Once upon a time, the pop songs used to really POP. They used to make you wanna jump. They used to make you wanna shout. They used to make you really, really, really wanna zig-a-zig, ah.

I couldn’t help myself.

In July of 1996, Spice Girls made the splashiest of debuts with one of the poppiest pop songs ever. Co-written by Matt Rowe, Richard Stannard and all five members of the group, “Wannabe” is every bit as spicy as its performers, fusing Oldies — the bass line was inspired by “Summer Nights” from Grease — with contemporary styles in a way where no particular element overpowers the others. It’s the ultimate musical gumbo, seasoned to perfection.

“Wannabe” is about the importance of female friendships and how they should take priority over fleeting romances. This pro-woman ideal would become a central theme in the branding of the group, who would become the faces of the Girl Power movement of the late ‘90s.

While “Wannabe” is certainly about prioritizing friends and whatnot, make no mistake: It is also about sex. From top to bottom, the song is garnished with innuendos, most scandalously in the rap verse towards the ends of the song, where Mel B hints that Geri Haliwell and Mel C like to be on ecstasy when they get busy.

“Wannabe” would become an instant classic, topping the charts in 37 countries — including the US and UK — and making the Spice Girls megastars overnight.

Yesterday, hip-hop legend Coolio passed away. In honor of his life and career, it’s only right that we revisit his signature hit, “Gangsta’s Paradise” (featuring L.V.).

Released in August of 1995, “Gangsta’s Paradise” was the lead single from the Dangerous Minds soundtrack. It is rapped from the perspective of a trigger-happy man — a “gangsta,” if you will — stuck in a pattern of violence that he has been conditioned to view as normal due to his surroundings. The chorus, sung by L.V., attempts to explain this dysfunction, declaring it a “gangsta’s paradise.” The song’s message counteracted the recurrent themes of gangsta rap, which had grown in popularity in the years leading up to its release. Also, it mirrored the central themes of the Dangerous Minds movie, which was about at-risk youth navigating the obstacles of growing up in lower-income communities.

“Gangsta’s Paradise” is based on a sample of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise,” which was an album cut on his 18th studio album and magnus opus, Songs in the Key of Life. According to Coolio, the initial version of the song had to be changed because Stevie Wonder wouldn’t clear the sample unless he removed the profanities.

September 28, 2022, the day Coolio passed away, also happened to be the 46th anniversary of the release of Songs in the Key of Life.

“Gangsta’s Paradise” was a monster hit, topping the charts across the globe and ranked No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart for 1995. It would also win a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. And with over a billion views on YouTube — in just five years, mind you — the song has more than stood the test of time.

Coolio gave us many other jams, but this is the one that etched his name in music history. Rest in peace, Coolio.

A woman cleaning to the niece of Kim Porter is suing Diddy for wrongful termination, claiming she was fired after she requested maternity leave. The suit also names Tri Star Sports as a defendant.

The plaintiff — who filed anonymously but has since been identified as “Raven” by Diddy’s team — claims she was a full-time nanny to the mogul’s twin daughters, who he shared with Kim Porter. She says she was asked to be their nanny after Kim’s passing in 2018, and claims she was told that Diddy fired her because she was pregnant and unmarried, which sets a bad example for his daughters.

In a statement to TMZ, Diddy’s lawyers call the suit a “meritless shakedown,” adding that Raven is not Kim’s niece and that her services were always intended to be temporary.

The year was 1985 and the boys of New Edition were very settled in their stardom. Their third album, All for Love, was released in November year — its lead single, “Count Me Out,” came a month prior.

“Count Me Out” is the kind teeny R&B for which fans had come to know and love the group — complete with the rapped bridge. New Edition isn’t brought up in conversations about blending hip-hop with R&B/pop, but it’s worth noting that this is something they did from the very beginning.

The visual for the track, which is as playful as you’d expect, tells a story about what was happening in New Edition behind the scenes. The group was missing a member: Bobby Brown. While he had recorded vocals for the album and even appeared on its cover, Bobby had left — or, as the story is told, kicked out of — the group right before they shot the video for “Count Me Out.” Ricky Bell ends up having to lip-sync his lead vocals in the video. Bobby wouldn’t rejoin until 1996, when they released Home Again — now as a sextet including newcomer Johnny Gill.

Though it’s considered a classic today, “Count Me Out” underperformed on the charts, peaking at No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s star Tim Norman has been found guilty of murder-for-hire, conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The charges stemmed from the March 2016 murder of his nephew, Andre Montgomery, which he arranged with a woman named Terica Ellis so he could cash out on a $450,000 life insurance policy he had taken out on him. Ellis was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and has since pled guilty. She’ll be sentenced next month.

Norman is facing up to life in prison and will be sentenced on December 15.

Today in 1997, Usher Raymond IV released his breakthrough album, My Way.

Many casual fans think its his debut album, but his actual debut was a self-titled project released in ’94 — it only managed to reach No. 167 on the Billboard 200. With such a soft start, Usher didn’t have to worry too much about the dreaded sophomore slump.

While Usher had contributions from lots of R&B hitmakers of the time — including DeVante Swing and Dave Hall — it’s clear that a decision was made to take a completely different direction on My Way as there is absolutely no writer/producer overlap between both albums (with the exception of Usher). My Way would mark the beginning of the most important creative partnership in Usher’s career, namely his partnership with Jermaine Dupri.

JD co-wrote and co-produced the bulk of the album, including all three singles. And if you thought Usher came to play, Babyface helped craft two of the remaining songs on the album, including “Slow Jam” (featuring Monica). As you can imagine, the result of the JD/Babyface combo was an album full of radio-friendly songs — and no matter what anyone says, this is a very good thing.

The lead single from My Way, “You Make Me Wanna…”, would transform Usher from D-list singer to bona fide superstar almost overnight. All three singles would go on to peak in the top two slots of the Billboard Hot 100, with “Nice & Slow” actually topping the chart.

Following the success of My Way, Usher would become the blueprint for a generation of male R&B and R&B-adjacent artists, including Mario, Chris Brown and Justin Bieber. And don’t even get me started on Justin Timberlake. The Usher style of singing, dancing and dressing was mimicked by basically every singer-boy for the next 15 years or so — the skull caps had the boys in a chokehold for YEARS.

My Way would become the first in a three-album streak of classics and would establish Usher as a commercial powerhouse, with over eight million units sold worldwide. At a time where R&B — especially among male performers — seems to be lagging, this milestone anniversary of an exceptional album should remind us of how good we once had it.

Today in 1997, Mariah Carey released her sixth LP, Butterfly.

Mariah is an artist with many albums, each with its own “era” — the looks and sounds that define the campaign period. That being said, at a high level, there are really just two Mariah Carey eras: pre- and post-Butterfly.

The pre-Butterfly version of Mariah is a muted version of the icon — a version of her with limited say in what kind of music she made, what she wore, and ultimately, how she presented herself to the world.

Though she would declare emancipation in 2005, Mariah’s true emancipation came in ’97. That year, she leaned further into contemporary R&B; she took more risqué fashion choices; and she separated from an abusive husband who was old enough to be her father. The first two of those points cannot be properly understood without understanding the third.

The abusive husband in question is Tommy Mottola, the man who gave her a record deal and the head of her label at the time, Columbia Records. While Mariah is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime talent who probably would’ve been successful regardless, it’s fair to say that the priority treatment she enjoyed probably didn’t hurt. However, with her powerful soon-to-be ex-husband no longer in her corner — and allegedly now working against her — things were about to change.

Before we delve further into the surrounding drama, let’s get into the music.

Butterfly is widely considered to be Mariah’s magnus opus — the singer herself calls it her favorite album — and even though we prefer Daydream around these parts, that is certainly not a controversial opinion. In this era, Mariah shed the adult-contemporary-ish image that had been forced on her by the label and started making songs that were more reflective of the fly young woman she was. With the ODB collabo just two years behind her, Mariah made it clear that the “Fantasy” remix wasn’t a one-off experiment with hip-hop.

On “The Roof”, Mariah describes a rendezvous (that we later found out was with Derek Jeter) over the beat of Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones, Pt. II”, while “Breakdown” (featuring Krayzie Bone & Wish Bone) interpolates “Tha Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. And then there’s “Honey,” the album’s first track and lead single, and a club banger for the ages. Produced by Mariah along with Diddy, Stevie J and the Ummah (comprised of Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from a Tribe Called Quest), the song samples two hip-hop classics: “The Body Rock” by the Treacherous Three and “Hey DJ” the World’s Famous Supreme Team.

“Babydoll,” which Mariah wrote with Missy Elliott, Stevie J and Cory Rooney, is arguably the best baby-making song of her career — it’s neck-and-neck with “Melt Away.” Mariah was by no means new to the topic of sex, but on Butterfly, she leaned into her sex appeal in ways we hadn’t seen before. We get a bit more of that on her sultry cover of Prince’s “Beautiful Ones,” which was sung with then-newcomers Dru Hill.

“Fourth of July” was a naked attempt to recreate “Underneath the Stars,” and while she was unsuccessful, the results are respectable and the attempt shows that her head was in the right place.

Butterfly is often talked about like it was a clean break from everything Mariah used to be, and while that might be true image-wise, it certainly wasn’t true when it came to the music. Mariah the balladeer was ever-present, with songs like the title track, “Close My Eyes,” “Whenever You Call,” “Outside” and “My All,” the album’s only other single.

Yes, you read that right. There were many videos — five, to be exact — made for Butterfly tracks, but due to chart rules at the time, a song was not a single until it was issued as a CD, tape or vinyl. If you’re a bitter soon-to-be ex-husband who runs the record label to which your soon-to-be ex-wife is signed, this is a perfect opportunity for sabotage. And that, he did.

“Honey,” the lead single, got the full single treatment and went on to debut at No. 1, making it Mariah’s third single to achieve that feat and the sixth song ever to do so. Basically, at the time, half of the songs to do that were Mariah Carey songs. The impact.

Before “Honey,” Mariah was in a three-way tie with Whitney Houston and Madonna for the most No. 1s among solo female artists (11) — and she was by far the quickest to arrive at that record. She now had 12 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, tying her with the Supremes for the all-time record among female acts.

After “Honey,” there were three songs that got music videos but never charted because no single was issued: the title track, “Breakdown” and “The Roof.”

The fifth video from the album, “My All,” got the single treatment and would ultimately top the Hot 100, giving Mariah the all-time record among female acts — she’d go on to add six more to that tally over the next two decades, putting her above all solo acts and only second to the Beatles. One could argue that if the only two singles — released nine months apart, by the way — from Butterfly were No. 1 hits, Mariah might have an additional one or two No. 1s under her belt if Tommy Mottola wasn’t being such a hater. We’ll never know for sure.

The demise of Mariah’s marriage to Tommy also fractured professional relationships. The Butterfly era would bring her longstanding partnership with Walter Afanasieff to an acrimonious end. According to Walter, Mariah wanted to leave Columbia following her separation from Tommy and wanted him to come with her — the two co-wrote and co-produced some of her biggest hits, including “One Sweet Day” (with Boyz II Men), “Hero” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” In one interview, he explains that he had an exclusive contract with Sony Music Entertainment, Columbia’s parent company. In another, he says that the end of their relationship was so abrupt — there was an apparent screaming match — that they didn’t get to finish a lot of the songs they co-wrote for Butterfly, including “My All.” Mariah, on the other hand, has said much less about the end of their partnership, but in a 1997 interview, she indicated that he had betrayed her.

While Butterfly is often seen as Mariah’s “breakup album,” only two of its tracks — “Butterfly” and “Close My Eyes” — are about her marriage with Tommy Mottola. The album, however, was far more autobiographical than her previous projects. In addition to the songs about Tommy, “Outside” talks about her multiracial identity in ways she hadn’t before, while “My All” and the previously mentioned “The Roof” are about her then-fledgling relationship with Mr. November.

Butterfly debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It didn’t match the commercial success of its immediate predecessor, Daydream, but it sold well over 10 million copies despite clear evidence of sabotage. The out-of-touch critics of the day provided the usual mixed reviews, but true R&B fans understood it to be one of the greatest albums ever made. And 25 years later, it remains one of the best in Mariah’s catalog and a prime example of how good music can be when artists trust their instincts.

Favorite track: “Honey”

Earlier today, Kanye West terminated his partnership with Gap because the its allegedly didn’t keep to their end of their deal, which was to sell 40% of Yeezy Gap merch in Gap stores and the rest in five dedicated brick-and-mortar stores just for the Yeezy Gap line.

The rapper’s lawyer reportedly sent the apparel company a letter back in August, and per the contract, they had 30 days to rectify the situation.

According to reports, Gap’s CEO, Mark Breitbard, sent a memo to company staff letting them know that the partnership is “winding down” and that they will continue to sell existing Yeezy Gap merchandise.

The end of this partnership does not affect Yeezy Balenciaga items, which are also sold through Gap.

Mariah Carey’s sixth LP, Butterfly, turns 25 tomorrow, so in anticipation of this milestone anniversary, it is only right that we revisit its lead single, “Honey.”

Released on July 29, 1997, “Honey” is a landmark in Mariah’s career. It was her first single after separating from Tommy Mottola, and without his influence — or rather, restraint — she was showing the public a new side of her. While she had drawn from hip-hop over the years (most famously on the “Fantasy” remix), you could always sense that there was a concerted effort to maintain her adult-contemporary-adjacent image through it all.

That all changed with “Honey.” Co-produced by Diddy, Stevie J, the Ummah and the singer herself, the beat knocks so hard that you can tell nobody was in the studio thinking about AC radio. For the first time, Mariah didn’t wait for the remix to give us a club banger. And because it was the ’90s, it was perfectly normal to sang down on a club banger, and that is exactly what she did.

The “Honey” video showed more of Mariah than we’d ever seen before — literally and figuratively. Playing a secret agent held captive by a mob boss and his goons (including one played by Eddie Griffin), Mariah escapes by doing a now-iconic leap from a balcony into a pool, where she takes off her dress to reveal a Bond-girl-style bikini. It is the least we had ever seen her wear and the most personality she had ever shown the public.

Though stellar in its own right, the “Honey” remix isn’t thought of as one of Mariah’s greatest remixes because she didn’t do the kind of overhaul she would later become known for. That being said, the LOX and Mase rapped their asses off on that track, and seeing Mariah let loose with the Bad Boy crew was quite radical at the time.

Twenty-one years after its release, Mariah revealed that the “Honey” remix was actually supposed to feature the Notorious B.I.G. (and no one else), but unfortunately, he was killed before they got a chance to work together.

“Honey” would go on to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her third song to do so — a record at the time — and the sixth song in history to accomplish that feat. It would also become her 12th No. 1 hit, breaking a three-way tie with Whitney Houston and Madonna for the most No. 1s among female solo artists, and tying the Supremes’ record for female acts. By the following year, Mariah would break that tie as well, and today, she has a whopping 19 No. 1s — the most among all solo acts.