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From The Vault: Alicia Keys – ‘A Woman’s Worth’

Ten years ago, the world first fell in love with Alicia Keys and has kept fallin’ (pun intended) ever since. This week’s From The Vault journeys back to one of Ms. Keys earliest smash, the neo-soul ballad, ‘A Woman’s Worth’.

Serviced as the second single from her near-flawless debut ‘Songs In A Minor’, the track underscores the importance of mutual respect in a relationship.

With Alicia’s vocal delivery on the track reminiscent of a certain Ella Fitzgerald, along with the jazzy undertones of the production, this could be considered yet another 50’s throwback.

Yet the subtle Hip-Hop vibe as well as the hooks and catchy chorus are exactly what took the song from “old-school” to “radio smash” territory.

Numerous artists have tried to take that route of “back-to-basics-with-a-modern-twist” that Ms. Beatz has built her career after, but her genuine passion for that era in music and the rawness of her voice (as well as heartfelt lyrics and great live showings) are definitely what make this young lady the leader of the pack.

AK is currently celebrating a decade of success and, we here at That Grape Juice think that the mother of one shouldn’t have any problem celebrating another 10 years should she continuing staying true to her music.

Your thoughts?

*That Grape Juice is giving away 3 signed copies of Alicia’s anniversary edition of ‘Songs In A Minor’. Click here to find out how you can win!*

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From The Vault: Michael Jackson & Janet – ‘Scream’

This week’s From The Vault celebrates the careers of two of Pop-Culture’s biggest phenomenons: brother and sister Michael and Janet Jackson.

With the 25th of June (yesterday) marking the 2 year anniversary of the Legend’s passing, That Grape Juice once again tribute him and his unmatchable talent.

And since little sister is touring Europe at the moment and will be coming very soon to our hometown of London, what better time than the present to reflect on the output of two of music’s great stars. What better way to do that than with their 1995 epic duet, ‘Scream’.

Released as the first single from Michael’s ‘HIStory’ album and produced by Janet’s longtime producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the track serves as an open letter to the press following MJ’s 1993 legal drama. Janet’s participation was her way of supporting her big bro’.

The high-octane cut  sees Mike and Jan flaunt a  more aggressive tone, which in tandem compliments their controversial lyrics (“Just stop pressuring me, stop f*cking with me”).

A dream collaboration on paper, the blissful reality was rendered ever better with the help of ‘Scream’s award-winning video.

At the time the most expensive music visual ever made, the futuristic black & white clip is a classic for many a reason, although it’s the iconic dance-break that generates the most praise to this day.

The world had been waiting for a joint performance of the track for years, but instead had to settle for a virtual showing in 2009 when Janet tributed her brother at the VMA’s. An amazing performance to say the least, yet still heart-wrenching knowing that we’ll never get to see them set the stage a ablaze together.

Many a fan have expressed desire for Janet to return to the creative force that are Jimmy & Terry. A sentiment we co-sign; they are after all the ones who’ll provide songs in the vein of this one (i.e. stellar production + non-standard lyrics), as well as the wealth of hits she amassed under their guidance.

As for Michael, this piece of art right here is one of the many reasons he will NEVER be replaced. Even though this vid saw the light of the day more than 15 years ago, it is aesthetically leaps and bounds better than most of what is out today.

MJ may be gone, but his art and legacy live on! Forever and a day.

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From The Vault: Pharrell Williams – ‘Frontin”

This week’s From The Vault spotlight’s Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z‘s 2003 classic, ‘Frontin”.

The song, which was a worldwide Top 10 hit, was the 1st single released from ‘The Neptunes Present: Clones’ album, but most importantly Mr Williams’ first strike as an headlining solo act.

What’s interesting about the track is how simple it is. Simple, yet effective. Despite the hitmaker’s lack of vocal prowess, the cut evokes an air of ‘Off The Wall’, particularly the bassline throughout the song. Even Skate Board P’s high-pitched delivery gives a nod to classic MJ. As ever, Jay-Z comes in and delivers his rap effortlessly.

The video may yet another house party, yet with a ‘is more’ approach taken to both the production and visual, this is hands down one of The Neptunes’ finer moments!

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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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