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The Best You Never Heard: Kelly Rowland, The Saturdays, Mary Mary & Mariah

best u never heard 3 The Best You Never Heard: Kelly Rowland, The Saturdays, Mary Mary & Mariah

This week’s edition of Best You Never Heard features little known gems by Kelly Rowland, The Saturdays, Mary Mary and Mariah Carey.

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Kelly Rowland – Love Again

Though the label handling of the re-release of Kelly Rowland‘s ‘Ms. Kelly’ in 2008 left a lot to be desired, the fact it yielded the stunningly beautiful ‘Love Again’ made the whole project worth it IMO. Without question, the best the 28 year old has sounded on track to date, the stripped back, sparse production really allows for the force that can be Kelly’s voice to soar to emotive heights I hadn’t previously thought possible (in being 100% honest). If ever there was a little known track I wish could be included on her forthcoming project, it would be this, so as for the masses to really see that my girl has got pipes! Here’s hoping there’s similar sounding tracks, which showcase her vocals to their full potential, on her hotly anticipated 3rd solo album.

Listen:

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The Saturdays – Fall

Lifted from The Saturdays’ self-titled Platinum 2008 debut, stirring ballad ‘Fall’ hands-down serves as one of the ladies best offerings to date. Though overlooked as single in favour of the album’s more popier/radio-friendly cuts, this Ina Wroldsen penned number really drove home the potential the group have beyond the Pop niche they’ve fallen into. With lyrics which give a refreshingly darker take on a a relationship break-up, as well as stellar vocals (largely from lead singer Vanessa), this is a must-have for one’s music collection. Awesome track!

Listen:

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Mary Mary – Believer

As mentioned previously, I have a soft-spot for crossover Gospel (aka Gospel music which sounds like everything else I usually listen to!) Sister duo Mary Mary have carved out a niche for serving up such gems since bursting onto the scene in 2000 with their smash ‘Shackles’.  One of the pair’s best tracks IMO is 2005′s ‘Believer’ from their self-titled LP released the same year. Perhaps the most lyrically engaging and thought-provoking song I’ve heard in…well…forever…this ultimately is made even better by such lyrics are over a banging beat. This one knocks!

Listen:

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Mariah Carey – Melt Away

Though somewhat a controversial statement, ‘Butterfly’ and ‘The Emancipation of Mimi’ aside, Mariah Carey actually hasn’t released much in the way of a solid album from start to finish IMO. Instead, each of her LP’s boast stand-out cuts which further enhance the quality of her extensive back-catalogue. One of my all-time favourites comes in the form of ‘Melt Away’ from her 1995 album ‘Daydream’. Produced by Babyface, the breezy mid-tempo stands as one of Mariah’s first forays into outright R&B – and arguably one of her best. An updated take on this sound is the sort of music I’d happily lap up from Mimi for her next LP.

Listen:

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The Best You Never Heard: Jennifer Hudson, The-Dream, Stevie Wonder & Brandy

best The Best You Never Heard:  Jennifer Hudson, The Dream, Stevie Wonder & Brandy

This week’s edition of Best You Never Heard features little known gems by Jennifer Hudson, The-Dream, Stevie Wonder and Brandy.

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Jennifer Hudson – Invisible

As seemingly one of the few who didn’t wholesomely enjoy Jennifer Hudson‘s 2008 self-titled debut, for me ‘Invisible’ – alongside lead single ‘Spotlight’ – stood far and above the rest of the album’s material. Produced by The Underdogs, the anthem-esque mid-tempo ballad is delivered with such conviction, rawness, emotion that one can’t help but ‘feel’ what Ms. Hudson is singing – the testament IMO to a great song and a an even better singer. Awesome track.

Listen:

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The-Dream – She Needs My Love

2007 saw the emergence of songwriter The-Dream into the limelight with his smashing debut LP ‘Love/Hate’. Full to the brim with box-fresh hits, the album is best described as one of those where almost every track could have viably been a single – especially the steamy ‘She Needs My Love’. Put simply, the song is audio-fire! From the catchy hooks, to Dream’s trademark layered vocal arrangements, to the production (sparse cowbell driven verses which launch into a rousing chorus), this still goes hard today.

Listen:

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Stevie Wonder – So What The Fuss

The legendary Stevie Wonder served up more of his classic brilliance, this time with a modern twist, with 2005′s ‘So What The Fuss’ (lifted from his ‘A Time To Love’ LP). Featuring Prince on bass and EnVogue on background vocals, this raw slice of funk re-positioned Stevie as a legend whose new music can stand effortlessly beside today’s chart-topping hits, whilst preserving the high quality we’ve come to expect from him.

Listen:

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Brandy - Camouflage

R&B vocalist Brandy served up one of, if not ‘the’, best album of her career in 2008 with the release of the criminally underrated ‘Human’ record. Despite its lack of commercial success, the album will be best remembered IMO as serving up track after track of sheer brilliance – especially ‘Camouflage’. Produced by Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins and penned by Claude Kelly, Ms. Norwood entered new territory with this markedly Pop, organic guitar-heavy cut.  Yet she manages to ride the track flawlessly, really capturing the essence of what the song is about – a celebration of human  fragility and imperfectness. Great track.

Listen:

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The Best You Never Heard: Michael Jackson, Wyclef / Claudette, Kirk Franklin & Teedra Moses

best u never heard 2 The Best You Never Heard: Michael Jackson, Wyclef / Claudette, Kirk Franklin & Teedra Moses

This week’s edition of Best You Never Heard features  little known gems by Michael Jackson, Wyclef and Claudette Ortiz, Kirk Franklin and Teedra Moses.

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Michael Jackson – Unbreakable (ft. Notorious B.I.G)

While the world unsurprisingly gravitated toward Michael Jackson‘s classic songs in the wake of his death earlier this year, I found myself doing the same, yet also reaffirming my appreciation for his ‘newer’ music. Taken from 2001′s ‘Invincible’, Jackson’s last studio LP -  ‘Unbreakable’ stands as one of my favourite of his more recent offerings. Produced by Rodney ‘Darkchild’ Jerkins and featuring the late, great Notorious B.I.G, this epic piano-driven cut oozes funk, with a MJ’s trademark stamp on it. Without a doubt, had ‘hit’ written all over it; interestingly this was initially supposed to be a single (accompanied by a big budget video), however contractual disputes with his label Sony K.O’ed such plans. Tidbit: R&B star Brandy features on backing-vocals.

Listen:

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Wyclef & Claudette Ortiz – Dance Like This

Upon hitting ‘play’ on this one, many of you will immediately think back to Wyclef and Shakira‘s 2005 smash ‘Hips Don’t Lie’. Indeed, ‘Dance Like This’ (recorded a year earlier), which features former City High singer Claudette Ortiz on lead vocals, sounds almost identical to ‘Hips’ – only with different lyrics. With both produced by and featuring Wyclef, it appears he simply tweaked Claudette’s version, which featured on the soundtrack to ‘Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights’ (straight-to-DVD) for Ms. Shakira, Shakira. With ‘Hips’ blowing up and becoming the hit it did,  very few are in the know about the original – which I would argue is the better of the two versions; this primarily due to the superior vocals and all-round more logical lyrcial content. Randomness: Come to think of it, where the hell is Claudette, she’s so talented?

Listen:

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Kirk Franklin – How It Used To Be

I’m a sucka for ‘crossover’ Gospel tracks, and few come harder on that front than Kirk Franklin, particularly on ‘How It Used To Be’. Said to have been produced by hitmaker Bryan-Michael Cox, this stirring piano-ballad has a ‘knock’ that would see it sit comfortably beside Mary J’s ‘Be Without You’ and similar sounding songs. More over, however, the vocals and vocal arrangements cut deep, really evoking emotion. Great, great song.

Listen:

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Teedra Moses – Backstroke

Soulful songstress Teedra Moses served up an R&B classic in the form of her debut LP ‘Complex Simplicity’. As hard as I try, I cannot remember where I stumbled upon the CD, yet what I do remember quite vividly is playing it on my iPod one night in 2005, while laying in bed. The intention was to see what the growing underground buzz was about…let’s just say I started a love-affair with the album there and then, an affair which still holds strong today. A particular album stand-out is ‘Backstroke’, which is best described as sensuality epitomised. With it’s suggestive coos and convincing vocal delivery, this stands as testament to the undeniable talent that is Teedra Moses. Tidbit: Still waiting on her sophomore LP ‘The Young Lioness’!

Listen:

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The Best You Never Heard: Madonna, Mariah, Leona Lewis & Metro City

best you never heard The Best You Never Heard: Madonna, Mariah, Leona Lewis & Metro City

It’s back! After being rested on the bench for almost a year, our much-loved Best You Never Heard feature returns this week. For new(er) That Grape Juice readers, The Best You Never Heard is a once weekly feature which showcases great songs which aren’t known (as much as they should be) to the masses. This week’s edition features little known gems by Madonna, Mariah Carey, Leona Lewis and R&B quartet Metro City.

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Madonna – Dance 2night (ft. Justin Timberlake)

Lifted from Madonna’s 2008 effort ‘Hard Candy’, ‘Dance 2night’ is a lush throwback to her Madegesty’s 80′s heydey. The Justin Timberlake produced (and featured) cut boasts a thumping bassline over a funky Electro-Pop groove. Why this wasn’t a single in some capacity really baffles me, as it’s hand-down the album’s best song next to ’4 Minutes’.

Listen:

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Mariah Carey – For The Record

Though Mariah Carey’s 2008 LP ‘E=MC2′ was argued by many to be a let-down (myself included), it’d be unfair to deny that it features a song or two which can be deemed some of her best work. Indeed, the Brian M Cox produced ‘For The Record’ not only serves as the album’s biggest highlight, it stands as one of my favourite Mariah cuts ever.  A ballad with that ‘knock’, ‘Record’ easily completes the trinity of recent Mimi classic ballads (‘We Belong Together’, ‘Don’t Forget About Us’). From the lyrical content which makes you ‘feel’ what she’s singing, to her outstanding vocal delivery (I’m almost certain this was recorded during the ‘Emancipation’ era), this is – to it bluntly – the business. I’d certainly welcome more tracks in the vein of this for future Mariah releases.

Listen: 

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Leona Lewis – Take A Bow

Singing sensation Leona Lewis has taken the world by storm since hitting the scene back in 2006. While I feel some of her released material has been a bit hit and miss, when the East-Londoner knocks it out of the park she knocks it all the way out! This is perhaps best evidenced on ‘Take A Bow’, which featured on her debut LP ‘Spirit’. An edgier ballad than we’re used to hearing from Ms. Lewis, this one exudes a real epic aura, which is bolstered by her progressively soaring vocals. Awesome track.

Listen: 

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Metro City – Be Without You (Mary J Blige Cover)

Male R&B quartet Metro City, who I’m sure this is the first time you’re hearing of, delivered this stunning rendition of Mary J Blige’s ‘Be Without You’ in 2007. For the life of me, I cannot even remember how I stumbled upon this one, yet for a hot minute I played this more than the original. Unlike your typical cover version, this studio-recorded take on the song features tweaked lyrics, as well great (new) harmonies and arrangements. A winner.

Listen: 

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The Best You Never Heard: Sugababes, Michelle Williams, Monica & Amerie

3133bb66123326a0a88e3031e28c3dfc The Best You Never Heard: Sugababes, Michelle Williams, Monica & Amerie
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Sugababes – My Love Is Pink

 

While everyone and their mum seems to have hopped aboard the Electro-Pop/R&B bandwagon recently, the Sugababes were ahead of the pack – as evidenced by their 2007 LP ‘Change’. Filled with dance-floor destined hits, the album also served up the Brian Higgins produced ‘My Love Is Pink’. This one can be best described as Electro-Pop with a slice of R&B and a dash of funk. Great track

 

Listen: My Love Is Pink


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Michelle Williams – Thank You

Lifted from Michelle Williams’ ‘Unexpected’ album from 2008, ‘Thank You’ continues to stand as one of my all-time favourites from the Destiny’s Child star. Though the bulk of the album had a vested interest in the Dance genre, it was this smooth, melodic, cleverly written R&B mid-tempo which struck a cord with me most (a sign, perhaps?). Michelle’s voice compliments the production beautifully and the song’s unique take on oft-engaged topic of ‘thank you for making me who I am’ was refreshing. Songs in the vein of this are what I’d personally love to hear from Michelle. You?

 


Listen: Thank You

 


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Monica – Hell No

 

 

Monica released her ‘Makings of Me’ album back in 2006, only for it to sell triple copper (you get the point) after the tanking of first single ‘Everytime The Beat Drops’. Unfortunately, this meant gems such as ‘Hell No’ went largely unnoticed. Produced by Brian-Michael Cox and featuring Twista, the song goes hard. In classic B.Cox fashion, the cut is a mid-tempo with that ‘knock’. What’s more, Monica, as with most of her offerings, sings the so much conviction that you FEEL what she’s singing – something oh-so-missing in many of today’s hits.

Listen: Hell No (ft. Twista)

 


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Amerie – Crazy Wonderful

 

The seemingly ever-underrated Amerie delivered IMO one the best and most consistent R&B efforts with her non-US released 3rd LP ‘Because I Love It’. Of the many stand-out tracks featured on the set, ‘Crazy Wonderful’ rears it’s single-worthy head that much higher than the rest. A whimsical slice of 80′s New-Wave greatness.

Listen: Crazy Wonderful

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The Best You Never Heard: Ciara, Ne-Yo, Sugababes & Timbaland

f7bbcee2a078f4220cf9ae6f75f54d3c The Best You Never Heard: Ciara, Ne Yo, Sugababes & TimbalandThe Best You Never Heard returns this week featuring lesser known cuts by Ciara, Ne-Yo, the Sugababes and hit-maker Timbaland. Do you have any suggestions for future instalments? Drop me an email at [email protected]

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Ciara – So Hard

 

As I’ve detailed in the past, Ciara’s 2006 sophomore effort ‘The Evolution’ was indeed pretty solid, yet offered little in the way of what its title declared – evolution (from her first LP). That said, one of the album’s definite standout cuts was the Bryan Michael-Cox produced ‘So Hard’. Reminiscent of Cox’s now trademark ‘Crunk Ballad’ sound, the track IMO is right up there with the brilliance that is ‘Promise’. What Ciara lacks in vocal prowess, is compensated by the sheer emotion the song evokes. In simpler terms (lol), you both feel and believe what she’s singing. A must listen.

 

Listen: So Hard


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Ne-Yo – Make It Work

Lifted from Ne-Yo’s 2007 effort ‘Because of You’, ‘Make It Work’ is all that we have to expect from a top notch ‘Ne-Yo’ track. Laced with lush harmonies and a killer hook, the song IMO would have made for a great single; something I’m pretty perplexed didn’t occur, considering it really was a smash hit just waiting to happen.

 

Listen: Make It Work

 

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Sugababes – Freak Like Me

 

 

Undeniably the UK’s biggest and most talented girl group (I did say ‘talented’, so no Girls Aloud included lol), the Sugababes were able to secure such a position no doubt in part to the success of their 2002 hit ‘Freak Like Me’. A more edgier, rock-tinged (yet still Urban) spin on the Adina Howard classic, the track served as the ladies first #1 and remained at the top for four straight weeks. Good stuff.

Listen: Freak Like Me

 

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Timbaland – Fantasy (ft. Money)

 

Following Timbaland’s return to prominence in 2006 as a producer on major releases by the likes of Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, the hit-maker also asserted his place in the contemporary industry with the release of his 2007 LP ‘Shock Value’. Featuring many a collabo, it was ‘Fantasy’, sung by the relatively unknown Universal/Blackground artist Money, that was one of my personal favourites from the slightly overrated album. With its sensual, whimsical sound, the track is a slickly produced and solidly performed cut.

Listen: Fantasy (ft. Money)

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The Best You Never Heard: Jennifer Hudson, Michael Jackson, Beyonce & Trina

89c434dcd243eef7752f025341b08512 The Best You Never Heard: Jennifer Hudson, Michael Jackson, Beyonce & TrinaThis week’s edition of The Best You Never Heard features little known cuts by Jennifer Hudson, Michael Jackson, Beyonce and Trina. Do you have any suggestions for future instalments? Drop me an email at [email protected]

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Jennifer Hudson – Stand Up

 

Some of you may remember ‘Stand Up’ from a post earlier this year, which saw Jennifer belting it out in her bathroom. Recorded back in 2006, ‘Stand Up’ was initially made available as a gift to fans via one of her fan-sites, however has since become so popular (among her fan-base) that it’s currently being considered for placement on her upcoming debut album. Indeed, the ‘big ballad’ showcases Jennifer’s powerful vocal ability to the fullest, while also engaging the listener lyrically. Great song.

 

Listen: Stand Up


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Michael Jackson – One More Chance

Originally set for release in late 2003 (video filmed too), ‘One More Chance’ never saw the light of day beyond a feature on MJ’s ‘Number Ones’ LP due to well his publicized legal drama – which he eventually overcame. The soulfully soulful cut manages to mesh vintage Michael Jackson (‘Michaelisms’ included lol) with a contemporary sound that would, no doubt, work even in today’s musical climate. Definitely a testimony to MJ’s continued musical relevance.

 

Listen: One More Chance

 

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Beyonce – Baby Boy (Alternate Version)

 

 

Beyonce’s 2003 chart topper ‘Baby Boy’ needs little introduction. Yet many don’t seem to be aware of the existence of an alternate version of the song; which features entirely new lyrics. Weirdly enough, it was this version of the track (which still goes hard even today) that I heard initially; I remember scratching my head at the 2003 MTV VMA’s when she performed what is now known as the ‘single’ version of the track. Enough of my babbling, take a listen…

 

Listen: Baby Boy (Alternate Version)

 

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Trina – 50/50 Love (ft. Trey Songz)

 

Despite releasing a few decent LP’s, both before and after, it’s 2003′s ‘The Glamourest Life’ that stands as Trina’s best album IMO. Featuring several collabo’s including ‘Here We Go’ with Kelly Rowland, one of the record’s standout cuts was the Trey Songz assisted ’50/50 Love’. With Trina at her raunchy best, and Trey turning an impressive performance on the hook, this one is a winner.

Listen: 50/50 Love (ft. Trey Songz)

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The Best You Never Heard: Rihanna, Amerie, Mario & LeToya

090d1e66f703ba0db209db2eb9ac37d4 The Best You Never Heard: Rihanna, Amerie, Mario & LeToyaThe Best You Never Heard, this week, serves up little known gems by Rihanna, Amerie, Mario and LeToya. Do you have any suggestions for future instalments? Drop me an email at [email protected]

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Rihanna – Music Of The Sun

 

Though seemingly a distant memory, the Rihanna that burst on to the scene just three years ago had yet to have her Bajan roots (musically) diluted. A great example of this is ‘Music of The Sun’ the title track of her 2005 debut. With its Caribbean flavoured production and laid back feel, the track still stands as one of my favourite Rihanna tracks – not that that means much LOL

 

Listen: Music Of The Sun

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Amerie – When Loving You Was Easy

I’ve made no secret of my belief that Amerie’s last effort, 2007′s ‘Because I Love It’, was criminally slept on. Serving up a solid selection of box-fresh hits, it’s shame things didn’t pan out as they should have with the record. One of the album’s best offerings IMO was the C-Note produced ‘When Loving You Was Easy’. Raw, impassioned and boasting a fantastic vocal performance by Amerie, the track was one of my personal highlight’s from what is an awesome album.

 

Listen: When Loving You Was Easy

 

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Mario – Lay In My Bed

 

 

As with Amerie (above), Mario delivered with ‘Go!’ – his third studio album – one of last year’s most underrated LP’s IMO. Solid from start to finish, one of the record’s standout cuts is the Polow Da Don produced ‘Lay In My Bed’. In an industry which sees its veterans boast about being the pioneers of ‘Baby Making Music’, Mario definitely shows, with this one, that the young’uns can hang too.

 

Listen: Lay In My Bed

 

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LeToya – All Eyes On Me (ft. Pall Wall)
There’s no doubt LeToya’s solo success was one of the biggest stories to emerge from 2006. Indeed, the former Destiny’s Child star silenced the naysayers and critics, delivering a very solid debut, which spawned the smash ‘Torn’. It was the JR Rotem produced ‘All Eyes On Me’, though, that stands as my highlight from the record. The high-octane production – which LeToya rides effortlessly – is overly infectious. This is how a club banger should be done. Good stuff.

Listen: All Eyes On Me (ft. Paul Wall)

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