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The Best You Never Heard: Lady Gaga, Madonna, & JoJo

Which TGJ Editor Has The Best Pick?!

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The Best You Never Heard is back!  Each instalment will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Lady Gaga – ‘Fashion!’

For yours truly, the idea of popularity being a valid measure of quality has always grated. Especially when it comes to Lady Gaga.

Though on the comeback trail now, the mass rejection of her 2013 effort ‘ARTPOP’ saw many miss out on a number of gems. Case in point ‘Fashion!’

Not to be confused with a song of the same name (housed on her 2008 debut ‘The Fame’), this will.i.am production packed an altogether more potent punch. Melodically it favours Madonna’s ‘Holiday,’ and yet for all its retro still managed to sound fiercely fresh.

Lush production, lyrically light, and laced with hooks, this could have served as a fine wine follow-up to ‘Applause.’ Still, it’ll always earn a standing ovation from me. [SAM]

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Madonna – ‘Love Tried to Welcome Me’

When assessing Madonna‘s impact on Pop culture it’s easy to credit her penchant for shock value as its driving force.

It wasn’t. For, the real force behind the “force” was the entertainer’s bona fide forays into different genres and tap into new audience bases / radio platforms with her sound.

The best example of this can be found in 1994 with the LP ‘Bedtime Stories‘, the studio album which solidified her place in R&B’s history books.

Inspired by Toni Braxton and keen to offer fans a softer and sensual side of herself following ‘Erotica‘, the star sought out Braxton’s producer Babyface and TLC hitmaker Dallas Austin and enlisted them to tell her ‘Stories.’

What they created? A poignant and plaintive Contemporary R&B album soaring through the themes of rejection, abandonment, perpetual sorrow and the price of promiscuity.

One of the album’s greatest triumphs, for me, is ‘Love Tried to Welcome Me.’ Produced by Dave Hall, the song told the tale of a painful secret a sex worker shared with Madonna during a conversation in a strip club.

She’d developed a fetish for rejection. A compelling listen. [DAVID]

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Madonna – ‘S.E.X.’

Despite a disappointing promotional campaign to support it, ‘Rebel Heart’ was easily hailed by critics as Queen of Pop Madonna’s best album since her ‘Hung Up’-led 2005 comeback project ‘Confessions On a Dancefloor.’

Yet, while proof of why could be argued via ‘Heart’ cuts ‘Holy Water,’ ‘GhostTown,’ and ‘Inside Out,’ the unexpectedly bumping bop, ‘S.E.X.,’ shines as one of the project’s clear standouts.

Covering subject matter far from shocking at this point from the middle aged vixen, the tune – decorated with a trap-inspired bass line and some very direct sexual instructions – is the purest definition of what Madge is combatting at this stage of her career – ageism.

Think it’s impossible for a woman pushing 60 to be sexy?

Listen to ‘S.E.X.’ and you may reconsider. [RASHAD]

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JoJo –  ‘Like That’

Following the release of JoJo’s debut in 2004 (which was praised for its maturity, as well as the then 13 year old’s mind-blowing voice), 2006 saw her unleash her sophomore effort ‘The High Road’.

Though ‘Too Little Too Late’ was that album’s shinning diamond, it was filled with many other gems, ‘Like That’ was one of them.
Helmed by Ryan Leslie and Corey Williams (the team behind Cassie’s ‘Me & U’), the track saw the starlet showcase her “grown.”  Through minimalistic production and soft delivery, the mood is set for Ms Levesque to let her love interest that she is ready to take that next step with him.
Recent times have seen the songbird resuscitate the song during her live shows. Fitting, as it’s exactly the flavour of music she releases nowadays (see: ‘Demonstrate’) as opposed to the R&B-tinged Pop numbers from her first LPs.
Re-visiting this (as I do frequently) has me oh so excited for her new album. [JOE]
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The Best You Never Heard: Fantasia, Lady GaGa, Rihanna, & Kierra Sheard

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The Best You Never Heard is back!  Each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Fantasia – I’m Not That Type

 

As American Idol graduates go, the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood may posses the most Platinum plaques, yet -for us- it’s Fantasia Barrino who boasts the most solid catalogue.

Indeed, in the 10 years since the North Carolina native blazed onto the scene, she has solidified herself as one of music’s most consistent talents. A status she earned with releases such as her self-titled sophomore set in 2006.

While much of the LP is soaked in the classic soulfulness we’ve come to love from the singer, it also served up a number of pleasant surprises. Case, point, ‘I’m Not That Type’.

Produced by Missy Elliott, the cut places Fantasia on “Club” terrain with its pulsating bassline, gritty beat, and all-round “edgy”. While lyrically, the track embraces the brand and strand of new age feminism perpetuated by the likes of TLC and Destiny’s Child.

Sonically, though, this is all flavours of ratchet. And yours truly loves it.

If this year’s ‘Without Me’ had an older, feistier, sister, this gem would be she!  {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”xyg4ny_W73U”]

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Lady GaGa – Disco Heaven

 

This week’s pick comes courtesy of Pop force Lady GaGa and her gem ‘Disco Heaven’.

A bonus track from Stefani’s first LP ‘The Fame’, it is a throwback to – as its title implies – the golden era of the Disco. Produced by former collaborator Rob Fusari, the dark retro number stands as a favorite among Little Monsters.

Markedly different from the singles released from its parent album but rather similar to her more recent output, it is again a testament to GaGa’s vision of who she wanted to be as an artist – especially when this song was recorded pre-RedOne and was part of Lady GaGa’s shows BEFORE she was “LADY GAGA”. Indeed ‘Heaven’ wouldn’t sound misplaced if played in between tracks such as ‘ARTPOP’ and ‘Applause’.

In any case, the song is a major winner, press play to find out why! {JOE}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”Hb7L3ZEg_K4″]

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Rihanna – Last Goodbye

 

Pulled from her sophomore LP ‘A Girl Like Me’, Rihanna‘s ‘Final Goodbye’ now stands as one her lesser known songs, perhaps lost in the shadows of the chart-toppers that followed its release and the ballads she now finds herself being celebrated for.

However, as you’ll agree once you press play below, the number does more to showcase her vocal skill than the songs that have seen her go from Teen Pop sensation to one of the this era’s most successful entertainers.

Penned by Luke McMaster, Charlene Gilliam and Curtis Richardson, the Gaelic- sounding ‘Goodbye’ sees an 18 year old Fenty bid adieu to the nightclub-ready themes found in ‘SOS’ and ‘Break It Off’ and land on mature ground with a cut that’s just as poignant today as it was upon its 2006 release.

Love it as much as I do? You know who to vote for below!  {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”gujdHQboago”]
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Kierra Sheard – Wave Your Banner (ft. Mary Mary)

 

If there was a duckwalk in your spirit, we wouldn’t be mad if you broke out into it while listening to this song. In the streets or in the church, ‘Wave Your Banner’ – the triumphantly, energetic cut from gospel songstress Kierra Sheard and Grammy winning gospel sister duo Mary Mary – simply bumps…hard!

Found on Sheard’s third album ‘Bold Right Life’, the tune is an oft-overlooked gem and awesome reverse follow-up to Mary Mary’s ‘God In Me’ (which saw Kierra play guest). As the aptly titled ‘Bold’ marked the singer’s first album into adulthood, it flexed a newfound confidence befitting a growing artist and woman overall. Had the Urban contemporary ‘Wave’ ever been released to radio, we’re sure it would’ve been a hit.

Alas, we can only dream. Until then, we’ll ‘Wave’ right along with Kiki on this bass driven tune! {RASHAD}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”1lAik1e9nTY”]
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The Best You Never Heard: Kelly Rowland, Brandy, Pebbles, & Sheree Whitfield

The Best You Never Heard is back!  Each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Kelly Rowland – Turn It Up

 

While many look to ‘Motivation’ as Kelly Rowland‘s finest moment, its parent album ‘Here I Am’ is – for yours truly – her strongest body of work to date.

Boasting production from the likes of Tricky Stewart, Rico Love, The-Dream, and Ester Dean, the 2011 set served up Urban-Pop in the most palatable way. Put simply, (almost) every song was a smash-in-waiting.

Ironically, the rise in Kelly’s solo stock saw The X Factor UK came a’knocking, ultimately making the aggressive promo push required to capitalise on ‘Motivation’s buzz difficult. Catch 22, ay?

Still, the LP remains the most solid of Rowland’s solo catalogue – thanks to gems such as ‘Turn It Up’.

Helmed by the iconic Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins, the dance-floor jam delivered drums, bass, sass, and spark – resulting in this firework of a track. How this did not receive the single treatment will forever puzzle. After all, it’s the exact brand and strand of song to showcase what the masses have a hunger to see more of – Kelly Rowland, the performer. Imagine Kelly rocking out to this in the vein of her BET Awards ’11 performance or this year’s Black Girls Rock.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.

In any case, the cut continues to garner many a replay from yours truly. Here’s hoping there are more tracks in this vein on future projects.  {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”wKDZhR2eSe8″]

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Brandy – It’s Not Worth It

As you’ve probably figured out, we love us some Brandy here at TGJ. Her extensive back-catalogue boasts many a could-have-been-hits. Case, point and example: ‘It’s Not Worth It’ from 2002’s ‘Full Moon’ LP

A very close sibling to the classic ‘Angel In Disguise’ from previous effort ‘Never Say Never’, ‘Worth It’ is an uptempo track that sees B-Rocka in the middle of a tumultuous relationship trying to make things right when her lover is ready to throw in the towel.

Helmed by the legendary Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, the track is yet another mix of high-octane production and stellar vocal arrangements with the cherry on the cake being a “special appearance” by none other than King Of Pop Michael Jackson – himself bringing a slight melancholic dimension to the tune only with a few notes delivered falsetto style.

Although it had not been pushed at its full potential for reasons that go above and beyond “the industry” (see: pregnancy), the ‘Full Moon’ album remains a gold mine that houses some of Ms. Norwood’s best moments ever, this song being one of them. {JOE}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”XlRUpUBV9Ts”]

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Pebbles – Girlfriend

Pulled from Pebbles‘ self titled debut album, ‘Girlfriend’ came courtesy of then-friend and later husband- LA Reid together with R&B maestro Babyface.

Co-produced by the performer herself, the empowering cut first hit shelves in 1987 and subsequently topped the interestingly named ‘Billboard Hot Black Singles‘ chart while earning a peak position of #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

What’s more, its success on US shores saw it push its supporting album to a top twenty Billboard 200 peak position, snatching the #14 spot, while the cut rocketed into the top ten of UK’s Official Singles Chart.

It was there, perched at #8, that ‘Girlfriend’ became the star’s first and last UK Top 40 chart entry, outperforming her signature hit ‘Mercedes Boy’ which parked at #42 upon its March 1988 arrival!  {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”Avtj8tdpr5Y”]
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Sheree Whitfield – Who Gon Check Me Boo

 

It’s the song every ghetto girl and their grandmother wishes would play when she walks in a room (or down the aisle).

Before ‘Gone With the Wind Fabulous’ and ‘I’m Very Rich B*tch’ swept the net as the memorable quotes from Bravo TV’s wildly popular ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’, former starlet of the show Sheree Whitfield‘s “Who Gon Check Me Boo?” was the series’ signature phrase.

Yes, Leakes took to fashion as a means to brand her expression, but, unfortunately, Moore and Whitfield took to music. With neck roll and side eye clearly in tow, Whitfield took jabs at her former co-star [Leakes] in the autotune-doused number ‘Who Gon Check Me Boo’. And, though the number got little traction on the net (as it was overshadowed by Whitfield’s unceremonious ousting from the show), we at TGJ HQ hide our heads in shame as we guiltily bounce our shoulders to the bass driven disaster of a song.

Press play and be ashamed with us. You’ll love to hate it and hate to love it. {RASHAD}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”4OJ7GdzZ6HU”]
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The Best You Never Heard: Christina Aguilera, Ashlee Simpson, Selena, & Drew Sidora

The Best You Never Heard is back!  Each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Christina Aguilera – Sing For Me

 

Sadly for Christina Aguilera, last year’s ‘Lotus’ didn’t quite bloom on the Billboard charts. Indeed, without being watered with promo, the set would go on to wither at a rapid rate.Yet, like most projects plagued by politics, it’s rarely the quality of the album that is ever the issue. Case, point, ‘Lotus’.

From its Enya-like intro, to club cuts such as ‘Your Body’ and ‘Let There Be Love’, the LP was jam-packed with potential hits.

One of the most potent, for yours truly, was blazing ballad ‘Sing For Me’.

A clear cousin of inspirational cuts such as ‘Beautiful’ and ‘I’m OK’, the anthemic track plays like an audio-diary – relaying a narrative of insecurity and eventual triumph by way of inner-strength.

Vocally, ‘Sing’ sees Aguilera showcase the length and breadth of her legendary range – delivering an emphatic middle finger to those critical of vocal theatrics. And rightfully so. Surely, those blessed to blow, should blow? Thankfully, it’s stance Xtina
shares, hence this shining gem. {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”qqm22iik0tg”]

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Ashlee Simpson – Boys

Jessica‘s more eclectic sister had many an audible trick in the musical bag that was her third LP ‘Bittersweet World’ – one of them being the Summer-soaked gem ‘Boys’.

Like the bulk of the album, the track – helmed by the Chad Hugo of the Neptunes alongside ‘Say Goodbye To Love’ maestro Kenna – saw Ashlee venturing into edgier sonic territories while maintaining her Pop roots. A genuine transition, the jam’s strongest point is that it never comes off as forced or try hard (*cough* ‘#BANGERZ’ *cough*).

Unfortunately, the project never garnered the recognition it deserved and plans to release ‘Boys’ as a single were dropped. With Simpson hard at work on the album’s follow up, which she described as “a little soulful, a little electronic”, let’s pray she has the material required to reconnect with the Pop audience but also breakthrough the Urban market a la Katy Perry and Lady GaGa.

Enough with the rambling, here’s ‘Boys’ {JOE}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”ObXc526xPuI”]

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Selena – No Me Queda Mas

Released in 1994, ‘No Me Queda Mas’ served as the third single to be pulled from Selena’s fifth studio album, ‘Amor Prohibido’, executive produced by the singer’s older brother A.B. Quintanilla III, one year before her untimely passing.

With an English translation that reads ‘There’s Nothing Left For Me’, the mid tempo ballad first impacted the world on November 20th 1994, peaking at #1 on Billboard US Hot Latin Tracks tally, but doing far more for its supporting album than many are aware of.

For, despite being a Spanish language LP, the success of its singles and the iconic music videos shot in their aid saw ‘Prohibido’ certified 2x Platinum in the US despite peaking at #181 on the Billboard 200 in the year it was initially released.

Following the Southern belle’s murder, renewed interest in the LP saw its sales skyrocket and secure a new peak position on the ‘200’. A peak position, that sang to to the tune of #29. Meanwhile, its sales surpassed the 1 million mark in Mexico. A winner.  {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”FCi-Xp2TVoQ”]
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Drew Sidora – I’m On One (Right Now)

 

She may be currently winning rave reviews for her portrayal of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins aboard VH1’s highly rated TLC biopic ‘CrazySexyCool’ , but before she chased waterfalls as part of the trio, Drew Sidora was in hot pursuit of her own music career.

Most thought she was simply a fictional character on CW (and later BET’s) ‘The Game’, but the Chicago-born beauty’s track record has seen her signed to J Records and later Slip-N-Slide Records to share her romantic brand of “Crunk-n-B”.  While her ill-fated album on SNS never quite saw the light of day, a few of its gems have been shining online due to brief feature on the hit sitcom.  One such cut was ‘I’m On One (Right Now)’.  Check it out: {RASHAD}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”OioKfghJWkA”]
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The Best You Never Heard: TLC, Leona Lewis, Ke$ha, & Kameron Corvet

The Best You Never Heard is back!  Each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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TLC – ‘If They Knew’

Back in the 90’s, one could always count on TLC to deliver the politically-incorrect goods. From not being “too proud to beg” to giving one the “red light special”, nothing was off-limits for the iconic trio.

After sharing their stories of “creeping” in 1994, they returned 5 years later with ‘If They Knew’, an album highlight about infidelity and being enamored with two different people.

Included in the ’99 blockbuster ‘FanMail’, the track sonically keeps up with the futuristic theme of the project, but this time adding an understated Island-vibe to the mix.

The girls stay faithful to their Crazy, Sexy and Cool personas on the Dallas Austin helmed-record, as T-Boz smoothly and calmly delivers her lines, while the seductive Chilli sprinkles sensuality over the song, and Left-Eye and her unapologetic Rap verse almost makes straying sound cool. Almost.

With ‘FanMail’ selling over 10 millions copies worldwide despite only having three official singles (2 international and 1 European), would you imagine just how much more it would have sold if ‘Knew’ benefited from the single treatment?

Anyway, enough with our shoulda-woulda-coulda’s, here is ‘If They Knew’ {JOE}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”bzCknvWNYcE”]

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Leona Lewis – Burn

As missed opportunities go, vocal powerhouse Leona Lewis hasn’t had the best of luck in recent years.

For, despite ample success, the songbird has developed somewhat of a penchant for passing on material that would not just go on to be hits, but mega hits…for other artists. Case, point, recent revelation that Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ was originally recorded by the X Factor winner, only to be left on the cutting-room floor.

A shocking loss, no doubt; however, it’s the forgoing of the flavoursome ball of fire that is ‘Burn’ that baffles us most.

The Ryan Tedder cut was recorded by Lewis in 2011 during the sessions for her ill-fated ‘Glassheart’ project, yet – once again – was omitted from the final tracklist. Word is that it was the legendary Clive Davis who called for its axing upon taking a more hands-on approach with the A&R’ing of the album – which, at that point, had already been subject to a series damaging delays.

Yet, for all his genius, Davis’ decision would turn out to be the wrong one. For, not only did the LP’s dreary ballads and criminal flirtation with fist-pumping EDM fall flat, ‘Burn’ would go on to become a #1 chart smash for British singer Ellie Goulding…two years later in the Summer of 2013.

A shame, as the track boasts all that Lewis’ career needs musically. Indeed, while baring sprinkles of Pop, Dance, and Reggae, the song never veers too far one way. Resulting in a colourful genre-clash that is befitting on an artist such as Leona; a talented artist who is clearly eager to evolve musically, yet doesn’t seem to know how.

Here’s hoping future projects tap into the brilliance that is the sound, look, and taste of ‘Burn’. {SAM}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”d2Nl45PeZYg”]

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Ke$ha – Backstabber

Initially planned to serve as the second single from Ke$ha‘s ‘Animal’ debut, ‘Backstabber’ stands one of the Pop star’s lesser known/generally overlooked fan favourites. Penned by the performer herself and Chaka Khan collaborator David H. Gamson, the fiery cut sees a pre-autotune Kesha roar through a track that speaks of friendship and betrayal, dealing with a theme far removed from the “generic jams” she’s gone on to craft since then.

Love ‘Backstabber’ as much as I do? Cast your vote below! {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”YBbrqgiTuuo”]
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Kameron Corvet – Kiss And Makeup

 

Criminally underrated Soul singer Kameron Corvet has certainly built his fair share of buzz in underground R&B over the past few years. Ennobled for his falsetto driven, guitar accompanied numbers, the singer’s retro twist on modern R&B quickly earned him sharp comparison’s to some of the genre’s most prized crooners (see:  Eric Benet, Maxwell, and the like).

The foundation of that buzz was undoubtedly 2008’s ‘Korporate Rockstar’.  Featuring the modest R&B hit ‘Kiss & Make-Up’, get acquainted with the Louisiana native’s smooth plea for romantic reconciliation. Premium R&B lies ahead. {RASHAD}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”u58ef_xdlF4″]
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The Best You Never Heard: Toni Braxton, Destiny’s Child, SWV, & Michael Jackson

The Best You Never Heard is back! After a lengthy rest on the bench, each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Toni Braxton – ‘Hands Tied’

Toni Braxton may once again be riding high on the R&B charts with Babyface, yet the climate was altogether different for the veteran diva back in 2010.

For, despite serving up a solid LP in the form of ‘Pulse’, the songstress saw industry politics once again marr another of her post-90’s projects. A shame, as like ‘Libra’ before it, ‘Pulse’ re-affirmed that musically Ms. Braxton was very much alive – and if backed properly could still be quite the Urban chart force.

Still, one of the positive facets to emerge from the episode was the Oak-produced ‘Hands Tied’.

A titillating concoction of classy and sensual, the baby-making number placed Braxton’s creamy contralto centre-stage. The definition of “feel music”, the cut’s lyrics are sure to resonate with anyone who’s loved and loved hard.

Despite receiving the video treatment, the song – which was rolled out as the album’s third single – could only manage a #29 peak on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

Unfortunate, yet a fact that does not dilute the brilliance that is this song! {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”FrzGNKGhipM”]

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Destiny’s Child – I Know

2003 proved to be the beginning of America’s decade long love affair with ‘Crazy In Love’ singer Beyonce. But, as the singer’s musical flight was just taking off, she still aimed to build her acting resume – a resume which already included the likes of ‘Carmen: A Hip Hopera’ and ‘Austin Powers 3’.

Then, taking her chops to gospel-inspired numbers, Bey took to the Cuba Gooding Jr.-led ‘Fighting Temptations’ to lend fan favorites ‘Time To Come Home’ and a scorching remake of classic hit ‘Fever’. Despite an album full of gems, it appeared to be the inspirational Destiny’s Child cut ‘I Know’ that is oft-overlooked. In line with the inspirational work of both Kelly’s (‘Stole’) and Michelle’s (‘Heart To Yours’), the song showcased each beauty’s talent while delivering a heartwarming message.

Get to know ‘I Know’ below:

Press play and fall in love {RASHAD}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”e6Rghyb4yfM”]

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SWV – Use Your Heart

 

Well before the new millennium saw him craft hits for Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Britney Spears and Jay Z, Pharrell Williams wooed the ears of many an R&B loyalist…via the vocalists that are SWV.

Responsible for the group’s signature jam ‘Right Here’, my ‘Best You’ve Never Heard’ pick invites you to the year 1996 to meet ‘Use Your Heart’, the second single to be lifted from the trio’s ‘New Beginning’.

Peaking at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100, ‘Heart’ saw the ladies storm R&B shores with a peak position of #6 and push US sales of its supporting album to 1 million units, earning the LP a Platinum certification despite the song itself itself failing to reach the Gold milestone achieved by its preceding single ‘You’re The One’.

Boasting a finesse and crossover appeal many of today’s R&B hopefuls could pull from, I hope you love ‘Use Your Heart’ as much as I do, and make it the ‘Best You Never Heard’ too! {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”CDfgawEll1Y”]
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Michael Jackson – Someone Put Your Hand Out

 

From the Jackson 5 days to ‘This Is It’, the King Of Pop had been able to show the universe the full extent of his genius. Yes, Michael Jackson blessed us with many a “classic” moment, but today let’s focus on a track only die-hard fans are aware of.

Courtesy of the 1991 ‘Dangerous’ sessions and included on a Pepsi promotional boxset , ‘Someone Put Your Hand Out’ is yet another gem created by the fantastic team of Jackson and Teddy Riley. A melancholic, surrendering love song, it’s safe to say it is ranked quite high on the extensive list of “could-have-been-hits” from the Pop visionary. Armed with a crystal clear falsetto, a Latin flavored groove,  lush vocal arrangements and simple – in the best way possible – melodies, Mike demonstrates here that – with the right dosage – less is definitely more. Indeed, what makes this song such a winner is its subtlety.

Jackson’s ability to seamlessly switch his sound from high-energy, industrial and aggressive to ethereal and vulnerable remains one of his biggest qualities and this very song sums up amazingly what the softer side of his music is all about: love, passion, emotion and honesty

Long Live the King! {JOE}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”A915V7KjKRM”]
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The Best You Never Heard: Destiny’s Child Special (Part 1)

With the release of new Destiny’s Child compilation ‘Love Songs’ drawing nearer, this week’s The Best You Never Heard celebrates the legacy of the iconic chart-toppers.

Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, part 1 of this two-tier special sees us spotlight an array of gems from DC’s various solo offerings. Remember, as ever, we want to know who YOU felt chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Beyonce – ‘Be With You’

A calculated continuation from King B’s work with Destiny’s Child, sensual groove ‘Be With You’ serves as a stand-out offering from her 2003 solo debut ‘Dangerously In Love’. Breezy cool and chill in nature, the cut sits comfortably in the underrated slower section of the LP.

With its verses based around The Brother Johnson‘s ‘Strawberry Letter 23’ and its chorus an interpolation of Bootsy Collins’ ‘I’d Rather Be With You’, the gem was written by Ms. Knowles and produced by none other than Rich Harrison, also renown as the man who gifted her her first solo classic ‘Crazy In Love’.

The mellow number is complemented by the then-21 year old’s gorgeous vocal performance. Starting off seductively, she almost coos for the first half of the track before blossoming into Sasha midway through; concluding with what can only be described as an ad-lib festival.

Although Bey has seen her status soar over the years, reaching heights even artists twice her age never could, one thing has remained concurrent. She has never turned her back on the very band, experience, and most importantly sound that had put her on the map in the first place. Destiny’s Child. {JOE}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”wsvxMVKnlY4″]

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Kelly Rowland – Better Without You

Criminally underrated, Kelly Rowland’s sophomore album ‘Ms. Kelly’ is the home of many a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” hit. Indeed, the 2007 set boasted a number of solid songs beyond sole smash ‘Like This’.

Case, point ‘Better Without You’.

The stirring ballad blends influences from the likes of Brandy and Sade, while showcasing the richness embedded in Rowland’s middle and lower registers.

More than anything, it’s the song’s uplifting and universally accessible message that resonates most. Stellar track. {SAM}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”Euok11aLWPs”]

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Michelle Williams – Change The World

After the first announcement that Destiny’s Child was breaking up to pursue solo interests, the Pop/R&B trio took three very different paths into the “music-sphere”.  While Kelly Rowland boarded the Pop train, Beyonce looked to cruise R&B waters.  The most unexpected transition, however, came in the form of a full gospel album from Michelle Williams – 2002’s ‘Heart To Yours’.
Showcasing her criminally overlooked range, most of the tunes featured a refreshing take on Gospel music and delivered a fusion of Williams’ loves – R&B and Gospel.  However, the most radio friendly tune on the album, which went on to be the year’s top Gospel seller, was the bass heavy ‘Change the World’.
A slow-groove featuring slick harmonies and a mellow vocal performance, ‘Change’ makes it hard to decide whether to bob your head or break into a chilled praise session.  Easily posing potential to spin side-by-side with R&B cuts of the year, this gem is one of many oft-missed by the underrated songstress.  Press ‘Play’ to see what we mean. {RASHAD}
LISTEN: [audiotube id=”xwbt3m8JleA”]
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LeToya Luckett – Obvious

Following the “drama” which saw original member LeToya Luckett depart the group in 2000, few could have predicted the Platinum colored success that she’d achieve solo six years later.

An underdog if there was ever one, the Houston native hit #1 with debut ‘LeToya’ in 2006. And while much of that feat is attributable to her DC following as well as break-out hit ‘Torn’, the album itself packed many a gem – one of brightest shining being ‘Obvious’.

Produced by piano-ballad maestro Brian Michael Cox, the song packs with it much vocal conviction, really driving home of the narrative of love gone wrong. Soaked in pain and heartache, Lady Love’s delivery on the bridge and final chorus are sublime.

Bring on album number 3…please! {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”ADA25qZH8uI”]
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Whose Pick Was Best This Week?!

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Destiny’s Child’s ‘Love Songs’ hits stores on January 29th and includes the newly recorded ‘Nuclear’.

Click here to pre-order!

 

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The Best You Never Heard: JoJo, Lalah Hathaway, Toni Braxton & Mariah Carey

The Best You Never Heard is back!  Each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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JoJo – ‘Anything’

It’s shocking to note how six years of industry politics have held JoJo back from releasing another studio album – especially given the success of her last outing ‘The High Road’.

Released in 2006, the Gold certified set generated  generated Pop smash ‘Too Little Too Late’, yet was a solid body of work in its own right. Particularly with cuts such as ‘Anything’ siting on its tracklist. 

The hard-hitting midtempo samples Toto‘s 1980’s smash ‘Africa’ to great effect, serving up a fresh take on how to “do” what is, in essence, a love song in the 00’s.

For yours truly, the testament of a great song is how well it ages. And with ‘Anything’ remaining the banger it was almost seven years ago, like a fine wine it tastes better with time! {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”svwRMl4Fknk”]

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Lalah Hathaway – Forever, For Always, For Love

 

She may have been introduced to the world as the daughter of legendary R&B crooner Donny Hathaway, but 2004 saw contralto diva Lalah Hathaway take to the tune of another legendary crooner – Luther Vandross.  For her 4th album ‘Outrun the Sky’, Hathaway thought she’d try out Vandross’s 1982 ‘Forever, For Always, For Love’.

Did she knock it out of the park? In only a way Lalah Hathaway can.  The song may have skyrocketed to the top of ‘Adult R&B’ charts, but much like most of Hathaway’s catalogue, only a sector of R&B lovers know of this awesome remake.  Press “play” and fall in love with with Lalah’s luscious contralto cover of Luther’s early hit.  Baby making music awaits below {RASHAD}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”PKqMfFzLWDI”]

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Toni Braxton – Why Should I Care

 

Pulled from her second studio album ‘Secrets’, Toni Braxton‘s ‘Why Should I Care’  is one classic cut all should have been etched into the memory of the masses. Yet, understandably, the track went largely unnoticed amidst the gargantuan success of the LP’s more renown cuts – ‘Unbreak My Heart’ and ‘You’re Making Me High’.

Penned by ‘Take A Bow’ mastermind Babyface, the track sees a sentimental Toni stopping herself from falling back into a bad habit. A habit, that saw her fall in love with a selfish ex hoping to get back together for ‘old times sake’.

Ms. Braxton’s declaration below {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”naNZrl6POeM”]
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Mariah Carey – Migrate

 

With a catalogue as vast and robust as Mariah Carey‘s, it’s inevitable that a number of songs will fall into the “should have been a single” territory. However, few of such cuts trump that ultimate missed opportunity that was ‘Migrate’.

Opening her 2008 album ‘e=MC²’, the sizzling track had already been described as a hit-in-the-waiting by critics and industry insiders months before the album and first single ‘Touch My Body’ were released.

A winner if we’ve ever heard one, the gem was masterminded by super-producer Danja and features autotune ambassador T-Pain. From its iconic high-notes intro and swagged-out lyrics, to it’s catchy hooks and melodies, everything about this party-anthem screams “top-notch”. Heck, even the autotune on Mimi’s voice is of perfect dosage.

Who knows, maybe if Team Mimi went with ‘Migrate’ as a single the LP’s fate (see: Platinum, but somewhat hit-less) would have been different. Whatever the case, this track stands as one of MC’s best offering of the latest decade. More of this, please! {JOE}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”s0RT_rm-FFs”]
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The Best You Never Heard: Christmas Edition – Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, & CeCe Winans

Like most of you, That Grape Juice are feeling super festive today. So what better way to toast to the season than to share some of our favourite little known Holiday gems in a Christmas edition of The Best You Never Heard!

Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Mariah Carey & Patricia Carey – O Come All Ye Faithful

For almost 20 years, the Holidays have become synonymous with the voice of premium diva Mariah Carey. Indeed, 1994’s festive set ‘Merry Christmas’ went on to become a global blockbuster – selling millions annually to this day.

Keen to contribute a new collection of cuts to the ever-growing pool of Christmas classics, 2010 saw a then-pregnant Carey release her sophomore Holiday effort ‘Merry Christmas II You’. A stellar body of work, the opus arguably stands  shoulder to shoulder with its predecessor – serving up titillating takes on festive favourites, as well as an assortment of amazing original songs.

One of the project’s brightest moments is undoubtedly ‘O Come All Ye Faithful / Hallelujah Chorus’. A rousing duet between Ms. Cannon and her Opera singer mother Patricia Carey, the track is bubbling ball of brilliance. And though essentially a rendition of an established classic, their version earns classic status in its own right. Epic. {SAM} 

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”j25wYtN1EIA”]

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Christina Aguilera – The Christmas Song

Christina Aguilera’s 2000 Holiday album ‘My Kind Of Christmas’ served up many a gem, yet few are more notable than melismatic ‘The Christmas Song’.

A wholly heartfelt rendition of the Mel Tormé penned classic – made famous by the mighty Nat King Cole – Ms. Aguilera delivers here a faultless performance, turning the usually laid back number into yet another vocal-acrobatics showcase.

Releasing the festive LP helped further distance the soon-to-be Xtina from her teen-Pop competitors by shifting the emphasis yet again on to her most prized asset: her Voice (yes, pun intended).

With the Pop belle naming Christmas Queen Mariah as an inspiration, we can only hope that she follows her lead and bless us with a sequel to that wonderful album.

“Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you” {JOE}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”WEUobjCuSNs”]

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Cee Lo Green – Mary Did You Know

2012 saw ‘Crazy’ crooner Cee Lo Green release his first collection of holiday tunes called ‘Cee Lo’s Magic Moment’. A fitting title, as the set is filled with a slew of magical music moments including duets with The Muppets and more. But, like so much of Green’s work in the past, his eccentricities can sometimes overshadow his art.

His performance of ‘Mary Did You Know’, however, is not one of those moments,  Reminding listeners of why he is revered for his vocal stylings, Cee Lo lays into the Christmas classic – lending soaring vocals like only he can.  Listen below {RASHAD}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”D1ptNwE7K8o”]

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CeCe & BeBe Winans – Silver Bells

Unwind to the soothing sound that is CeCe and BeBe Winans‘Silver Bells’, pulled from their Gospel Holiday LP – ‘First  Christmas’.
CeCe’s solo effort on the project, the number sees the vocal wonder take on the Livingston/Evans classic with a quiet power that may remind listeners of the duo’s close friend, Whitney Houston– with whom Bebe worked in on ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack a year before.

Press play and fall in love {DAVID}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”HUg9UNv_jU8″]

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The Best You Never Heard: Janet Jackson, Jazmine Sullivan, Ciara, Rita Ora & Craig David

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The Best You Never Heard is back! After a lengthy rest on the bench, each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Janet Jackson – ‘Discipline’

 

The absence of Janet Jackson‘s creative partners in crime Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, saw many fire bullets at the star’s 10th studio album. However, it’d be criminal to take aim at the undeniable home run: the title track, ‘Discipline’.
Crafted by Shea Taylor and Jackson fanatic Ne-Yo, the super-sexed-up slow-jam is an ode to BDSM. J’s vocal delivery gives the impression that she is in an enjoyably painful predicament from which she has no intention nor desire of getting out of. From the moaning to the trademark harmonies – which in this particular song are as eerie as ever- the X-rated number is by all means a classic Janet “baby-making song”.
Damita Jo’s suggestive live interpretation of the track is another example that one shouldn’t be fooled by the “Good Times” smiles and shy attitude the singer/actress displays during promotional interviews.
Hopefully, in the very near future, Pop Royal Janet will bless us with a new record filled with Disciplines, Feedbacks, and other gems akin to those that have slipped under the radar in recent years {JOE}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”Jl9C7Ni5W28″]

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PJ Morton & Jazmine Sullivan – Built For Love

 

Despite sending shockwaves through the industry post announcing her “retirement”,  soulstress Jazmine Sullivan still found her name etched as a feature on some unfortunately overlooked gems.  PJ Morton‘s debut single ‘Built For Love’ was certainly one of those gems.  A throwback to a time when real music dominated charts, the ‘Lions Tigers & Bears’ beauty unleashed her melismatic roar over the Morton tune about love on the rocks.

Morton, son of famed gospel singer Bishop Paul Morton, tickles the ivories while the two soar over the 70s-inspired duet.  The song was released shortly before it was announced that the crooner had signed with Young Money entertainment

Press play and fall in love {RASHAD}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”MoRmera0aUM”]

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Ciara – Shut Em Up

 

It’s common-knowledge that Ciara’s last studio outing ‘Basic Instinct’ was pretty much a disaster – so much so that she told us she wished it didn’t come out.

However, the project’s poor handling doesn’t mean it didn’t birth some of her best material yet. Case, point ‘Shut Em Up’.

Ironically not featured on the 2010 album’s final tracklist, the cut was one of the many songs leaked and left on the cutting room floor. “Why” is beyond us, as the track was banging!

Produced by Infinity and penned by Soundz, ‘Shut Em Up’ served as an emphatic bite back at all of her critics – doing so over a bouncy beat that thankfully sounded more club-geared, than Pop-star political.

More than anything, the track excels in that anyone can apply the lyrics to their own reality.  Too often, those that “can’t” vent by slamming those that “can”. This song tastefully tells them what they can do. {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”u3F2cvzb1Bg”]
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Craig David & Rita Ora – Awkward

 

Before signing onto serve as Roc Nation’s leading newbie, Rita Ora‘s claim to fame came courtesy of ‘What’s Your Flava’ maestro Craig David.

However, while 2008’s ‘Where’s Your Love’ stands as their most recognizable outing, it’s their 2007 duet that ‘Awkward’ that will undoubtedly surprise any unfamiliar with it. Surprising somewhat is that this is Ora’s voice at just 17 years old, boasting a conviction that some of her older contemporaries are still yet to master. Enjoy below {DAVID}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”CwX2Ieuk5no”]
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The Best You Never Heard: Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, & Christina Milian

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The Best You Never Heard is back! After a lengthy rest on the bench, each week will once again see That Grape Juice spotlight an array of little known gems. Featuring picks from the TGJ editorial team, we want to know…who chose the best song! Let us know below…

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Christina Aguilera – ‘Get Mine, Get Yours’

 

While 2002’s ‘Stripped’ saw Christina Aguilera bare her most vulnerable self on tracks such as ‘Beautiful’, the set also ushered in the arrival of “Xtina”.

Many cite the release of single ‘Dirrty’ as the singer’s official transformation from teen-queen to sex-symbol, often neglecting the fact that the album itself packed a number of sensual moments to aide her racy agenda. The most notable of such cuts? ‘Get Mine, Get Yours’.

Unapologetic before Rihanna was, the mid-tempo blazer served as a manual for a “no strings attached” ‘encounter’. Critiqued by some for too quickly accelerating the star’s shift from role-model to rock-star, the cut remains noteworthy in that it’s the female commanding the male to “freak my body, baby, nasty naughty, baby”.

In many ways, it’s songs like this that paved the way for the sexual liberation of some of today’s most risque female acts. Xtina the feminist? That’s up for debate. What is certain, though, is that the song is fire! {SAM}

LISTEN: [audiotube id=”DDyPYh3xBh8″]

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Whitney Houston – Call You Tonight

 

As many know, 2009 brought with it the chart return of the legendary Whitney Houston. Christened ‘I Look To You’, which would go on to be her last) was  a stellar collection of carefully crafted hits and material which embraced both her legacy and vocal ability at the time.

Interestingly, throwback groove ‘Million Dollar Bill’ was picked to launch the LP’s campaign, somewhat unfortunate  because said album housed a classic-in-the-waiting in the form of fan-favorite ‘Call You Tonight’.

Helmed by Stargate and Johnta Austin, the mid-tempo gem did a stellar job showcasing Nippy’s then-“new voice” and was the perfect representation of what a Whitney record should sound like in 2009 (or 2012 for the matter). With engaging lyrics, great melodies, and a powerful yet understated vocal performance, ‘Tonight’ was arguably a missed opportunity to make her Platinum coloured comeback even more triumphant. {JOE}

LISTEN:  [audiotube id=”WolnrWxOj8s”]

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Destiny’s Child – Killing Time

 

Dwarfed by the success of later albums and subsequent solo careers, Destiny’s Child‘s 1998 self titled debut never quite gets the recognition it deserves – on many a front.
Boasting songs which bridged Pop, Country and R&B, the LP’s strongest point – save for ‘No No No’ – comes courtesy of Stinson/Wiggins produced ‘Killing Time’.

 

Packing a crossover appeal much of today’s R&B lacks, ‘Time’ sees DC at their best, serving the conviction and harmonies unmatched by any of their then-rivals.

 

Clearly the inspiration for much of the material on Kelly Rowland’s first solo outing ‘Simply Deep’, here’s hoping the coming years see the disbanded group shine a little more light on the cut and the supporting album so many consider…a classic. {DAVID}
LISTEN: [audiotube id=”j9M2RWSZl-k”]
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Christina Milian – Never Mind

 

Picture this:  You’re at the club…getting your groove on.  Next thing you know, you spot a fine so-and-so doing their thing. They turn around…and in a split second things go from sugar to you-know-what. ‘Dip It Low’ diva Christina Milian thought to share that scenario in song.

 

The track is lifted from one of many studio sessions the singer had when crafting (what was to be) the follow-up to her 2006 album ‘So Amazin’ (see: scrapped albums ‘Elope’, ‘Dream In Color’).  And while the attache project never surfaced, Milian proves once again with this number that she is able to cook-up a radio friendly joint whenever she tries. When, and if, that will ever be fully manifested again…only time will tell. {RASHAD}
LISTEN: [audiotube id=”N_3Xuu3eIdU”]
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The Best You Never Heard: Usher’s Unexpected Duets

R&B ringleader Usher has long stood a solo symbol of the R&B divo – outlasting many of his 90’s male (and female) contemporaries to usher in chart-topping albums and singles over several genres.  While able to claim the title of one of the most successful male solo acts of all time, the singer has still found time to lay his recognizable falsetto over many-a-rapper’s hooks and hits.

But, some may not know of his oft-under praised duets with singing co-stars.

On the heels of today’s ‘Lemme See’ video release (which features Rick Ross) and news the singer was set to duet with the late Amy Winehouse shortly before her death, That Grape Juice looks to salute Ush’s smoother musical couplings with some of R&B’s leading divas – Beyonce, Brandy, Alicia Keys, and Omarion.  Get into old favorites and new acquaintances below:

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