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From The Vault: Missy Elliott – ‘Lose Control (ft. Ciara & Fatman Scoop)’

“Music makes you lose control”. It indeed does!

This week’s From The Vault is dance-floor filler, ‘Lose Control’ by Missy Elliott – who is joined by Ciara and Fatman Scoop. The high-energy track was released as the first single from Ms. Demeanour sixth studio album, ‘The Cookbook’ (2005).

After the touchdown that was ‘1, 2 Step’, Elliott reached out to Ciara for the 2nd round, resulting in an equally fantastic song (if not, better).

The production on the track (helmed by Elliott herself) gives a nod to the basics of Hip-Hop music by using an Afrika Bambaataa-like beat, all the while staying very “modern” and boasting a near-perfect balance between “Urban” and “Pop”. It’s also important to signify that ‘Control’, with its Hip-Hop meets Electronica composition, was precursory of the Urban-Dance craze that is raging until this day.

With its award-winning video showcasing the dynamic duo’s performing skills, this right here is an absolute high-point of each of the ladies careers.

What’s more, with their artistic chemistry being a match made in heaven (see: ‘Work’, their third collabo), we are convinced the world would love to lose more control with those two. We sure know we would.

Bring on Round IV!

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From The Vault: Mary J. Blige – ‘All That I Can Say’

The year is 1999 and the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige is releasing her 4th studio album, the critically acclaimed (yet slightly underrated) ‘Mary’.

Classic in many a way, the LP’s lead single ‘All That I Can Say’ is the object of this week’s From The Vault.

The Lauryn Hill helmed track demonstrates, like oh so many others, that Ms Blige is undeniably a sensational songstress. While not as straight-forward and in-your-face as most of her signature hits (‘Real Love’, ‘Family Affair’, ‘Be Without You’), the laid-back groove still makes for an interesting listen. Mary shows that she is as comfortable using her lower register than she is belting high notes. Furthermore, the grittiness and overall rawness of her vocal here is a true testament to the genuinety the ‘No More Drama’ singer embeds in her music.

Released in the summer of ’99, a time when bubble-gum Pop was ruling the airwaves (Britney, Christina and co), this song never garnered the recognition it deserved. However, with its unashamed adult flavour and positive vibe, it really postmarked of Mary’s growth as an artist.

Mary, more feel-good songs like this on on ‘My Life II’, please!

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From The Vault: The Braxtons – ‘Slow Flow’

On their hit reality show ‘Braxton Family Values’, Toni’s sisters Trina, Towanda and Tamar are depicted as the Party Girl, the Responsible One and the Diva respectively. Well, this week’s From The Vault will showcases the trio as members of underrated R&B group, The Braxtons. Lifted from their 1997 second album, ‘So Many Ways’, ‘Slow Flow’ is yet another example of the talent with which has blessed the Braxton family.

The laid-back groove is evocative of the R&B scene during the mid-nineties: New-Jack beat: check, DJ-scratches: check, melancholic synth-line: check, great vocals: check.

Moreover, each member is apportioned ample light to flaunt what they’re working with. From Trina’s deep, mature vocal, to Towanda’s soulful tone (one we must add lends itself well to Gospel music), and of course Tamar  – whose voice proves just as big her personality. Indeed, any such doubt of her ability is dispelled when she takes charge and treats us to a melisma-heavy final chorus.

Hopefully at some point, the show, without losing its comical and inspirational appeal, will provide more music-related storylines for the ladies. As, like this song and numerous others attest, they are worth so much more than the ‘roles’ they’ve been assigned. Of course, seeing Tamar act like Tamar is great – however, it’d be if we’d see more of such antics in a recording studio.

Bring On that reunion album!

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From The Vault: Janet Gets Vocal On Saturday Night Live

Too often acts such as Janet Jackson are pelted with remarks such as “she can’t sing” or “her voice is weak”.

And although her most recent material hasn’t done dispel such claims, this week’s ‘From The Vault’ showcases the icon’s potential as a singer.

Recorded in 1994, this ‘Saturday Night Live’ rendition of ‘Anytime Anyplace’ (lifted from 1993’s ‘janet.’ album) is a fan-favourite. And for good reason too.

The jazz-influenced showing sees Jackson leave behind all the pyrotechnics and intricate routines (as well as her infamous backing tracks and pre-records). She instead allows her smooth mezzo-soprano to shine. Indeed, here demonstrates that one need not be a powerhouse vocalist like a Mariah or Whitney to convey emotion or serve up glitch-less performances. Rather, she shows that true vocal power boils down to control (pardon the pun)

With her heyday years behind her, we here at That Grape Juice are keen to see Miss Jackson present herself as just as much a vocalist as she is a performer. Still capable by most counts, as age catches up with her, perhaps its time she shines light on her most underrated gift yet– her voice. After all, in a world where the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry are doing the same, Janet’s embrace of this model would not go amiss.

It may very well be what she needs to win her back the critical acclaim that has eluded the latter part of her career; perhaps helping her eventually win over the iTunes generation. Time will tell…

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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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