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From The Vault: Alicia Keys Salutes Girl Groups At BET Awards 2008

All too often, acts today fail to acknowledge those who opened the door them. Yet, as this week’s From The Vault attests,  Alicia Keys is an exception to the rule.

The 14 time Grammy winner took to the stage at the 2008 BET Awards, where she thrilled with a solid performance of then-current single ‘Teenage Love Affair’. However, the true talking point of the performance was when Keys invited modern R&B pioneers SWV, TLC, and the original line-up of EnVogue on-stage to join her.

A classic moment, which served as a nostalgic reminder of a time when charts boasted variety. A time when a ‘hit’ didn’t have to be  fist-pumping Electro-Pop. A time when R&B had a chance. Sigh.

Journey back to the good ol’ days with Ms. Keys above…

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From The Vault: Minnie Riperton – ‘Reasons’

Long before Mariah Carey catapulted to the top of the charts on the the wings of her famed 5+ octave vocal range, there was another singer who mastered the extreme limitations of the human voice. That woman was Minnie Riperton and this week’s From The Vault provides a glimpse of her incredible skill.

This performance of the song ‘Reasons’ on the iconic TV show ‘Soul Train’ displays Riperton’s utterly flawless voice. A criminally underrated artist, she was best known for the success of her classic single ‘Lovin’ You’. However, those of us who had the privilege of hearing her entire catalogue know that Riperton was capable of much more.

Thankfully, Riperton was able to leave her mark on the industry before her death at the age of 31 in 1979. Credited for introducing the use of the whistle register to mainstream music, she influenced her peers and followers alike including Stevie Wonder, Leona Lewis, Chante Moore and Michael Jackson. In fact, Carey regularly refers to Riperton as biggest influence on her singing style (whistles, whispery tones).

Long live Riperton! Every time one of us tries to hit a high note in the shower or the car, we have her to thank for our aching vocal cords.

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From The Vault: Blu Cantrell – ‘Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)’

This week’s From The Vault comes from one of the most notable 1-hit wonders of the US. Blu Cantrell released ‘Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops!)’ as the 1st single from her debut album, ‘So Blu’, in 2001. Written and produced by Dallas Austin, the song remains her only top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #2.

‘Hit ‘Em Up…’ was certainly an anthem for many in the early period of the last decade. The catchy melody of the chorus made it virtually inescapable in the summer of 2001 with Cantrell’s powerful vocals booming from every clothing store and car radio.

Cantrell may be a 1-hit wonder but she is certainly an exceptionally talented singer. Although, ‘Breathe (Ft. Sean Paul)’ topped the Official UK Singles Chart in 2003, whether she will be able to score another hit in the US, however, remains to be seen.

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From The Vault: Mya – ‘Case Of The Ex’


Having some relationship issues with a pesky ex? If that’s then case then Mya has the remedy with this week’s From The Vault. The Tricky Stewart-produced ‘Case of the Ex’ was issued as the 2nd single from her ‘Fear of Flying’ LP in November 2000 and became her highest charting single as a solo artist to date, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

This is yet another example of how true talent can easily get overlooked and swept away in the industry. Mya is a competent singer and a very talented dancer yet she has been unable to find her way back onto the charts for quite some time.

Hopefully, history won’t repeat itself with another famous dancer – Ciara. Besides, both acts would be more than welcome to have a comeback and replace the lifeless ‘entertainers’ who somehow manage to get praised for their mediocrity.

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘Escapade’

Turn your clocks back almost 21 years ago (or just visit YouTube) and you will be able to enjoy this week’s From The Vault pick in all its glory. ‘Escapade’ was released as the 3rd official single from Janet Jackson’s iconic ‘Rhythm Nation 1814′ in 1990. This particular performance of the song occurred during the 1990 ‘American Music Awards’.

In addition to being an international hit, the song dominated the US charts and became Jackson’s 3rd #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. ‘Escapade’ was also the 3rd of an amazing 18 consecutive top 10 singles for the entertainer in a streak lasting from 1989 until 1998.

Although Jackson was lip-syncing for her life here, it frankly did not matter. Her choreography was almost flawless and she delivered so much energy that her miming was practically unnoticeable.

This is the type of performance that Britney Spears should be doing at this stage in her career. However, with her fans exalting her every lazy, sluggish and insultingly dull move, Spears will undoubtedly continue to just shake her stringy weave and flail her arms unchecked. She’s so lucky.

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From The Vault: Tina Turner – ‘Proud Mary’

This week’s ‘From The Vault is guaranteed to wake you up! Originally performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969, ‘Proud Mary’ was famously covered by Ike & Tina Turner in 1971. This live version of the song was performed by Tina in the later 1980’s, years after her divorce from her abuse husband in 1978.

Tina’s influence on the current generation of entertainers is undeniable. Melanie Fiona, Fantasia and even Janet Jackson have taken a page out of the book that she wrote. Of course, Tina’s most notable fan is Beyonce who emulates the icon in her stage shows, vocal performances and videos.

Sadly, all artists aren’t as passionate about developing their craft by studying the greats in the manner that Beyonce has done with Tina. For example, Rihanna claims to be a big fan of acts including Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey and Madonna but it is unlikely that they would claim credit for her off-key squeals or lazy choreography. The again, she does seem to have mastered Mariah’s ‘Honey’ 2-step routine.

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From The Vault: Lady Saw – ‘I’ve Got Your Man’

Lady Saw’s ‘I’ve Got Your Man’ is this week’s pick for From The Vault. The song was released as a single from her ‘Strip Tease’ album in 2004 and received strong airplay in the US as well as Europe. ‘Strip Tease’ was Lady Saw’s 5th studio album, arriving in stores almost exactly 10 years after her 1994 debut LP, ‘Love Girl’.

Songs like this exemplify the reason why Lady Saw remained a dominant force in Dancehall music for over a decade. Although she has not dropped a new record in almost 4 years, her catalog of music guarantees that she will remain the Queen of Dancehall for a very long time.

Admit it, this song is a guilty pleasure! Feel fre to sing it in traffic with your windows up and your tint extra dark.

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