I’m rather opinionated about music. Folks know this.
And while all that frustration criticism comes through loud and clear when I write or tweet, I’m definitely not as good at communicating that I understand and respect how profoundly difficult making music really is.
“Producers these days are lazy. Making tracks. Sending emails. I’m just saying. When you make music under the same roof, with the actual artist that you’re working with, everybody is praying together, eating together, laughing together. It’s a different kind of nuance that’s created around music.” (emphasis mine)
I do think there’s something profoundly special about the music that can come from songwriters, producers and artists spending time together crafting music that the artist feels a close connection to because that artist has had some input into making it, but with that understanding comes a deeper understanding that I think critics of black music don’t articulate nearly enough: what Tyrese longs for is the exception in the music industry, not the rule, particularly with black popular music.
In other words, a lot of people aren’t afforded the luxury of getting into a room with the best songwriters and producers and creating something that they can feel has the personal touch because that’s not the kind of artist they are intended to be, whether they know it and acknowledge it or not. We should be honest about this fact.
I have a tremendous love for Bobby Brown. Don't Be Cruel and Bobby still go hard. And New Edition….I mean…New Edition. Nothing more need be said.
You know, people joke about Whitney calling him the "King of R&B," but that's mostly because we have forgotten just how huge an artist Bobby was in the late 80s – and how hugely influential his career has truly been. Other than Michael Jackson and Prince, no black male was selling the kind of units Bobby was selling. And no one was doing it – not even Mike or Prince – by helping to create a new genre of black pop (new jack swing). There may not be a "King of R&B" but no other artist is closer to earning that title than Bobby Brown.
But listening to this song just makes you realize that Bobby's instincts are just not as sharp as they were when he was 19. There is nothing – other than the pleasant realization that his voice, rougher than it was 20 years ago, is still wonderfully expressive – really notable about this song. It sounds both underproduced and overproduced, and ironically, unfinished.
I'd love a Bobby Brown comeback. I'd love it if he had a Santana-like late career renaissance. But this doesn't sound like it.
Trey Songz deepened his image and his work beautifully with his latest album. This brilliant unreleased track produced by the great Salaam Remi – who is basically the best producer making black pop right now that no one is really paying attention to – from those sessions probably wouldn’t have really fit on the album, sonically or lyrically. It, in the lyrics, returns Songz to a more juvenile and disturbing view of a woman’s sexual pleasure that is deeply problematic and totally at odds with the more restrained and thoughtful work on Passion Pain & Pleasure.
But beyond that it is definitely in the spirit of what has been most interesting about Trey Songz – his increasing willingness to experiment with different sounds without coming across schizophrenic or like he’s a cynical “throw everything at the wall and see if it sticks” kind of artist.
Predictably, Usher’s new joint is dope. And that’s knowing that Pharrell has been pimping this bootleg MJ sound to any young male who can pay the producer fee. Usher is really the only vocalist who can make this stuff his own (in as much as one can).
At this point, Usher is probably the most consistently excellent black pop performer currently recording. Dude just seems to get it.
Unlike most people, I thought Here I Stand, minus a track or two, was pretty brilliant (it was in my top 10 releases from last year). But I didn’t hate his wife, so it was easy for me to look at the work for what it truly was.