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From The Vault: Mya – ‘Free’

From The Vault salutes the criminally underrated Mya this week; our pick is her colorful tune ‘Free.’

In late 2000, following the success of ‘Case Of The Ex’, the singer seized the moment to re-release her sophomore album ‘Fear Of Flying’ with two new tracks. ‘Free’ comprised half of the double helping and was serviced as the album’s third single. It was also part of the soundtrack for Jamie Foxx’s ‘Bait’ movie.

Upon its arrival, the track drew many comparisons to Janet Jackson’s early work; understandable as it was produced by Jackson’s partners in rhyme Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

Sadly, it never lit up the charts like Janet’s early hits. Nor was it in reaching distance of ‘Case’s success. Instead, the funky cut had to settle for a #42 peak on the Billboard Hot 100 and #52 on the Hip-Hop/R&B tally.
Internationally it fared better, reaching #11 on the UK Singles Charts and the 4th position in Australia.

The ever dynamic Dave Meyers was tapped to direct the song’s video resulting in a vivaciously glossy affair.

Mya is seen transporting through different eras, which is accentuated by the fashion displayed but also the dynamite dancing throughout the visual. Special salute to the “locking” segment; the artist and her dancers went all the way off.

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Nothing irks us more than witnessing artists with the “full-package” struggle to garner recognition from record labels or radio executives. Though not a powerhouse vocalist, Mya is a more than capable singer, a skilled and versatile dancer, and a passionate performer. To this day we still ask ourselves when and where did it go wrong. Sure, she’s achieved commendable success on the indie circuit, but the reality is that her talent almost demands to be seen by the largest audience.

Anyway, we’ll keep hoping for a chart resurgence of some sort for this incredible act. She’s way overdue for another hit.

Mya, we’re ready when you are!

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From The Vault: Michelle Williams – ‘We Break The Dawn’

This week’s From The Vault comes courtesy of Michelle Williams and her 2008 debut secular solo single ‘We Break The Dawn.’

After the end of Destiny’s Child, the ladies went on with their respective careers: Beyonce pursued acting and of course music; Kelly Rowland serviced her sophomore effort ‘Ms. Kelly; and, to everyone’s surprise, Michelle released her first non-gospel project, the aptly-titled ‘Unexpected’. The electro-tinged ‘Dawn’ served as its lead single.

Penned by Solange Knowles and produced by Wayne Wilkins and Adam Frampton, Michelle’s first solo foray into the mainstream arena saw her score a US Hot Dance Airplay chart-topper. The song also managed a Top 50 placing on the Official UK Singles Chart. It never charted inside the US Billboard Hot 100 and wasn’t exploited the way it could have been overseas. Occurrences some cite politics and a lack of adequate promotion to explain.

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Directed by Phil Griffin, the track’s visual saw Williams and her dancer friends turn up on empty night streets. Sporting a new look and a refreshed image, the songstress looked like a million bucks in the visual which reached #1 on the MTV Base video countdown chart.

After returning to faith based music with her fourth effort ‘Journey To Freedom’, it seems Williams secular days are gone. Arguably prematurely, as ‘Unexpected’ makes for a compelling listen; one that showcases the singer’s versatility and viability  as a solo star.

Still, we’d like to know, would YOU be up for an ‘Unexpected’ follow up? Or is Michelle strutting her destined lane already?

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From The Vault: Beyonce – ‘Upgrade U’

September 4th.

This week’s From The Vault celebrates not one but, two milestones. For, the date marks the birthday of one of Pop culture’s brightest stars as well as the 10th anniversary of her sophomore effort.

Suffice to say, today’s pick comes courtesy of Beyonce and her infectious single ‘Upgrade U’ from her funkified ‘B’Day’ LP.

The hard-hitting cut saw Bey partner up with producer Swizz Beatz, songwriter Sean Garrett, and bae-turned-husband Jay Z.

Though the power couple had professed their infatuation with each other on prior releases, this instance centered on one-up-man-ship. Indeed, Bey and Jay traded vivacious verses about how necessary they were to the other. Both personally and professionally.

In being shamelessly materialistic, the track still managed to maintain the singer’s fervent feminist stance. Because at every utterance, she made it known that she had her own, was her own, and is such a catch that Jay could no longer be alone.

Commercially, the song was only released in the US as a promotional single. As such, it was a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100 – peaking at #59. It was, however, a Top 20 smash on the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B chart where it reached the 11th position.

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‘Formation’ director and good friend Melina Mastoukas took the helm of the jam’s shinny video alongside Queen Bey.

In order to accentuate the luxurious lure of the song’s lyrics, Ms Carter is seen cavorting amidst expensive goods such as jewelry, diamonds and gold watches. All the while remaining the hottest commodity herself.

Never one to disappoint as a performer, the diva delivered with choreography and slickly hit her steps like a seasoned pro. As with the track, the visual and the movement therein have become iconic.

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If the 10 years leading up to ‘B’Day’ were used to establish Beyonce as “the hottest chick in the game,” the decade that followed saw her become an icon, a Pop culture force, and a undeniable legend in the making.  An enviable status achieved through sheer showmanship, philanthropy, and – above all – a dutiful dedication to her craft.

In recent times, “unpredictable” has become a Beyonce trademark. As such we’re  buckled up for what the decade ahead holds for music’s reigning royal. We imagine, there’ll be more surprise and excitement on the horizon.

So with that…

Happy anniversary to this R&B classic and the album it sits on. And the Happiest Birthday to Beyonce!

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From The Vault: Monica – ‘So Gone’

If there’s one guarantee with social media, it’s that there’s no such thing as predictability. This week’s From The Vault celebrates that with Monica‘s recently revived ‘So Gone’ – the 2003 hit behind the popular #SoGoneChallenge.

After ironically struggling to garner attention with the shelved ‘All Eyes On Me’ in 2002, the R&B belle went back to the studio to cook up a second incarnation of the album. Clocking time with producers such as Missy Elliott, Mo was ready to re-rev the campaign’s engine in 2003. ‘After The Storm’ was the new title and ‘Gone’ served as its lead single.

It was the first time the singer unleashed the MC in her, which would somewhat became a habit for her from then on.

Released to rave reviews, the throwback cut – which samples The Whispers ‘You Are Number One’ – saw the R&B diva return to chart glory. The cut peaked at #10 on the US Top 10 and #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B tally. It was also a Top 20 hit in Canada.

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For the Chris Robinson directed visual, Mo’ got her crazy on, playing the role of a suspicious girlfriend who goes quite literally insane thinking her lover is cheating on her.

Though we would have preferred it was by way of her latest album ‘Code Red,’ we’re glad Monica’s name is on everyone’s lips again.

Who knows how this whole #SoGoneChallenge came about, but we’re glad more people are taking part in it.

We love it when the today’s consumers appreciate the greatness of previous eras in music; so color us excited about the resurgence of this R&B classic by a highly gifted and enduring artist.

Monica, we salute you

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From The Vault: Craig David – ‘Seven Days’

Before Adele, Coldplay and Amy Winehouse, a young name from Southhampton was the one waving the British flag on a worldwide scale. His name’s Craig David and today we salute him on From The Vault.

This week’s pick is ‘Seven Days.’

Serviced as the second single from the singer’s debut ‘Born To Do It’, ‘Days’ was written and composed by Mark Hill alongside the David – like the large majority of the LP.

Thematically, the song retraced the week-long romancing of a newfound love interest. To this day, it’s Craig’s biggest hit and is considered his signature song.

Wildly successful on home soil, where it debuted at #1 with sales of 100,000 units, but was also a worldwide smash peaking at #10 in the US, #4 in Australia and #9 in Canada. Not bad at all for a R&B newbie in a Britney and N’Sync dominated landscape.

The music video, directed by Max and Dania, had a ‘Groundhog Day’ theme with Craig reliving the same day over and over until he finally gets with “the” girl he met on the street.

Popular the world over, the clip was nominated for Best Video at the 2001 BRIT Awards, but lost to Robbie Williams‘Rock DJ.’

Thereafter, David’s success was heavily concentrated in the UK — despite a marked effort to further break into the American market with his sophomore album.

Now, after a hiatus of sorts (which ironically saw him relocate to Miami), the gifted star is back. With new album ‘Following My Intuition’ due in stores on September 30th, the moral of the story is to never count out authentic talent.

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From The Vault: Lady Gaga – ‘Poker Face’

From The Vault journeys back to 2008; a time when a newcomer with an eccentric style was morphing into the definitive “one to watch”. Today’s pick comes courtesy of Lady Gaga and her monumental smash, ‘Poker Face.’

Like the bulk of its parent album ‘The Fame,’ ‘Face’ was helmed by the mighty RedOne and saw Gaga proudly broadcast how much of a bluffing master she is.

It was serviced as the second single from the LP and just like its predecessor was a worldwide phenomenon – peaking at #1 not only in the US but also in the UK, France, Australia, Canada, and more.

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Directed by Ray Kay and Anthony Mandler, the song’s visual was – for many – the first time the “Gaga” proposition was presented in all its glory: creative scenography, edgy concepts, high fashion, and MTV-style choreography.

The single’s success is undeniably synonymous with its video, which earned the entertainer a whooping four MTV Video Music Awards nominations. Deservingly so.

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Talents like Gaga appear so infrequently that we’re not sure there has been an act as striking as her since her arrival. With towering high highs and challenging lows, Ms. Germanota has bagged herself a storied career in a mere 7 years. And, from where standing, we feel there are many more exciting chapters yet to be written.

Will LG5 be the era that turns it all around for Mother Monster and sees her regain her throne as the leading lady of Pop? We heartily hope so.

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From The Vault: Lil Kim – ‘Ladies Night (ft. Missy Elliott, Left Eye, Da Brat, & Angie Martinez)’

20 years after its release, Lil’ Kim’s ‘Hardcore’ remains hard-hitting. With an incredible singles-run, iconic videos and impressive chart stats, the Queen Bee delivered a debut era that defined dynamite.

From The Vault ventures back to that time with the female anthem ‘Ladies Night’ (Not Tonight Remix).’

The cut was co-billed ‘Not Tonight,’ yet the version serviced a single was this remix. And, though the original was produced by Jermaine Dupri, the incarnation of the track that was a worldwide hit was helmed by Rashad ‘Ringo’ Smith.

It famously (and heavily) sampled Kool & The Gang classic ‘Ladies Night’ and saw Kim backed by the fiercest female squad. Who else but Missy Elliott, Left Eye, Da Brat, and Angie Martinez. The latter of whom is renown for her radio career, yet at the time was dabbling in Rap.

This A-list cast managed to take the song all the way up to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Rap charts; Kim’s third consecutive on that tally. It peaked at #11 on the UK Singles Chart and was a Top 5 hit in New Zealand, reaching #4.

Directed by Lance Riveira, the accompanying visual was a girl power affair and featured notable cameos from Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, T-Boz, groups Xscape, SWV, Total and Blaque, as well as actress Maia Campbell.

Scenes of the ladies performing were juxtaposed with clips of them being pampered by chiselled assistants. Also inter-spliced was footage from the movie ‘Nothing To Lose’ – starring Martin Lawrence – for which the song was included on the soundtrack.

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Togetherness. It’s a concept that seems to be long forgotten when assessing today’s musical climate. One need not look beyond the “bad bitches” solely needing themselves on their “team.” Or the posters glorifying the “bad blood” which exists between them. The modern crop of female acts have taken the “lonely at the top” concept and run with it. Olympic style.

Kim’s gripe with some of today’s top femcees has often centered on their “supposed” lack of solidarity. Which, regardless of which side of the argument one falls on, is difficult to deny.

In any case, songs such as this, ‘Lady Marmalade,’ ‘Telephone’ and ‘Bang Bang’ prove that there aren’t many things as impactful as female acts united on a track.

We patiently await the next. In the meantime…

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