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Music

From The Vault: Usher – ‘You Make Me Wanna’

Today’s From The Vault pick comes courtesy of Usher and his breakthrough hit single, ‘You Make Me Wanna’.

The launching release from his sophomore effort, 1997′s ‘My Way’, ‘Make’ stands as the first of many touchdowns scored by the dynamic duo of Ush’ and the great Jermaine Dupri.

Released right at the tail end of the New Jack Swing craze, it became a template for what R&B would go on to sound like in the late 90′s.

Shooting straight to the #2 spot of the Hot 100, the sizzling track was only held back from the pole position by Elton John monumental ‘Candle In The Wind’ – which charted at #1 for 14 weeks. Elsewhere, it was a Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B #1 and also reached the top of the UK Singles Chart tally, it peaked at #6 in both Canada and Australia.

The music video, directed by Bille Woodruff, is a colorful affair mixing solo shots with elaborate dance moves including a chair routine. It was also quite the event because in similar fashion to Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ and Destiny’s Child’s ‘Lose My Breath’ several years later, it featured multiple Usher-clones engaging in synchronized choreography. A 90′s classic.

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With Usher’s last album ‘Looking 4 Myself’ not exactly setting the charts alight and R&B seemingly on the up, it will be rather interesting to see which path the entertainer will embark on next go round. Are we in for a dance-athon in the vein of his latest hits ‘DJ Got Us Falling In Love’, ‘Scream’ and ‘OMG’? Will the talented triple-threat take us back to the pure R&B sound of ‘My Way’ and ’8701′? Is Usher about to unleash something totally different upon us? We sure can’t wait to get the answers to our questions.

What is certain is that the ‘Yeah!’ singer stands as one of the (if not the) most talented male entertainers of the last few generations; an act who always gives it a 100% and truly lives up to his stage-blazer status — hence why we’ll forever be rooting for him.

Bring it on, Ush’!

 From The Vault: Usher   You Make Me Wanna

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From The Vault: Danity Kane – ‘Showstopper’

“You ain’t never ever, never ever seen a girl like me, D-A-N-I-T-Y-K-A-N-E”

Color us excited for tonight’s VMA’s festivities; for not only are a plethora of our favorite acts taking center stage, but it will also  usher in the official return of multi-Platinum divas Danity Kane.

Indeed, as reported this morning, MTV’s Angels are back with a vengeance (#Rage).

To celebrate their vindication, we’re taking it all the way back to the beginning through this week’s From The Vault.
The ladies Genesis effort ‘Showstopper’ is today’s pick.

The Jim Jonsin produced jam was the lead single from the Making The Band alumni’s eponymous debut and featured label-mate Yung Joc as guest rapper. In a probable bid to capitalize on their Diddy/BadBoy affiliation, Team DK opted for a grittier, more Urban sound resulting in this slightly tongue-in-cheek song about automobiles.

Obviously, such decision paid off as the track went on to reach the 8th position on the Billboard Hot 100 after debuting at #17 and was an iTunes #2 single only days after its release.

The Jesse Terrero directed video saw the band “in a car, riding slow” or put simply “showstoppin” through the streets of Los Angeles and performing in the middle of a closed-down Hollywood Boulevard. Although the intro tastes a bit too “Girlband 101″ forus, it doesn’t take away from the core of the clip that testified of the charisma each member had. Juniors they may have been, but they clearly already knew how to “work the camera” from the onset.

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The ‘Lights Out’ belle are looking better than ever and we can’t wait to hear how their vocals blend together in 2013, especially after inspecting their respective evolution via solo endeavors. Even though we would have been ecstatic to see D.Woods as a part of the line-up (there’s still some hope…), we love that the girls and their team seem to make all the right moves. From a slot at tonight’s VMA’s as well as reuniting with Johnny Wright to their (almost confirmed) 51 Minds reality show, we feel like this is the perfect set-up to bring back into the spotlight the most talented female group that graced the industry in the last 10 years.

Welcome Back To The Dollhouse, divas!

danity kane 2014 e1377454929971 From The Vault: Danity Kane   Showstopper

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From The Vault: Artists Against AIDS Worldwide – ‘What’s Going On?’

This week’s From The Vault pick was released in 2001 and is quite literally what “Urban-Pop dreams” are made of. We present you Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On?’ by ensemble cast Artists Against AIDS Worldwide.

The project, which consisted of numerous remixes of the Pop-Culture landmark (each time featuring different vocalists), was helmed in a bid to raise funds for AIDS programs in Africa and other poverty-stricken territories. Though recorded prior the 9/11 tragedy, the track was released in October 2001 and saw 50% of its profit also going to the United Way’s 9/11 fund (with the half going to the AIDS relief effort).

Featuring an All-Star line-up of 2001′s finest acts, two radio versions made the rounds. Both produced by Bono and Jermaine Dupri, they saw acts such as Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, Usher, *N’SYNC, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Nelly, Ja Rule, Jennifer Lopez, Lil Kim, Nas, Wyclef Jean, TLC, Nelly Furtado, Backstreet Boys, Diddy, Gwen Stefani, Mary J.Blige, Eve and Monica to name but a few, trade verses and lines. Marvin’s daughter, Nona Gaye, is also featured aptly singing the “father, father” line.

Without any promotion, the song managed to peak at #27 in the US and an impressive #6 on the UK charts.

The videos, cooked up courtesy of Jake Scott, depict the artists as they remove “labelled” blindfolds from their eyes, symbolizing how society is blinded by prejudice and how we need to open our eyes… which ties in perfectly with the original message of the masterpiece of a track that is ‘What’s Going On?

It’s happenings like this one that make “Pop” (in the broader sense) one of the most exciting genres in mainstream music. In addition to being a tremendous initiative to raise awareness about AIDS and give back to the American Red Cross, it had the huge selling point of featuring all the top artists of that time on a single track – in similar fashion as Bob Geldof‘s Band Aid and Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie‘s USA For Africa - providing the genre’s enthusiasts with a glimpse of what their favorites acts would sound like together, also serving up some odd pairings that, somehow, “work”.

Great track for a great cause!

With this gem being recorded over a decade ago and the industry constantly changing, we’d like to know…

Is your ‘fave’ still relevant?

Bonus: Peep the video for JD’s R&B remix after the jump…

(more…)

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From The Vault: Christina Aguilera – ‘Genie In A Bottle’

We’re saluting one of TGJ’s most popular divas with this week’s From The Vault pick, and we’re taking it back to basics (pun intended).

The year was 1999 and a certain Christina Aguilera was making her grand entrance into the Pop stratosphere; her debut single, the R&B-tinged ‘Genie In A Bottle’, is this week’s selection.

Unleashed as a more mature alternative to then-emerging superstar Britney Spears, Aguilera’s music dealt with themes such as love, lust and sex in a more adventurous and daring manner (albeit still very tongue-in-cheek), as evidenced in this David Frank and Steve Kipner gem.

Managing to hit the Top 10 of every market it’s been released in, ‘Genie’ was Christina’s first of three #1 singles from her eponymous debut on home soil and ended up selling well over 7 million copies worldwide — making it one of the top selling singles of all time.

Director Diane Martel was enlisted to bring the song to life, resulting in a beach-set visual where the vocalist is seen frolicking in the sand, performing the now-classic choreography and attending a bonfire with friends and her love interest.

Still a staple on the music channels that actually play…music , we’re sure we’re not mistaken when we say this one is among the videos that define the “TRL Generation” alongside clips such as ‘Crazy In Love’ by Beyonce, ‘Pop’ by *N’SYNC and Britney’s… Baby One More Time’.

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With Christina sounding as good today as she does on this track (which was released almost 15 years ago), we need her to once again let vocal genie out of the bottle and hit the studio!

Though a super solid effort, the main issue with ‘Lotus’ was timing. Team Xtina -for whichever reason- did not capitalize on the worldwide smash that was ‘Moves Like Jagger’ in the timely way its banner band (Maroon 5) did with cuts such as ‘Payphone’ and ‘One More Night’. Indeed, the campaign for the ‘Your Body’ led set commenced too soon after the success of said song and, depending which reports you believe, was brought to an abrupt halt due to political infighting between respective forces involved with its release.

Now that the ‘Sing For Me’ songstress has her image in check and has returned for a fresh season of ‘The Voice’, the next few months would be the perfect time for “Baby Jane” to give her fans a collection of songs (in a perfect world a LP but why rule out an EP?) that she’ll hopefully promote in earnest. Also, as much as we love seeing her on that spinning chair, we feel she is wasting her time when, with the right setup, sound, and commercial muscle, she could “make the world move” all over again.

Let it out, Christina. Let it out!

christina aguilera genie in a bottle From The Vault: Christina Aguilera   Genie In A Bottle

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men – ‘One Sweet Day’

After a brief rest on the bench, From The Vault is back this week with one of the most successful releases of the 1990′s. It’s Mariah Carey‘s melismatic ‘One Sweet Day’, her smash duet with R&B’s finest Boyz II Men.

The second single lifted from Mimi’s blockbuster LP ‘Daydream’, ‘Day’s production was cooked up  by Carey and former fervent collaborator Walter Afanasieff. It was written by the dynamic duo alongside the R&B quad about specific loved ones who passed away. Most notably, it was also penned with people affected by the AIDS epidemic in mind – in a bid to raise awareness.

On a chart front, the single remains a landmark to this day; it debuted at #1 – which was the singer’s second consecutive single to do so. Yet, most importantly, it is the longest running #1 single on Billboard Hot 100 of all time, totaling an impressive 16 consecutive weeks at the top. It became Mimi’s tenth chart-topper on that tally and the Boyz’ fourth.

(Fun fact: the single replaced Whitney Houston’s ‘Exhale (Shoop Shoop)’ at #1 and was replaced by Celine Dion’s ‘Because You Love Me’. Needless to say, power ballads staged a “chart stampede” during the mid-nineties).

A true world smash, it managed to peak inside the Top 10 in many European countries and remains a fixture on “talent shows” all around the globe.

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With the success and the critical acclaim the single and its parent album had received, it was believed Mariah was a shoe-in for a Grammy sweep after being nominated 6 times in 1996, but all those assumptions were cut short when the ‘Outside’ vocalist went home empty-ended on Grammy night. An injustice if we’ve ever seen one.

Given that Mimi and the Boyz were enjoying gargantuan success in their own rights, busy schedules meant both parties didn’t have time to shoot a proper music video for the single. So in order to make the most of their tenure together, Larry Jordan was in charge of documenting the conception of the track. This edited footage was turned into the track’s “video”.

Its raw quality suited the heartfelt song to the tee, choosing to put the emphasis on the group bonding and the song’s almost other-worldly vocals, rather than drowning everything in “glamorous” and “sophisticated” sets – ala some of Mariah’s more outlandish visuals since her post-Butterfly days.

With “The New Era” nigh, we can’t wait for Ms. Carey-Cannon to unleash it. Did ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ make the cut? What about ‘Almost Home’? Are we in for some more Adult Contemporary numbers in the vein of ‘#Beautiful’? Are there any other collaborations to help her on the charts? We guess it’s a matter of time until we find out. Hopefully.

Still, we’re hoping her ever-loyal ‘Lambily’ and we – over at TGJ HQ – aren’t the only ones anticipating new Mimi. Album and single sales will tell, ay?

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From The Vault: No Doubt – ‘Don’t Speak’

Our From The Vault pick of the week comes courtesy of American Pop rebels No Doubt and their signature smash, ‘Don’t Speak’.

Written by lead vocalist Gwen Stefani about her breakup with the band’s bassist Tony Kanal after a seven-year relationship, ‘Speak’ served as the third single from the group’s classic LP ‘Tragic Kingdom’.

It’s interesting to point out that despite the continued acclaim the cut has been receiving ever since its release in 1996, the single NEVER charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as it wasn’t ever released physically which was an essential requirement at the time. It goes to show that the charts aren’t the only mean to evaluate how music resonates with an audience.

Still, the track held the top of the Airplay chart in the US and was a the first of many worldwide touchdowns for the colorful quad reaching the Top 5 in France and Germany and hitting the #1 spot in the UK, Ireland and Australia.

The track’s accompanying VMA-winning video was directed by frequent collaborator Sophie Muller and sees the band performing the song in a garage while footage of them killing it during a live show are shown as well. The clip  also sheds light on the press’ fascination with Stefani versus the band as a unit. (Side note: whatever Ms. Stefani is drinking, she needs to remember sharing is caring. She looks as youthful today, aged  43,  as she did in this vid!)

With No Doubt’s latest effort ‘Push And Shove’ failing to find chart success, we hear the Californian quartet is already hard at work on a new project as well as a worldwide tour. Hopefully they learn from the “mistakes” they made with said album and hit the world with a collection of records that will cater to a global audience without compromising their unique sound too much.

In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this timeless power ballad…

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From The Vault: SWV – ‘Right Here’

Our From The Vault pick this week comes courtesy of SWV and their 90′s classic ‘Right Here (Human Nature Mix)’.
Originally a single from the ladies 1992 debut ‘It’s About Time’, a remixed version sampling Michael Jackson‘s ‘Human Nature’ from the iconic ‘Thriller‘ LP was released a year later. Helmed by the great Teddy Riley (with additional production by Pharrell Williams), the reworking remains one of the trio’s most successful singles and undeniably their signature song. (Side note: did you recognize Mr Williams during the infamous “S, the double, the U, the V…” hook?)
The song was also used as a promotional track for the movie ‘Free Willy’
As far as charts are concerned, the track was a home run for the Sisters With Voices, spending 7 weeks at the top of the Billboard R&B Singles Chart and peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A true worldwide hit, it reached the third position of the UK Official Charts and the Top 10 of many other European countries.
Directed by Lionel C. Martin, the beach-set visual sees the ladies horse-riding, fishing and chilling in front of bonfires alongside their musicians. The overall romantic and carefree vibe of the video is a perfect fit for the New Jack Swing laid back groove. A version of the clip features footage from the King Of Pop performing the original on tour.
Without a doubt the main inspiration for groups like Destiny’s Child and Danity Kane, groups like SWV, Xscape, TLC and En Vogue factually don’t get the recognition they should. Weirdly enough it is the UK that keeps referencing them with acts such as Little Mix, Sugababes/MKS and Stooshe. To be fair, it is not like the US is overflowing with Urban bands, male or female.
While we wait for the next generation of talented groups to impact the charts, we invite you to join us celebrating this timeless gem.

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From The Vault: Aretha Franklin & George Michael – ‘I Knew You Were Waiting For Me’

Back in 1987, two artists from two different arena’s joined forces to deliver a smash hit single which serves this week’s From The Vault pick: it’s Aretha Franklin and George Michael‘s still-stunning ‘I Knew You Were Waiting For Me’.

‘Waiting’ was written by Simon Climie and Dennis Morgan for Franklin’s 1986 release, ‘Aretha’ and saw freshly-solo-star Michael collaborating with one of his idol. After the bubblegum-fest that was Wham!, George started channeling his inner Soul Man which can be heard in this track as he has no problem whatsoever keeping up with the greatest who ever done it, the Queen of Soul herself.
A US-meets-UK collaboration, the track lived up to its international status as it was a chart-topper in both those countries. On the UK front it was Michael’s third in a row and weirdly enough Aretha’s only #1 record to this day; the duet was her seventeenth Top 10 hit and Michael’s first since calling it quits with Wham. It was also a #1 record in Ireland and Australia and a Top 10 in Canada and Germany.
The video is primarily set in a screening room where past videos of the seasoned vocalists are shown alongside footage of notable duos like Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and Sonny & Cher. Midway through, Aretha and George get together and jam to their uplifting tune resulting in an iconic moment in the vein of those they paid homage to in the first place.
“Unusual” pairings like this excite in earnest. Indeed the collision of two worlds on one common ground represents what music should be all about: an art that brings people together. With the likes Miguel and Kelly Clarkson reportedly “trying to make it happen”, let’s pray other artists follow suit. We’d be lying if we said we hadn’t made a few dream combos in our heads already (Janet Jackson and Bebel Gilberto, Mariah and ), but we want YOU to tell us:
What would be your dream pairings of artists from different genres?
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