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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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From The Vault: Janet Jackson – ‘If’

As much as their respective fan-bases would like to state otherwise the female Pop throne is dually occupied by two powerful divas: Madonna and Janet Jackson.
This week From The Vault salutes the Queen of the Jackson dynasty and what we deem one of her most iconic songs and videos to date, 1993’s ‘If’.

After the phenomenal chart performance of ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ – which was a significant change of pace, theme as well as style for the singer – the pressure was on for Janet to deliver something as exciting as the launching single of her eponymous fifth effort. All doubts were silenced when ‘If’ was selected as the follow-up single.
Another Janet, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis concoction, the Rock-infused track skilfully fused the the sound of the star’s preceding album ‘Rhythm Nation‘ with her newfound sexy.

Chart wise, it was another Billboard Top 5 for the artist, reached the 4th position of the Canadian charts and peaked at #14 in the UK.

What undoubtedly etched ‘If’ in the Pop Culture history book is its iconic music video – most especially the sickening choreography it showcases courtesy of the legendary Tina Landon. Directed by frequent collaborator Dominic Sena, the visual is set in a kinky Japanese nightclub where Janet performs seductively for a captivated crowd.

Oh…and did we mentioned “that” dance-break? Beyond being a visual exclamation mark for the song, video and MTV era, it’s widely regarded as one of the most groundbreaking pieces in the world of dance. And for reasons it simply justifies itself.

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What better day than International Women’s Day to highlight how much this artist and video have been influential for Women in Pop. Indeed, by being herself – fearless and fly, by not being afraid to express her fantasies, and by exhibiting precision in her dancing and the conviction she puts in her craft, Jackson managed to change the Pop landscape for the better. She became an ambassador for female empowerment and birthed a whole new generation of performers – both female and male.

While we wait for the Queen to return to the charts, we urge you to press play and reminiscence with us about this classy classic which is still as sexy, innovative and edgy today as it was 23 years ago.

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From The Vault: Diddy – ‘Come To Me (ft. Nicole Scherzinger)’


When not promoting liquor around the world or pulling the plug on promising bands, Diddy is a recording artist who’s quite capable of delivering bodacious bops.
Case in point, his collaboration with Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, ‘Come To Me’ – which is this week’s From The Vault pick.

Helmed by Jai, Younglord and the rapper-producer himself, ‘Come’ stood as the first single from ‘Press Play’, Diddy’s fourth studio album. Released in 2006, the cut was also Scherzinger’s second foray into solo stardom since joining the Dolls. Whether it had to do with Nicole’s then-midas touch or simply the fact that the tune is blazing hot, the track peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 in the United Kingdom. It placed #4 on the European Hot 100 Singles. Performed on number of occasions, Diddy offered live renditions with the Doll as well as with aspiring-singer/girlfriend Cassie and the first incarnation of Danity Kane.

Staying true to ‘Press Play’s urban-futuristic theme, the video presents the two artists surrounded by latest technology, as they try and navigate their way to one another.
Pieced together by Chris Robinson, the clip received ample airplay and charted at #4 on BET’s now-defunct 106 And Park.

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Say what you will about Diddy’s artistry, one thing is for sure is that he’s consistently pushing the envelope visually and sonically; as evidenced by his impressing resume, from the Biggie days to the dynamite Dirty Money dynamic.

As for Nicole, it’s songs like this one that makes it all the more puzzling that it’s taking that much for her to truly pop off…
Anyhow, join us while we reminisce about better days – musically – for these two talents.

diddy

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From The Vault: Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, & Anika Noni Rose Rock ‘Oscars’ With ‘Dreamgirls’ Medley


As Hollywood gears up for another Academy Awards ceremony tonight, From The Vault journeys back to the year 2007 when the ‘Dreamgirls’ cast performed a medley of the movie’s finest songs.

‘Dream’ was a huge success both commercially and critically; and a pronounced part of its popularity lay in the material heard throughout the movie. As such, it wasn’t much of a surprise then when its OST hit #1 on the Billboard 200 or when three records from the project were nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars – namely ‘Love You I Do’, ‘Listen’ and ‘Patience’.

Introduced by Jennifer Lopez, cast-mates Keith Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce  took to the stage to present a rousing rendition of said songs in medley form. Needless to say, the showing was a vocal home-run. Most importantly, the artists displayed incredible chemistry and each of their lights were able to shine during the seven minutes showing. {Side note: It’s always a pleasure for us watching Hudson and Knowles trade verses during ‘Listen’}

Sadly none of the songs won the coveted prize, but J.Hud was named Best Actress In A Supporting Role for her portrayal of Effie White. Hopefully, Common and John Legend fare better tonight with their Golden Globes-winning song ‘Glory’ which will compete against the Diane Warren-penned ‘Grateful’ sung by Rita Ora.
While we await to find out, we invite you to press play and relive the splendour of this moment.

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From The Vault: Toni Braxton – ‘Un-Break My Heart’

Though released almost two decades ago, Toni Braxton‘s classic ‘Un-Break My Heart’ still serves as a Valentine season favourite. As such, the lovelorn number is this week’s From The Vault pick.

Interestingly, initially Braxton wasn’t too keen on recording the Diane Warren-penned and David Foster-helmed track. After skilled convincing from then-label head L.A Reid, Toni agreed and turned this ballad into a monster smash.
The second single from her magnum-opus ‘Secrets’, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks – funnily enough from December 7 1996 to Valentine’s Day week in 1997. It reached the fifth position on the Canadian charts and entered the Top 3 in numerous European countries. Perhaps, most notably though, the gem won Braxton her fourth Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal.

It is with flying colors that frequent collaborator Bille Woodruff managed to create a heartbreaking visual for a heartbreaking track. Starring world-famous model Tyson Beckford, the video sees the stunner mourning her deceased lover and later on taking the stage for an all-out diva masterclass that has now become permanently etched in the minds of millions.

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To this day, Toni Braxton remains a rare gem; from her deep sultry tone to her effortless brand of “sexy”, she has established herself as one of R&B’s most notable royals and  definitive music legend.

As widely known, her run in the industry has been filled with high highs and challenging lows. Hence, why we’re hoping the Grammy winning success her latest project, ‘Love, Marriage, & Divorce’, will inspire her to press on with new music so as to allow generations to come to appreciate the wealth of her immense talent.

toni-braxton-unbreak-my-heart-thatgrapejuice

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From The Vault: Mariah Carey Rocks 2006 Grammy’s With ‘We Belong Together / Fly Like A Bird’

Another year, another Grammy ceremony.

In homage to tonight’s show, our From The Vault pick is a rousing showing by Mariah Carey at the 2006 award ceremony.

We’re pretty sure you’re now well acquainted with the stats of the blockbuster era Ms. Carey scored with her ‘Emancipation Of Mimi’ comeback LP. For the forgetful few, the the project sold over 10 million albums, enjoyed countless weeks at #1, spurned two top charting singles including Billboard’s “Song Of The Decade” ‘We Belong Together’.

Taking to the Grammy stage after bagging 8 nominations, Ms. Carey delivered an epic medley of the aforementioned Jermaine Dupri-moulded smash alongside the Gospel fan-favorite ‘Fly Like A Bird’ – which was produced by James ‘Big Jim’ Wright. With her vocals in great form – and just a tad of backing track for good measure – this ranks as one of Mimi’s best performance of recent years, not only for her voice but also her commanding stage presence.
One would think that all these credentials would equal major recognition by the Grammy committee, right? Wrong! Though taking home three gramophones on that night, the diva missed out on the oh-so-prestigious “Record Of The Year”, “Song Of The Year” and “Album Of The Year” distinctions, with the organization instead opting to reward arguably less celebrated music – both critically and commercially – by U2 and Green Day.

Unfortunately, nobody’s ever safe from a Grammy snub, especially not on the Urban side of things. From where we’re standing, Mariah deserved to win every single award she was nominated for on that evening.

With the Urban arena at its most popular in years, it’ll be interesting to see WHO the Grammy committee considers the leaders of the pack.

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From The Vault: Aaliyah – ‘If Your Girl Only Knew’

36 years old…

That is the landmark R&B Princess Aaliyah would be this month. Unfortunately, fate had decided otherwise.
In a bid to salute one of the major artist who has put modern R&B on the mainstream map, From The Vault journeys back to 1996 this week to spotlight her classic ‘If Your Girl Only Knew’.

Developed by then-up-and-comers Missy Elliott and Timbaland, ‘Girl’ was Aaliyah’s Atlantic Records debut but most importantly the first indicator of longevity after her successful first album. The lead single from the singer’s ‘One In A Million’ LP, it achieved major success in the USA, peaking at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching the coveted top spot of the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs and Tracks tally.

Joseph Khan directed the track’s visual which featured the stunner as the Queen Bee of an Urban biker crew. One could argue the styling in the video is pretty faithful to what the “Aaliyah Look” that she would later become renown for. Bandana, crop top and baggy pants and of course sunglasses, Ms Haughton showcases a potent blend of “Street”, “Cool” and “Feminine”. Masterminds Missy and Timbo all appear in the video alongside 90’s staples Lil’ Kim, Ginuwine and R&B trio 702.

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Aaliyah, through her well crafted R&B and edgy videos helped redefine the genre as we know it and her influence can still be witnessed in Pop-Culture over 13 years after her tragic passing. Her death is all the more saddening when taking account that 2001 truly felt like the “moment” in time where she hit her mark as an artist as evoked with songs and videos like ‘More Than A Woman’ and ‘Rock The Boat’.
Considering the impact she had during her 10-year run as well as the extent of her legacy, it’s clear to say that the music industry would be looking a lot different if Baby Girl was still amongst us today.

Thankfully, we’ll always have her art to remind us of her incredible talent.

Aaliyah we salute you.

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From The Vault: Whitney Houston – ‘Queen Of The Night’

Though her most celebrated work remains her epic love songs, Whitney Houston knew a thing or two about turning up the uptempo and giving the clubs something to move their feet to.

Today’s pick is the mighty ‘Queen Of The Night’ from the ‘Bodyguard’ OST.

Serviced as a single from the record-breaking set, ‘Queen’ is a Dance number heavily influenced by Rock music. Helmed by L.A. Reid and Babyface, the track – though a big radio hit – wasn’t commercially released in the US but achieved success in European countries including the UK where it reached the 14th spot of the charts. Through the years, the cut developed into a classic with talent show contestants belting it and DJs from all over the world still spinning it and its accompanying remixes.

TV stations are also the reason of the song’s recognition. Indeed, its music video sees Houston in all her dynamic divadom . Wind machines, shiny wardrobe and attitude aplenty, this visual shows a side of the superstar’s personality only rarely exploited through her storied-career — and we absolutely love it!

The hole the regal queen’s passing left on the industry may still feel as deep as it did on “that” tragic day in 2012, but we find warmth in knowing that, no matter what, Nippy’s position in music is permanently etched in stone. Having dabbled in R&B, Gospel, Soul, Pop and Rock, her industry timeline stands as the blueprint for all the vocalists of this world.

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We’ll always love you, Whitney Elizabeth Houston.

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