Tag Archives: Dre and Vidal

Best Albums of 2011

I'm an album guy.

I never really bought singles unless there was a B-side or a remix that was dope. And while I'm aware now that Michael Jackson's single + filler archetype is the dominant approach to album making for most black music, I still hold out hope that artists will give me 10, 12 or 14 songs that fit together in a way that makes for a complete listening experience.

In 2011, that happened far more infrequently for me than I would have liked. Last year, I did a list of 30. This year, I only got 10.  

NOTE: I should also say that I haven't really had time to digest new material by Anthony Hamilton, Common, Meshell N'degeocello, Trey Songz, and The Roots (tho my initial reaction here was that it's the best album of the year) so I just couldn't justify ranking them at all.

Before we get to the top 10 after the jump, here are albums I liked, but didn't love:

  • Anwar Robinson, Everything (pleasant, but unremarkable except for "Come Over," which is sublime)
  • Johnny Gill, Still Winning (pleasant but unremarkable)
  • Idle Warship, Habits of the Heart (feels undercooked in places)
  • Frank Ocean, nostalgia/ultra (definitely feels undercooked)
  • The Paxtons, Avenue: A (a shade too in love with Kanye and Jay Electronica, but tight rhymes)
  • Cali Swag District, Kickback (far too long, far too short on the verve that makes their singles so hot)

 And albums that disappointed me:

  • Ledisi, Pieces of Me (too adult contemporary for my tastes. much of this material is just not worthy of Ledisi's voice)
  • Jill Scott, The Light of the Sun (unfinished and undisciplined is the last thing Jill Scott needs. Tried to be like Worldwide Underground and failed miserably).
  • Beyonce, 4 (didn't go far enough toward real tried-and-true R&B or soul. full of messy lead vocals)
  • Kelly Rowland, Here I Am (the definition of derivative. three strikes and you're out, Kelly!)
  • Kelly Price, Kelly (zzzzzz)
  • Tyrese, Open Invitation ("Stay" should have been an indication of what this album would be, but unfortunately it's just a weird outlier on a standard bad male R&B album)
  • Ginuwine, Elgin (why Ginuwine thinks "maturity" equals "boring" is beyond me. someone get him his groove back, please.)
  • Pharoahe Monche, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) (some mediocre production ruins this one for me)
  • Talib Kweli, Gutter Rainbows (too long, too much bad production. feels like an afterthought)
  • Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin' (i am over this retro Ray Ray. time to step into the new millennium, homie)

 

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Soul Man: Revisiting Usher’s “Here I Stand”

After the jump is a slight edit of a review of Usher’s Here I Stand – an album I have tremendous respect for, so much so that I thought was the best black pop album of 2008 –  that I initially wrote for Popmatters.com a few years ago that was never published.

I liked the review so I wanted to share it.

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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)

On Whitney – Just So We’re Clear

Whitney_iltu-thumb-200x200-5265

My girl Erica sent me an email today expressing her hopes that the new Whitney Houston album will give her what she needs from Whitney.

My response (which I think succinctly gets at how I feel bout Whitney):

To be fair, I ain’t never liked her. Or rather, I ain’t never liked what Clive made her. I don’t want I Wanna Dance With Somebody. I don’t even want My Love Is Your Love.

I want Exhale. I want Why Does It Hurt So Bad. I want Heartbreak Hotel. I want My Name is Not Susan.

But here’s the thing. She is working with all the one-trick pony new jacks running around (i.e. the Akon collabo is on the final tracklisting). So what we’re gonna get is what everyone else is doing, but potentially better sung.

Let me be clear: Do. Not. Want.

Frankly – she shoulda took her ass across the border to Philly and had the Soulquarians lace her with some real black shit. Period. The shit that Dre and Vidal did on Usher’s Here I Stand is TRANSCENDANT. I’m sure they could work the same magic. Or Raphael Saadiq. Imagine Whitney, stripped of Clive’s white girl oversinging bullshit, tackling a concoction like I Found My Everything.

Short of that, I ain’t interested. Period. End of discussion.

Extreme? Yea, lil bit. But my feelings about Whitney Houston are like that. Her instrument is damn near peerless, but the best I can say for her body of work is that its inconsistent.  Except Exhale, which I contend is the best thing she’s ever recorded and the best showcase for her interpretive vocal gifts, even the songs I cite above are merely decent.

Like aging divas before her (Mariah and Janet), she’ll chase trendy instead of transcendant.  And people will eat it up because, given what she’s been through, we want her to succeed.

I too would like to see her succeed; my definition of success for her is just different.

How Michael Jackson Should Do His Comeback

There is quite a bit of chatter about the kind of album that Michael Jackson should be doing.  The current producer/songwriter names rumored to be working on Mike’s comeback album range from Ne-Yo (naturally) to Akon to will.i.am.

And folks are talking about what constitutes a great Mike comeback album, some good and some eh…not so good.

So I’ve decided to put together my dream list of collaborators for Mike.

Singer Michael JacksonHow I like to think of Mike.

Full disclosure: my favorite Mike album is Dangerous, though I do think that creatively Off The Wall is his strongest (only because Dangerous is overlong and the Free Willy song and Heal The World are on there).

That said, I don’t want him to recreate either of those albums.

But I do want him to go into this album with the same mindset that created those albums.  That is: I want him to collaborate with the best songwriters of this generation to make an album that is both current and timeless.

Key words: current, timeless, songwriters.

So:

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