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From The Vault: Britney Spears – ‘Overprotected’

“I don’t need nobody telling what I’m gonna do about my destiny”

These were the words Britney Spears sassily sung to the world in 2001 on her hit ‘Overprotected’ – this week’s From The Vault Pick.

Its selection is timely too, as the pop star gears up to take center stage at tonight’s Billboard Music Awards to perform and receive the Artist of the Millennium honor.

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Serviced as the second single from Spears self-titled third album, the track was considered a return to Pop-i-er form for the singer after the release of the Urban-kissed ‘Slave 4 U’. Hitmaker Max Martin produced the cut, which narrates a girl’s need to break free and find herself. A remix courtesy of  Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins was released as well.

Surprisingly, the album version did not chart inside the Billboard Hot 100 – although the remix managed a peak of #86. Still, success awaited across the pond in Europe, where the song reached #2 in Sweden, #5 in Italy and #15 in France, and performed well in Australia and Canada charting at respectively #16 and #22.

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In its accompanying video, Spears is seen escaping the paparazzi by entering an abandoned warehouse – where she is joined by her trademark troop of dancers. Billie Woodruff directed the visual and Brian Friedman choreographed.

Referenced in Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ video a decade later, the singer appears in a room where the walls are plastered with pictures and articles about herself; those same walls are moving in and out, symbolizing the oppression expressed in the lyrics.

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The Britney Spears journey, with its glorious ups and saddening downs, has been quite the roller-coaster. One thing is level to see – her career has never been “boring” (sans “that” ‘Britney Jean’ album).

Could tonight be the beginning of a new exciting chapter? We truly hope so!

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey – ‘Heartbreaker’ Live

Though it is now a feat most closely associated with Rihanna, Mariah Carey was the master of snatching #1 records left and right in the 90’s.

Today’s From The Vault pick focuses on a memorably live showing of her 14th chart-topper, 1999’s ‘Heartbreaker.’

Written and produced by Carey alongside DJ Clue and featuring a rap verse by Jay-Z, ‘Heartbreaker’ was the debut single from the diva’s seventh album ‘Rainbow’.

Likened to previous smash ‘Fantasy’ because of their similar hooks, the cut also received a re-work courtesy of Missy Elliott and Da Brat which was sent to radio and included on the album.

Its music video – directed by longtime friend and collaborator Brett Ratner – saw Mimi go head to head with her arch nemesis Bianca.

Reaching the top of the US chart, it was also a Top 5 single in the UK as well as France.

The performance we salute here was held at Mimi’s high-school making it a literal homecoming. Opting for a cheerleader’s theme, the occasion saw pompoms and leather jackets were out in full force. Jay Z and Da Brat even made appearances sending the audience into a frenzy.

So why this showing? We love seeing Mariah take advantage of her scenography and not being static in the middle of the stage with only hand gestures as “choreography”. Though she’s not exactly dropping it like it’s hot, she makes for a compelling moment by just… performing. Clearly we’re not the only ones who feel as such, indeed her ‘Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour’ saw the mother-of-two employ a similar strategy delivering her most entertaining performances in years.

With a new team on deck, a successful Vegas stint, as well as a critically-acclaimed European jaunt, the future is looking brighter than it has for a long time for the songstress. We say it’s a good thing as it seems like she’s not going anywhere, and frankly we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ready when you are, MC!

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From The Vault: Robin Thicke – ‘Lost Without U’

Though the past few years have brought testing times for Robin Thicke – both personally and professionally, there’s no denying that he’s all sorts of gifted.

This week, From The Vault reacquaints with the crooner’s breakthrough single ‘Lost Without U.’

Serviced as the second single from the star’s 2006 sophomore set ‘The Evolution Of Robin Thicke’, the love-lorn song was written at a time when Robin felt insecure following the underperformance of his debut LP and its singles. Thankfully, history had not repeated itself with this single as it was a sleeper hit in the US peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hip Hop/R&B tally – which had not happened for a White artist since George Michael almost twenty years prior. The cut also reached the 11th spot of the UK Singles Charts.

Because he thought it could be his last video if the song tanked, Thicke chose to cast his then-wife Paula Patton as his love interest in the track’s Benny Boom lensed visual.

Needless to say, the chemistry displayed throughout the sensual video veered off the Richter scale. Bittersweet, somewhat, given the eventual fate for the much-loved (and “in love”) couple.

With ‘Blurred Lines’, Robin Thicke managed to gain a new audience. Yet, as many loyalists would agree, he (in the process) also lost that particular qualitative aura that was omnipresent on previous projects. We hope next go around he manages to mix and match the playful Pop elements of the ‘Lines’ album with some heartfelt and vulnerable moments akin to his first few bodies of work.

Sure, he’s already had a few missteps on that path, but songs like this remind us why we’ll willingly wait.

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey – ‘Fantasy’

Though Christmas is Mariah Carey‘s usual holiday of predilection, this year sees the premium diva serve as the Queen of Easter as she is celebrating her 46th birthday today.

For the occasion, From The Vault takes it all way back to the year 1995 when the songbird released what was to be one of her biggest singles to date. ‘Fantasy’ is our chosen pick of the day.

After four albums in as many years, Mariah clearly had no plan to slow down anytime soon. Seizing on her monstrous momentum, she released blockbuster effort ‘Daydream’ led by  ‘Fantasy’ – which was produced by Carey alongside Dave Hall.

Keen on bridging the gap between R&B and Hip-Hop, an Urban remix was produced, masterminded by Puff Daddy and featuring guest vocals by Wu Tang Clan’s Old Dirty Bastard. Though the idea of having girl-next-door Mariah and gangsta rap king ODB on the same song puzzled many initially, it proved rather beneficial to both the artists’ catalogues and careers. More broadly has changed the music industry forever from a  fusing genres standpoint.

To this day, ‘Fantasy’ is Mimi’s fifth biggest release in the US where it has reached the top of the Billboard chart – her ninth at the time – for 8 consecutive weeks. Elsewhere, it achieved commercial success too peaking at #1 in Canada and Australia and #5 in the UK.

Disappointed with the outcome of some of her previous videos, the diva added yet another title to her already impressive resume when she chose to direct the video for the single.

Set at an amusement park, the visual captures that care-free aura the song evokes and sees Mimi letting her hair down on a rollercoaster, roller-blading and partying. An alternate edit for the remix featured ODB interwoven.

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Though the world can be tough on her – sometimes justifiably – no one can diminish Mariah’s influence in Pop Culture as we know it. During her 26 years in the industry she has been through the highest of highs as well as lowest of lows but somehow has managed to consistently remind the masses why they fell for her. How? By way of her timeless talent and iconic hits such as this.

Two decades on, we’re still bopping to ‘Fantasy’ – which still sounds oh so sweet.

Happy Birthday Ms. Carey!

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From The Vault: Gwen Stefani – ‘Cool’

With Gwen Stefani set to top the charts with her third studio album, this week’s From The Vault pick salutes a  Gwen gem from her first LP.

Cue ‘Cool’ from ‘Love.Angel.Music.Baby.’ 

Serviced as the fourth cut from the blockbuster project, the New Wave inspired track was released in 2005.

Produced by Nellee Hooper and Dallas Austin, the latter also co-wrote the song with Stefani.

While ‘Cool’ only reached Top 40 status overseas, was a hit in the US peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Pop tally.

The lyrics pull from real life in its centring on Gwen’s relationship with No Doubt-bandmate and former-bae Tony Kanal and how (after the ups and the challenges of life) they’ve remained more than colleagues but good friends too.

Sophie Muller helmed the video, which was shot in Lake Como, Italy and features the singer playing opposite Spanish actor Daniel Gonzàlez — and Erin Lokitz… who happens to be Kanal’s girlfriend.

It plays like a literal, yet creative take on the song’s resonating lyrics.

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After a series of missteps, Team Gwen finally seem to have things in check and we couldn’t be happier. For, Ms Stefani is among the few artists who rose to prominence during the golden age of the 90s but somehow still possess all that is “required” to be successful in todays climate.

Hopefully the next chapter of her solo run is as colorful, captivating and game-changing as her first swing of the bat.

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From The Vault: Pink – ‘Stupid Girls’

The more things seem to change… the more they stay the same.

It’s that very sentiment that prevails when reflecting on a track released exactly 10 years ago.

This week’s From The Vault comes courtesy of Pink and her parodic ‘Stupid Girl.’

The launching single from Ms Moore’s 2006 fourth LP ‘I’m Not Dead,’ ‘Girl’ saw her team up with producers Billy Mann and MachoPsycho to vent her displeasure with modern society’s sexism and its habit of promoting “brainless bimbos” instead of strong and intelligent women.

[Sidenote: The irony about the girls Pink targets in this song is they are anything but “brainless” and very aware of how they are perceived… which in itself is the problem. But we digress]

Commercially, ‘Girls’ served as a solid comeback cut especially considering the dire performance of her previous effort ‘Try This’ and its singles; the track  peaked at #13 in the US and #4 in the UK and Australia.

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Frequent collaborator Dave Meyers was brought on-board to bring the song to visual life, which he – as ever – achieved amazingly.

Spoofing the likes of Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton, video embodied the tongue-in-cheek(ness) of the lyrics and showcased Pink prodding at the superficiality of society while stressing the importance of individualism and education.

The effort paid effort, as the clip won the Best Pop Video at the 2006 VMAs.

A decade removed from this release, the rise of vapid and talent-devoid celebrities has intensified and young girls – and boys – around the world are “following” them with even more eagerness than before.

Our main issue with the “it-girl” culture is how irrelevant the concept of a strong WORK ethic then becomes for the younger generation and how “FAME” is turning into a Mount Everest of sorts.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like the tide will be turning anytime soon, so let’s hope the Pinks of this world will always be given a platform to…well.. tell it like it is.

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From The Vault: Aaliyah – ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’

Today’s From The Vault pick salutes the enduring impact of an artist that sadly left us way too soon – Aaliyah and her break-out hit ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.’

The title track from her 1994 debut album, ‘Age’ was serviced as the project’s third single and like the majority of its parent LP was produced by R. Kelly.

Interestingly, it was the artist’s first single to miss the Billboard Top 10 peaking at #75 on the Hot 100 and #32 in the UK.

In retrospect, because of its subject matter and lyrics about a girl wanting to pursue a relationship with an older man (and the fact that Kelly wrote the words to the song),  it was deemed controversial. No doubt because of the singer and the producer’s relationship — but that’s another day another conversation.
Millicent Shelton was in charge of the song’s visualization and delivered a vintage 90s clip, one that resonates and reminds why the era is helmed as golden by so many.

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Boasting a stellar debut LP, which displayed a musical maturity well beyond her youth, Aaliyah indeed proved to the world that, sometimes, age can quite literally be just a number.

One thing’s for sure, the singer embodied the concept, as she has accomplished way more between 14 and 22 than most of her peers have in the length and breadth of their careers.

Long live her impact!

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