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From The Vault: Jill Scott – ‘Golden’

‘Golden’ by Jill Scott is this week’s From The Vault selection. The song was released as the 1st single from Scott’s 3rd album, ‘Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol. 2′, in 2004.

Although the record only peaked at #110 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #31 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it has gathered a strong following in the years after its initial release. In fact, because of the inspirational message boasted by the lyrics, Scott is often asked to perform this song on many occasions, with many regarding it as her signature tune.

This is what music is all about – inspiring people and invoking emotions. ‘Golden’ is an amazing song that was performed by an amazing singer. Great stuff!

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From The Vault: Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion & Others – ‘A Natural Woman’ (Divas Live 1998)

With reports surfacing this week that she is experiencing serious health complications, I see no better time than the present to pay homage to the Queen, Aretha Franklin. Hence, this week’s From The Vault features the icon belting out one of her signatures tunes - ‘A Natural Woman’. Alongside Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Carol King (the song’s writer), Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain, Franklin created a legendary moment in television at Vh1′s ‘Divas Live’ in 1998.

There is absolutely no question that Franklin is the most influential artist of the last 50 years. Every singer to emerge in the industry after her arrival has been inspired by her voice, either directly or indirectly. From Michael Jackson to Whitney Houston to Mariah to Beyonce to Lady GaGa, there isn’t a single artist who can deny her influence on their music.

Moreover, Franklin personifies the very meaning of the word ‘diva’. She is more than just an act with a few hits – she is a woman who has changed the game, establishing a legacy that will live on for generations.

Thus, that filth that Vh1 aired last weekend - ‘Vh1 Divas: Salute The Troops’ – should be viewed as an insult to her and all of the other singers who previously appeared on the show. Still, I digress. Long live the Queen!

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From The Vault: Spice Girls – ’2 Become 1′

This week’s From The Vault selection helped the Spice Girls to become a global phenomenon. ’2 Become 1′ was third single to be released from their massively successful ‘Spice’ debut (which sold over 23 million records worldwide since being released in 1996).

Co-written by all of the group members alongside Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, the song peaked at #1 in the UK and #4 in the US, achieving platinum and gold status in both territories respectively. The song was praised by critics for the clever inclusion of a safe sex message and some even compared the composition to a Mariah Carey-styled ballad.

The best feature of this song is that all 5 was members of the group had the opportunity to sing. While it is clear that Sporty Spice was by far the most talented vocalist, every member was able to lend her voice (or lack thereof) to the record.

Very few groups often give all members the chance to shine like that. In fact, with the exception of Danity Kane, En Vogue and Rich Girl, it is difficult to find other examples.

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From The Vault: Truth Hurts – ‘Addictive (Ft. Rakim)’

From The Vault is back this week with a number from Truth Hurts. Serving as the first single off her ‘Truthfully Speaking’ LP, the DJ Quik-produced ‘Addictive’ was released in late 2002 and features rapper Rakim. However, the record has proven to be the only hit to date for the R&B singer, managing to peak at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

What makes this song so addictive (no pun intended) is the Hindi vocal sample. Every aspect of the production and the vocal arrangement was framed cleverly around that element and helped to make this a major club hit. It’s a shame that Truth Hurts remains a one hit wonder, though, because she really can sing.

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From The Vault: Ja Rule – ‘Down A*S Chick (Ft. Charli Baltimore)’

This week’s From The Vault selection comes from the year 2001 in the form of Ja Rule’s ‘Down Ass Chick’. The song features his then Murder Inc labelmate Charli Baltimore and was released as the 4th single off his ‘Pain Is Love’ album. A moderate hit, ‘Down Ass Chick’ peaked at  #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and failed to match the success of the other songs released from the LP, all of which peaked in the top 10 of the chart.

O Ja Rule, why has the music industry forsaken thee? He had such an impressive voice and brought a unique sound to Hip-Hop. However, as we all know, 50 Cent put an end to that.

Nonetheless, it is amusing that while 50 accused Ja Rule of singing more than rapping, he himself has adopted the same approach with own records; doing more singing than rapping on many of his hits including ‘Candy Shop’ and ‘Magic Stick’. Now it looks like karma has finally caught up with 50 because he finds himself on the edge of irrelevancy like all the other artists he helped destroy.

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Music

From The Vault: Beyonce – ‘Work It Out’

This week’s selection for From The Vault comes from Beyonce. ‘Work It Out’ served as the lead single from the ‘Austin Power in Goldmember’ film and was one of the singer’s first major attempts at solo success. However, despite the Tina Turner-inspired setup of the Mathew Rolsten-directed clip, and respectable promotion from her label, the song failed to enter the Billboard Hot 100.

By comparison, Beyonce’s bandmate Kelly Rowland’s duet with Nelly, ‘Dilemma’, was #1 on that tally for 10 weeks, initially climbing to the top spot without promotion and even before a music video has released.

Judging by the large disparity between the success of ‘Work It Out’ and ‘Dilemma’, it is quite puzzling that Beyonce’s label continued to focus on forging her solo career while almost ignoring Rowland altogether. In fact, it seems that Mathew Knowles ensured that his daughter’s first solo album, ‘Dangerously In Love’, was equipped with several of the industry’s then heavyweight producers whereas Rowland was given many of her leftovers.

Certainly this scenario provides ample evidence of the politics occurring behind the scenes at the Knowles camp. Indeed, why would they continue to emphasise only Beyonce’s endeavours but overlook Rowland who was, at that time, the more commercially viable act?

Imagine the kind of career that both artists would have had if given equal opportunities. Then again, they shoulda would coulda but didn’t. O well.

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From The Vault – Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson ‘What’s It Gonna Be’

This week’s classic From The Vault clip comes courtesy of Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson and their 1999 single ‘What’s It Gonna Be’.

Lifted from Rhymes’ LP ‘Extinction Level Event’, the song went on to become one of the rapper’s biggest hits (peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the Official UK Singles Chart). While the track stands on its own two legs as one of the most dynamic Rap-Sung collaborations in Urban music history, much of its success is no doubt attributable to its accompanying video.

Directed by the then man-of-the-moment, Hype Williams, the clip till this day remains one of the most expensive videos ever made (costing a reported $2 million to produce). Indeed, with its ground-breaking special effects, and out-of-the-box take on the ‘sensual’, the video easily trounces many of those produced today – some 11 years later. Classic.

Tidbit: One can’t but marvel at Janet’s uncanny ability to glide between being the seductive songstress to being the all-smiling, all laughing, girl next door. Love it!

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