Today, one of the greatest vocalists in the history of popular music turns 40.

When former child stars turn 40, it really puts into perspective just how young they were when they first started. Monica was only 14 when Miss Thang dropped in 1995, but an even more impressive fact is that she recorded some of the album’s biggest hits in the summer of ’93 — when she was just 12 years old.

She would go on to follow Miss Thang with The Boy Is Mine, which produced her three No. 1 hits. And then the new millennium came, and the music industry basically abandoned most of the greats of ’90s R&Bs. She would have one more top 10 hit, but was would never enjoy the same kind of success she did in the mid-’90s.

Chart positions be damned, Monica was still putting out quality. From “Love All Over Me” to “Everything to Me,” R&B connoisseurs know that the quality never waned.

Join me in celebrating one of the best to ever hold a mic. Below are my four favorites from Monica’s iconic catalog.


“Before You Walk out My Life”


“Why I Love You So Much”


“First Night”


“All Eyez on Me”

Call her President Grande.

In the video for her new single, “Positions,” Ariana Grande is a young, sexy president of the United States, who handles national crises by day and bakes in lingerie at night. The lyrics, however, have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with secks.

“Positions” is the lead single and title track of Ariana’s sixth LP, which drops on October 30. Because so much of her work is Mariah redux, it’s hard to say if Ariana actually has a sound, but that being said, “Positions” feels like standard fare.

The video has cameos from Ariana’s inner circle: Victoria Monet, Tayla Parx, Nija Charles, Tyler Ford, Misha Lambert, and Ari’s mom, Joan Grande. And in under 48 hours, it has already amassed 26 million views on YouTube.

If you’re a betting man, put money on “Positions” becoming Ariana’s fifth No. 1 (and fifth No. 1 debut) on the Billboard Hot 100.

In September of 2002, Santana released “The Game of Love” as the lead single from the group’s 19th LP, Shaman. Written by Gregg Alexander and Rick Nowels, the song’s vocals are performed by Michelle Branch.

“Game of Love” is a song that I’ve loved for years, and it might have been a TBT selection sooner if I didn’t have reservations about the song’s performers. What reservations, you ask? Santana’s lead singer, Carlos Santana, said Beyoncé can’t sing (which is objectively false) in a bid to justify Adele’s Grammy win over her. Mind you, Carlos Santana literally doesn’t sing and yet somehow has all these Grammys in his possession. He quickly apologized for his comment, but you know he still feels that way deep down.

Michelle Branch, on the other hand, once said Mariah Carey’s songs are stupid, which is quite rich coming from someone who makes stupid-ass songs like this. It’s the audacity for me.

In any case, “Game of Love” is the sort of alternative rock track that I just can’t resist. Produced by Clive Davis and Carlos Santana, the song’s vocals were initially sung by Tina Turner, but when she declined to be in its music video, Macy Gray was tapped to sing the song. Clive didn’t like Macy’s version, so we ended up with Michelle Branch.

The Tina Turner version was released years later, and while we love Queen Tina, Michelle’s version is better. Tina’s ad libs towards the end of the song are amazing, but overall, the track works better with a lighter voice.

“Game of Love” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

Elgin Baylor Lumpkin, better known as Ginuwine, turns 50 years old today, so this week’s TBT selection was a no-brainer.

When people think about Ginuwine, the first song that often comes to mind is “Pony,” and for good reason. It was his very first single and easily his most recognizable song.

“Pony” is a great song — a classic, in fact — but a part of me feels like it has taken all the oxygen in the room that is Ginuwine’s legacy. Of all the neglected gems in Ginuwine’s catalog, none bothers me more than “Same Ol’ G.”

Released in July of ’98, “Same Ol’ G” was a single from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack. It wasn’t a hit song — mainly because there was no CD issuance for the single — but it’s one that measures up to Ginuwine’s biggest hits. Also, in terms of production and songwriting, it is among Timbaland’s best work.

Click play and join me in celebrating the life and career of Ginuwine.

One of the biggest R&B acts of the last two decades celebrates a milestone birthday today.

We first got to meet Ashanti when she was just 21 years old — when she was the Princess of Murder Inc. and the queen of the hooks. Between Fat Joe’s “What’s Luv” and Ja Rule’s “Always on Time,” we got quite the introduction from this young singer who didn’t even have a single of her own at the time. And while we were bumping those hits, we were also listening to her uncredited voice on other hits, namely the remixes of “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny” — both by Jennifer Lopez.

If you’re confused by the last sentence of the previous paragraph, I welcome you to revisit both songs.

When Ashanti finally released her first single as a lead artist, she made it clear that she wasn’t just good for singing hooks. “Foolish” spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of the biggest hits of the year and even the decade. Her self-titled debut album would sell half a million copies in its opening week, which was a first for a debut album by a female artist.

Ashanti would go on to produce another top 10 hit and a top 20 hit. Its follow-up, Chapter II, gave us two more hits: “Rock Wit You (Aww Baby)” and “Rain on Me,” which peaked at No. 2 and No. 7, respectively.  And that was basically it.

Out of nowhere, the industry seemed to have abandoned Ashanti . She would reach No. 13 with “Only You” in 2004 and No. 37 with “The Way That I Love You” in 2008, but after 2003, she was never quite able to recapture the major success she enjoyed on her first two albums. There are many theories as to why — for example, Beyoncéitis — but that theory becomes a little shaky when you consider that Ciara was able to thrive for a while in a Beyoncé world.

Personally, I blame it on this widespread misconception that Ashanti can’t sing. It’s not clear where this started, but it became a thing sometime circa 2003 — perhaps people kept comparing her to Bey, perhaps people were just being ridiculous. Both things are probably true, but whatever case, that notion is false. Furthermore, it is odd that R&B fans suddenly rediscovered their standards after letting J.Lo cook for years. I mean…what is the truth?

In any case, Ashanti’s run, though short, was impactful. She gave us more classics in 2 years than most can do in 20, and I hope she looks back on her career with nothing but pride.

Below are my top four from Ashanti’s catalog.


“Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)”


“Rain on Me”


“Happy”


“Say Less” (featuring Ty Dolla $ign)

In February of 1997, R&B quartet Allure released their debut single, “Head over Heels” (featuring Nas).

From the vocal arrangement to the lyrics to the reliance on an ’80s hip-hop sample (MC Shan’s “The Bridge”), the song is objectively Mariah-esque, and that is no accident. It was co-written and co-produced by Miss Carey herself, and she even makes a rather audible contribution to the background vocals.

Allure was signed to Mariah’s short-lived label, Crave Records. No official reason was ever given for the label’s closure, but it came months after her Mariah’s divorce from Tommy Mottola was finalized. Mr. Mottola was the head of Sony Music Entertainment, Crave’s parent label. Fill in the blanks.

“Head over Heels” was a top 40 hit, but its one of those songs that is only popular among R&B heads of a certain age. If you’ve never heard this one before, click play and than me later.

This past weekend marked 25 years since the release of one of the greatest albums ever made: Mariah Carey’s Daydream.

Released just five years into her career, Daydream was Mariah’s fourth “studio album” — I consider Merry Christmas a studio album, but whatevs — and her sixth project overall. Under normal circumstances, everyone would be muhfuckin’ tide of an artist that releases that many albums in the first half-decade of her career — especially one that enjoys major success with each release. Mariah, however, was able to avoid — or perhaps, withstand — overexposure. We could probably attribute some of it to a general insatiable demand for her, but nonetheless, the music was just that good. And in the case of Daydream, it had gotten even better.

Daydream is a melody galore and one of a very small group of albums that I consider to have no skips. I’m tempted to describe the album as the precise point where “pop” and R&B meet, but the fact of the matter is that it is an R&B album through and through. However, every song on the album is so easy to love that I’m sure a lot of people will ignorantly describe it as a “pop”-leaning album.

With the album’s first track, which also happened to be its first single, Mariah made history by becomng the first woman to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The “Fantasy” hook is one that sticks on the first listen, and 25 years later, we can comfortably describe that song as timeless. Also, its remix, which featured Ol’ Dirty Bastard, was basically a cultural reset, making rap features the new normal.

With an eight-week run at No. 1, “Fantasy” tied “Dreamlover” as her longest-running No. 1 yet. Cue “One Sweet Day.”

“One Sweet Day” is the kind of synergy that record labels dream of. Two of the hottest acts in the game — Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men — get together to create a song that not only works perfectly for both styles but achieves a kind of success that neither had achieved alone. The single not only broke Mariah’s personal record, it broke every record there ever was. It debuted at No. 1., making her the first artist to accomplish that twice, and then went on to spend a then-record-breaking 16 weeks at the summit — a record that would last till Lil Nas X released four heavily promoted remixes of the same song to secure 19 weeks at No. 1. But I digress.

The album’s third and final single in the States’ was “Always Be My Baby,” which almost had Mariah go three-for-three, but it debuted at No. 2 before eventually ascending to No. 1. “Always Be My Baby” didn’t reign nearly as long as either of its two immediate predecessors, but one could argue that it has had a bigger legacy — and if you’ve ever been to a karaoke bar, you probably understand what I mean. The track is also notable for being the first collabo between Mariah and Jermaine Dupri.

“Underneath the Stars” was supposed to be the fourth single in the States — a video was shot and everything — but got shelved along the way. It would have been her most mature-sounding single to date, and perhaps one that might’ve been harder to describe as pop — because it was just that soulful. The song was the first one written and recorded for this album, and is a fan favorite till this day. Columbia Records’ decision to not release it exemplifies fumbling the bag. No official reason was ever given as to why, so we’re just going to assume that Tommy Mottola was being a hater.

Elsewhere on the album, Mariah gave us the lavish ballads that so many love her for, and with her cover of “Open Arms,” she continued her tradition of shitting on originals.

Among what’s left of the album, the most noteworthy tracks is undoubtedly “Melt Away,” Mariah’s second collabo with Babyface and her first real slow jam.

One of the more unfortunate yet illuminating parts of Daydream’s legacy is that it showed us the extent to which the Recording Academy can get it wrong. Despite dominating the charts in ways rarely ever seen, and being nominated for six awards (including all of the biggest ones), Mariah Carey left the 38th Grammy Awards empty-handed.

When the “opinion leaders” commit to disrespecting true talent, all you have left is the numbers. And while I hate saying that “numbers don’t lie” — because they so often do — the numbers did, in fact, not lie this time around. Daydream sold over 25 million copies worldwide, becoming MC’s second-highest selling album — Music Box did 32 million.

Mariah has never been deeper in her bag than she was on Daydream. Vocally, she was still in her prime, and creatively, she has never had more juice.

Picking a favorite from a masterpiece is no easy task, but there’s something about “Underneath the Stars.”

When it comes to popular music, heroes don’t come as unsung as Shalamar.

In trio’s 13-year run, it only managed to achieve two top 20 hits. However, quite a few of its singles that failed to crack the top 40 are now considered classics among R&B connoisseurs. One of such songs is “This Is for the Lover in You,” the third single from the group’s fourth LP, Three for Love (1980).

Written by group member Howard Hewett and Dana Meyers, “Lover in You” didn’t even make it onto the Billboard Hot 100, but was a top 20 hit on the R&B charts. It doesn’t cite any samples, but Lord knows it bears a striking resemblance to Teddy Pendergrass’ “Close the Door.” No lawsuit has ever been made, so let’s just roll with it.

Like many other gems that go unnoticed at the time of their initial release, “Lover in You” resurfaced more than 15 years later — this time, as the basis of a 1996 single by Babyface (which featured the group as well as LL Cool J). And this time, as a top 10 hit.

Today is Howard Hewett’s 65th birthday, so in honor of him and this masterpiece he crafted, click play.