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.



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.

Most people know Barry White as arguably the greatest barrytone — see what I did there? — to ever do it, but he was so much more than vocalist. He was a hell of a songwriter and also an orchestra conductor. The talent jumped out.

Aside from his solo singing career, he assembled and served as the conductor for the Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-member ensemble that backed Barry and the Love Unlimited — his trio of backup singers who also had a career of their own. The orchestra would go on to release its own singles and actually reached No. 1 in 1974 with “The Love’s Theme,” which is one of only 25 purely instrumental songs to rule the Billboard Hot 100.

On what would’ve been his 75th birthday, let’s revisit this classic, which serves as a reminder that lyrics are great, but melody is supreme. Click play.

The day after the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, where Missy Elliott received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, Janet Jackson made an Instagram post congratulating Missy and talking about what a great person she is.

In the video, we find out that Janet’s nickname for Missy is “Jack,” which makes no damn sense. However, what was truly special about the video is that it showed us how close Missy and Janet have remained through the years.

The two icons first collaborated on the first remix of “Son of a Gun (I Bet You Think This Song Is About You),” the third single from Janet’s All for You. The album version was a duet between Janet and Carly Simon, with the latter contributing a spoken performance that is equal parts awkward and amazing. And if you’re wondering why Carly Simon was called, it’s because “Son of a Gun” samples the chorus of Carly’s 1972 hit, “You’re So Vain,” a song that is legendary because it is about three famous exes that remained nameless until 2015, when Ms. Simon confirmed that the second verse is about Warren Beatty.

Similarly, “Son of a Gun” is rumored to be about one of Janet’s exes, namely René Elizondo Jr., who she had just divorced months before the song was recorded. She has never confirmed this publicly, but given that he sued her for spousal support and she talks about a greedy motherfucker in the song, I’d bet money on it.

On the remix, which is about two minutes shorter than the original, we get two verses from Missy and a lot less Carly. There’s a second remix with Diddy, but it doesn’t quite knock like the first one.

Janet co-wrote and co-produced “Son of a Gun” with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis (along with the featured performers). Unlike most of their other collaborations, this track is not so melodic, but the result is the same: magic.

The song’s video features Janet, Missy and a gang of sexy lady ghouls haunting a man as he runs through the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. You love to see it.