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From The Vault: Ashanti – ‘Foolish’

This week’s From The Vault comes courtesy of former Murder Inc front-woman, Ashanti. Our pick is her sizzling debut solo single ‘Foolish’.

In 2002, after a carefully planned campaign that saw Ms. Douglas featured on many a rapper’s song to great success, all eyes were on the diva to see if it was all make-believe or if the hype was legit. With no other choice but to score a home-run, the Inc. opted for the heartfelt ‘Foolish’ as their first lady’s launching single – a bold move considering the upbeat musical landscape that was the year ’02.

An exquisite pick, ‘Foolish’ went on to become one of the most successful songs of the 00’s in the US with 10 weeks spent at #1 and over 8 millions physical copies sold, as well as many Top 10 placings around the world including the UK, Australia and Japan.

Fun Fact: ‘Foolish’ replaced none other than the Ja Rule assisted ‘Ain’t It Funny’ by Jennifer Lopez at the top spot of the Billboard and was in its turn replaced by Nelly’s ‘Hot In Herre’. We’re pretty sure we don’t have to explain the connections here.

Produced by 7 Aurelius and Irv Gotti, the track’s cinematic VMA’s nominated visual was helmed by the latter and features cameos by the likes of then-label mates Ja Rule, Vita and Charli Baltimore and was of course featured Academy Awards nominee Terrence Howard. Based on the movie ‘Goodfellas’, it depicts Howard as a cheating gangster (of sorts) that Ashanti – no matter of unhappy she is – can’t seem to leave. Just like in the tune’s lyrics.

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Oh how we miss this Shany. Though the music remains of quality, the same cannot (always) be said about her most recent visual delivery. Sadly that’s often the price to pay (no pun intended) when you opt for the independent route, which is quite unfortunate because Team Ashanti did a great job establishing her as a visual artist, from this to ‘Rain On Me’ and ‘Only U’, the singer-actress has an ability to truly elevate her sound to the next level by way of amazing imagery.

Still, it’s refreshing to see an artist who stands by their beliefs and their art.

May the future be bright for the stunner and see her star shine as bright as it was once.

‘Braveheart’, in stores now.

ashanti-debut

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From The Vault: Jagged Edge – ‘Where The Party At (ft. Nelly)’

This week’s From The Vault journey’s back to the early 00’s with Jagged Edge. The R&B maestros’ dance-floor jam ‘Where The Party At’ serves as our latest pick.

A classic by most counts, ‘Party’ was released in May 2001, automatically becoming the Summer-smash of that same year. It was produced by the era’s formidable hitmaker Jermaine Dupri and featured rapper-singer Nelly.

The first single from J.E.’s third LP ‘Jagged Little Thrill’, the cut was a #3 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and a #1 smash on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B. It peaked at #25 in the UK and reached the seventeenth position on the Canadian charts.

Dave Meyers took the directorial helm of ‘Party’s sun-soaked visual, which offered a literal yet enjoyable take on the song’s lyrics. Indeed, the liquor flowed – even in the pool – and scantily-clad women are omnipresent. As was the norm at the time, the guys paired their pipes with choreography and bust out a few moves of their own amidst the  clip’s racy antics.

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With male R&B experiencing a resurgence of sorts in recent years, we feel the scene is still missing an act that would bring the R&B-boy-band agenda back to being front and centre. Put simply, a modern take on the Jagged Edges and 112s of the world. Or a refreshed re-incarnation of the Boyz II Mens and Jodecis. For, the current era seems thirsty in 2014 for a continuation of what Jagged Edge brought to the table during the late 90’s and 00s’.

With Day 26 on the comeback trail, we believe they could execute such task amazingly (with the right backing). Still, we’d like for YOU to tell us about a boy band – up and coming or established – who you feel could fit the bill.

Your thoughts?

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘Feedback’

The legendary Janet Jackson has been absent from the scene for the past few years, instead focusing on her personal life. With this week marking the 6th year since she unleashed her last album ‘Discipline’, what better to pay homage to to Her Highness with this week’s From The Vault pick. Our selection is the set’s exquisite first single ‘Feedback‘.
Released as a “surprise” in December 2007, ‘Feedback’ was helmed by the ever-versatile Rodney Jerkins – making it the first of many collaboration between the two.
Put simply, the cut was every inch the comeback single the career-doctor ordered. ‘Feedback’ saw Ms. Jackson borrowing from what was hot while putting her magical spin on it – resulting in a futuristic, high octane, harmony-heavy, swagger-soaked banger.
Side note: Alongside Destiny’s Child‘s ‘Lose My Breath‘, we feel like ‘Feedback’ – with its “back with a bang” aura – is what every comeback/first single should feel like: an event.
In America, the joint served as Janet’s biggest hit since 2001’s ‘Someone To Call My Lover’ peaking at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play.
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Due to a lack of promotion overseas (see: label politics), it was only a minor hit in Europe, missing the chart in the UK  altogether.
Coincidentally, it was British director Saam Farahmand who was in charge of the song’s visual. Perhaps in a bid to pay tribute to the star’s out-of-this-world talent, he opted for an intergalactic theme where the leader of the Rhythm Nation can be seen hoping planets while blessing her legion of fans with some intense choreography along the way with an intensity only she can deliver.
Reportedly hard at work on a new project, Janet’s next move will be a crucial one, for the music industry is continually changing leaps and bounds. From musical trends to charting policies to the onset of social media, nothing is the same as 6 months ago speak less 6 years. However, if there’s one thing this icon can be relied upon for, it’s delivering quality music and visuals. In many ways, it’s Jackson Family Values.
Though we’re crossing our fingers for collaborations with the likes Bruno MarsDrake and Kendrick Lamar as well as productions by the likes of Bangladesh, Noah “40” Shebib and of course Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Darkchild, we’re asking YOU:

 

What should Janet do next?

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey – ‘Loverboy’

Over a decade before current effort ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)’ blasted on to airwaves, Mariah Carey released one of her most underrated singles. This week’s From The Vault is 2001’s ‘Loverboy’.

Taken from the ill-fated and criminally overlooked ‘Glitter’, the easy-breezy track served as the launching single of the album, Mimi’s first release under her new and (then)record-breaking contract with Virgin Records.

Helmed by Carey alongside producer Clark Kent and built around a sample of wedding-anthem ‘Candy’ by Cameo – who’s lead singer is featured on one of the two versions that were released – ‘Boy’ was a US #2 hit for the diva. Unfortunately, it never matched this success overseas, making it one of the singer’s lowest charting singles abroad. Since then, a number her releases have had a similar fate. But we digress.

Sidenote: this very song is considered the reason behind the alleged feud between Mariah and Jennifer Lopez. Lambily, see you in the comments section to explain why.

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The ‘Loverboy’ videos, directed by “the” David Lachapelle displayed a blonder Mariah than the world was used to, with shorter shorts and a now-infamous double-handkerchief bra.

Of course, in an era of visuals such ‘Blurred Lines’,’ Pour It Up’, ‘Partition’, and much of Mimi’s 00’s output, the clip’s raunch seems tame. Yet, at the time it caused quite a stir for being too racy with critics blasting Carey for trying too hard to compete with younger starlets such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera… and Jennifer Lopez.

Thankfully, gone are the days where the ‘Never Too Far’ songstress was an outright laughing stock. Indeed through stellar music, performances, and carefully constructed reminders of past achievements, Ms. Carey-Cannon is widely regarded as one of the most gifted talents of all-time.

Do we think she overdoes her “sexy” these days to conceal/compensate for shortcomings elsewhere? Perhaps. What is certain, though, is that if she’s able to keep the hits a’coming, her adamance to share her “particulars” wouldn’t bother us.

Peep the video for the ‘Loverboy’ remix – featuring Cameo, Da Brat, and Ludacris – below…

(more…)

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From The Vault: Xscape – ‘My Little Secret’

The 90’s were overflowing with vocal groups. Last week saw us salute the males, so this week it’s the turn of the ladies. Today’s From The Vault pick comes courtesy of Xscape’ and their hit ‘My Little Secret’.
Served up as the second single from the band’s third and final LP ‘Traces Of My Lipstick’, the sultry groove, released in 1998, was produced by mentor Jermaine Dupri and written by band-member LaTocha Scott. It was the So So Def divas very last single together, as they decided to call it quit safter this release despite this single hitting #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Hot Hip-Hop/R&B.
In similar fashion to TLC’s ‘Creep’ a few years back, ‘Secret’ deals with infidelity — this time with the ladies singing about the thrill sourced from entertaining a relationship with an « unavailable » lover.
Editor’s Sidenote: One can’t but smile at the brazenness of R&B singers for unleashing tracks like this, then flipping the script and singing about heartbreak and “triflin”. A little bit of everything for everyone, it seems…
Directed by Darren Grant, the video with its late-night-special feel, uses dark colors and shadows in a bid to accentuate the forbidden element of the lyrics. The soulful belles look particularly stunning in what is arguably their most celebrated visual.
With each release, Xscape had managed to gradually impose their brand of pure-R&B and we feel like, had they continued pushing through, they would have delivered even bigger classics for the genre, especially in a post-The Boy Is Mine world where all eyes were on Rhythm & Blues music.
Anyhow, today we’re tipping out hats to the ladies of Xscape for the gems they did deliver.

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From The Vault: LL Cool J & Boys II Men – ‘Hey Lover’

From The Vault this week salutes one of the biggest Hip-Hop/R&B tracks of all time: it’s ‘Hey Lover’ by LL Cool J & Boyz II Men.

Based on a sample of ‘The Lady In My Life’ by the King Of Pop Michael Jackson, ‘Lover’ was the first single to be lifted from LL’s sixth album, 1995’s ‘Mr Smith’ and was helmed by Trackmasters. 90’s fantastic four Boyz II Men were brought in to bring that certain R&B sweetener to the romantic Hip-Hop serenade.

A critical success, it was a chart homerun as well peaking at #3 on both the Hot 100 and Hot Hip-Hop/R&B charts and topped the now-defunct Hot Rap Singles tally. In the UK it was a Top 20 smash, where it reached the 17th position of the UK Official Singles Chart.

To cap it off, the classic won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, LL’s second in that category.

Hype Williams was enlisted (again!) to direct the song’s accompanying video which stands as Mr Todd Smith’s most celebrated visual offering.

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Collaborations like this always leave us wondering what would be their modern-day equivalents. Granted the talent is more sparse in this day and age, we feel no time is better than the present for the next iconic Rap-Sung collaboration to manifest. While we have our wishlist, we’d like to know yours:

Which pairing could deliver the best Hip-Hop/R&B track of the decade?

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From The Vault: George Michael – ‘Freedom! 90′

Over the years, the United Kingdom has been a resourceful land for fresh and authentic talent. Today, From The Vault pays homage to an artist that helped bridge the gap between the UK and the rest of the world. George Michael‘s ‘Freedom! 90′ is this week’s pick.

The third single from 1990’s ‘Listen Without Prejudice Vol I’, the Gospel-infused ‘Freedom’ – which was produced and arranged by Michael himself – is an introspective track that sees the crooner look back at his time in former band Wham! and the blessings and curses it had brought him. He also longs to become the man he never allowed himself to be. Seemingly just another pamphlet against authority and the darker side of fame, a closer look at the clever songwriting also reveals a song about the artist coming to terms with his sexuality.

‘Freedom’ was a huge hit for the ‘Jesus To A Child’ vocalist, peaking at #8 in the US and #1 in Canada. It only reached the 28th position of the Official Charts on home-soil but still is considered alongside ‘Faith’ and ‘Careless Whisper’ a George Michael signature track in the UK, evidenced by the musician performing it at the London Olympics 2012 closing ceremony.

Perhaps what cemented this as a Pop-Culture moment lies in its uber slick visual. Instead of appearing in the video – in a bid to distance his image from his music – Michael turned to director David Fincher and 90’s larger-than-life supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and of course Cindy Crawford to take the musical piece to the next dimension resulting in an editorial, moody-yet-funky 6-minutes-and-30-second-long masterpiece. Staying true to the lyrics, the video aims at destroying the caricatural image George cultivated during the ultra-succesful ‘Faith’ era. Explosive!

With record labels routinely trying to launch the next Mariah, Usher, and Beyonce to varying level of success, we feel they should go on a hunt for an heir to the mighty George. For that particular brand of honest and Soulful Pop would be refreshing and could definitely be a chart fixture in a post-EDM-crazed world.

Anyhow, ladies and gentlemen, here’s to George Michael at his best.

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