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From The Vault: Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey – ‘When You Believe’

This week, From The Vault journeys back to 1998 when Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey joined forces on inspirational track ‘When You Believe’.

After the media had portrayed them as arch-enemies for the most part of the 90’s, it came as a monumental surprise when news arose of a possible collaboration between the two larger-than-life songstresses. Indeed, what many Pop-enthusiasts had wished for – and others secretly dreaded – was happening: the vocal wonders were putting their alleged rivalry aside for one special song.

Masterminded by Babyface and Stephen Schwartz, ‘Believe’ was included on the OST for Dreamworks animated movie ‘The Prince Of Egypt’. It was also the first single off Houston’s comeback album ‘My Love Is Your Love’ and was featured on Carey’s compilation album ‘#1’. It peaked at #15 in the US and was a Top 10 smash in numerous European countries such as France (#5), Germany (#8) and the UK (#4).

The video, lensed by Phil Joanou, presented the two stunners in leather black dresses singing the track on a stage to a roaring audience intercut with footage of the two ladies interacting on set as well as projections of powerful scenes of the movie such as Moses’ opening of the Red Sea.

Two of TGJ-favorites, Mimi and Nippy delivered with this offering a statement about the importance of spirituality; they also silenced the critics through a blossoming friendship.

Whether based on solid theories or not, it is a common trait of Pop-Culture pitting artists against each other, especially women. Though we understand the need for such scenarios, we’d be lying if we ever said we weren’t daydreaming of a few specific parings ourselves. Strong and successful females coming together remains a beautiful thing that isn’t as widespread as it should.

wenn6218 300x240 From The Vault: Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey   When You Believe

What is your ultimate diva pairing?

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From The Vault: Mary J. Blige – ‘Be Without You’

Queen.

The hunt for the next “queen” of the many genre’s has become routine for Pop enthusiasts nowadays.

Yet, amidst all the heated conversations and strong disagreements that some acts’ fan bases get into, one diva has yet to find a suitable successor: the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul herself, Ms. Mary J. Blige.

This week, From The Vault celebrates the artist’s eternal relevancy with one of her biggest hits, ’Be Without You’.

Released at the end of Summer of 2005 as the first offering from the artist’s seventh album ‘The Breakthrough’, ‘Without You’ is a beat-driven ballad produced by Bryan-Michael Cox and written by Johntà Austin (alongside Blige). Interestingly, the pair are particularly notable for their popularisation of the “beat ballad” that year – as evidenced by their work with a certain Mariah Carey – whose comeback with the ‘Emancipation’ was largely attributed to that sound.

But we digress…

The trio of titans came up with was a gem that helped put Mary back on top after the so-so performance of the underrated ‘Love & Life’ LP.

Peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, the record was the most successful song on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop spending 15 consecutive weeks at #1 up until 2013 (it has since been surpassed by Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ last year). In 2006 it was #11 on the US Year-End chart.

Matthew Rolston was brought on board to translate the emotional track in a visual capacity and we’re sure you’d concur that he did a stellar job. Featuring Academy Award-nominated actor Terrence Howard as Mary’s love interest, the clip mirrors the message relayed in the song’s lyrics. More specifically,  the notion that one should never give up on pure and real love (pun intended) despite all the hardships that come along the way.

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With this gem, Mary delivered yet another heartfelt song that is so emotive that it almost  makes one want to lived the lyrics, whether good, bad, or otherwise. Perhaps that’s the reason why she remains untouchable to this day; the passion she embeds in her music is somehow contagious and is the epitome of “feel” music. Case in point, THAT haunting climax on ”Without You’ – it’s both a vocal exclamation mark and, in one belted note, embodies all that the song is about. It’s a skill so many of today’s acts likely wish for and, no doubt, could benefit from.

With new album ‘The London Sessions’ due this Fall, Mary J. continues to amaze us 23 years in her career and quite frankly we can’t really see it stoping anytime soon.

All Hail The Queen!

 b679d68c5c83a5181e6017f92044f5b3 large 286x300 From The Vault: Mary J. Blige   Be Without You

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From The Vault: Nelly – ‘Hot In Herre’

Long before Drake or Lil’ Wayne were heard rapping and singing on a track, Nelly was already using the technique, delivering hits on hits on hits for the most part of the 00’s.

This week’s From The Vault pick is the veteran’s signature smash, ‘Hot In Herre

Produced by The Neptunes back in 2002, ‘Hot’ was the second offering from the artist’s sophomore album ‘Nellyville‘.

With its catchy chorus and various hooks, the tune was both Nelly and The Neptunes’s first of many a Billboard Hot 100 chart topper. It also reached the top spot of the Canadian charts and placed #4 in the UK. Alongside the Kelly Rowland-assisted ‘Dilemma’ – from the same album – it is considered Mr. Haynes’ signature track, and thanks to its sleek production never sounds out of date, to this day, when it’s party-o-clock.

It was with flying colors that director Little-X managed to translate the urgency of the lyrics into a fiery video taking place in a red hot kind of club where the ladies are anything but unhappy to oblige at the song’s request to take off their clothes. Although sportsmen Carmelo Anthony, TJ Duckett and Julius Peppers make brief but notable appearances during the clip, it is Cedric The Entertainer who steals the show with his now infamous “Roof Is On Fire” segment.

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With 2014 marking ‘Hot In Herre’’s 12th anniversary and the past few years in music focusing on “living for the moment”, you’d think a plethora of CLASSIC party-tunes would have emerged by now. Well from our vantage point there haven’t been that many jams that established themselves as club classics the way Nelly’s single did. The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Got a Feeling’, Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ and Usher’s ‘Yeah’ come to mind as contenders for that category, can you think of others?

1597150724248aff337321a117715280677754ae 300x261 From The Vault: Nelly   Hot In Herre

What are the club-classics of the past decade?

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’/ ‘If’ Live At The 1993 MTV VMA’s

While the masses will be tuning in tonight to witness what is shaping up to be yet another glorious MTV Video Music Awards moment for Beyonce, we’d like to take a second and celebrate a prolific VMA performance which holds a very special place in our vault. Performing a medley of ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ and ‘If’, we give you Ms. Janet Jackson’s 1993 Video Music Awards showing as this week’s From The Vault pick.

Produced and written by usual suspects Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis alongside the diva herself, the two tracks were respectively the first two singles off Jackson’s eponymous fifth album ‘janet.’ which hit #1 with the largest first week sales for a woman at the time of release. The two singles, arguably two of her signature hits, fared extremely well on the Billboard charts too with ‘Love’ claiming the top spot for 8 consecutive weeks in the US and hitting #2 in the UK while ‘If’ reached the 4th position of the Hot 100 and was a UK Top 20 hit.

Closing the ceremony, Janet opted for a slow start with the sultry and sensuous ‘Love’ nonetheless engaging in ample choreography with her female dancers. For the second chapter of the performance, it seems the ‘Feedback’ singer wanted to remind people of the “stage-blazer” status she acquired during her ‘Rhythm Nation days’: extra dancers, wind machines and of course THAT dance-break were all set in motion to ensure the ceremony went out with a bang during the sickening ’If’.

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With Janet reportedly releasing a new album later this year (which would naturally come with edgy visuals), could next year’s VMA ceremony honor Janet the same way they did Justin Timberlake last year and are about to do Beyonce tonight? Granted she already won the Video Vanguard Award over two decades ago, we’re still salivating at the prospect of a 15+ minutes Janet Jackson performance on the grand stage, and we’re convinced MTV could think of something fresh and exciting to justify such an event.

Only time will tell it seems. In the meantime, we’ll heavily replay this performance and will be glued to our seats tonight, hoping for brand new VMA moments as epic as this.

Janet VMA 93 300x219 From The Vault: Janet Jackson   Thats The Way Love Goes/ If Live At The 1993 MTV VMAs

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From The Vault: Shaï – ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’

At a time where male R&B is on the up, we’d like to pay tribute to a song that  helped popularize the genre in the first place. Shaï’s ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’ is today’s From The Vault pick.

Released in a Boyz II Men-dominated era, the A Cappella track is a harmonizing masterclass that took the R&B world by storm in 1992. Written by band member Carl Martin, it was blocked from the #1 spot by Whitney Houston’s gargantuan smash ‘I Will Always Love You’ and had to settle for a #2 placing – for 8 weeks – on the Billboard Hot 100. It did get to the top spot of the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart. It was also a UK Top 40 hit and placed 4th in the Australian charts.

The Ian Fletcher-directed video uses the same “less is more” approach the song does with the guys standing in a circle while singing the  track and a scant beauty shots injected for good measure. For us, the simplicity  allows the lyrics to really shine through, but most importantly the gentlemen’s voices to take centre-stage.

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We wish more artists today would be as vocally adventurous as Shaï and other acts from the 90’s with their vocal arrangements. Though autotune and studio trickery is a necessity for a slew of modern acts, we feel some might rely on it too much, resulting in robotic, soulless deliveries. Furthermore, the EDM era seems to have sacrificed melody in favor of anthemic hooks and repetitive riffs.

Hopefully, the reemergence of organic music will mean more melodically and vocally rich tunes that will go on to inspire the next generations the same way ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’ has inspired ours.

Shaï, we salute you, we thank you.

shai 600x337 From The Vault: Shaï   If I Ever Fall In Love

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From The Vault: Paula Abdul – Cold Hearted

Way before she was a judge on ‘American Idol’, the ‘X Factor’ and the Australian edition of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ and not long after blessing Janet Jackson with a few signature moves, Paula Abdul was a popstar in her own right. This week, From The Vault is celebrating one of Ms. Abdul’s finest visual works –  the magnificent ‘Cold Hearted

Pulled from Paula’s blockbuster debut ‘Forever Your Girl’ as its fifth single, ‘Cold’ is a Pop number with sprinkles of New Jack Swing wherein the singer warns a fellow female about a heartless, womanizing man that she compares to a “cold hearted snake “.

It was produced by Elliot Wolff – who was also responsible for the entertainer’s breakout single ‘Straight Up’ – and was one of her six Billboard chart-toppers. Unfortunately, its home soil success never translated into an overseas one.

As many of you would know, we love ourselves an epic video here at TGJ. Therefore you’ll understand why this one has a very special place in our vault. The work of Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher, the visual serves as Abdul’s homage to legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, most particularly his work on classic musical ‘All That Jazz’. The all-dance affair perfectly embodies Paula’s proposition as a “Popstar”: hook-heavy edgy Pop music, enchanting choreography, and high-octane music videos.

With Paula waving goodbye to her singing career almost two decades ago, we feel it is a shame that the current generation only knows her as a TV figure and not the award-winning stage blazer she once was. Just to express how inspiring and trend-setting she and this video have been, here’s a few well-known visuals which take inspiration from ‘Cold Hearted’: Janet Jackson’s ‘If’, Christina Aguilera’s ‘What A Girl Wants’, Britney Spears’ ‘Slave 4 U’, Ciara’s ‘Promise’.

Paula Abdul 1989 Coldhearted video her 3rd 1 single 300x181 From The Vault: Paula Abdul   Cold Hearted

Can you name more?

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From The Vault: Michael Jackson – ‘In The Closet (Starring Naomi Campbell)’

Journey Back To Jackson's Classic Cut

As the reigning King of Pop, Michael Jackson has hits of the major, moderate, and minor persuasions. The common theme? He has H-I-T-S!

This week’s From The Vault pick pays homage to one of the late singer’s more muted chart successes – 1991′s ‘In The Closet’.

Produced by Teddy Riley, the sensually-charged track served as the third single to be lifted from MJ’s mega-selling ‘Dangerous’ album. Beyond boasting an edgy title, the said LP houses some of Jackson’s most progressive and provocative material  - with ‘Closet’ standing as one of the most prominent examples.

Previous releases such as ‘Thriller’, ‘Smooth Criminal’, and ‘Bad’ saw Michael become renown for his left-field approach to songwriting; an approach which saw him largely deviate from the well-treaded music narratives of “love” and “sex” in favour of more wholesome/all-encompassing themes. However, with ‘In The Closet’ the King through a curveball and drew on those exact topics. Put simply, he embraced the racy.

And while modern times have seen artists push the envelope with adult themes, MJ’s move – at the time – was seen as relatively revolutionary. Indeed, here stood the world’s biggest and most mass appealing act belting the lyrics “there’s something about you baby that makes me want to give it to you”. It excited many, yet unnerved others. A polarizing response that was amplified once its accompanying video debuted.

Unlike the elaborate mini-movies that have come to define much of Jackson’s career, the visual for ‘Closet’ was a fairly simple affair. Aptly set in the Salton Sea desert in California, the clip wasn’t without titillation and served up heat aplenty. A then-rising Naomi Campbell was tapped to star opposite MJ – with the supermodel assuming the role of his love interest. By no means a timid affair, the pair danced up a storm and sent temperatures into fever-pitch with the intimate nature of their choreography.

A triangulation of the song, its video, and the hype both generated helped the single peak at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart). The track was also a global success, achieving top ten status in the UK, France, Australia, and many other countries. Still, in following the two super smashes that preceded it (‘Black Or White’ and ‘Remember The Time’), ‘Closet’ is often treated as a “lesser hit” and is routinely forgotten in retrospectives on MJ’s iconic discography.

Yet, like the impact of Jackson himself, we here at That Grape Juice will never forget. Ever.

Fun Fact: Did you know that ‘In The Closet’ was initially conceived as a collaboration between Michael and…Madonna?! The legendary pair began working on concepts for the song, however MJ vetoed the idea after feeling like Madge’s vision for the track was too provocative. We can only imagine.

michael naomi 2 600x606 From The Vault: Michael Jackson   In The Closet (Starring Naomi Campbell)

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