Best of the Rest: Babyface’s Where Will You Go

Tender Lover album cover This closing track from Face’s breakthrough album, Tender Lover, is the anti-power ballad power ballad and probably one of the greatest songs he’s ever written and recorded.  It has all the hallmarks of a great Face song, but with none of the melodrama and soulless “phoning it in-ness” of his post-Waiting To Exhale work.  This is the case because of the one trait that Babyface possesses in spades that few of his other contemporaries do — perfect phrasing.

This song should be a master class in how to approach a song as a vocalist.  Every moment in the song is so perfectly, expertly performed that its quite surprising that the song is still so damn affecting.  The vocalizing at the end is so precise, but it feels the way it should — like an emotional release. Few vocalists can be so specific and yet sound fresh and spontaneous.  It’s a real gift.

Babyface has never really been given his due as a solo artist, but Tender Lover is an overlooked classic of the late-80s black music renaissance.

Best of the Rest – Full List
Best of the Rest – Explained

Smoke E. Digglera covers Babyface

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge Playa stan.

Well, Smoke E. Digglera, one-third of Playa, is on the verge of releasing his third album, Truth in the Booth, and has been putting up promo stuff on his Youtube page.  It’s all great, folks should check him out.

This is his cover of Babyface’s Whip Appeal.  He kills it!

Why Janet Jackson’s ‘Discipline’ Sucks

Few people are going to say Janet Jackson’s new album, Discipline, is the unmitigated disaster it is. At least not for the right reasons, or rather, the reasons that go beyond America’s love of destroying an icon, love of beating up on women artists (black ones especially), or pop music fatigue. None of these are the real reasons that the album is garbage.

Check out this discussion about why I loathe it. For context, this convo took place after I’d listened to the album about 5 times in a row. You’ll see me struggling with how much I hate this album, because janet is so important to me as an artist. I don’t want to hate it, but a thinking human being can’t possibly like this album beyond just the superficial “danceable” nature of it. Think even a little and you realize there isn’t anything there.

Thoughts welcome, always

D (2/27/2008 10:51:38 AM): so..
D (2/27/2008 10:51:41 AM): hating the janet?

Tyler (2/27/2008 10:51:53 AM): yea
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:01 AM): it’s good in that sounds like the sound of the producer kind of way
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:04 AM): which is good for most
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:06 AM): terrible for me
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:14 AM): she didn’t write a single fucking thing
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:18 AM): she’s nearly dead to me
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:26 AM): i don’t need to hear a fuckin Ne-Yo album
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:33 AM): i already got his damn album
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:35 AM): ugh….
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:40 AM): but i’m in the minority
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:52:46 AM): because Americans are nothing but sheep
D (2/27/2008 10:52:56 AM): well, I’ve never listened to NeYo’s album
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:53:44 AM): it’s good
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:53:51 AM): in that derivative way
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:53:55 AM): but the point is that
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:54:02 AM): there are few truly good songwriters out there
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:54:08 AM): who don’t have a definable sound
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:54:16 AM): even Babyface is instantly recognizable
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:54:23 AM): so what you get is not a Janet album
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:54:38 AM): so much as the album that Janet-philic producers want her to make
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:02 AM): it’s like Janet doing Michael and Janet by way of Ne-Yo
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:14 AM): it’s artistic cannabilism once removed
D (2/27/2008 10:55:22 AM): damn
D (2/27/2008 10:55:24 AM): okay

Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:27 AM): it’s true
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:32 AM): it may be listenable
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:33 AM): and fun
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:36 AM): and easy to dance to
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:42 AM): and crassly and simply melodic
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:55:46 AM): but it’s still not Janet
D (2/27/2008 10:56:14 AM): does that janet even exist anymore?
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:17 AM): perhaps not
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:22 AM): doesn’t mean i can’t long for it
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:32 AM): i had just assumed that she’d co-write with these new folks
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:39 AM): not just take their shit wholesale
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:45 AM): Rodney is a decent producer
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:49 AM): but he’s just not good enough
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:56:55 AM): janet needs melody
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:57:07 AM): she doesn’t have enough heft in her voice to carry songs without strong melodic structure
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:57:18 AM): it’s the central problem with most pop singers
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:57:28 AM): Ne-Yo helps
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:57:37 AM): but it’s like Ne-Yo doing what he thinks Janet is
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:57:45 AM): as opposed to Janet having real input
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:57:48 AM): co-writing
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:06 AM): it’s why she never got buried in Jimmy and Terry’s production
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:10 AM): those melodies were hers
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:14 AM): those lyrics were hers
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:23 AM): and increasingly, the arrangements were hers
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:27 AM): now …
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:31 AM): but yea…it’s listenable
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:58:34 AM): which is enough for most
D (2/27/2008 10:59:14 AM): well, personally I blame L.A> Reid.
D (2/27/2008 10:59:24 AM): He took the Clive approach and told her we need numbers
D (2/27/2008 10:59:29 AM): work with these people
D (2/27/2008 10:59:32 AM): sell some units

Tyler (2/27/2008 10:59:40 AM): yea…
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:59:47 AM): i definitely think he’s part of the problem
Tyler (2/27/2008 10:59:54 AM): but her own Jackson desperation helps
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:07 AM): feeling like she needs to keep up with lightweights that are copying her is horrible
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:13 AM): this is Janet’s Invincible
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:23 AM): she shoulda known when Rodney fucked up that album
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:40 AM): Mariah Carey’s resurrection is different
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:46 AM): when you have an instrument as perfect as hers
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:51 AM): nevermind her inability to use it
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:00:54 AM): you can mask bad songwriting
D (2/27/2008 11:00:55 AM): lol
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:01:08 AM): and the corporate aspect of her career
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:01:13 AM): Janet doesn’t have that luxury
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:01:34 AM): Janet is 1 millions times more expressive and deep and intresting an artist
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:01:45 AM): but she knows her limitations
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:02:05 AM): Mariah has few because folks adore her for something she was given, not something she worked at
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:02:13 AM): LA should have known better
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:02:20 AM): but he’s become so corporate…
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:02:36 AM): there are probably some trendy producers who could have done interesting things with Janet
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:02:41 AM): Mike City would have been nice
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:02:59 AM): but the immediately go for the usual suspects
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:03:13 AM): the emancipation of mimi
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:03:29 AM): will be the template to ruin iconic women of color for at least another 5 years
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:03:51 AM): surprising everyone but me
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:04:10 AM): because that album was warmed over shit with a brilliant marketing campaign
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:04:16 AM): and Janet is getting the same thing
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:04:25 AM): that said…LOVING the Erykah album
D (2/27/2008 11:04:52 AM): lol
D (2/27/2008 11:04:54 AM): okay
D (2/27/2008 11:04:55 AM): i
D (2/27/2008 11:04:58 AM): yeah

Tyler (2/27/2008 11:05:28 AM): it’s okay
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:05:33 AM): no one ever agrees with me
D (2/27/2008 11:05:35 AM):…
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:05:38 AM): enjoyment is paramount for most
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:05:39 AM): it’s not for me
D (2/27/2008 11:05:39 AM): someone does
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:01 AM): perhaps
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:05 AM): it’s not so imporant to me
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:08 AM): i know i’m right
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:21 AM): that doesn’t erase that it’s well made
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:24 AM): and listenable
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:26 AM): and trendy
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:06:29 AM): and that’s enough for most folks
D (2/27/2008 11:07:39 AM): i agree with a lot of it. I think I just think people gave her more credit than she may have deserved. yes she created some fantastic music, but we’re not sure how much of it was her and how much was Jam and Lewis. And it seems that by not working with them – it makes her look like the puppet most people assume pop stars are.
D (2/27/2008 11:08:03 AM): and while it is a good listen, I don’t think I’ll remember any of it once the last song is over
D (2/27/2008 11:08:31 AM): there isn’t much personality in the mix
D (2/27/2008 11:08:34 AM): just beats and moans
D (2/27/2008 11:08:39 AM): and I’m too old for that

Tyler (2/27/2008 11:09:24 AM): i think it’s easy to say that
Tyler (2/27/20
08 11:09:31 AM): she’s no John Lennon
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:09:39 AM): and this article is cynical enough to be almost insulting
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:09:40 AM): lol
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:09:48 AM): it’s not about wanting the same exact thing from Janet
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:09:53 AM): just the same level of nuance
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:09:55 AM): i’m cool with sex
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:03 AM): just give it to me in a way that sounds organic
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:04 AM): that’s all
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:11 AM): Twenty foreplay
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:12 AM): not moist
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:18 AM): it’s not about subject
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:21 AM): so much as execution for me
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:10:33 AM): i love articles like this
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:11:35 AM): because they are clever corporate send-ups
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:11:44 AM): and also you gotta look at who writes them
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:11:53 AM): Clay Cane
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:11:53 AM): lol
D (2/27/2008 11:11:57 AM): right
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:04 AM): not that his point isn’t valid
D (2/27/2008 11:12:04 AM): it was one of many i read yesterday
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:05 AM): it is
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:10 AM): but it being fun
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:13 AM): and danceable
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:18 AM): just, for me, isn’t enough
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:51 AM): he makes a really good point about ageism though
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:12:56 AM): i’ve been wondering bout that too
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:09 AM): why is sex preferred from 16 year olds and not grown ass women
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:10 AM): lol
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:14 AM): so good for him on that point
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:21 AM): but yea…
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:30 AM): i think this is a 2.5 out of 5 star album for me
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:33 AM): i like the song 2nite
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:37 AM): and the missy collabo is nice
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:13:45 AM): What’s Ur Name is kinda hot too
D (2/27/2008 11:14:08 AM): I liked Curtains
D (2/27/2008 11:14:26 AM): and….Rollercoaster
D (2/27/2008 11:14:35 AM): i listened twice
D (2/27/2008 11:14:41 AM): but I was tired and had a headache

Tyler (2/27/2008 11:14:53 AM): lol
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:00 AM): the other thing about articles like Clay’s
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:09 AM): is that they misrepresent who Janet is and was
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:18 AM): she was never a “make you feel good” pop star
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:31 AM): the whole thing about Janet for Control through Velvet Rope
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:35 AM): was to expand what a pop star could be
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:47 AM): if you only liked her for 20 years for Escapade and Together Again
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:15:53 AM): then you never understood her to begin with
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:16:01 AM): ya know what i mean?
D (2/27/2008 11:16:09 AM): yup
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:16:15 AM): that’s what bothers me
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:16:19 AM): it’s the same thing with Madonna
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:16:25 AM): like when she put out the ballad album
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:16:42 AM): it’s like…let me remind y’all muthafuckas that i know melody better than most
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:16:53 AM): i just wish Jan and Mike were as self-aware
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:17:06 AM): Velvet Rope seems more and more like a moment in time
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:17:12 AM): not the turning point i’d hoped it’d be
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:17:13 AM): and that’s okay
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:17:21 AM): i guess…
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:17:23 AM): just sad
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:17:59 AM): people like Discipline
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:18:13 AM): because it comfortably sits within their understanding and desire for what “pop” music is
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:21:00 AM): but enough of that
Tyler (2/27/2008 11:21:03 AM): i’m losin ya

new albums you need to own

I’ve done your shopping this week, kids.  Check it out:

Donnie, The Daily News

Donnie’s makes what I like to call political soul.  Along with Lyfe Jennings, he actively tries to defy your assumptions about black men, black people, and black culture.  Unlike the Jills, Musiqs and Indias though, he is strikingly unpretentious and thrilling.

Adina Howard, Private Show419KKCr6cIL

When we talk about sexuality and black women in public discourse, we are usually working with half the text, so to speak.  People (black and white alike) rarely get to hear the black women who create sophisticated, complicated sexual personas and therefore never truly understand how black women manage to actually own their sex in ways we could never have imagined.  Artists like Joi Gilliam and Truth Hurts are uncompromising women who make passionate, insurgent music.  But when it comes to thrilling, captivating sexuality, no one compares to Adina Howard.  And what’s more, homegirl can sing her ass off.  Adina is my generation’s Millie Jackson, destined to be revered, copied, and adored forever.  Every moment of this, her third album, manages to flip conventions in ways you didn’t think possible.


I_Am_(Chrisette_Michele_album)_cover_artChrisette Michele, I Am

Chrisette has a thick gutter soul voice, but employs a refined pop music lyricism that creates a fascinating tension.  At first listen, it will make you think that you are hearing Leela James again.  But she quickly dashes that when she funks up two Babyface midtempos right in the middle of the album on her way to a killer Salaam Remi joint called In This For You that is easily the best song on the album.

Kelly Rowland, Ms. Kelly220px-Ms_Kelly

This is a purely political choice.  I am determined to make the world see that Kelly Rowland is the best thing pop music is currently wasting.  That said, the album is better than her first, but still nowhere near a good indication of what Kelly is truly capable of.  And it is worth having, if only for the masterful last 4 songs.  As I’ve said a bunch of times, Kelly is not really a pop vocalist.  I hope that this album does well enough that she’ll get the courage to dump Daddy Matthew and call Mike City, Raphael Saadiq and DJ Quik to lace her with some original, passionate soul that will finally get her out from behind Beyonce’s weave.

Pharoahe Monche, Desire

It’s about damn time, Troy!  Shit!  Been waiting for you to come back and reignite my love of hip-hop, release my inner b-boy.  Thank you thank you thank you!  Listening to this album reminds you why you suffer through Jay’s mediocrity, Nas’ overreaching, maddening brilliance, and Method Man’s preposterous funk – the pure love of hip-hop.  That’s what is here on Desire.  It’s just fun, deep yet light, complex yet so accessible.  I haven’t really heard anything this wondrous since Kweli’s Reflection Eternal.  Bravo!