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From The Vault: Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

Another year, another Halftime show. With the latest Superbowl mid-game extravaganza just a few hours away, it’s the aptest of occasions to reflect on the undeniable blueprint of what a Halftime performance should be. As such, Michael Jackson‘s 1993 showing is this week’s From The Vault pick.

Hot on the promotional trail for his ‘Dangerous’ album, the late, great superstar was offered the slot following the lackluster ratings generated by his predecessors.

Already crowned the King, the genesis of modern Pop seized the moment to reaffirm why he was (and still is) the bar and the benchmark.

After making an explosive entrance (on a toaster….naturally), the stage titan stood still for 90 scintillating seconds before bursting into ‘Dangerous’ smash ‘Jam.’ Rousing renditions of classics ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Black Or White’ quickly followed.

Famed for his philanthropical and humanitarian work, Jackson closed the set with a hymn-like sing-along to ‘We Are The World’ and ‘Heal The World’ – with a choir of comprised of over three thousand.

Like most things Jackson touched, this showing forever changed the scope of live performance and arguably the entertainment industry at large. Indeed, following the 1993 ratings touchdown, the Superbowl Halftime has become the definitive destination for high-octane showings by music’s biggest names.

What’s more, between interest in the big game and the buzz about Halftime, the Bowl has become a mecca of sorts for advertisers who plunge millions into commercials which run during the show. Put simply, the event has morphed from a sports phenomenon into a global, Pop cultural experience. Something Michael Jackson was instrumental in.

[Side note: Even the chronology of the setlist (cannonball opening into a mellower, ballad flavored end) has been adopted by almost every Halftime headliner that has followed – including Madonna]

With Beyonce and Bruno Mars set to return to rock the stage with Coldplay tonight, it’ll be interesting to see which way Mike’s influence will be used this time around.

Long live the King Of Pop!

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From The Vault: Melanie C & Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes – ‘Never Be The Same Again’

What happens when two artists from the two of music’s biggest girlbands join forces? Apparently, smash hit bliss!

This week’s From The Vault pick is Melanie C‘s ‘Never Be The Same Again‘ featuring the incomparable Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes.

A rather unlikely pairing on paper, it quickly becomes clear upon listening to ‘Same’ that the ladies were onto winner. Released in early 2000, the track served as the third single from Sporty Spice’s debut effort ‘Northern Star‘ and saw her showcasing a radically different facet of her artistry. Especially when compared to the sugar-coated sound that defined “Spice Mania,” which took over the globe (with the firmest of grips) during the latter 90’s.

Rhett Lawrence produced the track which he co-wrote with Chisolm and Lopes – who was in the midst of expanding her brand following TLC‘s blockbuster album, ‘FanMail‘.

The track proved to be a huge European success for the duo, hitting #1 in the UK and #5 in Germany. Sadly, it didn’t chart in the US but fared very well in Australia where it reached the second position of the ARIA chart.

With its futuristic feel and modern-design elements, the video for the single was very much carved in the vein of what could be seen on MTV in a post-Matrix reality.

Lensed by Francis Lawrence, the visual presents Melanie in a sterile, Feng-shui environment meditating to music, running (no doubt to the top of the charts) before being joined by Left-Eye for a synchronised Tai-Chi session. The latter dubbed as captivating “choreography” in itself.

With this collaboration, the girls showed that mixing Spice with touch of TLC can yield the most delicious of results. We yearn for more out-of-the-box pairings such as this. Hopefully, today’s top talent will do away with the rigid politics and oblige.

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From The Vault: Cassie Tanks On ‘106 & Park’ [Performance]

This week’s From The Vault selection comes courtesy of Cassie and her infamous 106 & Park performance of single ‘Me & U.’

Extracted from her eponymous first album, “Me & U’ was the model’s debut effort. Released in 2005, the Ryan Leslie production was a sleeper-hit peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts in the US in 2006. It hit #6 in the United Kingdom the following year.

Beyond club play, it was the track’s high-octane video (which drew comparisons to Janet Jackson’s ‘Pleasure Principle’) that catapulted the release to the upper echelon of the charts.

Yet, could Cassie replicate the fierceness on-stage?

Unfortunately for the Bad Boy belle, the answer was an emphatic, embarrassing, and resounding “NO!”

Taking to the stage of BET’s then-flagship show, the beauty gave the ugliest of performances – characterized and immortalized by stiff, lazy, and laxed stage presence and vocals that just did not show up. Many wondered if she was asleep.

From the attempted acapella intro to the look of “even I know this is a mess” plastered on her pretty face , it was all a dismal disaster and ultimately spelled the end of whatever quest she had to be taken seriously. Her music career, as the last decade has shown, has never quite recovered.

It’s just her luck that this has happened back in 2006, because in the current viral age (see: Instagram, Facebook, memes and the like) her career in the broader sense (modelling included) is unlikely to have recovered.

Still, by way of her relationship with Diddy and a number of fashion focussed campaigns, she remains one of the most desirable ladies in the spotlight. Not a bad consolation prize.

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From The Vault: Natalie Cole & Whitney Houston Perform ‘Say A Little Prayer’

2015 was a wholly eventful year entertainment-wise, yet sadly it climaxed with the passing of songbird Natalie Cole.
From The Vault  salutes the diva with a very special performance that saw her grace the stage alongside another premium vocalist – and one of That Grape Juice‘s favorite – Whitney Houston.
Taking on the Aretha Franklin classic ‘I Say A Little Prayer’, the two singers delivered what could only be described as a vocal masterclass. Verses were traded and sensational chemistry was displayed.
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This performance is only a brief reminder of just how much the music industry at large has lost with Natalie’s – and obviously Whitney’s – departure. Apart from shoulder pads and intricate hairstyles, what’s striking about this showing is the ladies’ raw talent and their dedication to the art of music and performance.
With social media’s influence in today’s pop culture at sky-high, we sincerely hope that Ms. Cole’s passing will encourage the next generation of vocal hopefuls to flip through her extensive catalogue and choose to focus on putting the talent at the forefront.
Ms. Cole, thank you for the music. Love always.

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From The Vault: Bow Wow & Omarion – ‘Let Me Hold You’

Bow Wow and Omarion‘s 2005 smash ‘Let Me Hold You’ is our pick for this week’s From The Vault.

Released during the mid-00’s in a ‘We Belong Together’ dominated landscape, the track was the launching single from the rapper’s fourth effort ‘Wanted’ and was the first of many collaborations between him and the B2K alumni.

The cut was produced by Bow’s mentor and then-it guy Jermaine Dupri alongside No I.D. and uses a sample of Luther Vandross‘ version of ‘If Only For One Night’ – originally sung by Brenda Russell.

A  huge success in America, the melodic number peaked at #4 on the Hot 100, #2 on the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B and #1 on the Hot Rap Songs tally.

Bryan Barber directed the video for the single, which – like many a 90s/00s visual – is set  at a “turnt” urban house-party. Bow Wow can be seen serenading his love interest to mixed results.

With the clip climaxing with a “to be continued” tag, its sequel came in the form of Mr Moss’ follow-up duet with former girlfriend Ciara, ‘Like You’.

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After this single, Bow Wow and Omarion would go on to record an album (‘Face Off’) together, similar to R.Kelly and Jay-Z a few years prior. With Hip-Hop artists getting together more and more for joint projects – like Jay and Kanye’s The Throne or Drake and Future a few months ago – which artists would you like to see get their collabo on for a Hip-Hop/R&B LP?

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘Any Time, Any Place’

“I don’t care who’s around…”

From The Vault is back this week with an “after midnight” special. Pop royal Janet Jackson‘s 1993 hit ‘Any Time Any Place’ is this week’s selection.

Aptly, the track was the fifth single released from the artist’s eponymous fifth LP ‘janet.’, the smooth and sultry jam was yet another Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Jackson concoction and saw the singer thematically pushing the envelope with a voyeuristic setting.

Like all singles from the said album, the track was a monster hit, peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and most importantly spent a then-record breaking 10 weeks at #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B chart.

Its Urban success was due mostly to its remixed version courtesy of R. Kelly who was on a critical high with his ’12 Play’ album during the song’s time of release.

The Janet jam was brought back to the public’s attention in 2012 when Kendrick Lamar and Drake sampled it for their Hip-Hop smash ‘Poetic Justice’ – in reference to the movie Jackson starred in with legendary rapper Tupac.

For its music video, Jackson adopted a literal approach and can be seen engaging in sensual play with her neighbor.

Despite causing quite the controversy at the time for its explicit content (which these days could arguably be deemed tame), the visual – like most Jackson clips – offered a message.  This time about the importance of safe-sex.

Directed by Keir McFarlane, a special edit was made for the R. Kelly remix with additional scenes.

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Though we really respect and enjoy the more demure approach Janet is taking with the ‘Unbreakable’ project, we do miss “baby-making-songs.” Indeed, much like Marvin Gaye, Ms. Jackson has the ability express even her dirtiest fantasies with an unparalleled air of class and sophistication.

Whatever the case, we’re glad we have Damita Jo back on the radio and the charts again.

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From The Vault: Black Eyed Peas – ‘Where Is The Love?’

“What’s wrong with the world, Mama?”

In the wake of the tragic events in Paris this weekend, this week’s From The Vault spotlight’s a song which asks a question that sadly still remains. Today’s pick is ‘Where Is The Love?’ by the Black Eyed Peas.

Released in 2003, the song’s lyrics ring oddly true in this very time of despair and sorrow. At this moment, no rant about chart trajectory and promotional video facts from the TGJ team is necessary, we’ll only encourage folk to listen to the message embedded in the track.

To everyone affected in anyway by the recent terrorists attacks in France but also in Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Iraq, we would like to show our continued love and support in these dark moments. We pray for better and brighter days for you and your families and hope that – somehow – through it all something positive arises from all this undeserved suffering.

This one is for FREEDOM, ART, UNITY, PEACE and most importantly, LOVE!

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