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From The Vault: The Black Eyed Peas – ‘Shut Up’

This week From The Vault journeys back to the very end of 2003 when a unique quartet was releasing one of its biggest hits. Today’s pick is the in-your-face ‘Shut Up’ by The Black Eyed Peas.

After the Justin Timberlake-assisted ‘Where Is The Love’ put them on the mainstream map, the pressure was on for the BEP to keep up the good chart-work. Clearly the Peas knew exactly what they were doing and decided it was time to unleash their wild card: Fergie.

Indeed, after using her vocals on this very track, the band formally invited her to join them as the fourth member of the line-up.

The second single from their third album ‘Elephunk’, ‘Shut Up’ is the song that helped erase any vibes of “novelty act” attached to their name while snatching them a “credible Urban-Pop band” status. With the help of Ron Fair, will.i.am produced the track and wrote its lyrics alongside band members apl.de.ap and Taboo.

Although it wasn’t officially released in the US, the tune became a huge international success claiming the top spot of the charts in many countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden, and peaked at #2 in the UK. Despite not charting Stateside, it was still included on the 15th edition of blockbuster compilation ‘Now That’s What I Call Music!’

The Malloys directed the Hip-Hopera themed video where the boy vs girl lyrical content is well represented with Fergie playing characters in tumultuous relationships with Will and Taboo while Apl is leading the orchestra. Not since the Fugees a few years prior had we seen such chemistry within a group and were we presented with visuals so strong that they very much helped define the identity of the band.

Blink 182’s Travis Barker as well as future Interscope label-mates Kimberly Wyatt and Carmit Bachar of the Pussycat Dolls all appear in the visual.

After kickstarting the mainstream EDM movement back in 2009, the fantastic four became a household name bagging themselves one of the biggest hit of all time with ‘I Gotta Feeling’. While we’re more than elated about the Fergalicious one’s return, we’re excited in advance to find out where the Peas will go next. With their mantra of ever artistically bridging the gaps, they are never afraid of pushing boundaries and taking risks. We already know that from a sonic, visual and promotional tip, when the time comes, we’re in for a treat.

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From The Vault: Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey – ‘When You Believe’

This week, From The Vault journeys back to 1998 when Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey joined forces on inspirational track ‘When You Believe’.

After the media had portrayed them as arch-enemies for the most part of the 90’s, it came as a monumental surprise when news arose of a possible collaboration between the two larger-than-life songstresses. Indeed, what many Pop-enthusiasts had wished for – and others secretly dreaded – was happening: the vocal wonders were putting their alleged rivalry aside for one special song.

Masterminded by Babyface and Stephen Schwartz, ‘Believe’ was included on the OST for Dreamworks animated movie ‘The Prince Of Egypt’. It was also the first single off Houston’s comeback album ‘My Love Is Your Love’ and was featured on Carey’s compilation album ‘#1’. It peaked at #15 in the US and was a Top 10 smash in numerous European countries such as France (#5), Germany (#8) and the UK (#4).

The video, lensed by Phil Joanou, presented the two stunners in leather black dresses singing the track on a stage to a roaring audience intercut with footage of the two ladies interacting on set as well as projections of powerful scenes of the movie such as Moses’ opening of the Red Sea.

Two of TGJ-favorites, Mimi and Nippy delivered with this offering a statement about the importance of spirituality; they also silenced the critics through a blossoming friendship.

Whether based on solid theories or not, it is a common trait of Pop-Culture pitting artists against each other, especially women. Though we understand the need for such scenarios, we’d be lying if we ever said we weren’t daydreaming of a few specific parings ourselves. Strong and successful females coming together remains a beautiful thing that isn’t as widespread as it should.

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What is your ultimate diva pairing?

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From The Vault: Mary J. Blige – ‘Be Without You’

Queen.

The hunt for the next “queen” of the many genre’s has become routine for Pop enthusiasts nowadays.

Yet, amidst all the heated conversations and strong disagreements that some acts’ fan bases get into, one diva has yet to find a suitable successor: the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul herself, Ms. Mary J. Blige.

This week, From The Vault celebrates the artist’s eternal relevancy with one of her biggest hits, ’Be Without You’.

Released at the end of Summer of 2005 as the first offering from the artist’s seventh album ‘The Breakthrough’, ‘Without You’ is a beat-driven ballad produced by Bryan-Michael Cox and written by Johntà Austin (alongside Blige). Interestingly, the pair are particularly notable for their popularisation of the “beat ballad” that year – as evidenced by their work with a certain Mariah Carey – whose comeback with the ‘Emancipation’ was largely attributed to that sound.

But we digress…

The trio of titans came up with was a gem that helped put Mary back on top after the so-so performance of the underrated ‘Love & Life’ LP.

Peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, the record was the most successful song on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop spending 15 consecutive weeks at #1 up until 2013 (it has since been surpassed by Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ last year). In 2006 it was #11 on the US Year-End chart.

Matthew Rolston was brought on board to translate the emotional track in a visual capacity and we’re sure you’d concur that he did a stellar job. Featuring Academy Award-nominated actor Terrence Howard as Mary’s love interest, the clip mirrors the message relayed in the song’s lyrics. More specifically,  the notion that one should never give up on pure and real love (pun intended) despite all the hardships that come along the way.

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With this gem, Mary delivered yet another heartfelt song that is so emotive that it almost  makes one want to lived the lyrics, whether good, bad, or otherwise. Perhaps that’s the reason why she remains untouchable to this day; the passion she embeds in her music is somehow contagious and is the epitome of “feel” music. Case in point, THAT haunting climax on ”Without You’ – it’s both a vocal exclamation mark and, in one belted note, embodies all that the song is about. It’s a skill so many of today’s acts likely wish for and, no doubt, could benefit from.

With new album ‘The London Sessions’ due this Fall, Mary J. continues to amaze us 23 years in her career and quite frankly we can’t really see it stoping anytime soon.

All Hail The Queen!

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From The Vault: Nelly – ‘Hot In Herre’

Long before Drake or Lil’ Wayne were heard rapping and singing on a track, Nelly was already using the technique, delivering hits on hits on hits for the most part of the 00’s.

This week’s From The Vault pick is the veteran’s signature smash, ‘Hot In Herre

Produced by The Neptunes back in 2002, ‘Hot’ was the second offering from the artist’s sophomore album ‘Nellyville‘.

With its catchy chorus and various hooks, the tune was both Nelly and The Neptunes’s first of many a Billboard Hot 100 chart topper. It also reached the top spot of the Canadian charts and placed #4 in the UK. Alongside the Kelly Rowland-assisted ‘Dilemma’ – from the same album – it is considered Mr. Haynes’ signature track, and thanks to its sleek production never sounds out of date, to this day, when it’s party-o-clock.

It was with flying colors that director Little-X managed to translate the urgency of the lyrics into a fiery video taking place in a red hot kind of club where the ladies are anything but unhappy to oblige at the song’s request to take off their clothes. Although sportsmen Carmelo Anthony, TJ Duckett and Julius Peppers make brief but notable appearances during the clip, it is Cedric The Entertainer who steals the show with his now infamous “Roof Is On Fire” segment.

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With 2014 marking ‘Hot In Herre’’s 12th anniversary and the past few years in music focusing on “living for the moment”, you’d think a plethora of CLASSIC party-tunes would have emerged by now. Well from our vantage point there haven’t been that many jams that established themselves as club classics the way Nelly’s single did. The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Got a Feeling’, Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ and Usher’s ‘Yeah’ come to mind as contenders for that category, can you think of others?

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What are the club-classics of the past decade?

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’/ ‘If’ Live At The 1993 MTV VMA’s

While the masses will be tuning in tonight to witness what is shaping up to be yet another glorious MTV Video Music Awards moment for Beyonce, we’d like to take a second and celebrate a prolific VMA performance which holds a very special place in our vault. Performing a medley of ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ and ‘If’, we give you Ms. Janet Jackson’s 1993 Video Music Awards showing as this week’s From The Vault pick.

Produced and written by usual suspects Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis alongside the diva herself, the two tracks were respectively the first two singles off Jackson’s eponymous fifth album ‘janet.’ which hit #1 with the largest first week sales for a woman at the time of release. The two singles, arguably two of her signature hits, fared extremely well on the Billboard charts too with ‘Love’ claiming the top spot for 8 consecutive weeks in the US and hitting #2 in the UK while ‘If’ reached the 4th position of the Hot 100 and was a UK Top 20 hit.

Closing the ceremony, Janet opted for a slow start with the sultry and sensuous ‘Love’ nonetheless engaging in ample choreography with her female dancers. For the second chapter of the performance, it seems the ‘Feedback’ singer wanted to remind people of the “stage-blazer” status she acquired during her ‘Rhythm Nation days': extra dancers, wind machines and of course THAT dance-break were all set in motion to ensure the ceremony went out with a bang during the sickening ’If’.

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With Janet reportedly releasing a new album later this year (which would naturally come with edgy visuals), could next year’s VMA ceremony honor Janet the same way they did Justin Timberlake last year and are about to do Beyonce tonight? Granted she already won the Video Vanguard Award over two decades ago, we’re still salivating at the prospect of a 15+ minutes Janet Jackson performance on the grand stage, and we’re convinced MTV could think of something fresh and exciting to justify such an event.

Only time will tell it seems. In the meantime, we’ll heavily replay this performance and will be glued to our seats tonight, hoping for brand new VMA moments as epic as this.

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From The Vault: Shaï – ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’

At a time where male R&B is on the up, we’d like to pay tribute to a song that  helped popularize the genre in the first place. Shaï’s ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’ is today’s From The Vault pick.

Released in a Boyz II Men-dominated era, the A Cappella track is a harmonizing masterclass that took the R&B world by storm in 1992. Written by band member Carl Martin, it was blocked from the #1 spot by Whitney Houston’s gargantuan smash ‘I Will Always Love You’ and had to settle for a #2 placing – for 8 weeks – on the Billboard Hot 100. It did get to the top spot of the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart. It was also a UK Top 40 hit and placed 4th in the Australian charts.

The Ian Fletcher-directed video uses the same “less is more” approach the song does with the guys standing in a circle while singing the  track and a scant beauty shots injected for good measure. For us, the simplicity  allows the lyrics to really shine through, but most importantly the gentlemen’s voices to take centre-stage.

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We wish more artists today would be as vocally adventurous as Shaï and other acts from the 90’s with their vocal arrangements. Though autotune and studio trickery is a necessity for a slew of modern acts, we feel some might rely on it too much, resulting in robotic, soulless deliveries. Furthermore, the EDM era seems to have sacrificed melody in favor of anthemic hooks and repetitive riffs.

Hopefully, the reemergence of organic music will mean more melodically and vocally rich tunes that will go on to inspire the next generations the same way ‘If I Ever Fall In Love’ has inspired ours.

Shaï, we salute you, we thank you.

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From The Vault: Paula Abdul – Cold Hearted

Way before she was a judge on ‘American Idol’, the ‘X Factor’ and the Australian edition of ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ and not long after blessing Janet Jackson with a few signature moves, Paula Abdul was a popstar in her own right. This week, From The Vault is celebrating one of Ms. Abdul’s finest visual works –  the magnificent ‘Cold Hearted

Pulled from Paula’s blockbuster debut ‘Forever Your Girl’ as its fifth single, ‘Cold’ is a Pop number with sprinkles of New Jack Swing wherein the singer warns a fellow female about a heartless, womanizing man that she compares to a “cold hearted snake “.

It was produced by Elliot Wolff – who was also responsible for the entertainer’s breakout single ‘Straight Up’ – and was one of her six Billboard chart-toppers. Unfortunately, its home soil success never translated into an overseas one.

As many of you would know, we love ourselves an epic video here at TGJ. Therefore you’ll understand why this one has a very special place in our vault. The work of Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher, the visual serves as Abdul’s homage to legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, most particularly his work on classic musical ‘All That Jazz’. The all-dance affair perfectly embodies Paula’s proposition as a “Popstar”: hook-heavy edgy Pop music, enchanting choreography, and high-octane music videos.

With Paula waving goodbye to her singing career almost two decades ago, we feel it is a shame that the current generation only knows her as a TV figure and not the award-winning stage blazer she once was. Just to express how inspiring and trend-setting she and this video have been, here’s a few well-known visuals which take inspiration from ‘Cold Hearted’: Janet Jackson’s ‘If’, Christina Aguilera’s ‘What A Girl Wants’, Britney Spears’ ‘Slave 4 U’, Ciara’s ‘Promise’.

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