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From The Vault: Lady GaGa – ‘LoveGame’

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that chart-Queen Lady GaGa‘s big break only occured in 2008. Indeed, that time to now has seen the Pop force create a lane of her own and become a pioneer – doing in three years what many of her peers have tried their whole careers to achieve. So speedy has her musical and physical evolution been that it genuinely feels like she’s been here forever. As such, her ‘Just Dance’ days now seem many moons old.

This week’s From The Vault takes aim with GaGa of yesteryear and her ‘LoveGame’ – the third single (or fourth depending on your region) to be lifted from her first opus, ‘The Fame’.

The RedOne helmed tune is a gritty number exploring themes such as love, sex and of course fame. While it possesses all the ingredients to a Pop-record, what’s interesting about the cut is how seamlessly it fuses those sensibilities with a particular Urban edge. That Hip-Hop/R&B undercurrent which was ever present throughout the ‘The Fame’ era; an undercurrent which seems to be long gone judging from the ‘Judas’ singer most recent material. Rather unfortunate, we must say.

The accompanying visual is a high-energy dance video and showcases Stefani and her dancers going all out in a subway station and was really the first of many dance-oriented videos she would go on deliver. While GaGa has always cited Michael and Janet Jackson as some of her influences, the LoveGame video demonstrates just how much, for it has a strong air of “Jackson” to it.

With the “Born This Way” singer experiencing critical acclaim and commercial success with her latest Electro-Pop output, we won’t hold our breath waiting for an “Urban-GaGa” resurgence anytime soon.

No matter the kind of music she’s churning out, let’s hope GaGa can continue to raise the bar for artists the world pver and inspire them to push the enveloppe musically and visually… that is of course if her rapid rise to fame doesn’t result in an even quicker fall, because you know what they say: “the brightest stars burn out the fastest”.

Only time will tell…

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From The Vault: Brandy – ‘Full Moon’

This week’s From The Vault will, yet again, concentrate on an artist who doesn’t get the kudos they deserve: the multi-talented Brandy.

Today’s pick comes in the form of the title track of B-Rocka’s third studio album, ‘Full Moon’. Released almost 10 years ago, the track served as the 2002 LP’s second single.

On the Mike City-helmed groove, Ms. Norwood tells an engaging tale of “love at first sight” that she coos is caused by the state of the moon. A narrative relayed literally, yet effectively in its accompanying video.

As always, the siren’s flawless vocal delivery is the center of affairs, with her trademark harmonies and mesmerizing ad-libs on display. And even though she is clearly demonstrates vocal restraint on the track, it’s ample enough to underscore the age-old saying that ‘sometimes, less is more’.

The singer’s then-pregnancy rendered her unable to properly promote the single, but it still managed to reach the Top 20 in the US and in the UK.

With a newly announced deal with RCA Records and fresh material on the pipeline, the Moesha-star stays among the most exciting vocalists the industry. And, although she has achieved plenty during her 17 year career, it seems Brandy still has much more give. TGJ will be there, front row-center, to witness just how much. Will you?

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From The Vault: Danity Kane – ‘Damaged’

It’s 2006 and Diddy’s super-group Danity Kane were finally ready to prove that the vocal training and “book kacks” had paid off. Composed of Dawn Richard, Shannon Bex, Aundrea Fimbres, Wanita “D.Woods” Woodgette and Aubrey O’Day, the ladies embarked on a short-lived, yet ultimately impressive adventure.

This week’s From The Vault relives the group’s biggest hit, the Stereotypes produced ‘Damaged’.

Released in early 2008 as the Making The Band winners’ first single from sophomore set ‘Welcome To The Dollhouse’, the track is a definitive homerun, serving as one of DK’s finest audio-visual moments. With its seamless fusion of Urban and Electro-Pop , the upbeat cut allows the ladies to truly show the masses that they are more than capable vocalists. Underscoring the fact that after only 3 years being bandmates, their chemistry as a recording act was off the chain.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for their chemistry off the record. Indeed, in-fighting rumors were whipped into overdrive, ultimately proving more than accurate. As such, Mr. Combs decided to put an end to his own creation, sacking star-member Aubrey O’Day as well as D.Woods -rendering many a fan…well…damaged.

Three years down the road, there seems to be no turning back for Aubrey and co. as a collective. However, we seriously hope the budding divas  put their talent to good use, for it would be a crime against the  industry if they were to ‘sleep on it’.

Still, we’d like to know:

Do you think it is essential for band members to be friends in order to succeed?
Was disbanding the group Diddy’s biggest mistake? (… after signing Cassie of course)?

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey Gives Her ‘All’ At Divas 98

Before it was the name of a successful talent show, ‘The Voice’ has been and still is a certain diva’s moniker – of course we’re talking about the one and only Mariah Carey. Whether on top of the charts or not, Mariah’s status as one of the greatest power-vocalist to ever grace the face of earth has never been questioned.

Mimi’s live showing of her hit ballad ‘My All’ at 1998’s Divas Live will make the object of this week’s From The Vault.

A Lamb-favorite, this live showing showcases Mrs Carey-Canon’s then new voice: a raspier, huskier one, and although a tad less powerful than before, it boasted a compelling rawness.

By the end of the performance, the soulful songbird channels her inner Dance-diva, parading on stage to the David Morales remix of the track. A refreshing flirtation with Dance we wouldn’t mind seeing her revisit with future efforts.

Speaking of what’s to come, a degree of realism is imperative. The mother-of-two’s voice had been through a lot – from the mire and back higher. Indeed, her vocals have been the subject of many heated conversations. Yet, although we highly doubt she’ll recapture the youthful horsepower she possessed during her vocal hey-day (which is only fair), we at That Grape Juice are still rooting for ol’ Mimi and anticipate more greatness from her before the curtain call.

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Human Nature’

This week saw us ask you who you who you considered to be the reigning Queen of Pop. For many, that title belonged to none other than Madonna!

By constantly reinventing herself, she has tackled numerous musical genres and has amazed the masses by being equally comfortable singing Pop-by-the-numbers tunes or fearlessly riding a Hip-Hop beat.

Today we will travel back to a time when her Madgesty was experimenting with R&B, cue this week’s From The Vault ‘Human Nature’.

The final single from her underrated sixth album, 1994’s‘Bedtime Stories’, the G-Funk tinged cut is an open-letter to the press after the backlash she had suffered following the ‘Erotica’ era (especially the Sex book). She adopts an unapologetic attitude and explains that she shouldn’t be stoned for exploring her fantasies, for expressing herself – urging the listener to do the same.

‘Nature’s accompanying visual is even more notorious than the song. Deemed by many as avant-garde, the latex-heavy video depicts a corn-rowed material girl as a bondage queen, backed by a group of dancers, executing intricate choreography and acrobatics. What sets it apart from other clips is its remarkable art direction and cinematography as well as its simplicity, once again proving that less can indeed be more.

No matter which blonde currently rules the world charts and no matter what her naysayers think of her, Madonna should forever be respected, if not for her impressive back catalogue, amazing videos and critically-acclaimed tours; at least for universally raising the bar for Pop acts, especially female acts, and making it the norm to constantly want to push social or cultural barriers release after release.

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From The Vault: Boyz II Men – ‘Motownphilly’

Long before American band B2K and UK’ers JLS began ruling the charts in their respective countries, R&B boyband Boyz II Men were serving quite the winning formula (“male-groups-who-dance-and-harmonize”).

Today, From The Vault will focus on the boys’ first ever single, ‘Motownphilly’ – lifted from their exquisite ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ LP.

The 1991 track, written by the guys themselves and produced by Dallas Austin, was a huge success, peaking inside the Top 5 and giving them a taste of the success which characterised much of their recording career.

A classic in every way, the New Jack Swing cut is the group’s claim to fame of sorts. Indeed, not only does it narrate how they got signed to Michael Bivins’ (of Bell Biv DeVoe fame) label, as well as how they never stopped believing in their dreams, but it also showcases their trademark “hip-hop doo-wop” style – which juxtaposed intricate retro harmonies with modern beats.

‘Motownphilly’s accompanying  visual is everything we love about the early 90’s: crazy hairstyles, bold colours, energetic dance routines, the whole nine yards.

Although many had tried to vie for their title, Boyz II Men remain the biggest selling R&B male group. Indeed, even though a commercial chart resurgence for the 40-somethings is truly unlikely at this point, no one can deny that they upped the standards for boyband’s (and R&B, moreover) on a global scale. Boys II Men, we salute you.

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From The Vault: Fergie – ‘Glamourous’

From the very moment she’d been heard singing lead vocals on ‘Shut Up’ with the Black Eyed Peas, the masses figured out that it was only a matter of time before Fergie pursued a career of her own.

Three years later, the songstress unleashed her solo debut, ‘The Dutchess’. A worldwide smash, the LP spawned five Billboard top 5 hits, including three #1 records.

This week’s From The Vault is dedicated to the album third single, the Ludacris-assisted ‘Glamorous’.

With producer Polow Da Don revealing that the instrumental was initially offered to Gwen Stefani (as a remix to her track ‘Luxuriou’s), this cut serves as solid proof that one person’s trash is indeed another’s treasure. For after Ms. Stefani’s refusal, it went on to become not only one of Fergie’s biggest hits (BEP catalogue included), but also one of 2007 highest sellers.

Although the “I’m-still-the-same-even-though-I-have-money” theme has been done to death and will undeniably continue to live on, Fergie-Ferg’s take on the subject sounds surprisingly “legit”. Trading her trademark belting for a  frank, almost talky tone, she seems rather detached from that “flossy” world that is the showbiz industry (whether actually true or not is another question).

The accompanying video compliments the song’s lyrics and production – albeit a bit too literally. Indeed, the singer is depicted living the high-life, movie sets and all, while reminiscing on her humble start.

With the Black Eyed Peas on hiatus, Ms. Ferguson is reported to use that time to concentrate on her family and not to further her promising solo endeavours. As such, for those who were waiting for some more Fergalicious flavour, you’ll have to wait a little bit more. Whether the industry will welcome her back as openly as they embraced her initial foray into solo stardom will be interesting to see.

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