Tag Archives: Dawn Robinson

My Own Hurt Tape

Sister Toldja, one of my favorite writers, wrote a post today in which she lists five songs that are her essential heartbreak songs.  It’s a very good list.

I wanted to do my own little list because though I’m sorta known for my adulation of singledom, my disdain for marriage (eff gay marriage, we should just abolish ALL marriage), and my general frustration with how we make love and relationships harder than they really need to be, my favorite kind of song is actually the sad love song. My mother says it’s because I have an old soul.  I like to think it’s because I just love the blues.

Either way, here are seven of my essential heartbreak songs after the jump.

 

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It’s a Reunion

I ran across this video of the reunited En Vogue performing "Don't Let Go (Love)", their last hit with the original lineup, on That Grape Juice:

 

 

Note the new arrangement, which plays up the drama perfectly for a live setting. Also, Dawn Robinson and this song are a match made in heaven. It's hers and she knows it. She knows this song so well that she approaches it differently each time and finds new ways to totally sell it.

It is exciting to know that En Vogue have reunited for good and are recording new material. I know it's cliche to say it at this point, but En Vogue really does rival LaBelle for the greatest female vocal group ever.

It's about time we get to enjoy them again.

RichGirl: What Exactly Do We Need from a Girl Group?

 

I can’t decide what angers me more: that this song is written and produced by Dre and Vidal, who are capable of way better (like this, for instance), or that so much of this song is devoted to perennial rap cameo artist Fabolous and the completely devoid of talent Rick Ross.

It’s not clear to me what it is that RichGirl offers to the marketplace as a vocal group. Or rather, nothing that they have released so far requires four singers singing in harmony, or even bothers to take advantage of the fact that RichGirl is actually made up of four singers who, presumably, can sing in harmony.

It isn’t that they should do this*:

 

 

or this:

 

 

But there doesn’t seem to be even the pretense that we’re getting music that uses multiple voices in harmony to convey some emotion or idea that can’t be conveyed in the same way with one voice (or even one voice with background singers).  I think the artist, producer, or label that figures out how to do that in this historical moment when there’s an entire generation that venerates artists whose whole appeal is the absence of any musical ability whatsoever will be wildly wildly successful.

So I guess it is the former that bothers me more. I get that the marketplace is producer-driven, dance-floor focused, and completely uninterested in vocal ability. But then – why a girl group?  RichGirl exists solely to sell the idea of a girl group, without actually being a girl group.

I mean, I can’t even enjoy RichGirl as shamelessly derivative and unoriginal – Destiny’s Child taken to its most extreme end – anymore.

 

 

*Another post for another day: how Tiny was the best vocalist in Xscape, got the best leads on all the songs, and also how Tamika Scott’s greatness was unjustifiably overshadowed by her sister Latocha.  Both of which are on display on this, their single best work.

(H/T Soulbounce)

Tigger’s 25 Best Albums of the Aughts (00s), Part 1

The thing that is interesting to me about all the lists I’ve read about music in the Aughts is how little the lists reflect the impact of the internet.  Reading most lists, you wouldn’t think that the industry changed as much as it did.  You’d also think that, reading other lists, that the industry figured out the internet immediately and it became just another promotional tool for them to give you whatever it is they’ve decided is hot music.

Napster started in June 1999, just six months before the new millennium and the music industry has never been the same.  Illegal downloading meant that people could hear an artist’s work before it was done.  They could hear songs that artists never intended for them to hear.  And they could hear multiple versions of a song that ultimately went to another artist (how many people downloaded Posh Spice’s version of Beyonce’s Resentment?).

What this meant is that the single had even less meaning than it did in the past, though the industry and your favorite artist will never tell you that.  Indeed, the minute that iTunes and other online music services offered you the ability to pick which song you want to own, singles just became different animals.  Oh sure, we still had huge singles in the decade that everyone bought and then couldn’t escape for years – Yeah!, Crazy In Love, and Hey Ya come to mind – but the point is, how the consumer interacts with an artist shifted completely.  Many artists began to release as singles album tracks that were buzzworthy on the internet in hopes of increasing sales (Mariah Carey seems to live and die by her message boards, which explains the yo-yoing of her career of late).

It also meant that the industry’s devaluation of the album was complete.  Oh sure, people still buy albums, but with the ability to pick and choose what you want, there was even less incentive for the biggest artists to make albums a complete experience.  More then ever, what we got from corporate artists were three or four “radio singles” and a bunch of lamentable album tracks (you know, the ones that artists like Britney, Rihanna and nem point to as evidence of their “growth” because the songs might have an actual bridge or something).

For me, as a music lover, it was a wonderful time to discover music online I might not otherwise have heard.  I was able to follow the rise of homo hop, get copies of shelved albums by artists like Joi Gilliam and Nicole Wray, get obscure albums by Ricky Bell, LaTocha Scott, and Mark Middleton, and find artists who had been discarded by the industry but were making music on their own terms (Shanice, Smoke E. Digglera and Digital Black from Playa).  And let’s not forget how R&B artists have embraced the “mixtape” concept as a way to put out music that perhaps the label didn’t want you to hear or just to keep their names in your mind (Teedra Moses, Trey Songz, Amerie).

What this meant was that I had something else to compare to whatever it was the industry was throwing at me.  It meant that I didn’t have to fall for the othering of British “phenoms” who were ripping off American Black music unconvincingly.  It meant that I didn’t have to be mired in the industry’s mistaken belief that artists were only as good as the song Rich Harrison, Timbaland, Pharrell, Rodney Jerkins, or whoever gave them.  It meant that what I listened to was more driven by me than the industry.  Great as the 90s were, I was largely at the mercy of the industry.  That is simply not the case anymore – even for consumers (and artists) who live and die by the Billboard charts.

I say all this to say that my list reflects very much my experience with black music in the Aughts.  It is not a list that is designed to rank the biggest commercial albums of the decade and then find creative ways of equating art and commerce.  Which is not to say that there aren’t some obvious choices on here.  But this is my list, not a list that necessarily reflects the perspective of the average music consumer.

You been warned.

NOTE – The list is long, so its broken into two parts.  This post has the first 13 albums.

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En Vogue is Back

Seriously – why do other groups even try?

The irony about En Vogue is that they didn’t change the game nearly as much as they probably should have.  It’s almost like every other set of girls just said “we ain’t even gonna try to compete, that ‘actually being able to all sing and harmonize and share lead vocals’ lane belongs to En Vogue and Xscape, we’ll go over here and be broke ass Supremes.”

Don’t you think?

Anywho, the point here is:

  • En Vogue is back
  • Them voices ain’t changed a bit.
  • Cindy Herron Braggs does not age (and is she taller?)
  • Dawn can sing the same song over and over for 20 years and find new wrinkles in it and make you think you’re hearing it for the first time.
  • I CANNOT WAIT FOR THEM TO BRING THE FIRE!!!!

Note: the fire is not a Timbaland, Pharrell, or Polow produced joint, ladies.  Call Mike City and Ray Ray NOW.