Alicia Keys has been hot on the promotional trail for her new album, ‘The Element Of Freedom’, which hit stores yesterday, December 15th. Early today, the singer made an appearance on ABC’s ‘The View’ where she performed two of the LP’s tracks, ‘Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart’ and ‘Empire State Of Mind (Part 2)’. Peep the performances and her interview below:
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the charts were dominated by powerhouse vocalists and balladeers. Singers including Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion held the top spots on the charts for longer periods than any of their contemporaries; shattering records and positioning themselves at the upper crests of Pop music’s elite list of superstars. However, in recent years, it seems that the famed era of the diva may be coming to an end.
Today, the most successful artists on the charts no longer rely on extensive vocal ability to stake their claim. Rather, they fuel their hits with auto-tuned melodies, catchy hooks and club-ready beats. From Rihanna to Cassie, the success of many of Pop music’s biggest acts has become based on their marketability, rather than actual talent. In fact, it has become a rare feat for a vocalist with extensive talent to capture a position in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Interestingly, many of the divas themselves have swapped their octave warbling techniques and adapted their sounds in an effort to remain relevant in the current industry. For instance, Mariah Carey has been criticised in recent years for restraining her 5 octave pipes so that her songs would be more radio friendly; replacing her high range belts and trills with breathy coos and swift lyrics.
This raises the question of whether or not the divas will be able to once again reclaim their place at the top of the Pop charts or fade into distant memory along with the 90’s high-top hair cut and the 80’s ‘fanny pack’. With immensely talented singers such as Leona Lewis struggling to find their place amongst the current crop of performers, I sense that the era of the diva may indeed be over.
This week’s edition of Best You Never Heard features little known gems by Kelly Rowland, The Saturdays, Mary Mary and Mariah Carey.
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.
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!
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!
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.
R&B songstress Alicia Keys hit the stage on ‘The Colbert Report’ last evening. The singer performed ‘Empire State Of Mind (Part 2)’ alongside the show’s host who chimed in with an original rap segment. Keys’ new album, ‘The Element Of Freedom’ hit stores yesterday, December 15th.
That was hilarious! Alicia remained completely focused on the performance while Colbert spit rhymes about how the suburban air was “good for his asthma.” I actually enjoy ‘Empire State Of Mind (Part 2)’ just as much as the original, although there is almost a 180 degree difference between the two. Very good indeed.
UK singer Leona Lewis took the stage on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ last evening. The songbird performed ‘I Got You’, the second single from her new album, ‘Echo’. The LP has been a commercial disappointment in the US, selling just over 100, 000 copies.
As usual, Leona was vocally on point. She is an incredibly skilled vocalist, possibly one of the best to emerge this decade. Nonetheless, there is nothing interesting about her performances other than her voice. Hopefully as her career progresses, she will improve.
Ever ‘in-the-know’ as to what popping off with Kelly Rowland‘s project (“Sam, the man, the Kelly Rowland stan” lol), we’ve had knowledge of a new Nelly and Kelly’s collaboration for some time now. However, the pair finally lifted the lid on the until-now hush-hush song – their first collabo since their Grammy Award winning smash ‘Dilemma’ back in 2002. Said to be produced by Jim Jonsin and penned by Rico Love (who we interviewed last night…hold tight for that one!), the song, which you can hear in the video above, sounds H-O-T! As one of many who are overly amped for Kelly’s 3rd album, 2010 couldn’t come any sooner for me! Go Kelly!
The Hits Daily Double final tally is in this week and it’s not good news for Chris Brown’s ‘Graffiti’ LP – or Rihanna’s ‘Rated R’. Brown’s ‘comeback’ effort is set to debut at #6 on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of just 102,489. Meanwhile, Def Jam’s Rihanna drops out of the top 20 entirely (#18-#28) after just 2 previous weeks on the chart. The Bajan model sold through 50,000 of her LP, bringing her total US sales to-date to an estimated 300,000.
Susan Boyle continues to dominate at #1, selling through another 582,724 copies of her ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ (hooray for her, but seriously, who is still buying this?!).
Debuts this week include Gucci Mane’s ‘State vs Radric Davis’, which landed at #11 with 89,166 copies sold, as well as Timbaland’s ‘Shock Value II’ with limps in at #36 with just 37,834 copies sold (ouch).
Other notable chartings this week include Lady GaGa, whose ‘The Fame Monster’ EP sits at comfortably at #16 (down from #15 last week), while her debut ‘The Fame’ holds strong at #7 with 102,108 copies sold (she’s on fire!). R. Kelly‘s ‘Untitled’ drops a hefty #4-#43 (a 71% dip from last week) with 34,111 copies sold.
According to our friends over at the uber reliable Mariah Daily Journal, Mariah Carey is set to release ‘Angel’s Cry’ (Remix) featuring label mate Ne-Yo as the first single from her ‘Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel’ remix LP. The song is set to go for adds on US radio on January 4th 2010.
Hmm…I’ll reserve judgement until hearing the actual song, however it goes without saying that there is a lot riding on this ‘remix’ (aka saving face) project – not least Mimi’s relevancy. Yes, she has a dedicated fan-base, yet as the sales-to-date of ‘Memoirs’ show, sometimes that just isn’t enough. Also worth mentioning, is the hilarity that is any suggestion that Mimi is beyond needing to sell anything or prove anything to anyone – which I’ve heard from a few. I’m afraid when you’re one of the world’s biggest stars and signed to a MAJOR label, you’re expected to bring in profit from your sales. Simple as. I strongly doubt Def Jam would be pumping money into her videos and promo, and not expect anything back. “C’mon son”! The industry doesn’t work like that.
Anyway, feeling I’ve slightly drifted off topic, I imagine this track will ‘surface’ any time from now. Mariah and Ne-Yo sure sounds like a great collaboration on paper. Here’s hoping it translates well on track.