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From The Vault: Brandy – ‘Talk About Our Love (ft. Kanye West)’

Our first From The Vault of 2014 comes courtesy of Brandy and Kanye West and their R&B groove ‘Talk About Our Love’.

Rolled out as the lead single from B-Rocka’s fourth effort ‘Afrodisiac’ which came out in Summer 04 after the singer took some time out to focus on motherhood, ‘Love’ was produced by West and was also written by him alongside Harold Lilly. Like most of Yeezy’s’ work at the time, the track was built around a Funk sample, in this case ‘Gilly Hines’ by Mandrill and featured Israeli violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

The song deals with a relationship marred by rumors, gossip and “he said, she said”.

Released to critical acclaim, the song was only a moderate hit for the Vocal Bible in the US, peaking at #36 on the Billboard Hot 100, #16 on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts; but it fared a lot better in the UK with its #6 peak position on the Official Singles Charts

Dave Meyers handled the visualization of the song, delivering a stunning clip which sees the protagonists drifting apart since they are never able to catch a moment alone because their house is constantly crowded. The use of intricate choreography was also a pleasant touch and one indicative of B growing the length and breadth of her skill-set.

With Bran hard at work on a new project, our thoughts are running wild just imagining what she will come up with this go around. We’re worried though, because Ms. Norwood always delivers a chapter and verse in musical brilliance.

As always, Brandy, we’re rooting for you!

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From The Vault: Mary Mary – ‘Shackles’

Today’s From The Vault pick celebrates the debut single of a group that has changed the face of Gospel forever. It’s the uplifting ‘Shackles (Praise You)’ by Grammy winners Mary Mary.

Released during the very last weeks of the last millenium, ‘Praise’ introduced the world to the ladies’ brand of Contemporary Gospel with Urban-Pop undertones. While not its originators, the ladies are renown for popularizing the Urban Gospel genre on a global scale

Indeed, with a peak position of #28 and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Hip-Hop/R&B respectively, the track managed to crack the British Top 5, reach the thriteenth position of the French Chart and went to #2 in Australia.

The Darren Grant directed music video aided the duo’s world domination. Showcasing how we can always overcome trials and tribulations – not unlike Michelle Williams’ ‘If We Had Your Eyes’ visual – it had a very appropiate blend of “preachy” and “sophisticated”. A true classic.

Mary Mary went on to become the most successful Contemporary Urban Gospel group thanks to this single and its parent album which taught the world how to perfectly mix “secular” beats and religious lyrics.

With the ladies gearing up for the launch of the third season of their hit WE tv show, we can’t wait to hear what the future holds for the group.

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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘I Get Lonely’

Iconic. Innovative. Influential.

These are three words that would best describe Janet Jackson.

Today’s From The Vault pick is an demonstration of the indelible imprint she has left in our beloved Pop Culture. ‘I Get Lonely’ from 1997’s ‘The Velvet Rope’ is this week’s selection.

The work of then-fantastic four Ms. Jackson, Jam & Lewis as well as Jackson’s ex-husband and frequent collaborator Rene Elizondo, ‘Lonely’ is an authentic R&B track that sees Janet lamenting over being away from an estranged lover. A classic Janet “baby-making song”, its dramatic horns and sultry bass make for a sexy-sensual atmosphere which contrasts – in the best way possible – with Jackson strong yet vulnerable vocal delivery. The singer’s trademark harmonies are in full force as well. A triumph.

Releasing the track as a follow up to Dance-Pop mega hit ‘Together Again’ was quite the bold move at the time, but turned out to be a risk worth taking as it became the diva’s 18th consecutive Billboard Top 10 smash – peaking at #3 – and claiming the top spot of the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart. In the UK, the R&B jam fared rather well too reaching the fifth position of the Official Singles Chart.

As it is often the case with the stage-blazer, the accompanying visual for the tune is as memorable as the tune itself. The Paul Hunter directed music video presents a flame-haired Janet in various futuristic sets including one where she – alongside her female dancers – engages in some silky smooth choreography, proving yet again that she is no one-trick-pony who can only do intricate high-octane routines.

From the fashion and hair & make up to the choreography, it is indeniable how impactful this video has been and is continuing to be: Britney’s ‘Me Against The Music’, Kelly Rowland’s ‘Motivation’, Rihanna’s ‘LOUD’ era look anyone?!

We won’t state again how seriously we’re anticipating Ms. Jackson’s return to chart glory. For today all we will do is salute yet again a tremendous artist who’s vision and audacity helped change the entertainment landscape forever.

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From The Vault: Lil Kim – ‘No Matter What They Say’

“I’m just trying be me…”

We’re taking From The Vault back to the very early 00’s today with one of female rap’s greatest singles. It’s Lil’ Kim’s ‘No Matter What They Say’.

Masterminded by Diddy – or Puff Daddy at the time – the track is interestingly a Salsa/Hip-Hop fusion where Kim unapologetically boasts that she doesn’t care for the critics. A tongue-in-cheek ego-trip, its break goes back to absolute basics, giving a nod to The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight as well as sampling Eric B. & Rakim‘s ‘I Know You Got Soul’.

Though it’s definitely one of Kimberly’s most iconic moments, the single was only a moderate hit the world over, peaking at #60 on Billboard’s Hot 100 tally and #35 in the UK.

With good pals Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Jadakiss and mentor Diddy on board, we are presented with the “Queen Bee Show”. Indeed with as many costume (and wig) changes as there are sets, Kim does burlesque, runway model, ghetto fabulous, sexy señorita and street dancer with much gusto during the 4 minutes affair.

Directed by Marcus Raboy, the year 2000 visual has undeniably been an inspiration for all the female MCs with Pop aspirations that came after Miss Jones.

No matter what they say (pun intended, of course), Kim remains Hip-Hop Royalty. More over, it’s songs and videos like these that force the naysayers to recognize her trail-blazing status and tremendous influence on Pop Culture.

All hail Queen Bee!

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From The Vault: Madonna – ‘Take A Bow’

“The show is over, say goodbye”

Madonna‘s 1994 foray into R&B wasn’t as well received as she would have wanted. Still with ‘Bedtime Stories’, the icon delivered many an underrated cut. On the singles-front, we feel like one in particular doesn’t get as celebrated as it should. Of course, we’re referring to the stunning ballad ‘Take A Bow’.

Penned by Babyface (who also provides background vocals), the gem shares the same theme as Rihanna’s and Leona’s songs of the same name. Indeed, the lyrics see Madge congratulating her love interest for fooling her with flying colors and breaking her heart – urging him to take one final bow and leave.

Although it seems to be forgotten by many – including Madonna, who never performed it on any tour – it’s interestingly the diva’s longest running #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with 7 weeks at the top. Its mellow groove paired with the Babyface affiliation helped it reach the Top 40 of the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B chart. Unfortunately its US success didn’t translate into an overseas triumphant. Expect for a few countries, the track was only a moderate hit in Europe ending her run of 35 consecutive Top 10 singles in the UK.

A gorgeous song deserves a gorgeous video and that’s exactly what the track’s accompanying clip is… GORGEOUS.

Echoing the Spanish-flavor of the song, the visual – shot in Spain – had a Corrida theme and featured Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz. Directed by Michael Haussmann, it depicts a dysfunctional relationships between an aristocrat M-Dolla and a passionate Muñoz.

With beautiful lyrics, a solid vocal performance, and an amazing video, we don’t quite understand how this missed the “signature songs” boat; qualitatively, it sits comfortably beside classics such as ‘Live To Tell’ and ‘Drowned World’.

Either way, with Ms. Ciccone putting in motion plans for her next studio effort, we ask you to join us at TGJ HQ in a prayer circle to guaranty that she delivers tunes and videos as solid and qualitative as these. Clearly a woman who once was able to bless the world with something this good shouldn’t settle for trend-chasing and “recession videos”

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From The Vault: Lisa Stansfield – ‘All Around The World’

We’re celebrating yet another amazing talent on this week’s From The Vault.

Taking it way back to the late 80’s, Lisa Stansfield‘s classic ‘All Around The World’ is our pick.

Helmed by the songstress, husband Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, ‘World’ is a soul-dance hybrid that caught the world by storm in 1989. Chosen as the second single from the British siren’s debut effort ‘Affection’, it proved to be a wise decision as it charted inside the Top 5 of most of the territories it’s been released in. After hitting #1 on home soil, it achieved the same fit on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop tally and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A film-noir themed video by French director Philippe Gautier helped the song gain “landmark status”. A regular on music videos channels, the visual saw the short-haired diva lamenting over the loss of her “baby” while “touring” the world. A very literal take on the song’s now classic lyrics.

Proving that the amount of “Soul” you have within yourself has nothing to do with the tint of your skin, Ms. Stansfield remains a tremendous talent that surely helped the Blue-Eyed Soul movement become a ‘thing’, paving the way for the likes of Robin Thicke, Adele and Christina Aguilera.

With the songbird sounding as angelic nowadays as back then, we’re eagerly anticipating her soon to be released ‘Seven’ album. Who knows, with qualitative music – and to an extent blue-eyed soul – seemingly on the up, this very project could be the one that sees Lisa shifting similar numbers to her “students” on this side of the new millennium.

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From The Vault: Babyface & Toni Braxton – ‘Give U My Heart’

The music world has seen numerous solo artists routinely join forces resulting in legendary combos: Marvin Gaye & Tammi TerrellDonny Hathaway & Roberta Flack as well as the duo we’re saluting today: Babyface & Toni Braxton.

Their 1992 hit ‘Give U My Heart‘ is this week’s From The Vault pick.
Helmed by then-usual suspects L.A. Reid, Babyface and Daryl Simmons, the track served as the launching single of the Eddie Murphy-led blockbuster ‘Boomerang‘ OST. The song sees the two vocalist trade verses showcasing a similar vocal technique that borrows much from Jazz music.
‘Heart’ reached the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 (#29) and impressively peaked at #2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop, with the  track blocking its journey to the top of that tally being chart blockbuster Boyz II Men‘s ‘End Of Road‘… the second single from the ‘Boomerang’ OST… which was also written by Babyface. (Ca-Ching!)
If the song displays incredible chemistry between Toni and Kenny, its music video surely takes it up a notch. Indeed, it presents the artists coyly interacting, surrounded by spinning geometric solids upon which footage from the movie is projected. To sum up, they look as lush as they sound.
Over 20 years after they first started working together, and after much success – as a team and individually – on December 3rd Edmonds and Braxton are finally set to give the world what it has been longing for for years: a collaborative album, ‘Love, Marriage And Divorce‘.
With first single ‘Hurt You‘ already smashing Urban AC, let’s hope the duo can bring back that rich, heartfelt soul at the forefront of the industry the same way they did a couple of decades removed. One must understand that songs like ‘Un-Break My Heart‘, ‘I’ll Make Love To You‘ and ‘When Can I See You‘ left a permanent imprint on the industry, paving the way for artists such as Ne-YoElijah BlakeAdele and Emeli Sandé.
Roll out December!
babyface toni 2 e1379863009606 From The Vault: Babyface & Toni Braxton   Give U My Heart
babyface toni braxton e1379863039467 From The Vault: Babyface & Toni Braxton   Give U My Heart

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