This week’s From The Vault pick comes courtesy of defunct R&B duo, Zhané and their timeless smash ‘Hey Mr. DJ’.
R&B at its finest, ‘DJ’ was the first single from their 1993 debut, the aptly titled ‘Pronounced Jah-Nay’ (in case you were wondering). It was a Billboard Hot 100 smash, charting at #6 and managed to crack the Top 40 of various other countries like the U.K and Australia where it peaked at #26 and #9 respectively.
The funky cut was accompanied by a fitting “bloc-party” video, which – like much of the 90′s Urban output – evoked a real “feel good” aura. An aura referenced by some today’s artists, ala Beyonce on ‘Party’, yet one generally overlooked in an era which sees most trying to embrace the “dark” and “edgy”.
Zhané scored themselves a few hits after ‘DJ’, such as ‘Groove Thang’ and ‘Sending My Love’, but ultimately called it quits as golden-decade of the 90′s drew to a close.
Though the journey ended rather abruptly for the talented pair, solace can be sourced in that they cooked up a hit which remains ever-fresh.
Many in the entertainment industry are routinely branded ‘triple-threats’. Yet, while the validity of most claims are merely smoke and mirrors, Pop diva Jennifer Lopez not only embodies the title – she is one of the most pronounced examples.
At a time when the Latin beauty is releasing her first Greatest Hits compilation celebrating a decade plus of hits, From The Vault journeys back to where it all started. This week’s pick is Jennifer’s debut single ‘If You Had My Love’.
With Darkchild on writing and production duties, J.Lo managed to launch her music career with a resounding bang. Released during Spring 99, ‘Love’ was a Billboard #1 and reached the Top 10 of the majority of the countries it was released in.
For many industry analysts, its worldwide success was largely the by-product of its iconic music video – which, let’s just say, ticked all the boxes. Indeed Jenny is presented as the absolute full-package; this sentiment is echoed throughout the phenomenal dance break which bares strong resemblance dancer’s show reel (see: Jazz, House, Latin Soul). The virtual and voyeuristic atmosphere was also a clever touch as the internet and reality-TV were booming bombastically at the end of the millennium. Put simply, director Paul Hunter did a wonderful job introducing Lopez, the Popstar, as a charismatic, sexy dance maven with global appeal, a description which still fits nowadays.
The ex-Idol judge is among the few people who can proudly say that they have been truly successful in multiple fields of the industry. She has been a professional dancer in the early stages of her career, has been an in demand actress since the mid-90′s and her musical credentials count many a classic. Still, we want to know, according to you:
Is Jennifer Lopez the ultimate Triple-Threat diva?
While this generation’s chart belle’s begging for a ‘Soldier’ or ‘Rude Boy’, this week’s From The Vault salutes asked for just the opposite in her 1995 worldwide smash ‘Shy Guy’.
Jamaican singer Diana King released the mega-smash as her debut single and saw it go on to sell over 5 million copies. Yes, 5 million.
The tune, which is a fusion of R&B and Reggae, charted at #13 in the U.S. and was an even bigger hit in the rest of the globe reaching the 3rd position of the Australian charts and only missing the pole position of the British charts by one spot. ’Guy’ was also chosen as the ‘Bad Boys’ OST’s lead single. Needless to say, the movie’s raging success helped elevate the song to even higher ground.
Two videos were issued for the song. The first, shot in black and white, saw a suited King prancing around the streets of NYC. But it is the visual that was commissioned for the ‘Bad Boy’ movie that is still making the rounds on music channels today. Featuring the ever-so-hilarious Will Smith and Martin Lawrence engaging in a dance-off of sorts, it served as an altogether better fit for the colorful track.
Unfortunately King has never managed to match the success of ‘Shy Guy’, despite serving up a laundry-list of worthy material. With Caribbean-tinged Pop making a comeback in recent years as seen with Rihanna, who knows, maybe she could strike lucky again? In the meantime let’s reminisce and appreciate the brilliance of this classic.
In 2007, after a short musical hiatus, TGJ-favorite Kelly Rowland showed those who had doubted her that she could in fact “bump like this”. Our pick for this week’s From The Vault comes in the form of her club-classic ‘Like This’
Produced by Polow Da Don and written by Sean Garrett and Rowland herself, the track – which features a rap verse by the amazing Eve – was released as the first single from her sophomore effort ‘Ms. Kelly’.
It peaked at #30 on the US Hot 100, a respectable feat if you ask us, still we are sure you would agree when we say it deserved an even higher ranking – as it is often the case with Kelly’s material. On the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart though, the tune managed to reach the 7th position and was her very first single to ever top the Hot Dance Club Songs tally. It also proved to be an international hit placing inside the Top 20 in Australia and Top 5 of the British and Irish charts.
The house party-themed accompanying visual, helmed by Canadian director Mike Ruiz does a stellar job capturing the carefree vibe of the song and at the time presented us with a brand new Kelly, a sassier and more confident Kelly. The performance bits are particularly stunning and the night-vision shots make for a nice addition.
With ‘Ice’ generating quite the buzz ever since its release last week and ‘Motivation’ standing as one of the biggest achievement of her career, let’s only hope the ex-X-Factor judge doesn’t forget to feed us with the club-bangers on her next project.
For as much as us and radios alike live for her mellow material, cuts such as this one, ‘Work (Put It In)’, ‘I’m Dat Chick’ or ‘Turn It Up’ as well as her more Dance-oriented tunes only testify of the diversity Ms. Kelly has to offer.
Iconic! That is fittest of description for this week’s From The Vault pick. Ladies and gents, we salute Britney Spears for her epic showing at MTV‘s 2000 Video Music Awards.
Performing a rendition of one of her many signature songs, ‘Oops, I Did It Again’, Britney delivers here a stunning spectacle, marking the true beginning of her storied relationship with the VMA’s. For many, this was the on set of the transformation of the ‘… Baby One More Time’ belle.
Setting sail with a shortened version of her Darkchild-produced cover of ‘Satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones, this showing proved to be controversial after a scantily-clad. Spears, who at the time was still catering to an audience of teeny-boppers, stripped down to a sparkling nude outfit on-cue to perform the tongue-in-cheek ‘Oops’.
The said song and parent album of the same name were blockbuster smashes with the track being a global Top 10 hit and the LP debuting at #1. And, as at writing, remains among the best selling albums of all time with sales exceeding 20 millions units.
What’s so special about this performance, as was routine in her early days, was Spears’ ability to “sell” you her product. The choreography in this specific video isn’t particularly intricate or out-of-this-world, her mic stayed “off” the whole show through (after all, it is Britney, b*tch). Yet, her stage presence is just off-the-Richter and she serves up a whole new dimension to a rather cheese-soaked song, relying solely on her natural charisma and the swag she oozed. Both of which see sadly confined to the past.
This is the Britney we became enamored with, not the robot her team have been carting out over the last
And, while we stay wondering if we will ever see the day the fierce stage-slayer in the clip above returns, we are grateful for artists such as Beyonce, Lady GaGa and Usher for giving us moments as powerful as this VMA’s showing in today’s age.
What are some the most iconic performances of the last few years…for you?
From The Vault this week salutes one of the most pertinent moments of Ashanti’s career: her mini movie for single ‘Rain On Me’.
‘Rain’ was the second single lifted from the stunner’s sophomore album, the aptly titled ‘Chapter II’. Based on a sample from Isaac Hayes’ ‘The Look Of Love’, the cut was penned by Ms. Douglas herself and produced by partner (in crime) Irv Gotti back in 2003.
The track was yet another hit for former Murder INC stari, reaching the 7th position of the Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts and peaking inside the Top 20 in the UK.
A poignant slow-jam – which narrates the tale of a woman in a draining relationship – was brought to life with the help of an even more compelling visual. Directed by the ever-inspired Hype Williams, the clip was shot as a short film and deals with the issue of domestic violence. The cinematography, the daunting sound mix as well as Ashanti and co-star Larenz Tate’s performances make for a titillating view. Judging by the multiple LidRock, Maybach or Creed product placements, we don’t think we are too far off when we say that it was a big-budget affair. Epic video for an epic song!
Long gone are the days when Ashanti could make the world stop by releasing a video (don’t get us started on the mucky mess that was the ‘The Woman You Love’ video). Still, and as proven with the underrated ‘Declaration’, she is more than capable of delivering the “good good” (pun intended). However, with visuals like this (and its “cousin” ‘The Way That I Love You’) highlighting the importance of visuals for an act such as Ashanti, the indie route is not the one.
Nonetheless, all of us here at TGJ HQ can’t wait for that fifth chapter.
This week’s From The Vault pick is the crossover Gospel classic, ‘Shackles (Praise You)’ by Mary Mary.
Released at the very beginning of the noughties, ‘Shackles’ was the Atkins-Campbell sisters’ first ever single and stands as their biggest hit. After reaching the pole position on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs, the cut managed to become a crossover hit placing #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 and coming at an impressive #9 on the R&B/Hip Hop chart. It proved to be a global smash when it hit the Top 10 of multiple countries in Europe as well as Australia.
The accompanying video, which to this day stays an MTV and VH1 favorite, underined the “life gets better” aura evoked by the song’s lyrics (which were penned by the group and Warryn Campbell).
At the time, Gospel purist disapproved of the track and Mary Mary’s work moreover labeling it “too secular”. Although such claims remain a constant about Contemporary Gospel, over the years acts such as Kirk Franklin, Trin-i-tee 5:7, Yolanda Adams and of course Mary Mary have helped the subgenre garner recognition and respect from a greater sect of the faith-based community as well as from the mainstream.
In many ways, this release broke the shackles off old school ideology and bridged a colossal gap. In every way, then, ‘Shackles’ is a classic.
Mary Mary continue their foray into the mainstream with their hit WE tv reality show, aptly titled ‘Mary Mary’. Click here to check out our interview with them on our sister site That Grape Juice TV. And be sure to keep it locked on TGJ TV for your Urban Hollywood fix!
The year 2005 was a busy one to say the least. Indeed, Amerie was ruling the airwaves with her ’1 Thing’, the Pussycat Dolls released the now-classic ‘Don’t Cha’ and Bow Wow served up one of the biggest hit of his career in ‘Let Me Hold You’
Still, in retrospect, that year’s biggest “contribution” was the launch of TGJ favorite, Rihanna! Alas, this week’s From The Vault is dedicated to the model’s debut single, ‘Pon De Replay’.
The infectious Dancehall/R&B/Pop fusion was produced by Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers and served as Rih’s lucky first strike. For, the cut reached the second position on both the American and British charts and peaked inside the Top 20 of every country it was released in.
‘Replay’s club-themed visual was a music channel regular and arguably showcases the upper echelon of Ms. Fenty’s limited showmanship (see: “come run run run run”).
Dismissed as a one-hit wonder, few at that time would have deemed the stunner as one who’d go on to be one the biggest artists on the planet. A fact which re-affirms that, with the right backing, any-and-everything is possible. For, as much as we can appreciate the track, it doesn’t scream “Superstar Alert”, nor does the “singer” in the video.
After experimenting with her image and sound a plenty with varying results (see: rock chick, femme fatale, dance queen…), Team Rih have finally realized that what makes their “product” so palatable is its Island-bravado. Hence, there’s no coincidence that theres been a reversion to cooking up songs in the vein of ‘Replay’, and in doing so they’ve scored some of their biggest hits (see: ‘Rude Boy’, ‘What’s My Name’).
For all her vocal crimes, Rihanna remains a compelling concept as both a “brand” and “musical movement”. So much so that even when the going is tough (see: ‘Rated R’), all that was needed to remedy the predicament, was a referral to this her “genesis” for the map forward. As the saying goeth, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it”? Of course, her voice is an entirely different story.
Randomness: Are we the only one side-eyeing the fact that this specific track has been relegated to a mere video interlude while on tour? It would have been ‘interesting’ to witness its evolution through the years. You know, kinda like Beyonce and ‘Crazy In Love’.
This week, From The Vault journey’s back, back to a time when Mariah Carey was an undeniable vocal titan.
Our selection comes in the form of Mimi’s ‘Emotions’ performance at her now-iconic MTV Unplugged session.
‘Emotions’ was the first single lifted from the songbird’s 1991 sophomore set of the same name and became her fifth consecutive #1 in the US Billboard. The song was also a Canadian Top 5 and a Australian and British Top 20.
If ever you weren’t privy to what we call a flawless vocal performance, this -quite literally- is it.
MC engaged her entire vocal range to intensify the performance, dabbling in Jazz and Gospel, while all the while remaining markedly “Mariah”. Even her stage presence, albeit not her strongest feat, was on point. The choir (which included a young Kelly Price) was also a potent touch, rendering the whole affair even more uplifting and vocally impactful.
Without a shred of doubt. this is the Mariah we fell for and hold in the highest regard. Her ability to hit those notes both confidently and effortlessly was uncanny. Indeed, there was no sign of the “painful constipation” sound or visual she seems to channel these days when reaching for those same notes.
Still, no matter the deterioration her voice has endured over the years, Mariah vocally remains a sturdy step step ahead of many of her counterparts.
Her upper register is not what it once was. That much is a given. Hence, we wish future releases will see her rely mostly on her astonishing (and somewhat underrated) middle and lower registers, so that she can exude the same confidence as in this showing while on stage. After all, there’s little point cooking up a vocal masterpiece in the studio, and falling to pieces when time to replicate live. A problem she has faced on numerous occasions in her latter day career.
An ever-adaptable chameleon, we’re sure the masses wouldn’t mind exchanging some of their lofty vocal expectations from Mariah for some of the “magic” she displayed here. A magic that has been missing from her live showings for years now.