
With Fincher on board, it was a given the cinematography would deliver, indeed the visual, which feels like a short film, exudes an air of retro-glam and the art-deco architecture of the city of New-York where it was shot gives it a dark and dramatic edge.

At many times Madonna has proven that when the world beats you down, you get back up… and keep on releasing amazing material. This is one of the many reasons she can still make headlines in 2015. Though we long for a time where she would go back to music and visuals of such quality, we can’t knock her hustle and commend her dedication to the entertainment industry.

Bad Girl? We say ‘Bad B*tch’ (she’s Madonna!)

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