At the turn of the millennium, most of the successful girl groups of the ’90s had essentially disappeared. Some disbanded and some were simply abandoned by the music-buying public.
Destiny’s Child, which had the advantage of gaining prominence in the late ’90s, was the only prominent holdover. And in the early 2000s, the closest thing to an alternative was 3LW. No, Dream doesn’t count, but “He Loves U Not” was cute.
Kiely, Adrienne and Naturi looked like possible leaders of the new school, but infighting essentially cut their run short. Naturi left after a much-publicized plate-throwing incident at KFC, and nothing was the same. She was eventually replaced, but the public had moved on. The group failed to chart another single.
The last 3LW song to crack the Billboard Hot 100 was “I Do (Wanna Get Close to You),” produced by Diddy and featuring Loon. It only made it to No. 58 on the Hot 100, but it was popular on TRL and sort of indicated that major success might be around the corner. Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure.
In July of ’82, Evelyn “Champagne” King released a major chune.
“Love Come Down” was the first single from her fifth album, Get Loose. Written by Kashif and produced by Morrie Brown, the song is peak post-disco — the beat knocks super hard, but overall, the production is less “busy” than your average disco song.
Interestingly, for such an upbeat song, the video is remarkably simple. The good sis is literally walking around on a beach by herself for most of the video, and then has a little picnic situation with her boo at the end. The mismatch between song and video is hilarious on its face, but when put in the larger context of the origins of post-disco — namely, Disco Demolition Night — it is actually quite sad.
To avoid the wrath of disco haters — who were overwhelmingly white, racist and homophobic — lots of former disco stars (like Ms. King) not only stripped down their sound, but their presentation as well. Therefore, it’s not far-fetched to assume that the “Love Come Down” video was deliberate in its simplicity.
Evelyn King turned 60 this week, so this TBT selection is primarily in honor of her milestone birthday. In addition to that, however, it is a tribute to all the amazing black artists who had to navigate through an industry that tried to silence their art for no reason other than racism and jealousy.
Today in 2005, the world got to meet 16-year-old Christopher Maurice Brown.
Breezy’s debut single, “Run It!” (featuring Juelz Santana), came just in time for summer ‘05 and was an instant success. Produced by Scott Storch and co-written by Storch and Sean Garrett, the track was as radio-friendly as a track could get in 2005.
As I listen to the track in 2020, it sounds a little “crunkier” than I remember —- I’m almost bracing myself for Lil Jon to scream “Okay!” All of this was probably by design, as were still in the crunk era of hip-hop and contemporary R&B —- albeit in its last days.
Crunk elements aside, Storch and Garrett were at the height of their powers, so there was no denying “Run It!”
Fifteen years later, the track still knocks. Join me in celebrating this classic.
In 1999, George Michael and Mary J. Blige made the bold move of remaking the Stevie Wonder classic, “As.” It doesn’t quite measure up to the classic, but George and Mary did good.
“As” was one of two singles from George Michael’s greatest hits album, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Very Best of George Michael, but was only released outside of the United States because Jay Boberg, then-president of MCA Records (MJB’s label at the time), blocked it — reportedly due to George’s 1998 arrest. It was, however, included on Mary’s fourth album, Mary, and released as a lead single internationally.
Produced by Babyface, the George/Mary version of “As” was a major hit across Europe, peaking at No. 4 in the UK and in the top 10 in many other countries.
Among the slew of high-profile Juneteenth releases was City Girls’ new album, City On Lock, which “leaked” just hours prior to its release. The album came along with a video for its first single, “Jobs.”
As far as lyrical content is concerned, “Jobs” is very much a standard City Girls track and a welcome distraction in these apocalyptic times. “I don’t work jobs, bitch, I am the job,” as Yung Miami raps, is among the caption-ready gems in the two-minute track.
The “Jobs” video shows Yung Miami and JT working at a job that they hate and are ultimately fired from, after which they make OnlyFans accounts. Because agency. Because entrepreneurship. Because they are the job.
As June 19 became June 20 on the East Coast, Beyoncé released a new track titled “Black Parade.” A Juneteenth miracle.
Written by Blu June, Brittany Coney, Worldwide Fresh, Derek Dixie, Kaydence, Caso, Jay-Z and the singer herself, “Black Parade” gives big blackity black energy, and we love to see it.
The bass-heavy track starts with Bey declaring that she’s going back to the South — “where my roots ain’t watered down,” she sings. As the song goes on, the mood oscillates between comical (“me and Jigga, fifty-leven children”) and political (“Need peace and reparation for my people”). Lyrically, it is somewhat reminiscent of “Mood 4 Eva” from the Lion King soundtrack, with Bey making references to ankh, Mansa Musa and a Yoruba goddess.
And of course, there is the obligatory melanin mention. Because black.
It’s not clear if “Black Parade” is a standalone or part of a larger project, but whatever the case, it was right on time. Check it out below.
In the summer of ’92, Boyz II Men was just over a year into its career. The group had released four singles and cracked the top 5 with two of them. Nathan, Michael, Shawn and Wanya were legitimate stars. However, with the group’s fifth single, “End of the Road,” they were about to become superstars.
“End of the Road” was released as the second single from the Boomerang soundtrack. Written and produced by Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons, the song is a lavish display of vocal talent and emotion. It would become Boyz II Men’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending a then-record-breaking 13 weeks at the top of the charts. That record would be broken that very year by Whitney (14 weeks), after which Boyz II Men matched her record, and then broke their own record with an assist from Mariah (16 weeks).
“End of the Road” is literally one of the biggest hits ever and would be the biggest song in most artists’ catalog, but it is only Boyz II Men’s third-biggest hit. Because they were in their bag like that in the early-to-mid ’90s.
We wouldn’t need a reason to celebrate this classic, but with today being Nathan Morris’ birthday, we certainly have one. Click play and sing your heart out.
June 12, 2020, marked the 30th anniversary of Mariah Carey’s eponymous debut album. As far as debuts are concerned, few are more impressive.
Mariah Carey is impressive not just because it has no skips and offers a range in tempo and style, but also because many of those songs were written by a teenage Mariah — in fact, some were written while she was in high school. As the legend goes, her then-future-husband and then-head of Columbia Records, Tommy Mottola, grabbed her demo tape as she handed it to Jerry Greenberg, then-president of Atlantic Records, and the rest is history. Tommy would end up signing and later marrying — and divorcing — her. There are few Mariah write-ups that don’t include this “Cinderella” story, but what many don’t mention is that the songs on that demo tape would end up being on her debut album. In fact, two of them — “Vision of Love” and “Someday” — would end up being No. 1 singles.
This fun fact is important because it demonstrates that she already had an artistic voice before the label assembled the industry’s finest to assist in making her debut album.
Many have inaccurately described Mariah Carey as an artist who made “pop” until she started collaborating with rappers, but not only is that false, it serves as evidence that “pop” is a vague and often-racialized term. Mariah was only considered “pop” because she was white-passing, but the truth is that her sound has always been decidedly R&B, and few songs on her debut LP could be mistaken as anything else.
Another fun fact: Mariah showed her first inclinations towards hip-hop on her debut album, where she raps on “Prisoner,” the album’s 10th track. Looking back, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard collabo should’ve been a lot less surprising, but unfortunately, she had been placed neatly in the “pop” box .
From gospel to doo-wop to quiet storm, Mariah Carey is a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary R&B sounds, and even though Columbia Records was very much going for Whitney vibes, you will come away knowing that this is an artist with an identity of her own.
All four singles from Mariah Carey — “Vision of Love,” “Love Takes Time,” “Someday” and “I Don’t Wanna Cry” — would reach the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, making her the second act ever (after the Jackson 5) to top the chart with their first four singles. Mariah would end up breaking that record when her fifth single (and first from her sophomore LP), “Emotions,” also tops the chart.
Mariah won Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for “Vision of Love”) at the Grammys the following year, and the album would go on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide.
Picking a favorite from an album this good can be a challenge, but on Mariah Carey, there is a clear winner: “Alone in Love.” You know an album is good when your favorite song is a deep cut and not one of its four No. 1 singles. Join me in celebrating this classic body of work.
Chloe x Halle just dropped a video for “Forgive Me,” the third single from Ungodly Hour. Much like they did on “Do It,” the duo is giving us a contemporary sound. Y’know…something fun, something for the summertime.
The “Forgive Me” video matches the song’s dark energy perfectly, and I simply couldn’t ask for more. Check it out below.