When it comes to vocal talent, Monica is someone who simply doesn’t get recognition as the beast she truly is. Some of that lack of recognition can be blamed on the era in which she debuted – Mariah, Whitney, Toni and Mary were all at the height of their powers. Not to mention, she had contemporaries like Brandy and Aaliyah who debuted around the same time (and are nothing to scoff at either). But looking back, especially when you compare it to what we have today, Monica was truly something special.

Monica’s vocal performance on her debut album, Miss Thang, would be impressive for any artist at any age, but when you consider that she was barely a teenager when that album was recorded, it really puts her talent into perspective. It was hard to pick just one track, but for the sake of showcasing her power and range, we’re gonna go with “Why I Love You So Much,” the album’s third single.

Recorded when she was only 13 years old, “Why I Love You So Much” was written and produced by Daryl Simmons, and became Monica’s third top 10 hit in 1996. Today, on her 39th birthday, let’s put some respect on Monica’s name.

Davido and Popcaan got together to create a lil chune that is equal parts Afropop and dancehall. “Risky” is a sparsely produced track about some girl whose body is – you guessed it – risky. The video shows the thickest girl ever playing Davido and Popcaan, having them beefing n shit. Toward the end of the video, we get to find out that the okie doke is even deeper previously thought.

Sidebar: The video starts with a confrontation where Davido and Popcaan speak Nigerian pidgin and Jamaican patois, respectively, and it is the best thing ever.

“Risky” breaks Davido’s two-year stretch of non-album singles, serving as the lead single from his upcoming album, A Good Time, his second LP (and third project overall). The album drops on November 22, a day after his birthday.

I really like Tinashe. A lot. But unfortunately, she doesn’t have the greatest musical instincts and she simply hasn’t been lucky when it comes to achieving commercial success – it’s important to point out the luck factor because there are untalented artists releasing terrible music and still somehow dominating the charts. In addition to all of that, her former record label, RCA, failed her on multiple fronts, which is probably why the two parted ways back in February.

Tinashe has been independent since the split with RCA (despite reportedly being courted by multiple major labels) and is expected to release her first indie project, Songs For You, in the coming weeks. The album’s first single, “Die a Little Bit” (featuring Ms. Banks), dropped a few hours ago, and unfortunately, it’s yet another mismatch of sound, talent and image.

The woman who made “Pretend” can do so much more. Click play.

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)


“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.