This week marks 10 years since Rihanna released her fifth studio album, Loud.

The album’s title is an obvious nod to Rih’s ganja enthusiasm, but it is also an appropriate description for much of the album. Loud was released at a time when Rihanna was decidedly in the “pop” league — yes, there were R&B-ish and dancehall-ish songs here and there, but her albums had more in common with a Katy Perry album than they did with a Beyoncé album.

While Loud is certainly reflective of the landscape of popular music in 2010, it is also reflective of Rihanna’s — or her label’s — “strategy” at the time. It attempts to provide for every music fan — from rock-lite on “California King Bed” to reggae on “Man Down.” While that isn’t bad in and of itself, the album runs the risk of coming off somewhat unfocused — especially from an artist who was releasing an album a year at the time. And knowing that the album was recorded in two weeks across 10 concurrently booked studios — at $25,000 a day, no less — doesn’t help.

The good news is that Loud actually delivers. L.A. Reid assembled some of the strongest pens in the game, including Ester Dean and Tricky Stewart, and Rihanna’s voice did what it does. And even when the songs weren’t so great — like lead single “Only Girl (in the World)” — Rihanna’s radio-friendly vocals made up for where the composition falls short. Not to mention, Rih’s star was perhaps at its brightest, so everything she touched turned to gold, including “Only Girl,” which became her eighth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording.

Loud would earn two more No. 1s: “What’s My Name?” (featuring Drake) and “S&M” (featuring Britney Spears on the remix). With “S&M,” Rihanna became the youngest artist to log 10 toppers on the Billboard Hot 100, a record previously held by Mariah Carey.

Loud went on to sell eight million copies worldwide, making it Rihanna’s second-highest-selling album.

Favorite track: “Fading.”

Lil Nas X is back with a new song that sounds a lot like one of his old songs.

If “Panini” had to a half-brother, it’d be “Holiday,” which is not only similar in beat and cadence, but also has a video that might as well be a continuation of the “Panini” clip. B

What’s interesting about “Holiday,” however, is how it reflects on LNX’s journey so far — he is without shame when he admits that “Old Town Road” was a gimmick-powered success. He also brags about his chart success and the respect he gets from rappers despite being a “pop star.”

“Holiday” was produced by Tay Keith and Take a Daytrip — the latter of which also produced “Panini” — and is the lead single from Lil Nas X’s full-length debut. Check it out below.

It’s not often that a 25-year-old song gets a music video, but this week, the stars aligned and underneath them stood Mariah Carey’s lambs.

Mimi released a clip for “Underneath the Stars,” the second track on Daydream and the album’s planned fourth single in the US. Somewhere along the line, plans to release the song were shelved despite having filmed a music video. No clear reason has ever been given.

Back in 2012, Mariah revealed the existence of a video, but added that it was lost. However, the music gods smiled on us and now we have the long-lost video, which is a mixture of behind-the-scenes shots from the Daydream World Tour and a young Mariah chilling, laying upon the grass, underneath the stars.

If you’re wondering why such a romantic and particularly descriptive song doesn’t have a 26-year-old Mariah cupcakin’ with a love interest, it’s because she was married to a 46-year-old man who was jealous and possessive.

Today is Tevin Campbell’s 44th birthday, so it’s only right that this week’s TBT selecton is something from his catalog.

The year was 1993 and Tevin Campbell was months shy of his 17th birthday and getting ready to release his sophomore album. That album, I’m Ready, was led with what would become Tevin’s signature hit: “Can We Talk.”

Written by Babyface and Daryl Simmons, “Can We Talk” has the kind of lyric and melody combo that makes you want to sing along. They’re “accessible” and perfect for a teenage performer, and Tevin’s youthful vocals executed them perfectly.

The song would go on to peak at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and 27 years later, it is still a favorite among R&B fans and a stable at karaoke bars.

On March 16, 1971, the night of the 13th Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin performed her version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge over Troubled Water.” She had performed it at a few of her shows in the weeks prior, but for the first time, the world got to hear it.

Covering a hit song is always a bold choice, and even more so when that song is only a year old — the original was released in January 1970. However, it was pretty common for artists to cover each other’s shit within months of the original’s release — even Elvis Presley had covered “Bridge” months before Aretha.

On that night at the Grammys, the original won Grammys for Best Contemporary Song, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Most people would think twice about covering a song that big on a night like that, but when you’re Aretha Franklin, you can do whatever the fuck you want — especially when you were one of the muses for its creation.

While the original is a haunting and beautifully sung, Aretha’s version is a lot more soulful. She “takes us to church” in the truest sense of that expression. Her version went on to become a classic in its own right, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance the following year.

Ariana Grande leans into the Mariah Carey emulation on Positions, her sixth studio LP and third in two years. The whistle notes appear more than ever before, and the way she uses them is especially Mimi-esque.

Ariana and TBHits are credited as writers on all 14 tracks of the album, with a host of others — including usual suspects, Tayla Parx and Victoria Monet — providing an assist. The central theme of the album is sex, and unlike previous projects, Ariana stays within the confines of R&B — no random pop ditties here and there.

The album opens with “Shut Up,” a violin-driven track with a meme-ready hook. It’s cute for about the first minute or so, then gets really old really fast.

”Shut Up” is followed by “34+35,” a bop that is as raunchy as it is clever, and a No. 1 hit whenever it gets released — because songs this good rarely get left as album cuts. Sonically, it is exactly what we expect from Ariana, which is basically a revival of late-’90s Mariah.

The Doja-Cat-assisted “Motive” has Ariana grilling a suitor over a beat that is R&B yet house yet trap. The track is by far the most original thing Ariana has ever done and one of the shining moments on Positions. Unfortunately, it is followed by “Just Like Magic,” which sounds dated and downright lazy in style and lyrical content. An entirely skippable dud.

“Off the Table,” a duet with the Weeknd, steers us in a somewhat better direction. The track is definitely in Abel’s sonic territory and makes for great background music.

Ariana rap-sings à la Beyoncé to her sometimes possessive man on “Six Thirty,” which is another one of the album’s best. She teams up with Ty Dolla $ign on “Safety Net,” a decidedly unremarkable track that we could file wherever we filed “Off the Table.”

“My Hair” gives us the most mature-sounding version of Ariana we’ve probably ever experienced. The song can be described as neo-soul-lite — think something you’d hear at a lounge frequented Gen-Xers. The track ends with a lot of whistle note action, and is followed by “Nasty,” which begins with a whistle note that sounds particularly Mariah-ish. “Nasty” is about exactly what you’d expect it to be about, and is sung over a basic-ass track beat. The song kinda comes alive at the bridge, but overall, it is quite forgettable.

“West Side” is a laid-back, semi-futuristic jam that feels cooler than most of the album. The mid-tempo track is just over two minutes long — because Ariana is now a real R&B artist and real R&B artists make their best songs unreasonably short.

“Love Language” sounds like a Neptunes production from 2002. The song, which also has disco-ish elements, ends with a 20-second interlude that is better than most of the album. Ariana plays too much.

“Love Language” is followed by the album’s lead single and title track, and then “Obvious,” the album’s very best song. “Obvious” is squarely in Ariana’s lane, but manages to feel a lot fresher than most of the album — perhaps because the pace of the track is slightly slower than her usual up-tempo pace. It is also one of the stronger vocal performances on Positions.

The album that ends with “POV,” a ballad that underwhelms at first but gets better with each listen.

Positions would benefit from shaving off two or three songs, but overall, it is a solid outing by Ariana Grande. As an artist, she seems to be settling into her style, which is definitely derivative of Mariah Carey’s style, but decidedly bolder in terms of lyrical content.

For an artist on a winning streak like Ari’s, there can be pressure to be “experimental” for the heck of it, but with Positions, she proves that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And in an industry that is always in a hurry to condemn successful, young female artists as “playing it safe,” that is powerful.

Album rating: 8 out of 10 stars.

In July of ’99, Blaque released “Bring It All to Me” as the second single from the group’s self-titled debut album.

(Sidebar: Did you know Blaque stood for Believing in Life and Achieving a Quest for Unity in Everything? The more you know.)

Co-written and co-produced by Cory Rooney, the song samples Shalamar’s “I Don’t Wanna Be the Last to Know.” Take this as more evidence that Shalamar is the most underrated group ever, and that much of the R&B music before 1985 didn’t get a fair shake. Honestly, R&B still doesn’t get a fair shake, but we’ll table that for another post.

The album version of “Bring It All to Me” features the only real vocalist in *NSYNC, JC Chasez, but the whole group is credited. The video version doesn’t include his vocals, which is odd — artists don’t put collaborations on album just to exclude the collaborator when the single is released. My guess is that *NSYNC’s label didn’t want the group to lose pop appeal by associating with a black girl group so early in the group’s career.

And how’s this for random: One of the song’s remixes features a then-unknown 50 Cent.

From the piano line to the beat to the mellow vocals, “Bring It All to Me” is song is so late ’90s smooth. The song would become the group’s biggest hit, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

This week’s TBT selection is in honor of Blaque member Natina Reed, who passed away in 2012. Yesterday would’ve been her 40th birthday.

Today, one of the greatest vocalists in the history of popular music turns 40.

When former child stars turn 40, it really puts into perspective just how young they were when they first started. Monica was only 14 when Miss Thang dropped in 1995, but an even more impressive fact is that she recorded some of the album’s biggest hits in the summer of ’93 — when she was just 12 years old.

She would go on to follow Miss Thang with The Boy Is Mine, which produced her three No. 1 hits. And then the new millennium came, and the music industry basically abandoned most of the greats of ’90s R&Bs. She would have one more top 10 hit, but was would never enjoy the same kind of success she did in the mid-’90s.

Chart positions be damned, Monica was still putting out quality. From “Love All Over Me” to “Everything to Me,” R&B connoisseurs know that the quality never waned.

Join me in celebrating one of the best to ever hold a mic. Below are my four favorites from Monica’s iconic catalog.


“Before You Walk out My Life”


“Why I Love You So Much”


“First Night”


“All Eyez on Me”

Call her President Grande.

In the video for her new single, “Positions,” Ariana Grande is a young, sexy president of the United States, who handles national crises by day and bakes in lingerie at night. The lyrics, however, have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with secks.

“Positions” is the lead single and title track of Ariana’s sixth LP, which drops on October 30. Because so much of her work is Mariah redux, it’s hard to say if Ariana actually has a sound, but that being said, “Positions” feels like standard fare.

The video has cameos from Ariana’s inner circle: Victoria Monet, Tayla Parx, Nija Charles, Tyler Ford, Misha Lambert, and Ari’s mom, Joan Grande. And in under 48 hours, it has already amassed 26 million views on YouTube.

If you’re a betting man, put money on “Positions” becoming Ariana’s fifth No. 1 (and fifth No. 1 debut) on the Billboard Hot 100.