Today’s From The Vault pick salutes the enduring impact of an artist that sadly left us way too soon – Aaliyah and her break-out hit ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.’
The title track from her 1994 debut album, ‘Age’ was serviced as the project’s third single and like the majority of its parent LP was produced by R. Kelly.
Interestingly, it was the artist’s first single to miss the Billboard Top 10 peaking at #75 on the Hot 100 and #32 in the UK.
In retrospect, because of its subject matter and lyrics about a girl wanting to pursue a relationship with an older man (and the fact that Kelly wrote the words to the song), it was deemed controversial. No doubt because of the singer and the producer’s relationship — but that’s another day another conversation.
Millicent Shelton was in charge of the song’s visualization and delivered a vintage 90s clip, one that resonates and reminds why the era is helmed as golden by so many.
Boasting a stellar debut LP, which displayed a musical maturity well beyond her youth, Aaliyah indeed proved to the world that, sometimes, age can quite literally be just a number.
One thing’s for sure, the singer embodied the concept, as she has accomplished way more between 14 and 22 than most of her peers have in the length and breadth of their careers.
After more than two decades in the industry, this year saw Jennifer Lopez add to her potent portfolio by slipping on her stilettos to scorch in Las Vegas.
Today, we celebrate the diva’s ability to diversify her craft. This week’s From The Vault is a special one as it pays homage to not one but two singles: ‘I’m Real’ – the original Pop version and its ‘Murder Remix.’
Following the success of the ‘J.LO’ album’s launching single ‘Love Don’t Cost A Thing,’ second swing of the bat ‘Play’ didn’t fare as well commercially. It was time to shake things up. Cue ‘I’m Real.’
The 80’s-kissed incarnation of the song was serviced to radio first. Produced by frequent collaborator Cory Rooney, it lyrically leaned on the “independent woman” theme which was all the rage in the early 00’s.
What really established ‘Real’ as a blockbuster hit, though, was its Urban remix, which saw Lopez link up with rapper Ja Rule for the first time (of many times). With its sonically summer sound, the track reached the top spot of the US Billboard Hot 100, where it shone brightly for five non-consecutive weeks.
It’s important to stress that although the two songs don’t sound anything alike, their airplay counted towards the very same chart position – a policy which has since been changed following arguments of unfairness.
Elsewhere, ‘Real’ peaked at #3 in both Australia and France but also at the 4th position of the UK Singles Charts.
For both versions of the song, Dave Meyers was brought in to bring to fruition two dynamically different visuals.
While the Pop take saw the singer assume the role of a homecoming star in town for a show, the ‘Murder’ mix (which nabbed an MTV VMA) re-affirmed her Bronx rooting. It crucially introduced the masses to the “Jenny From The Block” aesthetic; one that would become a staple in her career and one she would later revisit with louder volume on 2014’s ‘AKA.’
Fifteen years after this release, La Lopez is still making major waves in the entertainment world. For she and her team have ensured she is omnipresent in the media scape. Indeed, this year alone, one need not look further than her Vegas residency, American Idol, and her new show ‘Shades Of Blue’ – which has just been renewed for a second season.
Though her “Jack Of All Trades” trait may be unappealing to some, it’s the exact reason we’ll always respect her.
As of now, we’re not totally sure where Jen will go next… but that’s precisely why we can’t wait to find out.
Today’s Valentine’s Day edition of From The Vault fittingly spotlights R&B balladeers Boyz II Men.
The legendary vocalists established themselves as such with their impassioned performances of songs centered on the highs and lows of the “L” word; one of the most renown being their 1994 smash ‘I’ll Make Love To You.’
Baked by Babyface, the slow jam was rolled out at the lead single from the quad’s sophomore album – the aptly titled ‘II.’
Benefitting from the momentum of ‘End of the Road’ from their debut LP, ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ was a humungous hit and went on to best ‘Road’s” 13-week record at #1 on the Hot by spending 14 weeks in the pole position.
[Editor’s note: Follow-up single ‘On Bended Knee’ went on to replace ‘I’ll Make’ at #1, making the Philadelphia native’s the third ever act to boot themselves from the top spot].
Certified Platinum and winner of the 1995 Grammy’s for Best R&B Performance by a Group, the track serves as one of Boyz many signature numbers and undoubtedly one of their most commercially successful. As at writing, ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ occupies the #19 spot on Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Chart.
Today’s “turn-up” climate oftentimes sees any sign of male emotion classed as “corny” or effeminate. Yet, tracks like this have us yearning for a return of male vocalists who aren’t afraid to embrace their inner-gentleman and lyrically soar with subject-matter that is still so universal to all: love.
Pending its return, watch the video for ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ (starring actor Duane Martin) above.
Another year, another Halftime show. With the latest Superbowl mid-game extravaganza just a few hours away, it’s the aptest of occasions to reflect on the undeniable blueprint of what a Halftime performance should be. As such, Michael Jackson‘s 1993 showing is this week’s From The Vault pick.
Hot on the promotional trail for his ‘Dangerous’ album, the late, great superstar was offered the slot following the lackluster ratings generated by his predecessors.
Already crowned the King, the genesis of modern Pop seized the moment to reaffirm why he was (and still is) the bar and the benchmark.
After making an explosive entrance (on a toaster….naturally), the stage titan stood still for 90 scintillating seconds before bursting into ‘Dangerous’ smash ‘Jam.’ Rousing renditions of classics ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Black Or White’ quickly followed.
Famed for his philanthropical and humanitarian work, Jackson closed the set with a hymn-like sing-along to ‘We Are The World’ and ‘Heal The World’ – with a choir of comprised of over three thousand.
Like most things Jackson touched, this showing forever changed the scope of live performance and arguably the entertainment industry at large. Indeed, following the 1993 ratings touchdown, the Superbowl Halftime has become the definitive destination for high-octane showings by music’s biggest names.
What’s more, between interest in the big game and the buzz about Halftime, the Bowl has become a mecca of sorts for advertisers who plunge millions into commercials which run during the show. Put simply, the event has morphed from a sports phenomenon into a global, Pop cultural experience. Something Michael Jackson was instrumental in.
[Side note: Even the chronology of the setlist (cannonball opening into a mellower, ballad flavored end) has been adopted by almost every Halftime headliner that has followed – including Madonna]
With Beyonce and Bruno Mars set to return to rock the stage with Coldplay tonight, it’ll be interesting to see which way Mike’s influence will be used this time around.
What happens when two artists from the two of music’s biggest girlbands join forces? Apparently, smash hit bliss!
This week’s From The Vault pick is Melanie C‘s ‘Never Be The Same Again‘ featuring the incomparable Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes.
A rather unlikely pairing on paper, it quickly becomes clear upon listening to ‘Same’ that the ladies were onto winner. Released in early 2000, the track served as the third single from Sporty Spice’s debut effort ‘Northern Star‘ and saw her showcasing a radically different facet of her artistry. Especially when compared to the sugar-coated sound that defined “Spice Mania,” which took over the globe (with the firmest of grips) during the latter 90’s.
Rhett Lawrence produced the track which he co-wrote with Chisolm and Lopes – who was in the midst of expanding her brand following TLC‘s blockbuster album, ‘FanMail‘.
The track proved to be a huge European success for the duo, hitting #1 in the UK and #5 in Germany. Sadly, it didn’t chart in the US but fared very well in Australia where it reached the second position of the ARIA chart.
With its futuristic feel and modern-design elements, the video for the single was very much carved in the vein of what could be seen on MTV in a post-Matrix reality.
Lensed by Francis Lawrence, the visual presents Melanie in a sterile, Feng-shui environment meditating to music, running (no doubt to the top of the charts) before being joined by Left-Eye for a synchronised Tai-Chi session. The latter dubbed as captivating “choreography” in itself.
With this collaboration, the girls showed that mixing Spice with touch of TLC can yield the most delicious of results. We yearn for more out-of-the-box pairings such as this. Hopefully, today’s top talent will do away with the rigid politics and oblige.
This week’s From The Vault selection comes courtesy of Cassie and her infamous 106 & Park performance of single ‘Me & U.’
Extracted from her eponymous first album, “Me & U’ was the model’s debut effort. Released in 2005, the Ryan Leslie production was a sleeper-hit peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts in the US in 2006. It hit #6 in the United Kingdom the following year.
Beyond club play, it was the track’s high-octane video (which drew comparisons to Janet Jackson’s ‘Pleasure Principle’) that catapulted the release to the upper echelon of the charts.
Yet, could Cassie replicate the fierceness on-stage?
Unfortunately for the Bad Boy belle, the answer was an emphatic, embarrassing, and resounding “NO!”
Taking to the stage of BET’s then-flagship show, the beauty gave the ugliest of performances – characterized and immortalized by stiff, lazy, and laxed stage presence and vocals that just did not show up. Many wondered if she was asleep.
From the attempted acapella intro to the look of “even I know this is a mess” plastered on her pretty face , it was all a dismal disaster and ultimately spelled the end of whatever quest she had to be taken seriously. Her music career, as the last decade has shown, has never quite recovered.
It’s just her luck that this has happened back in 2006, because in the current viral age (see: Instagram, Facebook, memes and the like) her career in the broader sense (modelling included) is unlikely to have recovered.
Still, by way of her relationship with Diddy and a number of fashion focussed campaigns, she remains one of the most desirable ladies in the spotlight. Not a bad consolation prize.
2015 was a wholly eventful year entertainment-wise, yet sadly it climaxed with the passing of songbird Natalie Cole.
From The Vault salutes the diva with a very special performance that saw her grace the stage alongside another premium vocalist – and one of That Grape Juice‘s favorite – Whitney Houston.
Taking on the Aretha Franklin classic ‘I Say A Little Prayer’, the two singers delivered what could only be described as a vocal masterclass. Verses were traded and sensational chemistry was displayed.
This performance is only a brief reminder of just how much the music industry at large has lost with Natalie’s – and obviously Whitney’s – departure. Apart from shoulder pads and intricate hairstyles, what’s striking about this showing is the ladies’ raw talent and their dedication to the art of music and performance.
With social media’s influence in today’s pop culture at sky-high, we sincerely hope that Ms. Cole’s passing will encourage the next generation of vocal hopefuls to flip through her extensive catalogue and choose to focus on putting the talent at the forefront.