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From The Vault: Toni Braxton – ‘Un-Break My Heart’

Though released almost two decades ago, Toni Braxton‘s classic ‘Un-Break My Heart’ still serves as a Valentine season favourite. As such, the lovelorn number is this week’s From The Vault pick.

Interestingly, initially Braxton wasn’t too keen on recording the Diane Warren-penned and David Foster-helmed track. After skilled convincing from then-label head L.A Reid, Toni agreed and turned this ballad into a monster smash.
The second single from her magnum-opus ‘Secrets’, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks – funnily enough from December 7 1996 to Valentine’s Day week in 1997. It reached the fifth position on the Canadian charts and entered the Top 3 in numerous European countries. Perhaps, most notably though, the gem won Braxton her fourth Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal.

It is with flying colors that frequent collaborator Bille Woodruff managed to create a heartbreaking visual for a heartbreaking track. Starring world-famous model Tyson Beckford, the video sees the stunner mourning her deceased lover and later on taking the stage for an all-out diva masterclass that has now become permanently etched in the minds of millions.

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To this day, Toni Braxton remains a rare gem; from her deep sultry tone to her effortless brand of “sexy”, she has established herself as one of R&B’s most notable royals and  definitive music legend.

As widely known, her run in the industry has been filled with high highs and challenging lows. Hence, why we’re hoping the Grammy winning success her latest project, ‘Love, Marriage, & Divorce’, will inspire her to press on with new music so as to allow generations to come to appreciate the wealth of her immense talent.

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey Rocks 2006 Grammy’s With ‘We Belong Together / Fly Like A Bird’

Another year, another Grammy ceremony.

In homage to tonight’s show, our From The Vault pick is a rousing showing by Mariah Carey at the 2006 award ceremony.

We’re pretty sure you’re now well acquainted with the stats of the blockbuster era Ms. Carey scored with her ‘Emancipation Of Mimi’ comeback LP. For the forgetful few, the the project sold over 10 million albums, enjoyed countless weeks at #1, spurned two top charting singles including Billboard’s “Song Of The Decade” ‘We Belong Together’.

Taking to the Grammy stage after bagging 8 nominations, Ms. Carey delivered an epic medley of the aforementioned Jermaine Dupri-moulded smash alongside the Gospel fan-favorite ‘Fly Like A Bird’ – which was produced by James ‘Big Jim’ Wright. With her vocals in great form – and just a tad of backing track for good measure – this ranks as one of Mimi’s best performance of recent years, not only for her voice but also her commanding stage presence.
One would think that all these credentials would equal major recognition by the Grammy committee, right? Wrong! Though taking home three gramophones on that night, the diva missed out on the oh-so-prestigious “Record Of The Year”, “Song Of The Year” and “Album Of The Year” distinctions, with the organization instead opting to reward arguably less celebrated music – both critically and commercially – by U2 and Green Day.

Unfortunately, nobody’s ever safe from a Grammy snub, especially not on the Urban side of things. From where we’re standing, Mariah deserved to win every single award she was nominated for on that evening.

With the Urban arena at its most popular in years, it’ll be interesting to see WHO the Grammy committee considers the leaders of the pack.

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From The Vault: Aaliyah – ‘If Your Girl Only Knew’

36 years old…

That is the landmark R&B Princess Aaliyah would be this month. Unfortunately, fate had decided otherwise.
In a bid to salute one of the major artist who has put modern R&B on the mainstream map, From The Vault journeys back to 1996 this week to spotlight her classic ‘If Your Girl Only Knew’.

Developed by then-up-and-comers Missy Elliott and Timbaland, ‘Girl’ was Aaliyah’s Atlantic Records debut but most importantly the first indicator of longevity after her successful first album. The lead single from the singer’s ‘One In A Million’ LP, it achieved major success in the USA, peaking at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching the coveted top spot of the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs and Tracks tally.

Joseph Khan directed the track’s visual which featured the stunner as the Queen Bee of an Urban biker crew. One could argue the styling in the video is pretty faithful to what the “Aaliyah Look” that she would later become renown for. Bandana, crop top and baggy pants and of course sunglasses, Ms Haughton showcases a potent blend of “Street”, “Cool” and “Feminine”. Masterminds Missy and Timbo all appear in the video alongside 90’s staples Lil’ Kim, Ginuwine and R&B trio 702.

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Aaliyah, through her well crafted R&B and edgy videos helped redefine the genre as we know it and her influence can still be witnessed in Pop-Culture over 13 years after her tragic passing. Her death is all the more saddening when taking account that 2001 truly felt like the “moment” in time where she hit her mark as an artist as evoked with songs and videos like ‘More Than A Woman’ and ‘Rock The Boat’.
Considering the impact she had during her 10-year run as well as the extent of her legacy, it’s clear to say that the music industry would be looking a lot different if Baby Girl was still amongst us today.

Thankfully, we’ll always have her art to remind us of her incredible talent.

Aaliyah we salute you.

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From The Vault: Whitney Houston – ‘Queen Of The Night’

Though her most celebrated work remains her epic love songs, Whitney Houston knew a thing or two about turning up the uptempo and giving the clubs something to move their feet to.

Today’s pick is the mighty ‘Queen Of The Night’ from the ‘Bodyguard’ OST.

Serviced as a single from the record-breaking set, ‘Queen’ is a Dance number heavily influenced by Rock music. Helmed by L.A. Reid and Babyface, the track – though a big radio hit – wasn’t commercially released in the US but achieved success in European countries including the UK where it reached the 14th spot of the charts. Through the years, the cut developed into a classic with talent show contestants belting it and DJs from all over the world still spinning it and its accompanying remixes.

TV stations are also the reason of the song’s recognition. Indeed, its music video sees Houston in all her dynamic divadom . Wind machines, shiny wardrobe and attitude aplenty, this visual shows a side of the superstar’s personality only rarely exploited through her storied-career — and we absolutely love it!

The hole the regal queen’s passing left on the industry may still feel as deep as it did on “that” tragic day in 2012, but we find warmth in knowing that, no matter what, Nippy’s position in music is permanently etched in stone. Having dabbled in R&B, Gospel, Soul, Pop and Rock, her industry timeline stands as the blueprint for all the vocalists of this world.

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We’ll always love you, Whitney Elizabeth Houston.

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From The Vault: OutKast – ‘Hey Ya’

As shared in our latest roundtable earlier this week, we’re longing for diversity and variety, especially in the male arena, in 2015. And while we awaiting our wish to be granted, we’re keen to honor an act which showed the music industry that it’s more fruitful to dance to the beat of your own drum kit.

This week’s From The Vault salutes OutKast and their mega-hit ‘Hey Ya’.

Lifted from the duo’s concept double disc ‘Speakerboxxx/The Love Below’ – a solo album for each member – ‘Hey Ya’ was issued as the lead single of André 3000’s half of the release in 2003. Self-written and produced, the track is a throwback, hook-heavy Southern Soul gem that sent the whole world – including critics and the Grammy committee – into a frenzy at the beginning of the century.

Having topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a whopping 9 weeks, the cut charted at #1 in Canada and also reached the Top 10 of several European countries such as the United Kingdom (#3), Germany (#6) and France (#7).

{Side note: Big Boi’s launching single was also a Billboard #1 for multiple weeks… talk about killing the game}

Surely the bop’s success wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for its crazy-cool promotional video. Directed by Bryan Barber and boasting cameos from actor Ryan Phillippe and partner in rhyme Big Boi, it takes inspiration from The Beatles iconic Ed Sullivan Show performance – only this time it is imaginary ensemble The Love Below, fronted by an energetic André, that is performing in the UK. With the eclectic artist portraying every single member of the funkified band, the visual earned many accolades including four MTV VMA wins as well as a Grammy nod for ‘Best Short Form Music Video ‘. To this day, it remains a TV channel favorite.

Throughout their 20+ years career, Outkast broke the rules and changed the game forever by redefining Southern Hip-Hop and giving Pop Culture one of its latest musical landmarks. Though both members are unique in their own right, we have to give it to Andre for never being afraid of being different and thinking outside the box – sonically, but also in terms of fashion and styling – even when it doesn’t follow the usual hyper-masculine blueprint.

Needless to say, OutKast’s narrative proves that veering away from the norm CAN be rewarding, in more ways than one. With that, we’d like to send a special message to harvesters of talent: betting on authenticity is betting on longevity.

For now, though, press ‘PLAY’ and shake it like a Polaroid picture!

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From The Vault: Jennifer Lopez – ‘Get Right’

10 years…

January 4th marks the 10th anniversary of a club-banger that a decade on still gets the dance-floor ablaze.

Today’s From The Vault pick is the colossal ‘Get Right’ by the ever-fierce Jennifer Lopez.

At a time when the world was growing tired of her media presence following the “Bennifer”episode , Ms. Lopez –  with this single – was hoping to right (pun intended) the wrongs caused to her image and reposition herself as an entertainer. Needless to say, it turned out to be just what the career doctor ordered.

Helmed by ‘1 Thing’ maestro Rich Harrison alongside Corey Rooney – with Usher also participating to the song’s development – it was based around an infectious horn riff from the collaboration between James Brown and Maceo and The Macks, ‘Soul Power’.
The diva’s first release in over 18 months, it was met with favorable reviews as well as generous chart positions. Reaching the 12th position of the Billboard Hot 100, it topped both the UK Singles Charts and the World Singles Official Top 100.

Opting to unleash the song and the video the same day (a rarity at the time), it made it near-impossible for folk to disassociate the funky track from its high-octane visual. Francis Lawrence allowed Jen to tap into her acting-skills by portraying a multitude of characters all present at a hyper hip club where ‘Right’ is playing.

Renown for its editorial-looking dance-break (which remains all sorts of epic), indeed it is the kind that makes one feel like the world has stopped and nothing else matters.

The 10 years that separate us from ‘Right”s release have seen Lopez experience career ups and downs; from successful stints on American Idol, to hit singles, to not so successful albums, and a dwindling radio potency.

Still, with a rumored Vegas run on the cards, it seems the ride is anything but over for the Latin beauty and from where we stand, she seems hungrier than she has ever been, which in turn has our appetite for new music from her even more

It will be interesting to see where J.Lo will go next. Wherever she navigates her career, we’re keen to bet that 10 years from now, her star will still be shining bright.

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Hung Up’

“Time goes by… so slowly”
While this week has found Queen Of Pop Madonna forced to share details about her much anticipated 13th album ‘Rebel Heart’, From The Vault journeys back to her most sonically sound effort in recent years. This week’s pick is the glorious ‘Hung Up’.
Released almost a decade ago, ‘Hung Up’ was the very first offering of the artist’s disco-heavy tenth album, the delicious ‘Confessions On A Dance Floor’. Helmed by British producer Stuart Price and the diva herself, it is famously built on a sample of ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ by legendary Swedish group ABBA.
Released in a ‘We Belong Together’ reality, the song still managed to achieve major success on a global scale peaking at #1 in 41 countries including the UK, France, Canada and Australia – it reached #7 in the US – and has sold over 9 millions unit since its release.
Johan Renck was in charge of directing the track’s visual. Featuring many dancers – including several of the krumpers seen in David LaChapelle’s documentary ‘Rize’ as well some of her own documentary ‘I’m Going To Tell You a Secret’ – the video succeeds in relaying a raw street aura while keeping up with the glam of the late 70s/early 80s which were explored during that album campaign. From the fashion and the lighting, to the beauty shots and choreography, all comes together and explodes into a euphoric final scene where Madge is seen dancing up a storm.
Perhaps it’s us, but from where we’re standing ‘Confessions’ was the last real “Madonna” album. Indeed, much of what came after has reeked of desperation and tackiness (see: ‘MDNA’, shuffling with LMFAO at the Superbowl, reductive-gate). We’re all for exploring different sounds and textures, and clearly that’s what M-Dolla is famous for; still, we wish she would maintain some sort of regality in her music. In wanting to cater to the younger generation, it feels like the artist is continuously losing the very elements that made her the Queen Of Pop in the first place. So much to the point where she is making the same music the very artists she gave birth to are churning out —- ironically with less tasty results.
Here’s hoping the remaining 13 tracks of ‘Rebel Heart’ give back to us that very artist who has been Pop’s definitive blueprint.
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