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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

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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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From The Vault : Brandy & Wanya Morris – ‘Brokenhearted’

From The Vault is back this week with a R&B duet courtesy of the Vocal Bible herself Brandy alongside Boyz II Men crooner Wanya Morris. Today’s pick is ‘Brokenhearted’.

Originally a solo track from her eponymous 1995 debut, ‘Brokenhearted’ was remixed by Soulshock & Karlin for its single release, making way for fresh new vocals by Morris.

As the 5th and last single off said album, it gave Brandy her third Top 10 in the US by peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 – it also reached the 2nd position of the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B tally.

The laid-back groove’s visual – directed by legendary videographer Hype Williams – presented the ex-lovebirds in a moody yet vivid dream-like environment. Rocking her 90’s trademark box-braids, a then-aged 16 Bran was already showing all the signs of a diva-in-the-making proving yet again that age is but a number when you have « it ».

With the singer/actress recently confirming that work was underway for the follow-up to the criminally underrated ‘Two Eleven’, we can’t help but anticipate what the future holds for Ms. Norwood. Indeed, the ‘Put It Down’ vocalist’s craft seems to get stronger and more diverse with time – contrary to some other divas from the last two decades – and with her qualitative stock already sky-high, it’s quite obvious we’re in for a treat.

Bring it on, B-Rocka!

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From The Vault: Patti Labelle & Mariah Carey Perform ‘Got To Be Real’

As vocal legends go, few come more equipped than Patti Labelle and Mariah Carey.

Though from different eras, the dynamite diva’s have made it routine to honor one another at many points in their illustrious careers.

One of their most celebrated showings serves as this week’s From The Vault pick – their performance during Labelle’s ‘Live One Night Only’ TV special in 1998.

Together, the powerhouses blew the roof off the venue with a rendition of Cheryl Lynn‘s 1978 Disco classic ‘Got To Be Real’.

Watch the icons trade belts, whistles, and sass above…

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From The Vault: Danity Kane – ‘Ride For You’

This Summer, the divas of Danity Kane are heating up the airwaves with their blazing new single ‘Lemonade’. So, what better way to salute the ladies return than by journeying back to one of their break-out hits.

Yes, this week’s From The Vault pick is the group’s second single ever - ‘Ride For You’.

Released in December 2006, the track saw the then-five-piece showcase their pipes after serving up swagger aplenty on  preceding single Show Stopper’.

With the popularity of hard-hitting ballads at an all time high – thanks to the likes of Mariah Carey’s ‘We Belong Together’ and Mary J’s ‘Be Without You’, the group tapped the man responsible both tracks Bryan Michael Cox to pen ‘Ride’.

The result? A delicious slice of balladry than firmly established the “DK brand” as more than a one trick pony.

Indeed, though the track could only manage a #78 placing on the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Ride’ proved that each member possessed a powerful vocal; which, when juxtaposed against their performance ability, very much established Danity Kane as a legitimate supergroup.

Thematically, the song’s Marcus Raboy directed video saw each member navigate through different seasons. Though by no means groundbreaking, it served as a fitting visual homage to the different flavours that make up one of the best female collectives in recent memory.

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For many, the story of Danity Kane reads like a titillating page-turner. Make-ups, break-ups, comebacks, and setbacks. Yet, more than anything, it’s always felt  somewhat incomplete; cliché as it sounds, almost as if the best is yet to come.

Now a trio, it’s clear the DNA of the new DK remains as strong as ever. As such, here’s hoping the ladies reap the rewards of their hard work. Because a victory for this latest incarnation is very much a victory for every member than at has ever sung under the Danity Kane name.

danity kane ride for you From The Vault: Danity Kane   Ride For You

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From The Vault: Keyshia Cole – ‘Let It Go’ (ft. Missy Elliott & Lil’ Kim)

“When this song come on in the club they gon’ be like ‘Damn, that’s hot”

It seems  Missy Elliott knew exactly what she was talking about when she recorded that very hook.

From The Vault is back this week with the party starter that is Keyshia Cole’s ‘Let It Go’. The high-octane cut saw the R&B chanteuse team up with Missy and mother-to-be Lil’ Kim.

Proving that the sophomore slump can be avoided, ‘Go’ was the first single from Cole’s hugely successful second effort ‘Just Like You’ – which was released in 2007. Featuring the Queen B and Elliott – who also took on production duties – the track serves as quite the ladies anthem.

It became Keyshia’s first solo Top 10 hit – she previously scored herself two of those with Sean Paul’s Give It Up To Me’ and of course Diddy’s ‘Last Night’ – hitting #7 on Billboard Hot 100. Elsewhere, it reached the pole position of the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B but unfortunately wasn’t released overseas.

Despite being situated in the well-treaded club backdrop, the Benny Boom-directed video successfully “sells” the laid-back vibe of the tune. What’s more, it showcased a new side of Keyshia – one that embodied the fiery feistiness of previous releases, but with a fun twist. It’s little surprise, then, that ‘Go’ and its accompanying video  are considered Ms. Cole’s true breakthrough.

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Having recently announced the Summer arrival of her next LP ‘Point Of No Return’, we’re hopeful the project is actually the one that will see Keyshia return to the top of the Billboard tally. With her last two albums having been highly overlooked, ‘Return’ – in many ways – will be somewhat of make-or-break for the ‘Beautiful Music’ vocalist. That said, if the tracks ‘Rick James’ and ‘Next Time’ as well as their respective visuals are anything to go by, Team Keyshia is definitely on the right path.

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From The Vault: Pink – ‘You Make Me Sick’

Former R&B chick Pink and her infectious hit ‘You Make Me Sick’ are this week’s From The Vault pick.

Released in the year 2000, ‘Sick’ was the third and last single off the singer’s debut ‘Can’t Take Me Home’. Produced by Babyface, it sees Ms. Moore-Hart open up about a passionate love affair that has her going out of her mind.

Unlike its predecessors ‘There You Go’ and ‘Most Girl’, it didn’t reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, instead peaking at #33. However, it got to the ninth position of the UK Official Singles Chart.

Pink’s frequent collaborator Dave Meyers took charge of the visualization of the track. The result: a high-octane, colorful and hilarious piece of work. Proving that there’s only but a thin line between LOVE and HATE, it was the diva’s first of many comedy-themed videos – which became Pink’s trademark on a visual tip.

Having quite literally ruled the Hot 100 last year, the ‘Just Give Me A Reason’ vocalist seems to be in a league of her own today. Indeed, with her show-stopping stage antics and blend of soulful-Pop/Rock, she incredibly keeps gaining even more recognition at a time when her peers’ stars are starting to fade.

Here at TGJ HQ, we’ll always salivate at the prospect of new material from the ‘Just Like A Pill’ Pop-genius, and we would be lying if we said we weren’t praying for an Urban-tinged album for her next chart assault.

In the meantime…

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