My favorite thing about traveling is the quality time I get to spend with my iPod. I’m aware of how that sounds. Sure, I like new places, new people – turns out Omaha steaks really are one of the great pleasures on God, Buddha and nem’s green earth – but what really makes me excited is how new experiences color old habits.
There is a heightened awareness that I think happens when you are in new places. You pay attention, not just because you are taking things in but because you are trying to get your bearings. Customs, smells, the way Google Maps becomes your best friend – all of this requires you to be open and cognizant.
And for me, I find that that leads to hearing music I love differently.
Trey Songz is the most frustrating R&B star to emerge this decade.
He possesses a piercing tenor and an instantly recognizable vocal
presence, something his contemporaries (from Mario to Chris Brown to
Ne-Yo) probably wish they had. And when he has material to match his
voice, he is peerless. “Gotta Go”, from his debut album, was the most
effortlessly soulful pop song to emerge from the recent crop of
millennial R&B new jacks. “We Should Be”, from his sophomore album, Trey Day, was every bit its equal.
And yet, for as talented and gifted as he is, Songz’ albums are always a mixed bag…
Any number of songs from Tank’s three studio albums could have made this list. That’s how deep – and dope – Tank’s catalog is. It’s a crime that he’s not a bigger star. I chose So Many Times because I still think it’s one of the finest songs he’s ever sung and it’s totally a song that could have been a huge hit had it been released as a single. Brilliant as Tank is, he hasn’t always made the best choices in singles.
The song was written by Static/Major, the greatest songwriter no one knew they knew. This is his best song and Tank owns it. The song is basically about sex, but the melody is so tight, so smooth that you almost don’t listen to the words. That is until the hook comes in: “I’m horny like I’m fresh out of jail.” Tank makes it sound like the sexy, sly come on it is, without sounding cheap or silly. Few male singers can do that well.
Chico DeBarge will release his new album on July 12!!!!
In the late 90s, Chico DeBarge was more or less my favorite black male singer not Rahsaan Patterson. For me, he was D’Angelo without the unnecessary pretention and grandiose self-obsession.
But then he went away to deal with his addictions and personal issues. There isn’t really an artist like Chico DeBarge in the game and having him back to do his thing is truly thrilling, expecially because two songs floating out on the net right now are as good, if not better, than what he released during his late 90s heyday.
First up – Oh No. It’s my favorite of the two because it reminds me of work on Long Time No See, but tighter and more expressive. Listen to it on Kedar’s Chico page.
Second – She Loves Me. This has the feeling of stuff on his The Game album (a masterpiece, by the by).
Like Brandy, Usher makes fantastic single choices most of the time. But the biggest mistake he made in his career was not making Separated a single. In fact, the song only appears on the UK version of 8701.
Separated is a piano ballad. Nothing more. Nothing less. As such, what we notice is how perfect Usher’s phrasing is. How the intensity of his vocal grows until he explodes on the bridge. In terms of sheer beauty, he has never sounded better or more convincing as a vocalist than he has here (rivaled only by earlier work like Let’s Straighten It Out when he used his voice in a more technically specific way).
It is not discussed enough what a terrific singer Usher is. That said, what’s more interesting to me is how his vocal persona was developed very quickly very early in his career. 8701 is the best full-length showcase of Usher’s interpretive vocal gifts, even though Confessions contains three of Usher’s most brilliant vocal performances ever (Follow Me, Do It To Me and Caught Up). And more than any other song, Separated is the bridge between those two albums.