Monday, November 2, 2009

Britney's Boring "3"some

I love this video for no reason at all. It's repetitive and boring, and Brit's hardly moving at all, much less dancing. In fact, the clip is basically a collection of glamor shots in motion, which continues Britney's Circus-era trend of looking fabulous, but functioning minimally. Trust me, I made it to one of the shows on her hugely successful Circus tour, and she's just as disengaged in person as she is on film. There's no spark left in Britney, but she's a business MAN, thus the train must keep moving.

All that being said, she's looking amazing in this clip. I bet if they would've slipped her a couple shots of tequila beforehand she would've worked that pole like she had kids to feed (wait...). Remember the Gimmie More video?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ryan Leslie's Stagnant "Transition"

Why is Ryan Leslie releasing another album so soon? His self-titled debut dropped in February of this year. Transition, his sophomore effort, will hit stores during the first week of November.

Generally speaking, Transition isn't a bad album; it's just that his debut was so good. Not good in the sense that Leslie is a particularly dynamic producer or singer, but good because he managed to handle the album's material so well in spite of all of that. What Leslie lacks in vocal ability and musical diversity he makes up for in sentiment. Ryan Leslie didn't always sound good, but it always felt good.

In that sense, Transition is more of the same. In fact, it's basically the same album. Entirely written, produced and composed by Leslie (Dream complex much?), there's nothing remotely original here. If Transition were his debut I probably wouldn't be as disappointed in Leslie, but as it stands, there's really no reason to hail this offering.

Janet Jackson's "Make Me" & Mariah's "Memoirs"

Janet Jackson Prepares Greatest Hits

Just in time for the Holidays (is it even realistic to assume that people still receive cds as gifts?) Janet's returning with a new label, new single, and new(ish) project. Number Ones will pull together more than 30 of Janet's chart-topping hits, along with one new offering; the Darkchild produced "Make Me."

Janet can't do too much wrong in my eyes, and I'm excited to see her working on anything at all; still I can't help but think that Number Ones is a questionable effort at best. First, the last quarter of Janet's career hasn't been as lustrous as the first few, and this compilation makes that painfully obvious. I suppose a number one dance single is still a number one, but really, comparing the success (?) of "All Nite (Don't Stop)" (which I love) to "That's The Way Love Goes" is a stretch. More than that, "Make Me" sucks. It's the only new song on the album, and while it captures the throwback Janet vibe that fans have been looking for, it's too repetitive and predictable. If Janet couldn't catch a hit with "Feedback," I think "Make Me" is an obvious bomb. Lastly, the album art is recycled from her 2001 tourbook. Really Janet? When you're 43 looking 25, you photograph it while it lasts.

In any case, I've already pre-ordered an album full of songs I listen to everyday anyway. Again, Janet does no wrong.

Keep reading for a few words on Mariah

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Don't Call It A Comeback

In essence, pop music never left. In principle, it's been on a 10-year vacation.

At this year's American Music Awards Rihanna was introduced as the artist with the most number one singles of the decade. While several of her chart-topping hits have certainly been R&B and hip-hop influenced, songs like "S.O.S," "Please Don't Stop The Music" and "Disturbia" have taken her career to new heights with their dance floor ready production, and disposable lyrics. In short,Rihanna's success is a testament to the resurrection of traditional pop music.

No, traditional pop isn't a Britney Spears song with a Neptunes beat, or an *Nsync single featuring Nelly. It's not even Janet Jackson auto-tuning her way through "Feedback," or Madonna trading verses with Justin Timberlake during "4 Minutes." Somewhere around the turn of the century pop artists gave up on pop music, and opted for beat heavy club productions in place of playful bells and whistles. In response, album linear notes have replaced names like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis with Timbaland and T-Pain, Max Martin with Danja, or Diane Warren with Ne-Yo. That's not to say that producers such as Timbaland haven't been successful for years, or that Jimmy & Terry haven't been successful since, but one would be careless in not having noticed the blurred lines between pop music and urban genres that have developed over the past decade.

But in 2009, pop music has experienced a return to form.

Lady Gaga shamelessly embraces dance floor disco in the pop hits that have catapulted her to stardom."Just Dance" is more Madonna than Madonna has been in years, while the production of "Poker Face" shimmers with the glossy thump of a Cyndi Lauper affair. Both singles have been huge hits in the U.S. in both pop and urban markets. Outside of her Akon owned label, there's nothing R&B about Lady Gaga, even as her singles are sampled in hip-hop remixes.

This year's "Womanizer" is the first number one single Britney Spears has had since 1998's "Baby One More Time." Comeback hype aside, "Womanizer's" appeal rests in the 1, 2 step of its clunky production, and lyrics that are so throw-away they're instantly worth remembering: "I got your crazy." The song is such a guilty pleasure it nearly rots the teeth, not like the Gothic sexiness of "Slave 4 U," or even the acid-washed "Gimmie More," both of which relied on a hip-hop sensibility to boosts Spears' club credibility. More than a decade after her introduction to the industry, Britney's return to relevancy coincides with a return to the Euro-pop sound that made her a star in the first place.

The ladies aren't the only ones going pop for pay. Ne-Yo's 2008 hit Closer was as Donna Summer as any male artist could (or should) get, with the pulsing echo of its intro, paired with the hushed verses and rushed chorus. Elsewhere, Kid Cudi's "Day 'n Nite" is as trippy as Janet's "Rock Wit U," while Chris Brown's chart-topping "Forever" just begs for a strobe light.

Even conventional R&B artists are finding more success in the pop lane. Ciara's Fantasy Ride suffered through three failed singles before the decidedly lighter and more commercial "Love, Sex and Magic" took flight. Likewise, Robin Thicke's similarly titled "Magic" blended his usual adult-contemporary sound with horn bursts and vibrant strings to create a sound as whimsical as the title suggests.

More recent is Beyonce's "Halo," and Jordin Sparks' stunningly desilent "Battlefied," both produced by One Republic's Ryan Tedder.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is responsible for the resurgance of American pop music, other than the notion that it simply grew tired of its Europeon vacation. Acts like Craig David and Sugababes have been making waves in Europe for years, with only the occasional crossover success. And while the Spice Girls were huge in the 90's, not so much in the 00's. Still, the same sound that made the ladies huge in the States continutes to thrive in their native land. And, as popular radio grows increasingly predictable and lackluster in America, acts like Lady Gaga have managed to legatimize synthenszied dance music for a whole new audience thirsty for something different but familiar at the same time.

Today pop music is once again sustaining on it's own. Even as artists release simltanoues singles to cater to specfic markets, dance pop has been an undenibale force on Top 40 radio. Not Pop music produced by a hip-hop producer, and featuring a rapper, but shamelessly indulgent, synth-heavy, disco-tinged pop.

Like flared jeans, slim-fit tees or Whitney Houston, pop music is back. But how long will it last?

As always, drop-off a comment and let me know what you think.

Love Is A Battlefield

Jordin Sparks' post-Idol career hasn't been as bright as Kelly's or Carrie's, nor as fledgling as Fantasia's, mostly because the season six winner's self-titled debut was saved by the success of second single "No Air." It's fitting then that Sparks' follow-up, Battlefield, would go light on the R&B in favor of airy pop ballads, and light-rock uptempos, making it a traditional pop album at a time when pop music is anything but.

The album's title track is everything it needs to be. Taunting as it opens, ("Don't need to explain yourself, I know what's happened here"), pleading near the middle, ("If we can't surrender then we're both gonna lose what we have"), and aggressive toward the end ("Guess you better go and get your Armour"); all of which is delivered over a slick drum beat that turns the Ryan Tedder produced song into a pop-rock declaration. It sets the tone for an album that doesn't follow suit.

Where the title track is confident and engaging, the majority of Battlefield is naive and pleading. Second single, "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)" begs you to dance, as Sparks mimicks Rihanna's pop disco swagger to less effect. Play it safe ballads "Let it Rain" and "Was I the Only One?" beg for clarity, while the cliched "Faith" asks you to feel inspired by its melodramatic writing set against an acoustic backdrop: "Cause when the sky is darkest you can see the stars." Throughout each song Sparks sounds capable, but restrained. She's an R&B singer trying to fit her husky vocals into a pop canon. They fit, but just barely.

It's when Sparks' voice is allowed room to breathe that Battlefield takes flight. The album's sole R&B affair "Don't Let it Go to Your Head," along with "It Takes More" have the relaxed urgency of Sparks' "Tattoo," with far more confidence. Piano driven ballad "No Parade," soars with remorse, in both lyrics and delivery. "Just another day like any other, nothing in the sky said run for cover...never thought it would end this way," she laments with all the sincerity lacking in the album's other ballads. Jordin does dance a bit better with the guitar strum of "Walking on Snow." Think Janet's "Someone to Call My Lover, " where pop flirts with country and a bit of disco then heads to the dance floor.

While Sparks never recreates the charm of the album's title track, Battlefield still manages to eclipse her debut in quality, and certainly suggests that she has a ton of potential for growth and longevity. Battlefield is a bit of a risk for Sparks, and that's at least refreshing if not always rewarding.

Listen to No Parade below, and drop-off a comment.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two Songs I'm Loving, One More I'm Not

The Good:

Bad Habits

The thing is, Maxwell is brilliant and "Bad Habits" is everything it needs to be. The perfect follow up to "Pretty Wings," the song opens with Maxwell's signature falsetto pouring over a mellow intro before it builds toward a horn driven ode to infatuation. As always the lyrics are inspired, and Maxwell's vocals throughout are flawless. Really, Maxwell gets better with time, and BLACKSummer'sNight is arguably his strongest collection of songs to date. Or maybe everything else in music sucks right now, and I'm just THIRSTY for some quality.

Banging On The Walls

I fully realize that juxtaposing Cassie so close to Maxwell may bring my credibility into question, but I'm fine with that. One song doesn't reflect the other, and that's fine. I'm a fan of any artist that recognizes their lane, and stays there. Cassie can't sing, and "Banging On The Walls" acknowledges that. Autotune is this girl's friend, and it works really well on this song. "Walls" is easily a suitable dance song, and almost dips into exceptional at the 2:55 mark, which introduces a synth-heavy bridge that compliments the song's overall production perfectly. If "Banging On The Walls" were recorded by Britney, folks would be ON it. Alas, Cassie is a joke and unfortunately "Walls" will suffer in response.

The Bad:

Mariah Carey

I'm not late with this, I was just REALLY wanting this song to grow on me. It hasn't. Mariah Carey is a study in regression. If 2004's "Shake It Off" was urban Mariah at her reformed best, 2007's "Migrate" along with the rest of the tragic E=MC2 went beyond urban to hoodrat, and that's not cool. With "Obsessed," Mariah becomes too comfortable in that lane. This is a Keri Hilson song. No, this is post-"After the Storm" Monica. This is bad.

Too gimmicky: "I'm the press conference, you a conversation." Too 20-something: "I'm in the A. You so so lame, and nobody here even mentions your name." Too out of touch: "You on your job, you hatin hard."

When Mariah Carey is too smart for this, I can't help but to think that she's insulting me with this song. The woman who wrote "Always Be My Baby," and "Breakdown" now expects me to ghostride the whip to circa-2002 lyrical laziness? She's not dumb, so she must think I am.

The best part of this song: "And I was like, why are you so obsessed with me?" And THAT was lifted from Mean Girls.

Checkout all three songs below, and tell me what you guys think:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Mary J. Blige: You're Too Grown For This

It's not that I don't like to hear Mary J. Blige do uptempos, because I do. "Just Fine" still makes my treadmill mix, and "Enough Cryin'" was my favorite Breakthrough track for a bit. But this "Nothin on Me (The One)" is trying way too hard.

Mary has managed to transition from 20-something to near 40 in the music industry with ease. In fact, her fanbase has argubably grown over the past decade, as her last two albums have been among the most successful in her career. That's not easy, ask Janet and Mariah. So why is she backtracking with "The One?"

The Breakthrough and Growing Pains have been Mary's most realized records to date. While 411 and My Life were instant classics, Mary's never sounded as confident or capable as she has since 2006's Breakthrough. But "The One" wreaks of desperation. It has Love & Life written all over it, and y'all should remember how well that went.

"Them other girls you done been with, they ain't got nothing on me....Way I walk, way I talk. My swagger."

No, you're 36. Your "swagger" should speak for itself. And it does. Mary's easily one of the classiest chicks in the game. Save these lyrics for Keri Hilson.

And the Drake feature. I just don't get it. There's no reason for him to be on this track, other than his current commercial appeal. See: wreaks of desperation.

But everyone else seems to love it, so check it out for yourself. Leave a comment, let me know if I'm just misguided on this one.

Oh, but when Mary is still a movement by's fine.

"Why R U" Sleeping on Amerie?

Cute headline, right?

I'm convinced that Amerie's "Why R U?" will be the most slept on single of the summer. Already I've heard more negative reviews than good surrounding the singer's first Def Jam single, and those opinions are perhaps as misguided as Amerie's decision to sign with Def Jam in the first place (If your name isn't Rihanna or Mariah, you aren't getting anywhere with Def Jam).

Amerie's voice isn't the strongest, but she'll sing any song like it hurts not to. Because of that effort her "Why R U?" delivery caters toward the track's relaxed 90's production perfectly. Think, Mary J. Blige crooning over "Reminisce" or SWV's slick approach to "I'm So Into You." Not that Amerie is as engaging as Mary, or matches SWV's new jack swagg, but she's singing "Why R U?." Not hiding behind production tricks or vocal gimmicks. Not T-Pain'ing her way toward a hit.

The track's oldschool production is contemporary enough to work as well today as it would have in '92, and that my friend is what we call a timeless record. That's right, I said it.

Don't think that "Why R U?" is groundbreaking, or particulary originial. In fact, it's quite comfortable. But a good song is a good song, and "Why R U?" works well in that capacity.

Checkout the stale ass video.

Oh, but nobody matches her fly.

Monday, May 4, 2009

To Twitter or Tweet

I don't follow a lot of celebrities on Twitter, because for the most part they only use it to satisfy their own egos. You know, saying a lot but replying to nothing. Self-promotion is respectable, but ignoring folks on a SOCIAL networking site doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

That being said, a few celebs have caught my attention (Trey Songz, Jordin Sparks, Tristan Wilds), but Mariah Carey is by far the FUNNIEST.

Mimi usually makes me want to vomit, but I won't front...chick is hella self-aware, so that I get the feeling I'm laughing with her.

Here are just a few of her gems:

  • "someone complained about the bad grammar in my messages. For the record, it's a tweet dear, not a thesis."

  • "Nick is too cute when he's sleep! I wish he didn't have to work tomorrow so he could help me sleep all day and I could sing all nite!"

  • "Just finished working out. Whooo! Quite naturally" its 5am and I still can't sleep"(sung like "crybaby" from "Rainbow"99)lol Who's up?"

  • "I'm pretty sure my spell check is broken cos I know I MUSTVE spelled Chihuwawa wrong. No, I cannot spell..its almost as bad as I am at math!"

  • "When I was 4, Iwent on an Easter egg hunt and I actually stumbled upon "THE BONUS EGG" aka I WON!!! But...Then... This 12yr old girl stole the BONUS EGG right out of my hand and ran around saying.."I got the BONUS EGG!!!".... (Easter saga cont.) Anyway, she won a HUGE Easter basket w/stuffed animals and candy and she didn't even find the frikin egg!!!

If you're on Twitter, follow her. If you're not, sign-up for twitter, and follow her.

Oh, and if your @'s are a bit sparse, here's a list of some of my favorite Twitter-ers:







Trust me, funny, consistently entertaining folks. (No shade to the others I'm following, ya'll know I only hang w/ the best.)

Oh, and follow ME: @Bfloyd86

Chrisette Michele's Career Should Benefit from Her "Epiphany"

To say that Chrisette Michele's debut was disappointing would be unfair. Her first single "If I Have My Way" was lovely, but just too adult-contemporary for her intended audience. But anyone who has heard the title track from Michele's Epiphany can tell you that the singer has developed a sound more suitable for her youth. Epiphany is fresh in every sense of the word, from production to delivery, and shows that Michele is ready to become an R&B star in her own right.

While "Epiphany" is easily the best track on the 12 song album, Michele remains satisfying throughout. The self-sacrificial "Blame it On Me" is as well-written as it is performed. Lyrics like "Sometimes it hurts to know the loving you had is slowly fading away" fall just short of melo-drama, so that listeners can find them relatable without feeling embarrased. More importantly, Michele's voice is flawless throughout the song. She has a range that sounds as elegant in its lower registers as it does in higher octaves, and delivers tons of emotion behind each note.

Check "Porcelain Doll" for a down-to-earth delivery, with plenty of attitude: "I'm a full-grown woman, I am not your porcelain doll." "Notebook" comes with every bit of the personal confession implied by the title, while "Our Song" is an airy, country inspired mid-tempo that could serve as the perfect summer break-up lament.

There's not a bad track on Epiphany, and even the Ne-Yo feature on "What You Do" doesn't sacrifice the album's sincerity.

After Epiphany, Chrisette Michele deserves a spot among R&B's hottest up-and-coming artists, right next to Jazmine Sullivan and Jennifer Hudson (who, incidently, weren't able to deliver albums nearly as satisfying). I haven't heard a better album in 2009.

Check out "Blame it On Me" and "Porcelain Doll."

Ciara's Finally Debuts Her "Fantasy Ride"

Ciara hasn't had the easiest run preceding the release of her third studio album, Fantasy Ride. But after a succession of under-performing singles, her duet with Justin Timberlake, "Love, Sex & Magic" has managed to build a bit of anticipation for the album's May 5th release, and the final product proves that Fantasy Ride was worth the wait.

Back in 2004, when Ciara was trendy instead of trendsetting, it was difficult to decipher the artist behind the radio-ready wrapping. In 2006, she took a bit of a risk with "Promise," the slowed down lead single from her second album Evolution. Still, despite the album's title, Evolution offered very little progression from her debut. Three years later, Ciara finally delivers an album worthy of her potential.

At its best, Fantasy Ride sees Ciara seamlessly merging the hip-hop appeal that has kept her a club staple for years, with the R&B swagger that finally gives her crediability beyond the dancefloor. Songs like the Dream produced "Like a Surgeon" translate just as well from the club to the bedroom, all the while demonstrating that Ciara has perfected a sustainable brand of sexiness that eluded her earlier efforts. "Ciara to the Stage" serves as further testament to the singer's newfound sexual agency, while "Echo" picks up the pace without sacrificing the maturity. Still, Ciara is familiar with her audience, and album standout "G is For Girl" caters to the urban fanbase that made her a star.

However, the album isn't without its setbacks. While Ciara has made serious vocal strides since her debut, a number of Fantasy Ride's tracks still suffer from her occasionally strained vocals. In fact, songs like "High Price" and "Lover's Thing" only fail as a result of Ciara's delivery. "Lover's Thing" in particular would be a solid ballad if not for her near-embarrassing pitch. On the otherhand, "I Don't Remember" suffers not because of Ciara, but due to Ne-Yo's uninspired production. The song hardly fits the rest of the album's pacing, and thankfully serves as the last track - that way you can stop at the infinitely more satisfying "Tell Me What Your Name Is," and pretend that "I Don't Remember" never happened.

With Fantasy Ride Ciara demonstrates that her five-year career is a work of progression instead of predictability, and that should be enough to keep listeners interested for at least five more.

Check out "Like a Surgeon" and "G is For Girl"...on another blog, cause I'm tired of having my posts taken down.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Best Of...

I realize that it's a little early for my blog to be releasing its Greatest Hits, but between completing my last quarter of school and looking for a professional gig, I've fallen a bit behind on the posts. Still, I have a few more readers now than I did when I first began, so I thought I'd offer a little retrospective.

We'll call it a game of catch-up.

No worries, I'll be back in full force in just a bit. Until then...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beyonce on Racism, in Vogue

"My father had to fight those battles {for me}. I didn’t. And now I’m large enough—I’m universal—that no one’s paying attention to what race I am. I’ve kind of proven myself. I’m past that."

Something about, "I'm large enough...I'm past that" isn't sitting right with me...but ya'll know I don't like her ass, so maybe I'm just reaching too far. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ciara's Love, Sex & Magic Video in Full

Last weekend I posted a preview clip of Ciara's "Love, Sex & Magic" with Justin Timberlake that I found around the net. Here's the video in its entirety, and I'm having a love/hate relationship with it.

On one hand, Ciara is fly and the visuals are stunning. On the other, I'm just not comfortable with her scenes with Justin. Something about the way he's sitting back relaxed, while she's wrapping her legs around his neck,and so forth, just gives the sense that she's playing video hoe in her own clip. Maybe it would have been more appropriate for them to have a little more interaction, instead of taking the extended lap dance angle?

I really like the song though.

I'll stand by my previous argument that Ciara is trying too hard. Four singles and three videos before your album even drops just wreaks of desperation. She needs to stop holding out for a hit, and just be confident enough in her material to take a risk. Then, "Love, Sex & Magic" could have been the perfect rebound single if her first round on the charts didn't go as expected.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Little Weekend TLC

I promise that most of you won't even realize that these two songs were EVER even recorded by TLC, much less released as singles.

The first, "Dear Lie" is from 1999's Fanmail, and the second "Damaged" is taken from their 2002 effort 3D (SO slept on).

I love me some TLC. I don't think there's been a better girl-group since.

Oh, and Dear Arista, NO ONE is checking for TLC anymore, so disabling their videos on YouTube is a waste of time. Ya'll should be wanting this shit go as viral as possible.

Friday, March 20, 2009

This is the Most Awkward Interview Ever

It really annoys me when people aren't prepared for work. It becomes so clear during the course of this interview that Barbara Walters and Joy Behar have no real idea who Keyshia Cole is. They could have at least taken the time to borrow Sherri Shepherd's first season dvds of The Way it Is, and play catch-up. Babs was so clueless that it's almost insulting.

And Keyshia needs more media training. "He told me I was beautiful," is not an appropriate response to "What kind of advice did Tupac give you?". You're on tv, sit up straight and act like you got some sense!

In other news, Whoopi Goldberg always looks like she's on her way to the church picnic, Elizabeth Hasselback continues to birth babies and make me wanna vomit, while Sherri Shepherd stays dipping into Star Jones' old wigs and weave bin.

The View Producers to Sherri Shepherd: "SHE had a law degree, YOU have one line in an episode of Friends, and a membership to Costco. Take this ponytail, and be out."

Ciara Is Trying Too Hard

Here's the preview video for Ciara's latest single, "Love, Sex & Magic," which features Justin Timberlake. This would be the third fourth 1st single from Ciara's Fantasy Ride, but it's also my favorite, so I won't talk too much shit.

It's not that Ciara doesn't look FLY in this clip, cause damn, she does. It just that, something about it is just a little too much. She's working that psuedo-cage like rent is a month behind, and the check she wrote for March is about to bounce too. Some of those positions just look awkward. There's nothing sexy about a "I hope I don't fall" face.

That being said, I really hope Ciara's 3rd album does well. She's one artist that has shown actual growth since her debut; both vocally, and performance-wise. In that respect, I'm mad that she's opening for Britney Spears this summer instead of touring on her own. But it's a recession, and I don't think Ciara tickets are worth downgrading from Ciroc to Absolute for the next 3 months.

Anway, I could be off the mark...what do you guys think?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

EW to Tyler Perry: Do You Care About Black People?

Earlier this week Entertainment Weekly posted an article online that sought to answer the question: Is Madea bad for Black America? In my experience with Entertainment Weekly, it's not too often that they engage social politics, especially as it relates to race, so I think it's refreshing to see the publication exercising a bit of social consciousness. And the article isn't half bad either. I won't pretend like EW breaks any new ground in their dissection of Tyler Perry's films and their subsequent success, but the article does manage to offer one interesting point of thought:

"Tyler Perry understands that much of his audience is African-American women — the most ignored group in Hollywood — so he's doing movies that speak to them. You could see these films as parables or fables. There's a black prince figure who shows up for black women who've been frustrated, unhappy, or abused. That's the real reason critics don't like Perry's movies: They're made for churchgoing, working-class black women."
Most people that know me know that I have a love/hate relationship with Tyler Perry. I've seen Family Reunion and Why Did I Get Married? (Janet!) in theaters, saved The Family that Preys for rental, and watched Diary of a Mad Black Woman on TBS, or something. So yeah, I've put money in the man's pockets. But, without even approaching the argument that Perry's films depict the Black community from a heavily-stereotyped perspective that no white directer could ever get away with, my biggest issue with all of Perry's film had previously been their predictably and overall staleness. You can only witness so many drug-addicted prostitutes find Jesus before you start wanting more from life. However, reading the above quote from EW's article made me realize that Perry's approach to female characterization is much more problematic.

Now, I'm not a "churchgoing, working-class black women," but if I was, I'd like to think I'd be pissed off after watching a Perry film. I remember finishing Why Did I Get Married? and thinking, damn, he just threw all of these women under a bus.

I can't think of a single female character in that film that ever has a fighting chance at coming out of that ski cabin with a slice of self-respect, not even Jill Scott. If Perry's film's are for working-class women, then why would those same women feed into a storyline that belittles their ambition? From Sharon Leal's character, who secretly has her tubes tied without telling her husband so that she might excel in the workplace, to Janet Jackson's, who forgets to properly secure her infant son into his car seat while rushing home from work, Perry makes it clear that these women can't balance a career with the demands of domesticity. Yes, Tasha Smith's character runs a successful hair salon, but she also emasculates her significant other in the process. The only woman not directly at fault for the trouble in her marriage is Jill Scott's character, who is conveniently unemployed.

And if Perry's message is aimed toward churchgoing women, then what about the fact that Scott's character can't even manage to function for a few months after leaving her husband. Instead of seeking comfort in her faith, and herself, she immediately remarries, and any sense of confidence that she gains by the end of the film is in direct relation to the amount of love she is shown by her new husband.

The only woman with any real agency in Perry's films is Madea, and she's played by a man.

The gender politics in Why Did I Get Married? are handled irresponsibly, and ultimately just cast modern women in a unflattering light, as if any sort of personal or professional advancement must come at the expense of a happy home. The notion that a woman can't pursue her individual goals without falling short as a wife and mother is so dated at this point, that Perry should be taken to immediate task for just being plain lazy.

And if Married isn't enough, check any of his other films. Sanaa Lathan plays a self-centered career woman in The Family that Preys, and her storyline even comes with the assumption that she would not have made it nearly as far in the workplace without engaging in a long-term affair with her boss. I'm sure the same churchgoing audience that was left gasping when Blair Underwood's character slapped his fiance in Family Reunion, was cheering when Lathan's character was backhanded over a serving counter by her husband in Preys. Even his casual approach toward domestic violence would seem to suggest that Perry doesn't have the best interest of his female characters in mind at all, but instead would rather go for shock value in pursuit of a stronger box office performance.

The fact that Perry is on his way toward surpassing John Singleton and the Hughes brothers as one of the most financially successful contemporary Black filmmakers is disheartening, to say the least. Films like Higher Learning may not have been perfect, but they were far more socially ambitious and responsible; and you know, good.

I get so tired of hearing people say that one shouldn't knock the man's hustle, when in reality, his hustle is only perpetuating the marginalization of Black Hollywood. You can't tell me Angela Basset had any business starring in Meet the Browns. Our Black actresses are taking these roles because they don't have any other options, which would be fine if Perry actually presented them with material that matched their talent. But it doesn't matter how many #1 films Perry produces, he still won't be able to carry his actresses to mainstream, Halle Berry fame; not because they don't deserve it, but because he's not opening any new doors in his quest for millions. The players in Perry's world are circumstantial. Gabrielle Union is interchangeable with Kimberly Elise as far as mainstream audiences are concerned, and Tarij P. Henson received a career boost from Benjamin Button, with Preys acting as more of a side-hustle. It's hard to respect a hustle that leaves its supporting players in the dust, and while it may not be entirely Perry's fault that his actresses aren't achieving mainstream sustainability, I don't think he's too concerned with giving them the films to get them there either.

Tyler Perry is in a unique position to sell Black films to diverse audiences, but what good is that increased exposure to the Black experience if it's presented through such a predictable and limited lens?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Was This At All Necessary?

Dora will be getting a To Catch a Predator sponsored makeover this fall, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. But on the plus side, looks like Nick Jr. finally realized that the bowl-cut bob is so 2007; and trading in strappy shoes for ballet flats....always a plus (or at least a lateral movement toward maturity?).

But I'm wondering how Dora's gonna go exploring w/o her over sized backpack? I smell an Hermes Birkin upgrade! (Swiper, no bootlegging)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm Back

I won't address my absence. There's no real excuse for it, other than I'm also a full-time student, and between trying to graduate, and trying to throw together a post-graduation career, free time has been minimal. That being said, I'll use this post to catch-up on some things I've missed, and you can expect a longer post sometime soon (probably after finals week).

So, I'll proceed with the randomness.

  • It was my intention to write full review of The-Dream's Love v/s Money, but after so much procrastination, it's no longer timely. Still, I can more or less paraphrase my entire review in this tiny space: The-Dream delivers more of the same, and that's okay because it works so well; but in another album or two not even the hood will be able to overlook his consistently predictable production, lazy lyrics, and lack of actual vocal talent. When I ranked my favorite male R&B singers awhile ago The-Dream topped the list because Love/Hate was so refreshing. Love v/s Money isn't...but he's still running the show.
  • I'm NOT commenting on Chris and Rihanna anymore...after this. The whole notion that Rihanna is expected to exercise more responsibility toward being a role model than being an actual person is ridiculous. The reality of mothers asking their daughters to erase Ri's music from their iPods because she may have gone back to Chris is as foolish as actually purchasing her music in the first place. It seems to me that those same mothers are less concerned with Rihanna's actual well being, and more eager to boost their own egos by exploiting her in a moment of (arguable) weakness. In reality, nothing about domestic violence is as cut and dry as it seems, and whether Rihanna leaves Chris today, next year, or spends the rest of her life with him, her only responsibility is to herself, not America's pop-culture-parented youth. Leave it to dedicated fans to kick a girl when she's down.
  • Mariah, Nick Cannon, and The-Dream ALL need their asses cold-cut kicked for letting Mimi look the way she does in the video for "My Love." Hair half-braided, crotch length jean shorts, with a fitted hat and some J's? What in the Ja-Rule/J.Lo circa 2003 hell? Storyline or not, Mariah is too fly (and grown?) for that shit. And why the hell does a 38-year-old woman have magazine pictures of The-Dream on her wall? Love the song though.
  • Kanye's new side-hustle is trying too hard. It's like, we get it: You're fly and fashion forward. But when you start rocking neon cut-out tights, and zebra prints...I can't. Amber Rose, you can find that same shit on any 10th-grade girl with access to a Dots, Citi-Trends, or your friendly neighborhood Wigs/Grocery/99-cent store.
  • Is Beyonce the example of full-figured beauty now? I've been hearing that a lot over the past week or so (magazines, blogs, television), and I'm not sure that's fair to all the legit full-figured girls out there.
  • Speaking of Janet, Why Did I Get Married 2? Hmm, maybe this time Tyler will put some of the responsibility on the men. No, really. Ladies, ya'll got hosed last time around.
  • What exactly qualifies Lady GaGa for urban radio? I kind of understood "Just Dance" (the Akon feature?),... but "Pokerface?" No.
  • How creepy is this video? (Ginees?)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dear Sean John: Blow Me.

Shit like this is why my people can't get approved for mortgage loans. It makes no sense at all that this jacket would EVER cost anything close to $1000.00. And on sale for $539? No sir.

I could buy this same jacket...minus the actual leather...for $20 at Forever 21 (and don't act like you haven't tipped through their men's section looking for something similar to something else you couldn't afford at Express).

Oh, and be reminded that you're paying for Sean John tags, not Purple Labels. That's like taking the money that your mommy gave you for a Benz and buying a Pinto...cause the price was high, and you thought you were really doing something.

If you buy this jacket, you don't love yourself, and you don't love your country. Recession people!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kelly Clarkson Returns to Form with "All I Ever Wanted"

I own each of Kelly Clarkson's four albums, and that's not a problem for me to admit since she's easily one of the best pop artists to emerge this decade. That's an especially impressive accomplishment given the circumstances of her initial mainstream exposure. In the seven years following her American Idol win, Kelly has managed to sculpt an image for herself that overshadows the fact that she more or less micro-managed her way toward a record deal, and that speaks volumes about her immense talent.

Still, even with my love for Clarkson, I didn't love 2007's My December. That's a bit hard for me to admit, since popular opinion reflects the same attitude toward her brooding third album; and I'd much prefer to be in the minority. But My December was almost too self-pitying. Clarkson has a history of approaching love and loss with a mostly sardonic attitude that makes songs like "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Since U Been Gone" as empowering as they are mournful, and more explicitly sad songs like "Because of You" that much more appealing because of their vulnerability. On My December, Kelly traded in the wit for an outright bitterness that grows increasingly less interesting from track to track.

On her latest effort, All I Ever Wanted, Kelly manages to blend the charming approachability of her earlier work, with the lyrical substance of My December, to create an album that has just as much depth as it does commercial potential.

First single, "My Life Would Suck Without You," isn't about marketing the rest of the album, it's about convincing her fans to give her a second chance, and it works perfectly in that regard. The phenomenal success of Kelly's Breakaway was a reflection of its ability to remain relatable across a broad age-range--from middle school through college, everyone was quoting some Clarkson lyric on their away message, and "My Life Would Suck" functions in the same way. "I really shouldn't miss you, but I can't let you go" is so shamelessly Facebook status ready that it's no wonder the song shot straight to number one in the first week of its release. In that regard, it's certainly a return to form for Clarkson, but ironically one of the few low points on All I Ever Wanted.

The Katy Perry penned "I Do Not Hook Up" is a much better reflection of the rest of the album, as the song is as refreshing as it is familiar. And while the title is more or less self-explanatory, Clarkson carries it from being just a simple declaration of sexual self-agency, to becoming an anthem for those demanding some sort of substance before heading to the bedroom. But it's songs like "Impossible" and "Already Gone" that prove that Clarkson and One Republic's Ryan Tedder have a chemistry that may even surpass the brilliance of her work with Evanesence's Ben Moody ("Hazel Eyes" and "Because of You"). Both songs manage to be radio-friendly and intensely personal at the same time, which is a hard balance to find, especially in today's superficial pop consciousness. Finally, if you weren't sure that Clarkson could hold her own against that other popular idol--Carrie Underwood--check the ballad "Cry," which not only moves into Underwood's country-pop lane, but totally upstages her in the process.

Outside of "My Life Would Suck," other throw-away material includes the overly-sentimental "If No One Will Listen" ("maybe no one told you there was strength in your tears" LAME) and "Whyyawannabringmedown," which is such an Avril song that not even Clarkson can save it from drowning in embarrassing teenage angst.

But, what is most important is that through it all Clarkson's voice remains as flawless as ever, so that even the most tedious of material is worth listening to, if for her unexpectedly soulful approach alone. Kells can, really.

Here's "I Do Not Hook Up," which is basically ringtone material in my life.

Oh, and via Google it's really hard to find a decent picture of Clarkson...her publicist should probably work on that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Because People Keep Asking Me

  • Approximately one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
  • Dating violence among their peers is reported by 54% of high school students.
  • Nearly 80% of girls who have been victims of physical abuse in their dating relationships continue to date the abuser.
*taken from

I really don't recognize any real entertainment value to the reality of domestic abuse in our country, and really across the world. That's why I haven't commented on the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation. There are things in this world that surpass celebrity and fame, and when the seriousness of an ass whoppin becomes as casual as a Facebook status update, I find myself a bit worried about the consciousness of our generation.

I won't talk about what really matters in this situation, but I'd encourage you all to think about it.

That being said, Rihanna better hop her ass on Oprah and capitalize on this shit; cause that haircut is about to expire.

Kanye West Proves That Pretty Isn't Always a Talent

The video for the third single from Kanye West's 808s and Heartbreaks, "Welcome to Heartbreak," premiered this week; continuing a trend of generally wack videos from West's most inspired body of work.

Visually speaking, "Welcome to Heartbreak" is probably the most creative video you'll see on your television until Kanye's fourth single gets the small screen treatment; but that's the only interesting thing about it. Music television is full of clips that look good for the sake of looking good, and while Kanye often leads the pack in that department, it would be refreshing to see him present a visual presentation that really engages the subject matter of the song.

Watching West's latest video reminds of the first time I saw the video for "Love Lockdown." On Ellen, West mentioned how the film American Psycho served as inspiration for the video's aesthetic. I certainly noticed that while watching the clip; and I loved it. Stylistically, "Love Lockdown" was refreshing in its modesty, and basically just a pretty ass video. However, that doesn't change the fact that it had nothing at all to do with the song.

Listening to the song's lyrics shows that West isn't on "Love Lockdown," he's keeping someone else in restraint, so any argument citing his own sanity during the course of the clip in relation to the American Psycho theme just doesn't work. Outside of that, there's no reason to think that the video for Love Lockdown was inspired by the actual song, other than the random ( and lazy) placement of a charging tribe to match the drum interjections. The fact that the tribal stampede doesn't complement any other part of the video, but completely caters to the nature of the song more or less illustrates the immense disconnect between the two.

Likewise, "Welcome to Heartbreak" is fun to watch; but you could pair it with just about any other song, and it would work just as well.

I don't know that creating pretty videos could really be considered a talent at this point. It's like, "Ohh, fun colors and fly clothes." We get it.

I won't argue that every video needs a distinct storyline, but finding a way to marry the song with a visual presentation that gives equal representation toward both visions shouldn't be asking too much either.

Checkout Christina Milian's "Us Against the World" clip for a video that perfectly captures the sentiment of the song, while still managing to remain visually refreshing. Really, there's no plot to Milian's video, but even with the volume turned completely down you get a feel for the song that matches its atmosphere.

Here's the video for Kanye's "Welcome to Heartbreak," followed by Milian's "Us Against the World."

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Case You Forgot How Sexy Janet Jackson Is...

Janet Jackson is back in the studio, and with her signature producers no less.

That's pretty much it for that update, but since I look for any reason to make a Janet post I thought I'd take this time to give you guys my favorites of Janet's bedroom ballads.

I'm pretty confident that Janet is the sexiest female artist of our time, and in case you need a reminder...

Janet Jackson's 10 Sexiest Songs

10. Tonight's The Night (The Velvet Rope, 1997)

Even at 31, Janet manages to convincingly coo about virginity...and keeping the lyrics of the Rod Stewart original in tact gives the song a bisexual lien that was pretty ballsy in the 90s. If nothing else, Janet makes lines like "Spread your wings and let me come inside," seem infinitely more appealing than Stewart, so that forcing yourself upon an unsuspecting date never seemed nearly as enticing.

9. Someday is Tonight (Rhythm Nation, 1989)

"You know I promised I'd be worth the wait; now the wait is over" Yeah, this song came nearly three years after "Let's Wait Awhile," and realistically, just the thought of getting some is probably enough to validate its place on the list. Still, if you're looking for more, listen to the song, because Janet's shy yet certain delivery made her sexy long before she traded in military garb for nipple rings.

8. Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun) (Control, 1986)

It's sort of funny that a song so sexually suggestive would sit so nicely aside Janet's infamously chaste "Let's Wait Awhile," from her breakthrough album Control. Still, it works because Janet manages to say everything she needs to say, without really saying anything at all. In effect, the song is more or less a quiet-storm loop of its title, but Janet's breathy vocals and strategically placed moans make "having fun" and "getting laid" seem interchangeable. And, while spoken word intros and interjections are generally regarded as cheesy, especially in ballads, Janet whispering in French is the vocal equivalent of KY His & Her's.

7. I Get Lonely (The Velvet Rope, 1997)

Yes, this is a breakup track, but if Janet's vulnerable delivery isn't enough to bring you home, the shameless Jodeci-esque shirt ripping near the end of the video will certainly lead to a change of heart. "Lonely" resonates with the effectiveness of Janet's pleading, so that you know her wayward lover is on his way back for at least on more night of making up. Oh, and this is hands down my favorite Janet tune, ever.

6. Together Again (Deeper Remix) (The Velvet Rope, 1997)

So basically, if you can turn a song about lost loved ones into a baby-maker, without changing a single lyric, you're doing big things. "Go deeper inside me" takes on a whole new meaning in the slowed down remix of Janet's '97 hit, without ever compromising the sincerity of the original, and that's almost amazing.

5. Anytime, Anyplace (janet., 1993)

Yeah..if this song isn't a draw dropper, I don't what is. If it wasn't cool to be a hoe before '93, Janet justified casual sex for an entire generation. Plus, I think the original video came with a condom advisory, which just proves that even at her freakiest, Janet stays in Control.

4. Twenty-Foreplay (Design of a Decade, 1996)

This is arguably the classiest of Janet's freakier bedroom excursions, but it's my favorite. Janet starts off innocently enough, "sleep my love, don't you worry, you just sleep," before seamlessly trading in romance for straight smut. "You've made love to my mind, now you gotta take me from behind." Still, you may have to run the track back, because Janet delivers even the most explicit of lyrics with a casualness that leaves you wondering if she's really just said what you think you've heard.

3. Would You Mind? (All For You, 2001)

Taken from 2001's All For You, "Would You Mind" is probably the most explicit song Janet's ever recorded. While lyrics like, "I wanna kiss you, suck you, taste you, ride you" may initially come off as slutty, at the end of the day Janet is more or less expressing the latent bedroom fantasies of more than just a few people; and on some level, her courage to do so is respectable enough. Still, if that's all bullshit and Janet is just being a straight freak, that's cool too...cause I'm pretty sure that's what she was going for anyway, and it works for me.

2.Take Care (20 Y.O., 2006)

This song is about masturbation, which may or not be a mood setter, but I chose it because I don't know a sexier song about getting yourself off. "At home, I'm so alone, I'm wishing you were here....I"ll lay here and take care of it til' you come home to me." Janet's definitely making due with her resources, and I ain't mad. Plus, at 40 upon recording this song, Janet demonstrates that sexuality does not expire past one's 30s.

1. That's The Way Love Goes (janet., 1993)

Because "like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire" is a terrible line, but Janet makes it read like poetry. "The Way Love Goes" didn't surface until seven years into Janet's post-Control career, and realistically, no one had any reason to think she was sexy enough to pull it off. Where Janet used to hint at getting it in, she now openly admitted to wanting it without hesitation; "Go deeper baby, feel so good I wanna cry." At 25, it made sense for her to give up the coyness of her earlier years. But, who knew she'd pull it off quite so well?

If you're not up on things, here's a link to a pretty well-handled mix of Janet's nastier moments.

And here's the video for I Get Lonely...because 12 years later, it still holds up quite well.

Day 26 Doesn't Disappoint Quite as Much in Person.

So, I saw Day 26 in concert this weekend, and while I still think that they have a lot of work to put in, they weren't nearly as bad as I expected them to be.

The vocals were rough, but that was more or less due to lack of a sound check. The choreography was wack, but that's more or less due to Diddy. Really though, they had a lot of stage presence, and gave more energy than most acts tend to give anymore. More than that, they stayed after to watch Brandy perform from the side of the stage, and I could see them feeling B-Rocka just as much as the audience, so I know they have good tastes.

Here's the only Day 26 song worth my time.

And seriously, how dumb is it for their label to pull the official video for this song off YouTube, like anyone is REALLY checking for these guys? YouTube exposure is free promo all day.

Mariah Probably Should've Passed on "My Love"

So, I tend to be of the minority when it comes to post-Emancipation Mariah. While I'll acknowledge that her voice seems to be failing her a bit of late, I'd still argue that Mariah can easily sing circles around any other artist in her lane. The rasp of her speaking voice may become more apparent in her singing with each successive album, but even the huskier tones work for her, so I'm not complaining. For Mariah, it's the material that sucks..not the voice.

That being said, she sounds terrible on The-Dream's "My Love." She manages to compliment the backgrounds fairly well, but her own verse is flat as hell...and that hook? It sounds like she's battling strep. I would say that the vocals aren't a good look, but it's more than that. This isn't a bad live performance; it's studio quality (read: magic) Mariah, and she's struggling. Given the raspiness of the chorus, it's hard to imagine that she's actually hitting the final notes of the song. I'd be willing to bet those were super-imposed like a mug.

Here's the song.

And who told The-Dream to release this shit anyway? Where's the video for the clearly superior "Rockin That Shit!"?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Black History Month is Still Important to Me

I haven't done a Black History post, and even though it's still early in the month, that disappoints me. I'd love to say that I've been thinking about a post in the back of my mind all week, but in reality, it hadn't even crossed my mind. A lot of this blog is dedicated to commenting on the Black experience, at least as told through popular media. In reality, being Black in America transcends that which the media readily covers, and that's why I've decided to post one of my favorite poems in celebration of Black History Month.

Poetry isn't something that I enjoy reading, as it's too subjective, and really just difficult. But, for me Gwendolyn Brooks' "Kitchenette Building" personifies the Black experience in America perfectly, so I'll share it with you guys. Something about the imagery reminds me so much of my childhood; not just in terms of my own family, but families around me as well.

I've spent four years in college around some of the most ambitious Black young-adults I've ever met, and I can't help but to think that we're all the result of the reality depicted in this poem: a generation of African-Americans struggling to maintain some sense of hope, despite the desperation of their circumstances, so that their children might make it a little further than they have.

Kitchenette Building

Gwendolyn Brooks

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, Grayed in, and gray.

"Dream" mate, a giddy sound,
not strong Like "rent",
"feeding a wife",
"satisfying a man".

But could a dream sent up
through onion fumes
Its white and violet,
fight with fried potatoes

And yesterday's garbage ripening
in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down
these rooms,

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute! Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now, We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

Oh, and if you don't know Gwendolyn better ask

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Speaking of Usher...

A surprising number of people don't realize that Usher had a career before My Way. A few weeks ago "Think of You" came on my iTunes shuffle, and a friend of mine, who happens to be an Usher groupie, said "Ohh, is this Tevin Campbell?" No, but it was probably one of Tevin's (moment of silence) leftovers.

Before Usher ran away with Jermaine Dupri, he was Diddy's protege, and in turn, released some of the most inappropriate material of his career. No, really. Lyrics like, "I ain't tryna be's only a sexual thing" and "How do you want it, fast or slow?" probably weren't the most tactful to hand to a 14-year-old kid. Then again, at just 7 myself, I probably shouldn't have been singing along to them.

That's neither here nor there. Usher's self-titled debut has sank out of consciousness, so much so that I can't remember the last time he even acknowledged it himself. Inappropriate or not, Usher handled the material pretty well, and while he lacked the mature delivery of Campbell, he didn't sound quite as uncomfortable with more adult subject matter.

Anybody remember when Tevin tried to get sexy? Vomit.'s Usher's forgotten collection. Starting with my personal favorite, the DeVante Swing penned "Can You Get Wit' It." Next, "Call Me a Mack" from the Poetic Justice soundtrack (HE RAPS..not like, "Nice and Slow" rapping...but like, really trying to rap). Finally, "Everytime I Think of You," which is probably the song you'll most recognize.

(They've blocked embedding on this song, so here's the link for the actual video. )

My Favorite R&B Guys

I don't too much talk about contemporary male R&B artists on this blog, and that's mostly because they suck. Seriously, if I were to spend too much time sharing my male R&B tastes, you guys would probably start wondering why I'm blogging about Bobby Brown and Dru Hill in 2009, so I more or less leave it alone. Still, that's not to say that I don't appreciate a select few guys in the game right now, so I thought I'd give you a quick run through.

The list will progress from least worthy of my time, to most, and I think you'll see that the first few names are really scratching at the bottom of decency, but I digress.

List are fun, and here's mine of the top ten men in contemporary R&B.

Oh, and Maxwell supersedes this list, as he's clearly above all these hoes.

10. Bobby Valentino

I said the bottom of this list would be rough, but in all fairness Bobby Valentino is a pretty solid artist. He's so far from original that it almost hurts, but as I've said before, there's nothing wrong with playing it safe, as long as it's well executed. Bobby's debut was weak, but his 2006 follow-up, Special Occasion, was easily one of the best R&B albums released that year. He rides his mid tempo lane quite nicely, and even his cover of Babyface's "Soon As I Get Home" worked out better than expected. Songs like the Timbaland produced "Anonymous" prove that he can pick up the pace when necessary, and while I've tried so hard to dislike his current single, "Beep Beep," I definitely end up feeling it just enough when it comes on in the club.

But yeah, he looks like a Teddy Graham, so...

9. Sammie

Sammie is easily the most underrated artist on this list. The kid releases a single about as often as Posh Spice expresses emotion, so it's understandable that he'd be unfamiliar to audiences. But, his lack of visibility is in no way indicative of his vocal talent. At just 21, Sammie can sing a ballad like a grown man. I don't mean "I can finally get in the bar!" grown, I'm talking panties thrown on stage grown. His material matches his talent, and song's like 2006's "Come With Me" put him miles ahead of other, more commercially successful, artists. Oh, and "Slow" rivals songs by both R.Kelly and Janet in the baby-making category.

8. Lloyd

Lloyd has a falsetto that the world ain't ready for. Yes, you've heard better, but not nearly as consistent. I don't know many artists that can utilize the register so frequently without transitioning from breathy and seductive to worn and exhausted, often within the same song. Lloyd pulls it off, making even the most trite material melt under his presence. He's one of only two artists on this list that can move from R&B to Pop with ease, and without losing much of anything in translation. Oh, and "Girls Around the World" is throwback perfection...Lil' Wayne feature and all.

7. Trey Songz

I would argue that Trey Songz is the best vocalist on this list, and I'd be right. The only thing that keeps him from appearing further up is his lack of consistently good material. Spend enough time with both Trey Songz and Trey Day and it becomes obvious that the man loses focus midway through each project. Still, when Songz isn't so concerned with trying to keep up with R. Kelly, and finds his own stride, he exudes the potential to become one of the most celebrated male vocalists of our generation. No, really, that voice is something serious.

6. Ne-Yo

Say what you will about the man and his lyrics, but Ne-Yo knows how to capitalize on the everyday. He's made a career out of writing lyrics so void of depth and individuality, that anyone can relate to them, and arrangements so simple that one can't help but to sing along. I've said it before, I'll say it again: brilliance. More than that, he's one of very few successful producers that has also managed to be taken seriously as an artist, and while his own music hardly stands out from the music he provides for other artists, it's satisfying nonetheless. While I'll always argue that 2006's Because of You was his best work, last year's Year of the Gentleman proved that even one of the most predictable producers in the game is capable of taking a step outside of the box. Oh, and that other artist who transitions effortlessly from R&B to Pop? Check "Closer."

5. Mario

Oddly enough, Mario's breakout hit "Let Me Love You" hardly does it for me. By no means do I dislike the song, but it was never something I was dying to hear. That being said, Mario is probably the artist I listen to the most on this list. 2004's Turning Point was good, but 2007's Go! was a real accomplishment. Has anyone heard that record? Nope, probably not. That's too bad, because Mario trades in teenage suggestiveness, for aggressively adult material without missing a beat. While lyrics like, "Not tryna be your lover, just wanna fuck you like no other" border on Pretty Ricky bawdiness, Mario delivers them with a maturity that will have you falling for the game by the album's midpoint. But, it's his cover of Keith Sweat's "Right and a Wrong Way" that will leave you feeling embarrassed: "Damn, this is almost better than the origi..."

4. Lyfe Jennings

I don't think anyone is as big a Lyfe fan as I am. All of his albums stay in constant rotation on my iPod, as if removing them would be blasphemous. Something about his voice, paired with the subject matter of his lyrics keeps me interested in just about everything he does. For me, Lyfe is the Mary J. of the male R&B game, and I don't feel like that's a stretch. The same pained vocal technique utilized by Lyfe has been the cornerstone of Mary's career, and both artists are telling stories about survival. Despite general consensus, I think last year's Lyfe Change was everything Jennings needed his third outing to be, and I'm still waiting for a 3rd single.

3. Ryan Leslie

Yeah, I've only just started giving Ryan Leslie a chance, but the swiftness with which I've acquainted myself with his back catalog should serve as an indication of how impressive I think he is. While his production for other artists is hit or miss, his own stuff is good. Like, really good. I've been listening to his self-titled album non-stop for the past week and a half, and what I feel is far too genuine to be called an infatuation. In a perfect world (where the hell is Keri Hilson?) Ryan Leslie would change the game, forcing male R&B stars to step up their lackluster, Lil' Wayne dependent hustle, and get back to approaching music as art. In reality, it'll sell about 100,000 (if) copies in its first week, fall off from there, and be followed by a statement from Leslie blaming the economy and pledging allegiance to his passion in spite of stalled units. Yeah, that sounds about right.

2. Usher

I don't need to elaborate on this too much; you're all familiar. I will say that for all of his lack of creativity, Usher is amazingly consistent. More or less, he's been singing the same songs since My Way, and doing it well enough to keep us interested for what is nearing two decades. That's a hustle, and I ain't mad; especially considering that Here I Stand, his one attempt at a change of pace, was met with such lukewarm response.

That album was good. Yeah, I said it.

1. The-Dream

You're mad, huh? I don't care. My list, my rules.

Love/Hate was my favorite album last year, and after hearing "Rockin That Shit," and a few other songs, I'm pretty confident that Love vs. Money will be my favorite album of this year. The-Dream's obvious Prince influence is just subtle enough to be flattering, and not tasteless. And as he moves away from the 80s funk of songs like "Nikki" and "Fast Car," he only continues to prove himself a more credible artist with each successive single. I won't pretend like The-Dream is breaking new ground, but he's certainly modernizing an already laid foundation, and complimenting greatness is the next best thing to achieving it.

And realistically, Rihanna owes him her entire career. He probably even cosigned on that bob.

Honorable Mention: J. Holiday, Sterling Simms, Craig David

Oh, and no, I didn't forget about Anthony Hamilton, Jamie Foxx, or Chris Brown. In fact, I very consciously passed them all over.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kelly Rowland Finally Gets Something Right

Former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland and management label Music World Entertainment announced today the singer's departure from both the label, and manager Matthew Knowles.

According to a statement released today by Rowland and the label, Rowland will forgo future representation from Music World after several years, and two solo albums.

"Although we have decided to part ways professionally, the Knowles family and the entire Music World Entertainment team will always be my family," Rowland said.

Kelly Rowland's decision to end her professional relationship with now former manager Matthew Knowles is probably the best decision she's made in her entire career. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Knowles has yet to successfully promote any artist, outside of Beyonce, and it's far from likely that Rowland's career will suffer as a result of her departure. Still, Kelly needs to put in a lot of work before she'll ever have a truly viable solo career.

It wouldn't be fair to place all of the blame of Kelly's lackluster solo performance on Matthew Knowles. Other artists on his roster, including Michelle Williams and Lyfe Jennings, have experienced the same lack of promotion as Rowland, and still managed to find some sort of niche in the industry. While Williams' Unexpected underperformed on the album sells chart, she's had two chart-topping dance singles: "We Break the Dawn" and "The Greatest." Likewise, Jennings' last effort Lyfe Change hasn't had the most successful run, but he's still managed to stay a bit more relevant than Rowland. The difference between those two artists, and Rowland, is that they've managed to release good material.

Not even the most die hard Kelly fans (they're out there, right?) can deny that the singer has yet to release any genuinely exceptional material. Her debut solo album, 2002's Simply Deep, was flat and uninspired, to say the least. And, while her sophomore album Ms. Kelly was far superior, it lacked material engaging enough to really establish her as a worthwhile artist. When all is said and done, Kelly hasn't recorded a song that wouldn't be handled just as well by any other female artist with a decent vocal range, and that's a shame considering her undeniable talent.

Kelly doesn't belt like Beyonce, nor does she evoke the emotional response of Michelle at her best, but she certainly carries her own next to the other two ladies. Rowland has a soprano that doesn't give you chills, but calms them, as evident in numerous Destiny's Child songs that feature the singer introducing or closing a soaring melody. Out of the three, Rowland's voice is the best suited for mainstream R&B and Pop tracks, as it's subtle in all of the right places, but strong enough to carry a melody.

So, it's not the voice, but the material that keeps Rowland relegated to opening act while Beyonce sells out arenas.

I'd suggest that Rowland place a heavy focus on establishing herself as a performer, and choose material that caters to that image. I'm talking full-on Janet swagg here, as Rowland was easily the best dancer out the DC trio, and has already proven through various promotional performances that she can handle the stage all on her own. Songs like "Like This" and "Work" already suggest that she wants to head in that heavily-choreographed direction anyway, but her stage and video presence see her holding back in favor of stale glamor shots. We know she looks good, but so does Beyonce; so what's next?

More or less, this is all to say that Kelly needs something to separate herself from Destiny's Child, and ultimately Beyonce's shadow. Michelle may not have experienced the most commercial success with Unexpected, but she lived up to the album's title in terms of image and material. Kelly needs to prove that she's capable of more than just a fly hook on another person's hit song, and taking control of career behind the scenes is definitely a step in the right direction.