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Last evening, BET aired it’s annual ‘106 & Party New Year’s Eve Show’. The event rang in the 2010 with an extensive list of some of the brightest young stars in Hip-Hop and R&B. Peep the performances below and after the jump:

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A few weeks ago, images of Jay-Z and Rihanna’s taped concert for ‘NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly’ hit the web. Last evening the special, which was filmed at Rockefeller Center, New York City, finally aired. The duo performed a collection of their biggest hits from their new albums. Peep the performances below:

Rihanna – ‘Wait Your Turn’

Jay-Z – ‘Run This Town/Umbrella’ (Ft. Rihanna)

Rihanna – ‘Hard’

Thoughts?

Undoubtedly the most successful group of 2009, the Black Eyed Peas took the stage last evening at ‘Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest’. The band performed their top 10 hit ‘Meet Me Halfway’. The tracked peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Once again, the Black Eyed Peas shut it down. They always bring vibrant energy to the stage and know exactly how to hype up the song. Furthermore, the group had an amazing year from #1 records to achieving 6 Grammy Award nominations. After toppling Mariah Carey and Boys II Men’s record for the most consecutive week’s spent at #1, it seems that the world is now truly their oyster.

Thoughts?

NewYears Colour Lights 2010

From me (Sam), Trent, and all of us here at That Grape Juice, we’d like to wish you our dear readers a very Happy New Year!

It’s surreal to think that That Grape Juice is now entering its third year online. Oh how time flies when you’re having fun! It’s been such a blessed journey for me in so many ways, a journey I thank you all sincerely for coming along with us on. I really look forward to steering That Grape Juice wave to amazing new heights in 2010 (we’ve got A LOT in the pipeline…watch this space!)

I also hope that this year brings you all that your heart desires and then some. Onwards and upwards folks. Let’s do this!

Happy New Year!

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Exactly one year ago, Chris Brown was undeniably one of Pop music’s most prolific young stars. From monster hit singles to sold out tours, it seemed that everything this energetic entertainer touched turned into gold (or platinum). Heralded as Billboard’s ‘Artist of the Year’ in 2008, the star was primed to dominate the charts once again in 2009. However, 12 months later,  Brown’s name has become synonymous with everything but success.

Embroiled in a highly publicised controversy surrounding allegations of domestic abuse with his equally famous former girlfriend, Rihanna, Brown has unceremoniously fallen from grace; cast out of the court of public favour. Furthermore, the countless apologies issued by the singer through the mass media have fallen on deaf ears; his efforts ridiculed and his words mocked by audiences around the world.

Nevertheless, Brown continued to pursue his music career, releasing his 3rd studio album, ‘Graffiti’. This too, however, failed to sway the public’s opinion of the singer. Despite rigorous attempts to promote the project with his sold-out ‘Fan Appreciation Tour’, double-single releases and big-budget videos, his album was the worst received record of the year by critics and debuted with the lowest sales of his career to date. It seemed that no matter how hard the young performer tried, he was unable to separate his personal life from his professional endeavours in the eyes of the public.

In light of this, the following questions are raised: should Brown be blacklisted because of his past indiscretions? Should his personal life dictate the direction of his career? Countless singers, including Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and Whitney Houston, have faced career-crippling problems in the past yet have managed to regain their place at the top of the charts. In contrast, given the gravity of Brown’s situation and the increasingly powerful influence of the mass media, the odds of audiences appreciating his music, regardless of his personal issues, are quite slim indeed.

Do you think that Brown’s music should speak for

itself or do his actions warrant his blacklisting?

Actress Vivica A. Fox appeared on the Mo’Nique Show last night, opening up to the comedienne about a number of things – most interestingly her relationship with 50 Cent. Tearing up when speaking of the rapper-turned-mogul, Fox recounted the start of their relationship, what brought it to an end, as well as ‘the call’ which recently reunited the pair – and saw them collaborate on a new video together.

Tidbit: Did anyone else catch the “…when we dated the first time” part? Not starting any mess, but things that make you go hmmm…

Your thoughts?

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Despite having not released an album since her 2006 debut, singer model Cassie has seen almost two full-length LP’s worth of her  material ‘apppear’ on the net over the last 2 years – hence it’s not at all surprising that yet another (‘Skydiver’) has surfaced.

Slated to feature on her much delayed sophomore effort ‘Electro Love’, the Chris & Teeb produced / James Fauntleroy-penned cut boasts great production and an irresistibly catchy hook. Unfortunately, though, Cassie’s vocals (or lack thereof) kinda kill the affair, sounding distinctly offensive in most places other than the chorus (which itself is layered upon layered).

It may come across as if I moan about Cassie each time I post on her, and that’s because I do! In not even being a singer/performer, yet having respect for the art form itself, I struggle to see how it’s somehow ‘OK’ for models to tonelessly talk over hot beats, securing lucrative label deals left and right, while more deserving artists fall by the wayside. It’s just not right. Moving beyond how she got her label deal (that much I can piece together quite easily in my head… and no its nothing nasty LOL), I’m now even more baffled as to how she’s managed to keep it. I’m sure she’s a sweet girl; she’s damn sure a stunning one, which is exactly why I believe she should actively pursue her first dream (her own words)…modelling.

In any case, she doesn’t seem to be going anywhere – that much Diddy has made sure of. So enough of my rambling…check out the song below:

Hit or Miss?

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Exactly three years ago rapper Nas controversially proclaimed that ‘Hip-Hop Is Dead’. Fast forward to the present and the same bold declaration can arguably be applied to R&B too. Indeed, with today’s industry churning out an increasingly homogenised sound, one which largely seems to favour the Pop genre, the future (or lack thereof) of R&B as we’ve known it does not look promising. The question remains, though: is this a bad or good thing?

Birthed in the 1940’s, R&B music saw its journey to mainstream prominence really pick up in the 1960’s with the Motown movement. Furthermore, the 70’s ushered in a host of wildly successful R&B acts such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, and Aretha Franklin. Though the likes of Prince, Sade and Chaka Khan continued the trend in the 1980’s, it was the 90’s which saw the true boom and arguable peak of R&B. If in doubt, the names and successes of Lauryn Hill, TLC, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, R Kelly, and Toni Braxton, to name but a few, speak volumes.

Yet despite the dizzy heights it once enjoyed, R&B today no longer occupies its once-pole position in the musical sphere. For evidence of this, one need not look further than the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, where songs topping the chart often struggle to make any impact on the all-inclusive Billboard Hot 100. Though fans and stans oft cite the successes of their favourite act on the R&B/Hip-Hop tally, any such success is arguably limited to the Urban arena – one of the smallest when compared to other genres.

If the format is truly in decline, then what happened R&B?

On a surface level, the fusing together of R&B with other genres such as Pop and more recently Dance/Electronica can be heralded as a (positive) testament to the ‘coming together’ of the world’s many cultures and societies. Yet, R&B and Urban music more generally, seem to have drawn the shorter end of the stick in this cultural exchange. For, while both the Pop and Dance genres have benefitted greatly from flirting with R&B, they have also managed to remain successful genres in their own right. R&B, unfortunately, has not. Today it’s almost laughable for both new and established acts to release ‘pure R&B’ and anticipate any chart success (see: Mariah’s ‘Memoirs’ and any new act NOT jumping on this Euro-Pop bandwagon).

Yes, there are exceptions such as Maxwell and Sade, both of whom have enjoyed critical and commercial success this year, releasing music with their trademark (R&B) sound. However, it’s wholly believable that the hype surrounding their comebacks largely factored in to them defying the odds.

More so than any other factor, the industry’s gradual move to a more Pop-dominated mode-of-operation seems to have dealt R&B what could prove to be a fatal blow. Traditionally even the most R&B of R&B songs were sprinkled with Pop sensibilities i.e. catchy hooks and hummable melodies. However, what used to be a quality-rich genre seems to have been replaced with what long caused Pop music to not be taken seriously – the idea of image over substance. No longer are vocals or the establishing of artists who will inspire future generations the priority of labels. Instead, we now have models posing as singers topping the charts (“eh eh eh”). Even undeniable talents such as Beyonce, whose first album was an all-R&B affair, have moved further away from the genre in favour of an almost-entirely Pop sound. These occurrences have consequently birthed a culture of fast-food music made for fickle audiences, who see artists as only as good as their last hit.

The idea of R&B being dead may be premature and somewhat pessimistic. However the likelihood of its eventual demise is becoming increasingly evident with each new generation. As an advocate for innovation and the blurring of musical boundaries, it would be endearing to see R&B in its pure form return to prominence and co-exist alongside its diluted incarnation.

Your thoughts?

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Those of you who wanted to attend the VVIP section of  Beyonce’s ‘I Am…Yours’ tour in Trinidad and Tobago have just missed your chance. Hours after tickets went on sale for the event, which will be held in the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, the VVIP passes, priced at $1, 600 TT ($254 US) were the first to be sold out. Beyonce will be performing in the 25, 000 person venue on February 18th, 2010.

Beyonce never ceases to amaze me. As a Trinidadian,  have witnessed first hand the magnitude of her international appeal. Literally everyone in my country is buzzing about this concert; young, old and in between. No other act in recent times who has come to our shores, including Kanye West, Whitney Houstonor Rihanna, has captured so much public interest. In fact, her show is actually selling almost as well as some of our local entertainers during the Carnival season, a rare feat for a foreign artist. I will be there!

Side: There have been string of erroneous and false reports that have been floating around today. Several self-proclaimed credible news sources ignore simple details such as the exchange rate between our currency and the US. Furthermore, although the tour listing originally stated that the concert will be held in the Queen’s Park Oval, the venue has been moved to the Savannah where a stage will be specially constructed (the norm in my country for shows of this magnitude), a fact that many other sites clearly did not take the time to investigate.

Thoughts?

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In somewhat of an interesting pairing, R&B stars Usher and Chris Brown sat next to each other at the Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks basketball game at the Philips Arena in Atlanta yesterday.

While its anyone’s guess what the chart rivals were discussing, in the interest of fun we want you to…

Caption This!

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R&B star Chris Brown continues his comeback campaign with an interview in the latest issue of newly re-launched VIBE magazine. Check out his photo-shoot for the feature.

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Your thoughts?

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R&B crooner Mario advocates the PETA movement in this new ad. As part of the ‘Ink, Not Mink’ campaign, the singer denounces the use of animal pelts and furs in fashion. For more details visit the PETA website.

What do you think of the ad?

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