The Fugees were one of the most ingenious ensembles in the history of popular music, and the fact that we got only two albums out of them is a crying shame. We could argue that their brief discography helped preserve the group’s legacy, but evidence suggests that all three members of the group still had juice in the half-decade after their second and final album, The Score, which indicates that a third album would have been [fire emoji] (if we got it before the new millennium). Pras gave us “Ghetto Superstar” and Lauryn gave us The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Wyclef Jean, on the other hand, gave us magic for almost a decade-and-a-half after The Score.

Wyclef is a genius that — for whatever reason — doesn’t get recognized as such. He was never able to match the commercial success or critical acclaim he enjoyed with the Fugees, but there are a handful of classics in his solo discography.

On his 50th birthday, let’s put some respect on King Clef’s name and recognize him for being a true virtuoso. The best artists are the ones that possess range in tempo and style, and that is something Wyclef has demonstrated throughout his career.

Below are my five favorite Wyclef songs.


“Gone Till November” (featuring Refugee All Stars)


“911” (featuring with Mary J. Blige)


“2 Wrongs” (featuring Claudette Ortiz)


“Perfect Gentleman”


“Sweetest Girl” (featuring Akon, Lil Wayne and Niia)

Katy Perry just dropped “Harleys in Hawaii,” a pop-yet-R&B mid-tempo inspired by a real-life experience with her fiancé, Orlando Bloom.

The video is everything you might have imagined, but with a title like “Harleys in Hawaii,” did she really have a choice? The song slaps on the first listen, but it’s kind of hard to predict how this one will do on the charts because it’s quite different from anything Katy Perry has ever released. Also, Katy Perry seems to have run out of juice quite rapidly, which could either be blamed on a sexist music audience that discards female pop stars as soon as they cross age 30, or a series of odd career moves on Katy Perry’s part. There’s the American Idol gig and that weird Big Brother-type live stream she did a few years ago.

Anyway, the song’s nice and Katy looks good in the video. Click play.

Mya is one of those artists that deserved to have a longerrun of commercial success. Even though a five-year run in the fickle-ass musicindustry is nothing to laugh at, Mya is definitely talented enough (and hasreleased songs that are good enough) to have stretched that run at leastanother five years. She hasn’t cracked the Billboard Hot 100 since 2003, butshe has released a lot of good music – and “radio-friendly” music — in theyears since. Situations like hers remind you that luck is the key ingredient toevery success.

The Washington, DC, native has been independent since 2008,and while it’s not impossible to make waves while independent, one could arguethat it is not the best vehicle for a veteran female singer who makescontemporary R&B. The industry tends to like its indie in the form of rockor rap – and preferably male. But I digress.

Today, Mya turns 40, so in celebration of this milestonebirthday and her contributions to popular music, this week’s TBT post is all Mya everything. Below are my four favorite Mya tracks.

“Best of Me, Part 2” (featuring Jay-Z)


“It’s All About Me” (featuring Sisqo)


“Paradise”


“Take Me There” (with Blackstreet featuring Mase & Blinky Blink)

If you’re out there feeling like Maroon 5 always has new music to put out, you’re not alone. Their albums are actually spaced out by a few years, but Adam Levine is always on TV (as a judge on The Voice), so it feels like they’re never gone. Somehow, the group has escaped overexposure (despite that being the title of one of their albums).

“Memories” is the lead single from the group’s as-yet-untitled seventh studio album. The song is a tribute to Jordan Feldstein, the group’s former manager (and Adam Levine’s childhood friend) who passed away from a pulmonary embolism in December 2017.

The track is classic Maroon 5 — super-melodic, catchy lyrics, and superb genre-blending — and Adam Levine’s vocal performance gives subdued and emotive. The video shows Adam staring into the camera from start to finish, shirtless and looking pensive. Basically, if the videos for Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” had a baby, it would be this video. Click play.

The year was 2001 and we were in the thick of Britney-mania. And if you looked elsewhere in the industry, you’d see the likes of Destiny’s Child and Jennifer Lopez shutting shit down. The music industry is famously superficial, but 2001 was special. So many of the women ruling the charts had zero musical talent, which played directly to the worst stereotypes about women — particularly beautiful women — in music. As a matter of fact, J-Lo wasn’t even singing the choruses on her own songs, but that’s another conversation for another day.

As you can imagine, the surplus of beautiful women with questionable musical abilities created an opening for an “earthy” type. Cue India.Arie.

As most people idolized Britney & co. for their looks, India.Arie released “Video,” a song that was boldly defiant of societal pressure and celebratory of imperfection.

The song was a moderate hit, but its impact was indelible. The following year at the Grammys, India.Arie received seven nominations off the strength of that one song — because the Recording Academy can’t resist a black woman in dreads. Ask Tracy and Lauryn.

Unfortunately for India.Arie, she debuted the same year as Alicia Keys, who had similar appeal as well as the backing of the Clive Davis infrastructure. Come
Grammy time, India.Arie would lose five of her seven noms to Alicia and the other two to U2 and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Cold world.

In the years since, India.Arie has won multiple Grammys and “Video” remains an anthem for self-love. All is well.

French Montana just dropped “Writing on the Wall,” which features Post Malone and Cardi B.

Prior to its release, we got a bit of a trailer that left you thinking we were about to have our minds blown. The trailer didn’t even include the actual song, so French really held out on us.

And now, here we are. Underwhelmed.

“Writing on the Wall” isn’t terrible, but it got way too much buildup for a basic song and relatively uneventful video. The track is similar to what French gave us on his last project, Jungle Rules (i.e., melodic cuts with Afropop influences). Not bad, but not amazing either and definitely not unexpected from French Montana. And the video is basically Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. Click play.

Christina Milian is one of those artists who has never gotten the respect she deserves, but we’ll table that discussion for another day. Today, on her 38th birthday, we’re revisiting her biggest hit, “Dip It Low.”

Released in April 2004, “Dip It Low” is an almost-up-tempo track that mixes Caribbean, Middle Eastern and East Asian styles. At the time, these styles were all popular in hip-hop and R&B, so as experimental as that mixture might sound, it was pretty commonplace. Just months prior, Beyoncé had used that very mixture to much success, ruling the US charts for nine weeks with “Baby Boy” (featuring Sean Paul). As you can imagine, Christina was accused of swagger-jacking, especially since her image overhaul at the time left her looking like Bey’s lil sister.

Watching the “Dip It Low” video in 2019, I can’t help but draw those comparisons again, but what matters is that the song and video are dope. And if duplicating the Bey aesthetic was intentional, it was a good call — “Dip It Low” is Christina’s biggest hit by far, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

This past weekend marked the 20th anniversary of Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker” (featuring Jay-Z). It was the lead single from her sixth studio album, Rainbow, and her 14th a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, which put her ahead of Michael Jackson and in third place behind Elvis Presley and the Beatles — she has since passed Elvis.

“Heartbreaker” was Mariah’s first single that featured a rapper on the original version (as opposed to a remix) and Jay-Z’s first No. 1 hit. The song, which sample’s Stacy Lattisaw’s “Attack of the Name Game,” was supposed to be on the Glitter soundtrack, but due to delays, she decided to include it on Rainbow — an album she recorded in three weeks because she was “ready to get the FUCK! ASAP!” out of her contract with Columbia Records. Long story for another post.

At the time, hating-ass critics accused Mariah of making a “Fantasy” redux, but anyone with a good ear knows that it’s closer to “Dreamlover” than anything else. And besides, only certain artists — typically female, typically “glamorous” and “girly” — get called to task for having distinct styles. The industry is packed with raggedy rock and country acts making the same song over and over again, so I don’t wanna hear it.

The “Heartbreaker” remix, which featured Da Brat and Missy Elliot, is arguably the best remix Mariah ever made, as are the videos — for the original and the remix, with the latter being one of the most expensive of all time. Check ’em out below.

Original


Remix

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 turns 30 today, so it’s all Janet everything ’round here. The retrospective on the album deliberately omits a favorite track because “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” deserves more than mention.

Released as the album’s fourth single in October 1990, “Love Will Never Do” is a song about all the outside forces that impact relationships negatively — naysaying friends, outside peen/poom, you name it. But when the love is rilly rill, none of it stands a chance.

Written by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis — with Janet co-producing the track with the duo — the song is R&B yet “pop” yet rock yet funk. And it is all those things without seemingly trying too hard.

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis had considered making the song a duet — Prince, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant were all contenders, but the idea was nixed during recording process. The duo asked Janet to sing the first verse in a lower octave because that was supposed to be the male part, but Janet apparently did it so good that they kept the track as it was.

The best part of this song is the chanting at the end: “Love will never do! Never do without you!” It was typical of the Minneapolis sound, which Uncle Jim and Uncle Terry brought to a lot of their work around that time. And it gave the song the added oomph that makes it the classic it is today.

“Love Will Never Do” was Rhythm Nation‘s  seventh single, seventh top 5 hit, and fourth No. 1 in the United States. And though it has a beat, the deliberate choice to not dance in its video is simply brilliant. Fine-ass, smiling-ass Janet is all we need.

“Love Will Never Do” is not only my favorite track on Rhythm Nation, it is one of my favorite in Janet Jackson’s entire catalog. Click play and get your blessing.

Today in 1989, Janet Jackson released her fourth studio album, Janet Jackon’s Rhythm Nation 1814. For most artists, an album this good would be their best by far, but when you’re the same woman who gave the people Control and Janet, this is just another album. She pisses excellence every morning.

While we could debate what album is her best, there is no debating that Rhythm Nation is Janet Jackson’s most important work. In discussing said importance, most people will mention its socially conscious messaging — and yes, that is certainly a contributing factor — but what makes this album so special is the breadth of musical styles it contains. Janet showed us that you could have new jack swing, slow jams, “pop” ditties and rock songs on the same album without it sounding crazy or forced. The only other artist who has accomplished this is her brother, Michael Jackson. God bless Katherine.

I am reluctant to mention the song’s socially conscious messaging because I am staunchly opposed to the idea that music has to be personal or political in order to be considered important. However, it is impossible to talk about Rhythm Nation without talking about how it tackled a range of social issues, particularly race relations. And the beauty of Janet’s treatment of these topics is that it was done over danceable beats. The ingenuity of it all.

Rhythm Nation was Janet’s second outing with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, with the duo lending their talents to 11 of the album’s 12 songs — the exception being “Black Cat,” which Janet wrote all by herself. Janet co-wrote six other tracks with the Minneapolis natives, who made sure to infuse the Minneapolis sound into much of the album — it is the chant-iest album you ever heard and we love it for that.

Rhythm Nation has sold over 12 million copies worldwide and was the best selling album in the United States in 1990. The album produced four No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and a total of seven top 5 hits — the latter is a record that stands to this day.

Today is Thursday, so instead of including my favorite track from the album, that song is getting its own TBT post.