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From The Vault: Keri Hilson – ‘Turnin’ Me On’

This week’s From The Vault comes courtesy of an artist who hasn’t released new music in six years. ‘Turnin Me On’ by Keri Hilson is our latest selection.

After penning songs for your favorite artists and enjoying worldwide success with Timbaland thanks to monster hit ‘The Way I Are’ in 2007, the tide was oh so high for Hilson when time came to prove herself as a bonafide solo act.

Following two false starts (see: ‘Return The Favor’ and ‘Energy’), she finally struck gold with edgy cut ‘Turnin Me On.’ If ‘Energy’ saw the beauty keeping it classily clean, ‘Turnin’ saw her play dangerously dirty.

Produced by Polow Da Don with additional production from Danja, the slice of gritty R&B featured Lil’ Wayne and finally garnered Keri her first solo hit after peaking at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B.

Erik White was chosen to direct the track’s visual and came up with a simple yet effective performance video which showed Ms. Hilson serving attitude, sass and commendable choreography.

With cameos from Rich Boy, Polow and Leah Labelle, the clip drew comparisons to Aaliyah’s work as well as Destiny’s Child’s ‘Soldier’.

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It’s hard to believe that it’s already six years since Ms. Keri Baby was doing the ‘Pretty Girl Rock.’ A tad too long ago if you ask us. In order to keep the masses “turned on,” one shouldn’t step away from the spotlight for too long.

With a new project in the pipeline to be released this year, let’s hope Keri can remind the world – and by the world we mean her fanbase, radio and iTunes – why they chose to ride with her in the first place.

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From The Vault: Christina Milian – ‘AM To PM’

Christina Milian‘s debut single ‘AM To PM’ serves as this week’s From The Vault pick. Join us as we journey back in time to when the beauty was one of her generation’s most promising up-and-comers.

Produced by Swedish maestros Bloodshy & Avant and written by the then-19 year old in 2001, it was the first taste of her self-titled debut.

With its Pop-Urban flavor, it introduced the masses to the singer “Christina Milian” as opposed to the MTV VJ. It reached the 27th spot of the Hot 100 in the US and #3 in the UK.

‘AM’s visual was helmed by director extraordinaire Dave Meyers and featured Milian scheming her way out from the family home to go party with her friends. Honing in on the era’s near necessity for “performance,” the clip boasted synchronised choreography and a dynamite dance-break too. All very early 00s.

Granted the whole affair was coated in dollops of Disney realness, it made for wholly enjoyable (and memorable) video.

Ms Milian never quite became the Pop star she was poised to be; which is a shame if you ask us. She ticks all the boxes requisite for break-out stars at the time – radio-ready music, serviceable vocals, a stunning look and engaging visuals.

Still, when all is said and done, the one thing that C. Mili is not is a flop – as evidenced by her arguable omnipresence in music, TV, and cinema.

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From The Vault: Britney Spears – ‘Overprotected’

“I don’t need nobody telling what I’m gonna do about my destiny”

These were the words Britney Spears sassily sung to the world in 2001 on her hit ‘Overprotected’ – this week’s From The Vault Pick.

Its selection is timely too, as the pop star gears up to take center stage at tonight’s Billboard Music Awards to perform and receive the Artist of the Millennium honor.

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Serviced as the second single from Spears self-titled third album, the track was considered a return to Pop-i-er form for the singer after the release of the Urban-kissed ‘Slave 4 U’. Hitmaker Max Martin produced the cut, which narrates a girl’s need to break free and find herself. A remix courtesy of  Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins was released as well.

Surprisingly, the album version did not chart inside the Billboard Hot 100 – although the remix managed a peak of #86. Still, success awaited across the pond in Europe, where the song reached #2 in Sweden, #5 in Italy and #15 in France, and performed well in Australia and Canada charting at respectively #16 and #22.

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In its accompanying video, Spears is seen escaping the paparazzi by entering an abandoned warehouse – where she is joined by her trademark troop of dancers. Billie Woodruff directed the visual and Brian Friedman choreographed.

Referenced in Rihanna’s ‘S&M’ video a decade later, the singer appears in a room where the walls are plastered with pictures and articles about herself; those same walls are moving in and out, symbolizing the oppression expressed in the lyrics.

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The Britney Spears journey, with its glorious ups and saddening downs, has been quite the roller-coaster. One thing is level to see – her career has never been “boring” (sans “that” ‘Britney Jean’ album).

Could tonight be the beginning of a new exciting chapter? We truly hope so!

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey – ‘Heartbreaker’ Live

Though it is now a feat most closely associated with Rihanna, Mariah Carey was the master of snatching #1 records left and right in the 90’s.

Today’s From The Vault pick focuses on a memorably live showing of her 14th chart-topper, 1999’s ‘Heartbreaker.’

Written and produced by Carey alongside DJ Clue and featuring a rap verse by Jay-Z, ‘Heartbreaker’ was the debut single from the diva’s seventh album ‘Rainbow’.

Likened to previous smash ‘Fantasy’ because of their similar hooks, the cut also received a re-work courtesy of Missy Elliott and Da Brat which was sent to radio and included on the album.

Its music video – directed by longtime friend and collaborator Brett Ratner – saw Mimi go head to head with her arch nemesis Bianca.

Reaching the top of the US chart, it was also a Top 5 single in the UK as well as France.

The performance we salute here was held at Mimi’s high-school making it a literal homecoming. Opting for a cheerleader’s theme, the occasion saw pompoms and leather jackets were out in full force. Jay Z and Da Brat even made appearances sending the audience into a frenzy.

So why this showing? We love seeing Mariah take advantage of her scenography and not being static in the middle of the stage with only hand gestures as “choreography”. Though she’s not exactly dropping it like it’s hot, she makes for a compelling moment by just… performing. Clearly we’re not the only ones who feel as such, indeed her ‘Sweet Sweet Fantasy Tour’ saw the mother-of-two employ a similar strategy delivering her most entertaining performances in years.

With a new team on deck, a successful Vegas stint, as well as a critically-acclaimed European jaunt, the future is looking brighter than it has for a long time for the songstress. We say it’s a good thing as it seems like she’s not going anywhere, and frankly we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ready when you are, MC!

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From The Vault: Robin Thicke – ‘Lost Without U’

Though the past few years have brought testing times for Robin Thicke – both personally and professionally, there’s no denying that he’s all sorts of gifted.

This week, From The Vault reacquaints with the crooner’s breakthrough single ‘Lost Without U.’

Serviced as the second single from the star’s 2006 sophomore set ‘The Evolution Of Robin Thicke’, the love-lorn song was written at a time when Robin felt insecure following the underperformance of his debut LP and its singles. Thankfully, history had not repeated itself with this single as it was a sleeper hit in the US peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hip Hop/R&B tally – which had not happened for a White artist since George Michael almost twenty years prior. The cut also reached the 11th spot of the UK Singles Charts.

Because he thought it could be his last video if the song tanked, Thicke chose to cast his then-wife Paula Patton as his love interest in the track’s Benny Boom lensed visual.

Needless to say, the chemistry displayed throughout the sensual video veered off the Richter scale. Bittersweet, somewhat, given the eventual fate for the much-loved (and “in love”) couple.

With ‘Blurred Lines’, Robin Thicke managed to gain a new audience. Yet, as many loyalists would agree, he (in the process) also lost that particular qualitative aura that was omnipresent on previous projects. We hope next go around he manages to mix and match the playful Pop elements of the ‘Lines’ album with some heartfelt and vulnerable moments akin to his first few bodies of work.

Sure, he’s already had a few missteps on that path, but songs like this remind us why we’ll willingly wait.

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey – ‘Fantasy’

Though Christmas is Mariah Carey‘s usual holiday of predilection, this year sees the premium diva serve as the Queen of Easter as she is celebrating her 46th birthday today.

For the occasion, From The Vault takes it all way back to the year 1995 when the songbird released what was to be one of her biggest singles to date. ‘Fantasy’ is our chosen pick of the day.

After four albums in as many years, Mariah clearly had no plan to slow down anytime soon. Seizing on her monstrous momentum, she released blockbuster effort ‘Daydream’ led by  ‘Fantasy’ – which was produced by Carey alongside Dave Hall.

Keen on bridging the gap between R&B and Hip-Hop, an Urban remix was produced, masterminded by Puff Daddy and featuring guest vocals by Wu Tang Clan’s Old Dirty Bastard. Though the idea of having girl-next-door Mariah and gangsta rap king ODB on the same song puzzled many initially, it proved rather beneficial to both the artists’ catalogues and careers. More broadly has changed the music industry forever from a  fusing genres standpoint.

To this day, ‘Fantasy’ is Mimi’s fifth biggest release in the US where it has reached the top of the Billboard chart – her ninth at the time – for 8 consecutive weeks. Elsewhere, it achieved commercial success too peaking at #1 in Canada and Australia and #5 in the UK.

Disappointed with the outcome of some of her previous videos, the diva added yet another title to her already impressive resume when she chose to direct the video for the single.

Set at an amusement park, the visual captures that care-free aura the song evokes and sees Mimi letting her hair down on a rollercoaster, roller-blading and partying. An alternate edit for the remix featured ODB interwoven.

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Though the world can be tough on her – sometimes justifiably – no one can diminish Mariah’s influence in Pop Culture as we know it. During her 26 years in the industry she has been through the highest of highs as well as lowest of lows but somehow has managed to consistently remind the masses why they fell for her. How? By way of her timeless talent and iconic hits such as this.

Two decades on, we’re still bopping to ‘Fantasy’ – which still sounds oh so sweet.

Happy Birthday Ms. Carey!

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From The Vault: Gwen Stefani – ‘Cool’

With Gwen Stefani set to top the charts with her third studio album, this week’s From The Vault pick salutes a  Gwen gem from her first LP.

Cue ‘Cool’ from ‘Love.Angel.Music.Baby.’ 

Serviced as the fourth cut from the blockbuster project, the New Wave inspired track was released in 2005.

Produced by Nellee Hooper and Dallas Austin, the latter also co-wrote the song with Stefani.

While ‘Cool’ only reached Top 40 status overseas, was a hit in the US peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the Pop tally.

The lyrics pull from real life in its centring on Gwen’s relationship with No Doubt-bandmate and former-bae Tony Kanal and how (after the ups and the challenges of life) they’ve remained more than colleagues but good friends too.

Sophie Muller helmed the video, which was shot in Lake Como, Italy and features the singer playing opposite Spanish actor Daniel Gonzàlez — and Erin Lokitz… who happens to be Kanal’s girlfriend.

It plays like a literal, yet creative take on the song’s resonating lyrics.

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After a series of missteps, Team Gwen finally seem to have things in check and we couldn’t be happier. For, Ms Stefani is among the few artists who rose to prominence during the golden age of the 90s but somehow still possess all that is “required” to be successful in todays climate.

Hopefully the next chapter of her solo run is as colorful, captivating and game-changing as her first swing of the bat.

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