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From The Vault: Gwen Guthrie – ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent’

“Bill collectors at my door, what can you do for me?”

This week From The Vault journey’s back to the era when Gwen Guthrie let the world know that there was “no romance without finance.”

Today’s pick is the late chanteuse’s classic anthem ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent.’

Written and produced by Guthrie, ‘Rent’ is a R&B song which sassily details how she is only interested in the matters of the heart if it comes with advantages of the cha-ching variety. An ancestor of sorts to Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, the track was a minor hit in the US where it reached #42 but fared better in the UK where it was a Top 5 smash.

Filled with faux-subliminal messages like “BUY”, “SPEND”, “MONEY”, the music video showcases footage of men at actual work as well as projections of dollar bills, fancy cars and even a yacht.

Though the message feels somewhat dated in a post Girl Power, Independent Women world, we applaud Guthrie for getting herself out there and stand behind such a bold statement.

Rest In Peace, Gwen!

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Bad Girl’

This week’s From The Vault pick goes out to Pop titan Madonna and her hauntingly poignant music video for underrated gem, ‘Bad Girl.’

Released in 1993 as the third single from M’s controversial ‘Erotica‘ LP, ‘Girl’ lyrically tells the tale of a woman’s reckless behaviour after an intense break-up. It was produced and written by the artist herself as well as her go-to-guy at the time Shep Pettibone.

Rolled out during a window when Madonna was making headlines for her overtly-sexual image – the ‘Sex‘ book, anyone ? – the track wasn’t as successful as its predecessors like ‘Like a Prayer’ or‘Justify My Love’ but still managed to peak at a respectable #36 on the Hot 100 and occupy the ultimate position of the UK Top 10… not bad for an artist going through a media backlash.

The most unfortunate thing about the single’s moderate performance is that its accompanying video seems to be forgotten despite being – if you ask us – one of the entertainer’s finest visual offerings.
Helmed by David Fincher – whom had previously collaborated with Madge on videos such as ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘Vogue’ – it stays true to the song’s lyrical content and presents the Material Girl as a chain-smoking, moody female-executive who drowns her sorrow in alcohol, cigarettes and one-night-stands.
With Fincher on board, it was a given the cinematography would deliver, indeed the visual, which feels like a short film, exudes an air of retro-glam and the art-deco architecture of the city of New-York where it was shot gives it a dark and dramatic edge.

At many times Madonna has proven that when the world beats you down, you get back up… and keep on releasing amazing material. This is one of the many reasons she can still make headlines in 2015. Though we long for a time where she would go back to music and visuals of such quality, we can’t knock her hustle and commend her dedication to the entertainment industry.

Bad Girl? We say ‘Bad B*tch’ (she’s Madonna!)

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From The Vault: Missy Elliott & Ciara Blaze #BETAwards With ‘Lose Control’

Another year, another explosive BET Awards . Tonight, the biggest names in Urban music will be in the house to give the world yet another amazing show.

Though we presented you our Top 15 BET Awards moments yesterday, we wanted to keep this one for this week’s From The Vault – Missy Elliott, Ciara and Fatman Scoop‘s showing at the event in 2005 is our pick.

‘Control’ was the first single from ‘The Cookbook’, Elliott’s sixth LP. It was produced by the artist and reunited her with her ‘1, 2 Step’ collaborator Ciara. Hype-man Fatman Scoop was added to the mix to bring that unique party-anthem vibe that he has mastered through the years.

It was a hit for the trio, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 in the US and #7 in both the UK and Australia.

The performance was everything you could expect from a Missy and a CiCi : impressive choreography, creative stage production and swag aplenty.

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It’s performances like this which keep us rooting for Missy and Ciara, even when the charts don’t necessarily agree. Say what folk will, but most of the artists on top at the moment cannot demolish a stage the way these women can.

As for the BET Awards more broadly, we’re elated that the show is getting more and more recognition through the years and we say it’s much deserved as it has always delivered quality production and allows an often under-appreciated community to shine like the brightest stars in the sky. We’re ready!

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From The Vault: Marvin Gaye – ‘Sexual Healing’

If there ever was a seductive-jam to lock in one’s vault it would be our pick of this week. This week’s From The Vault selection is Marvin Gaye‘s infectious ‘Sexual Healing.’

The classic was released during Fall 1982 and saw the crooner venture further into grown-and-sexy territory. Written and produced by Gaye, it was the first offering from his seventeenth and final album ‘Midnight Love’ – his sole under Columbia after leaving Motown – and is undeniably the artist’s signature song.
From a musical stand-point the jam was a departure from the Motown sound – which at that time was very – Disco-oriented – and lyrically, it is an unapologetic “baby making” track.
Commercially, the song peaked at #3 in the US, #4 in the UK and hit the top spot in Canada.

The video for ‘Sexual Healing’ presents the artist first as a nightclub singer assisted by four female dancers and later on a patient of a sexy lady-doctor who only has eyes for him after drinking the Midnight Love Potion. Fun times.

Throughout his career, Marvin Gaye managed the art of “balancing”, hence why it never felt contrived witnessing him sing about social issues but at the very same time dealing with matters of the sexual persuasion. Indeed, even the “dirtiest” song of his repertoire boasts an air of class.

We wish more artists – especially today’s male R&B stars – would take notes from The Master and express their sexuality in more a tasteful fashion.

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From The Vault: Jennifer Lopez – ‘Jenny From The Block’


After a brief rest on the bench, From The Vault is back with yet another classic. Today’s pick comes courtesy of the ever-epic Jennifer Lopez and her one of her signature jams ‘Jenny From The Block’.

After asserting that she was “real” in 2001, Lopez clearly still had a few concerns on her mind regarding the public’s perception of herself. In late 2002, she unleashed the beast that was the ‘Jenny’ single and pressed on with the idea that fame and money didn’t change her, meanwhile picking herself up a new nickname.

Obviously, not everyone was convinced by the glamorous diva’s theme of humility… still the song was a worldwide hit which peaked at #3 both in the US and the UK, #5 in Australia and in France and #1 in Canada.

The single, the first of Jen’s third offering ‘This Is Me… Then’ was produced by Trackmasters, written by Lopez and Corey Rooney and heavily relies on many samples such as ‘Heaven and Hell Is On Earth’ by 20th Century Steel Band and Boogie Down Productions’ ‘South Bronx.’

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Unafraid of mixing business and pleasure, it wasn’t surprising that Lopez’s then-fiancé Ben Affleck served as the main attraction of the song’s visual. The paparazzi-themed affair is made of a selection of “stolen shots” of Bennifer in their everyday life.
Like the message in the song, the Francis Lawrence-directed video did not sit well with everybody – especially at a time when the couple were undoubtedly overexposed. Still it was a smash and gained even more recognition throughout the years because of its media-voyeuristic theme.

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From where we’re sitting, one of the reasons Lopez is still sought after 20+ years in the game is because she understands the importance of “celebrity culture” and is always willing to play the game.

While some would call her actions (such as this video_ calculated, we see them as smart. Indeed, more often than not, her moves are attached to a greater cause – whether a movie, album or charity. Put simply, unlike some of her peers today, there often is a method to the melee when it comes to J.Lo. And we’re entirely “here” for it.

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson Rocks Billboard Music Awards 2006

Diva Serves Dynamite Showing Of ‘Pleasure Principle’ & ‘So Excited’

This week’s From The Vault is salutes living legend Janet Jackson, who not only turned 49 years-young yesterday but also confirmed this year will see her bless us with “new music, new world tour and new movement.”
Today – keeping with tonight’s Billboard Awards spirit – our pick comes in the form of Ms. Jackson’s showing at the ceremony in 2006.

With her then-latest release ’20 Y.O.’ serving as a retrospective celebration of her two decades in the music business, Janet seized the moment to further push that theme. She kicked off her performance with a video montage of some of her most notables videos set to the intro of the Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced ‘Control.’ She would then break into fan-favorite ‘Pleasure Principal.’

What followed was a pop-lock themed ‘So Excited’ – which she wrote alongside Jimmy & Terry and ex-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri. The song served as the chart-topping album’s second single.

Though the volume on the vocals were gratingly low, Janet’s overall energy was turned all the way up throughout the performance. Armed with her signature troop of dancers, on that night the artist proved – yet again – that any way you slice it, she never lost that magic that made the charts, MTV and concert-goers fall in love with her all those years ago. What’s more, she proved that, in the midst of the nostalgia, she’s able to serve up something fresh, sassy, and relevant to the time.

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As keen supporters of Ms. Janet, we couldn’t be more elated about her imminent return. Seven years removed from her last LP ‘Discipline,’ we feel now is the perfect time for the diva to rock the scene and update the blueprint of what a female Pop star should be.
Whether dealing with social issues, expressing her fantasies or singing about love, Janet always brings something new to the table and is never afraid to tell us what has been going on in her world – even when it’s controversial – and we for one cannot wait to find out what the next conversation is going to be.

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From The Vault: Gwen Stefani – ‘What You Waiting For’

As we await for official news on her third solo album, we’ll be saluting Gwen Stefani in this week’s From The Vault. Our pick goes out to her 2004 debut solo single ‘What You Waiting For?’

After over a decade of success as the lead vocalist of No Doubt, the time had come for Gwen to fly on her own. On the high-octane track written by herself and Pop-wonder Linda Perry, the singer reveals transitioning wasn’t as easy as one may think could think. From the pressure of her record label and the expectation of the music industry to writer’s block and the guilt of leaving her bandmates behind, ‘Waiting’ represents a battle between two sides of Gwen’s mind – a rather neurotic one and a more confident one.

The first single of eclectic solo set ‘Love.Angel.Music.Baby’, it wasn’t much of a hit in the US where it peaked at #47 but fared much better overseas including numerous Top 10 placings in Europe and a #1 in Australia.

The great Francis Lawrence is to thank for the tune’s glossy video. Stefani – fresh off tour – is shown rushing back into the studio by then-label head Jimmy Iovine; as she’s trying to get rid of writer’s block she gets “inspired” by a very eccentric “dream” based on the tales of Alice In Wonderland.
In this clip, the artist introduced her back-up dancers The Harajuku Girls who are conceptually very important to the ‘L.A.M.B.’ project.

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After releasing two singles which failed to make an impact on the charts during the last quarter of 2014, we can only hope that Team Gwen can craft something of this song’s caliber. Something as edgy and unique, both aesthetically and sonically.

Though they all arguably come from the “School of Madonna” we strongly feel Gwen Stefani and her brand of arty, playful, and fashion-forward has paved the way for the GaGa‘s and Katy Perry‘s of the world.

Hopefully, in a very near future she can remind the masses why she made them hollaback before all those female artists could.

Gwen-Stefani-what-you-waiting-for-thatgrapejuice

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From The Vault: Brandy & Ray J – ‘Paradise’

This week, our From The Vault pick comes courtesy of siblings Brandy and Ray J; it’s their 2001 rendition of ‘Another Day In Paradise.’

The track was featured on ‘Urban Renewal’, a tribute album to the great Phil Collins which saw artists from the Urban arena take on the classics from the singer-songwriter.
‘Paradise’ was the first single of said project and saw the ‘Best Friend’ belle trading lines with her brother Ray.

Produced by Guy Roche, it became a European hit gracing the Top 10 of numerous charts including the UK, France, Germany and Sweden. The single was never officially released in America.

Staying true to the song’s theme of homelessness, the video focuses on the indifference and disdain that is showed to people in need out in the streets. Though it can easily be labelled as contrived, we feel it’s important to make social commentary through art. Indeed at times artists have a reach that is way superior to any journalist’s or politician’s.

The ‘Urban Renewal’ project was all about celebrating a tremendous artist and ensure that their classic tunes could be “passed on” to the younger generation. In this day and age, we at TGJ HQ can think of many artists deserving of such an honor, but we want to know, can you?

rayj-brandy-paradise

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From The Vault: Mario – ‘Let Me Love You’

Journey Back With TGJ

R&B singer Mario and his blockbuster single ‘Let Me Love You’ are our pick for this week’s From The Vault.

With its melancholic melody, ‘Love’ served as the definitive big hit of Winter 04 – 05 spending a scorching 9 consecutive weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100. Reaching #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop tally, it was also Mario’s first international smash, hitting #1 in Germany and scoring Top 3 placements in the UK and Australia.

Produced by Scott Storch and written by Ne-Yo – who would emerge as a recording artist a few months later with that very sound – it was the first single from the artist’s sophomore set ‘Turning Point’ which sold over a million records.

Little X directed the song’s video which saw the matured singer falling for a girl in a drama-filled relationship. Throughout the visual they can be seen connecting through the art of dance and the colors used on the different murals compliments the song’s moodiness.

On many an occasion, we’ve been vocal about how we felt the male arena lacks diversity. Expanding on this, it seems like the real issue is that the “powers that be” aren’t grooming enough R&B male acts in the first place.

As such, we would love to see more Mario’s emerge; gifted male vocalists, with storytelling tones, and performance ability.

Whatever the case, kudos to Mario – and really Ne-Yo – for delivering a track that has stood and will no doubt continue to stand the test of time.

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From The Vault: Ciara – ‘Go Girl (ft. T-Pain)’

TGJ Journeys Back To Another Gem

Today’s From The Vault comes courtesy of Ciara and her T-Pain assisted jam ‘Go Girl’.

Released at the end of Summer 2008, the track was produced by the King of Autotune who was also featured on the track. It was announced as the lead single of Ciara’s then upcoming LP ‘Fantasy Ride.’ Sadly, it didn’t live up to the beauty’s previous charts credentials, and spent a sole week on the Billboard Hot 100 at #78. It fared better on the R&B/Hip-Hop tally where it reached the 26th position.
Still, because of the single’s so-so performance, it was deemed a “buzz single” and was replaced as the official first single by the Justin Timberlake-assisted ‘Love Sex Magic’ the subsequent year.

Still, it’s not always about numbers. A point highlighted by the track’s impeccable video.

Melina Matsoukas directed the edgy visual which pictured CiCi as a naughty secretary as well as a bionic woman. Evidently, with this being a visual to a Ciara upbeat track, choreography was a focal point and as always, the performer pushed the envelope with slick and precise dancing. Beyond the execution, the actual moves were both creative and intricate and further cemented Ci as a performing force.

Say what folk will about the singer, but throughout her decade plus career she has blessed the industry with some of the most compelling music visuals in the “Pop” arena. No matter the budget attached to them, whether over-the-top or understated, she and her creative team have the uncanny ability to consistently come up with entertaining videos which are rich in replay value. From ‘Goodies’ and ‘Work’ to ‘Body Party’ and ‘I Bet,’ Ciara is the example of an artist actually working on their craft and still as hungry – if not more – than when they burst into the scene. A trait we have the utmost respect for.

You Go, Girl! Pun intended.

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From The Vault: Backstreet Boys – ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’

This week, From The Vault salutes another phenomenal boyband. Get ready to dance like it’s 1997; today’s pick is ‘Everybody’ by the Backstreet Boys.

At the helm of many of the group’s previous hits was Pop god Max Martin. Hence it was little surprise that he was called on once again  after the release of the group’s US debut to cook up this multi-format jam, which went on to become one of the Backstreet Boys’ biggest records to date.
A worldwide Top 10, it placed at #4 in the US and #2 in Canada; it went #2 on the European Singles Chart and #3 in the UK.

Without a spec of doubt, ‘Everybody”s impact on Pop culture comes courtesy of its cinematic video.

Directed by Joseph Kahn, the theatrical clip – in all its whimsicality – was heavily influenced by Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ Indeed, it paid homage to the iconic short film with its haunted house theme and MTV era dance-break.  

From its camp and wacky elements to the “qualitative” choreography, the video achieves the perfect balance between cheese and credible, making for a classic moment in Pop. The boys gave a rousing performance of the song at 1998’s MTV Video Music Awards to further cement its status.

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Echoing earlier sentiments, oh how we miss the days when the male arena was this exciting. Creative visuals, solid vocals, and showmanship in earnest. It sadly seems like the requirements for men in this day and age aren’t what they used to be.

The business of music operates in trends and today seems to skew more towards “cool, minimalism.” However, we can’t but feel there is a certain air of “must-see” present here that is missing in much of the output from today’s top talent. Viewed this way, some of modern day’s chart-toppers would be well advised to take a page from Backstreet’s book if really looking to serve up compelling product that lasts the test of time.

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From The Vault: Boyz II Men – ‘End Of The Road’

“We belong together… and you know I’m right”

From The Vault is back this week with possibily one of the biggest love song of the past few decades, it’s ‘End Of The Road’ by legendary quartet Boyz II Men.

Trio of titans L.A. Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons birthed the 1993 gem which was included on the ‘Boomerang OST’ and later on was part of the tracklist of the reissue of the boys debut LP ‘CooleyHighHarmony.’
Without an iota of doubt, it’s this very song that made Boyz II Men a household name. Indeed, after a bevy of top 10 hits, ‘Road’ eclipsed all of the previous success thanks to a then record-breaking 13 weeks stint at #1 on the Billboard chart and multiple Top 10 placings the world over.

Though the track’s video drips all sorts of cheese, it is a a great representation of the “90s love song” model which remains a strong visual reference of the era.

At the top of the year, we were very vocal about wanting diversity in the male arena, especially on a lyrical tip. Narratives surrounding “sex” and “partying” have produced a number of hot hits could, however it’d be refreshing to see some of today’s talent expand their lyrical discourse to include some of the more true to life aspects of love – namely vulnerability. For, as ‘Road’ has shown, such artistic honesty can yield iconic results.

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