R. Kelly, The Buffet © RCA

R. Kelly Is Up To His Old Tricks on ‘The Buffet’


R. Kelly, The Buffet © RCA

R. Kelly • The Buffet • RCA • Release Date: 12.11.15

R. Kelly has never had a problem with being prolific – apparently, he wrote 462 songs for his latest album, The Buffet. After listening to The Buffet, one has to wonder what percentage of those 462 songs involved sex. Likely the percentage is high given the prevalence of sex throughout the course of The Buffet. But enough about Kelly’s obsession with ‘doing it,’ how does The Buffet stack up as its own entity and compared to Kelly’s previous output? It has its moments, never blows you away, and doesn’t come close to Kelly’s most distinguished work. 

“The Poem” sets the tone in salacious fashion – would we expect any less from R. Kelly? The most cringe-worthy part is when R. Kelly slurps like he’s slurping up a drink…geez! “Poetic Sex” naturally follows, chocked full of innuendo as only R. Kelly could execute it. Much like the “The Poem” preceding it, it’s a stretch and clumsy, particularly the cliché horn-dog lyrics, with the charge led by “My lyrics got a big d*ck and I just f*cked the sh*t outta y’all.” Hmm, real romantic there Kells…

“Anything Goes” featuring Ty Dolla $ign finds Kelly continue to ignore the fact he’s closer to 50 as opposed to being in his 20s. To each his own, but even as slick as “Anything Goes” is, isn’t hard to believe R. Kelly’s authenticity at this point? “Let’s Make Some Noise” keeps things sexy, amplified more thanks to Jhené Aiko’s guest appearance. The ‘sex’ ballad is respectable for what is, at least contextually within The Buffet. But still, this is explicit overkill! We get it already Kelly – you enjoy sex! Trey Songz didn’t invent it, you did because you’re a “sex genius.” Phew!

“Marching Band” proves that R. Kelly can compare any and everything to – you guessed it – SEX. Whether it makes you shake your head or laugh, give Kelly credit for “Marching Band”…or not. In addition to Kelly’s lyrics “She blow me like a tuba / I beat it up like a snare drum,” Juicy J delivers a bullet: “In the lobby Four Seasons with like ten or twelve broads / all head to my suite, it’s a million THOT march.” SMH!

If nothing more comes from the Lil Wayne and Jeremih assisted “Switch Up,” we learn that Kelly thinks “You done got way too comfy / girl you ain’t the only one that want me / hit you with the switch up.” “Wanna Be There” featuring Ariirayé is a moment of redemption following Kelly’s empty sexcapades – it marks are reunion with his formerly estranged daughter and his commitment to be better. 

Following “Wanna Be There,” there seems to be an upgrade of sorts, at least where subject matter is concerned. “All My Fault,” “Wake Up Everybody,” “Get Out of Here With Me,” and “Backyard Party” are more soulfully driven and less dependent on sex to fuel them. The best of the quartet are “Wake Up Everybody” and “Backyard Party.” “Wake Up Everybody” is sensual without being oversexed, while “Backyard Party” is tried-and-true R. Kelly – think Chocolate Factory or Love Letter neo-soul. 

“Sextime” may be shallow, but it’s lush and stands taller than say “Poetic Sex.” The standard edition of The Buffet concludes with “Let’s Be Real Now” featuring Tinashe. For those who like to splurge, the deluxe edition of The Buffet adds five tracks: “I Just Want To Thank You” featuring Wizkid, “Keep Searchin’,” “Sufferin’,” “I Tried” and “Barely Breathing.” The best of the bunch is “Sufferin’,” an enjoyable, well rounded throwback soul cut.

The verdict on The Buffet is as aforementioned; the album has its moments. At times, R. Kelly tries too hard, hence making the first portion album way oversexed. Once he settles in with some dashes of soul and backs off of all things profane, The Buffet is much more enjoyable. A classic – no, never, but definitely an improvement over Black Panties if nothing more!

Favorites: “Let’s Make Some Noise,” “Marching Band,” “Wake Up Everybody,” “Backyard Party” and “Sextime”

★★★

Meghan Trainor, Title © Epic

25 Chart Takeaways: It’s “All About That Bass” 


Meghan Trainor, Title © Epic

It takes a big album to knock off Taylor Swift, and that’s exactly what Meghan Trainor did. It also takes a special R&B album to debut within the Billboard 200 top 10, and Jazmine Sullivan’s superb Reality Show was unable to do so. The aforementioned observations and more make up this week’s 25 chart takeaways.

1) It’s “all about” those numbers as Meghan Trainor debuts with sizable sells (and streams) at #1 on the Billboard 200.

2) Do we really need to mention who sits at #2? Her name is Taylor Swift and her album 1989 is ‘the second coming’ – well not literally.

3) As Blink-182 once sang, “Stay Together For the Kids.” That really has little/nothing to do with Kidz Bop 27 debuting at #3, but it felt appropriate to say.

Mark Ronson, Uptown Special © RCA

4) It’s an Uptown Special for Mark Ronson at #5. Do you “Feel Right”?

5) Maroon 5 can probably thank “Sugar” for their rise from #15 to #8 this week. Back in the top 10 baby!

6) Former British X-Factor contestant Ella Henderson finds her US debut Chapter One debuting just outside of the top 10 at #11.

Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show © RCA

7) For the comeback kid Jazmine Sullivan, the #12 debut of her third effort Reality Show has to suck a little. That said only her debut album Fearless hit the top 10 back in 2008.

8) After reasserting her Grande-ness in the top 10, Ariana Grande falls from her perch from #10 to #15. Sometimes you just can have your Everything.

9) The Sremmlife must only be good for one week – Rae Sremmurd’s debut album falls from #5 to #17.

10) Is Frozen finally beginning to melt? The ubiquitous soundtrack falls from #16 to #25 this week.

11) After seeing a spike last week, Iggy Azalea’s Reclassified ‘reclassifies’ from the top 20 to the top 40 moving from #18 to #31.

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah © RCA

12) Need it be mentioned that D’Angelo’s Black Messiah continues to see a drop in sales/impact? Black Messiah falls from #34 to #43 this week.

13) Fabolous’s The Young OG Project also hasn’t experienced good fortunes on the Billboard 200. This week, Loso drops from #33 to #50.

14) American Apparel must be hot again. 5 Seconds of Summer’s self-titled debut rises from #78 to #55. Hey, nothing wrong with the fact that “She Looks So Perfect.”

Chase Rice, Ignite the Night © Columbia Nashville

15) The night is back on fire y’all as Chase Rice’s Ignite The Night rises from #115 to #63.

16) Nobody is buying K. Michelle’s heart, or more accurately her album. Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart? falls from #47 to #70. Abysmal.

17) A steep fall for a legend as Barbra Streisand’s once preeminent Partners albums tumbles from #58 to #81 this week.

18) Another bad week for Charli XCX as Sucker slips from #72 to #94 five short weeks in.

Tyler Carter, Leave Your Love © Rise

19) Tyler Carter’s contemporary R&B effort, Leave Your Love EP, debuts at #110.

20) The soundtrack to the Academy Award-nominated Boyhood enters the Billboard 200 at #128.

21) Remember when I said that American Apparel was hot again? Well only to an extent as 5 Second of Summer’s second album on the charts, LIVESOS falls nearly 100 spots from #37 to #132.

Pink Floyd, The Endless River © Columbia

22) Down 33 more spots for Pink Floyd’s Endless River (#100 to #133). 

23) I know nothing about this group, but anybody named Cody Canada And The Departed deserves a mention right? Hippielovepunk lands at #136. 

24) Jhené Aiko reenters the Billboard 200 at #169 with her 2014 debut LP, Souled Out. The album, which debuted solidly at #3, has only spent 11 weeks on the Billboard 200.

25) Donny Osmond has seen better days. The Soundtrack of My Life starts at a modest #181 on the charts.

Luke James © Island

Rankings: Best R&B Albums of 2014


Teyana Taylor, VII © G.O.O.D. Ranking things is hard – understatement. So look, there were many sound R&B albums in 2014 – don’t let the abysmal sales dissuade you. That said, there were only a couple of truly great ones – led by one unopposed homerun – that sit atop the standings. Here are the 25 26 Best R&B albums of 2014…maybe.

1) D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah 

D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah © RCA

There was no better R&B album in 2014. It’s not even that close as D’Angelo came back in a huge way. R&B hasn’t sounded like this since…you get the idea.

Two Favorites: “1000 Deaths” & “Sugah Daddy”

2) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour © Capitol

If you consider Smith’s album to be an R&B album, well, it definitely sits atop the list.

Two Favorites: “Stay With Me” & “I’m Not The Only One”

 

3) Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions

Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions © Capitol

London definitely gave Mary a lift. Too bad the sales didn’t give her one as well – no “Therapy” for that, unfortunately!

Two Favorites: “Therapy” & “Whole Damn Year”

 

4) Pharrell Williams, G I R L

Pharrell Williams, G I R L © Columbia

We “came and got it” Skateboard P, and it was G-O-O-D.

Two Favorites: “Happy” & “Gust of Wind”

 

5) Prince, Art Official Age

Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE © Warner Bros Eccentricity is always a win in my book – let’s “Funknroll!”

Two Favorites: “Breakdown” & “Funknroll”

6) K. Michelle, Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart?

K. Michelle, Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? © Atlantic

Can’t knock K. Michelle for her exceptional pipes or even her honesty here. She just wants the perfect man, and she knows “Drake Would Love” her!

Two Favorites: “Love ‘Em All” and “Maybe I Should Call”

 

7) Jennifer Hudson, JHUD

Jennifer Hudson, JHUD © RCA

I can’t dance, but the grooves on JHUD certainly made me want to.

Two Favorites: “It’s Your World” and “I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel)”

 

8) Trey Songz, Trigga

Trey Songz, Trigga © Atlantic

I am a firm believer that Trey Songz really did invent sex. He loves to sing about it too much.

Two Favorites: “Cake” and “SmartPhones”

 

9) August Alsina, Benediction

August Alsina, Testimony © Def Jam

Since it’s the Benediction, let the church say, amen!

Two Favorites: “Make It Home” (featuring Jeezy) & “Benediction” (featuring Rick Ross)

10) Mali Music, Mali Is…

Mali Music, Mali Is © RCA

Underrated, I definitely “Believe” in Mali Is… There’s plenty of “Heavy Love” to be found here.

Two Favorites: “Heavy Love” & “Believe”

11) Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Give The People What They Want © Daptone

Give The People What They Want is just another sound traditional R&B album by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – no “Retreat” necessary here!

Two Favorites: “Retreat!” & “People Get What They Deserve”

 

12) Kelis, Food

Kelis, Food © Ninja Tune

A yummy, yet underrated album – love those “Jerk Ribs” especially!

Two Favorites: “Jerk Ribs” & “Floyd”

13) Ariana Grande, My Everything

Ariana Grande, My Everything © Republic

Is she purely pop or is she R&B enough to hang? My Everything is a solid album, and the urban influence is strong, so, we’ll put the “Problem” child in the middle.

Two Favorites: “Problem” and “Bang Bang” (Jessie J featuring Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj)

14) Chris Brown, X

Chris Brown, X © RCA

He definitely deserves some credit for making a respectable album following that mess named Fortune.

Two Favorites: “Add Me In” and “New Flame”

15) Marsha Ambrosius, Friends & Lovers

Marsha Ambrosius, Friends & Lovers

Friends & Lovers ranks among the most sensual albums to grace this list. Not everyday there’s a song named “69” – just saying!

Two Favorites: “69” & “Stronger”

 

16) Luke James, Luke James

Luke James © Island

Another quietly issued album, Luke James has been building buzz for years since “I Want You” was released.

Two Favorites: “Trouble” and “Options”

 

17) Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit

Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit © Interscope

He’s a pretty confident dude – I would be to if I were “The Man.” 

Two Favorites: “The Man” & “Love Is The Answer”

 

18) Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce

Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love Marriage & Divorce © Motown Toni and Babyface seem to cover their bases with the title itself. The album does so too.

Two Favorites: “Hurt You” & “Where Did It Go Wrong?”

 

19) Tinashe, Aquarius

Tinashe, Aquarius © RCA Tinashe is just “2 On” to leave off the list – she can even make a “Thug Cry!”

 Two Favorites: “2 On” & “Thug Cry”

20) Joe, Bridges

Joe, Bridges © Plaid Lover

The lack of flash or maybe just Joe’s continual consistency keeps this album lower than it should be on this list. It’s no “Dilemma” though.

Two Favorites: “Till The Rope Gives Way” & “The Rest Will Follow”

 21) Jhené Aiko, Souled Out

Jhené Aiko, Souled Out © Def Jam

One of the quietest R&B albums on this list, it is an interesting listen by all means – no worries and no “Pressure” Jhené.

Two Favorites: “Limbo Limbo Limbo” & “The Pressure”

22) Leela James, Fall For You

Leela James, Fall For You © BMG Rights Mgmt

Didn’t we all fall for Leela James this year? Fall For You was another fine addition to her discography!

Two Favorites: “Who’s Gonna Love You More” & “Say That” (featuring Anthony Hamilton)

 

23) Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse

Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse

We all know it didn’t sell and MC has had a bad year, but the album wasn’t nearly as bad everything else – it definitely has its “Beautiful” moments.

Two Favorites: “Beautiful” & “Heavenly (No Ways Tired / Can’t Give Up Now)” 

 

24) Daley, Days & Nights

Daley, Days & Nights © Republic

Yeah, few people know who Daley is, but they should – this British contemporary R&B singer is legit.

Two Favorites: “Blame The World” & “Broken”

 

25) Ledisi, The Truth

Ledisi, The Truth © Verve 

Though not nearly as distinctive as some of her previous albums, The Truth still shows Ledisi’s craft for making a solid R&B album.

Two Favorites: “I Blame You” and “88 Boxes”

 

26) Teyana Taylor, VII

Teyana Taylor, VII © G.O.O.D. Quietly released, there were plenty of pros about Teyana Taylor’s debut.

Two Favorites: “Just Different” and “Request”

Keyshia Cole, Point of No Return © Interscope

The Numbers Don’t Lie – The R&B Album Is Dead (Commercially) 


Keyshia Cole, Point of No Return © Interscope

As they say, “the proof is in the pudding.” What pudding you ask – R&B album sales ladies and gentlemen. It’s one thing that album sales are down across all genres, but if you examine R&B albums themselves, you’ll see that R&B sales are nothing short of abysmal. Basically, the commercially successful R&B album seems to be dead as it is.

Below are a list of the majority of R&B albums released in 2014, their peak position on the Billboard 200, and their first week sales. Also for a number of the albums, there is a link to articles discussing the album sales.

1) Ariana Grande, My Everything, #1, 169,000 copies

2) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour #2, 166,000 copies

3) Chris Brown, X, #2, 146,000 copies

4) Pharrell Williams, GIRL #2, 112,000 copies

5) Trey Songz, Trigga – #1, 105,000 copies

6) Jhené Aiko, Souled Out – #3, 70,000 copies

7) Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce – #4, 67,000 copies

8) August Alsina, Testimony – #2, 67,000 copies

9) Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse, #3, 58,000 copies

10) Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions, #9, 55,000 copies

11) Kem, Promise to Love, #3, 52,000 copies

12) Prince, Art Official Age, #5, 51,000 copies

13) Aloe Blacc, Lift Your Spirit, #4, 45,000 copies

14) Jason Derulo, Talk Dirty, #4, 44,000 copies

15) Jennifer Lopez, A.K.A., #8, 33,000 copies

16) Ashanti, Braveheart, #10, 28,000

17) Prince & 3rdeyegirl, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, #8, 26,000 copies

18) Keyshia Cole, Point of No Return #9, 25,000

19) Robin Thicke, Paula, #9, 24,000 copies

20) Jennifer Hudson, JHUD, #10, 24,000 copies

21) SoMo, SoMo, #6, 23,000 copies

22) Ledisi, The Truth, #14, 20,000 copies

23) Candice Glover, Music Speaks, #14, 19,000 copies

24) Tinashe, Aquarius, #17, 19,000 copies

25) Marsha Ambrosius, Friends & Lovers, #12, 17,000 copies

26) Tank, Stronger, #17, 17,000 copies

27) Joe, Bridges, #17, 15,000 copies

Ariana Grande, My Everything © Republic

Here are some takeaways. First, sadly, no R&B album sold greater than 200,000 copies, with Ariana Grande’s pop/R&B effort moving the most copies its first week selling 169,000 copies. Last year in December, the music industry was blessed with Beyoncé issuing Beyoncé, which sold 617,000 copies its first week. Sure, half-million sales don’t happen everyday – or better yet every year – but not surpassing the 200,000 mark at least once is upsetting.

Of this list, only five albums sold greater than 100,000 copies. SMH! The percentage of R&B albums debuting with 100,000 copies or more is a tepid 19%. So, lets aim lower. The number of albums selling 75,000 copies or more is 6 – SMDH. Percentage wise, that gets us up to 22%. So aiming even lower, how about R&B albums debuting with 50,000 copies or more. That accounts for 12 out of 27 of the albums, but still comes below 50% of the albums on this list – 44%.

So, not even 50% of R&B albums were able to sell 50,000 copies in 2014 (accounting for major R&B releases of course). If you average the sales of the 27 R&B albums on the given list, the average number of copies sold for an R&B album in 2014 was 55,000 copies. While that 55,000 copies is a greater average than the most of the albums on this list actually sold, that number is driven up by the topmost albums on this list.

Here’s the catch. Some might argue that Ariana Grande and Sam Smith are more pop-oriented than pure R&B singers. If that’s the case, eliminating their numbers makes the news even more devastating for R&B artists. That lowers the average debut for an R&B album in 2014 to just shy of 47,000 copies. It would also mean that out of the ‘true’ 25 R&B albums on this list, only three were album to sell more than 100,000 copies (12%), only four were able to sell 75,000+ (16%), and on 10 sold more than 50,000 copies (40%).

Anyway that you crunch the numbers, the R&B album is dead according to sales and stats. Sure, some of the singles still catch on, but then again, do they? The top selling albums on this list are generally the ones with the singles that have broken through. There are exceptions, specifically Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty, but many of the bottom feeders of the list don’t have a big hit to their name.

So what is the best use of data like this? Well, it’s to figure out what’s the best way to make R&B a lucrative genre again. Does it mean ‘selling out’ and making everything more pop centric just to earn commercial success, or does it mean approaching promotional strategy differently and more aggressively. Furthermore, for the R&B singer that is still on a major label, how does he or she coax the label to put in the money and work to make the sales happen? Maybe I’m an outsider looking in, but many of the promotional rollouts for some truly worthwhile R&B albums have been pretty lackadaisical.

Chris Brown, X © RCA

10 Urban Joints To Close September


Jhené Aiko, Souled Out © Def Jam

September has come to a close boys and girls… sorry, thought I was still teaching my music classes. Got your attention, right? Well September is concluding, and there were some notable urban albums and songs that were unleashed upon the world. Sure, everyone is crying over their album sales, but at least there a good song or two to spin… Here are 10 Urban joints to close September!

1) Prince, “The Breakdown”

Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE © Warner Bros

It’s been years since the Purple One has sounded this invested – squeals, vocal grit, and tenderness all packed in one sensation ballad. 

2) Jennifer Hudson featuring R. Kelly, “It’s Your World”

Jennifer Hudson, JHUD © RCA

Jennifer Hudson shows she can dance with the best of ‘em throughout her third studio album, JHUD. Her collaborative effort with R. Kelly is definitely one of the albums best moments. 

3) Luke James featuring Rick Ross, “Options”

Luke James © Island 

On this deeply personal, emotional cut, Luke James spills his heart with the help of the Boss.

4) Lenny Kravitz, “Ooo Baby Baby”

Lenny Kravitz, Strut © Kobalt

Who would’ve thought that Lenny Kravitz could cover Smokey Robinson so compellingly? He sure does know how to Strut.

5) Chris Brown featuring Usher & Rick Ross, “New Flame”

Chris Brown, X © RCA

Brown is always best when he eschews his bad boy, but he doesn’t totally get that still on latest album X. Despite still trying to be ‘bad,’ “New Flame” is one of his most alluring songs, outshining everything else that graced that horrid thing called Fortune. 

6) Jhené Aiko, “The Pressure”

Jhené Aiko, Souled Out © Def JamJhené Aiko’s album Souled Out is definitely a heady, deep affair, but still quite accessible. “The Pressure” finds Aiko dealing with numerous pressures within her life, including that of a music career. 

7) Jennifer Hudson, “Dangerous”

Jennifer Hudson, JHUD © RCAThe opener from JHUD, Hudson proves that she can slaughter a neo-disco track like none other. Sure, ole girl danced a little on I Remember Me, but like “It’s Your World,” “Dangerous” helps to makes stepping her M.O. for the majority of JHUD.

8) Luke James, “Make Love To Me”

Luke James © Island

Yeah, it’s been around since 2012, but “Make Love To Me” just gracing the deluxe version of Luke James is a travesty. Hands down, this sensual jam is one of the best, if not the best of James’ underrated debut.   

9) Chris Brown, “Time for Love”

Chris Brown, X © RCA

Again, Brown’s best moments from X arrive when he isn’t being naughty. “Time For Love” is another one of those where he doesn’t go the misogynistic or hedonistic route. 

10) Prince, “Clouds”

Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE © Warner Bros

While the urban flare of “Clouds” doesn’t supplant “The Breakdown,” it’s another slick, worthwhile jam for a resurgent Prince.

Photo Credits: ©RCA, @Def JAM, © Kobalt, ©Warner Bros, © Island
Barbra Streisand, Partners © Columbia

57th Annual Grammys Scorecard (Take 2…)


Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour  © Capitol

The official cut-off date for eligibility for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards is September 30, 2014. The end of September is filled with albums that are certainly looking to compete for music’s most prestigious awards. That said, there are also notable albums released after last year’s cutoff date that can’t be written off. From my perspective, here are among the best available albums within a number of Grammy categories. 

Green represents some revisions/things added from the previous post as well as potential nominations who have ‘gained’ grown in my opinion. Red marks nominations that may have lost ground, also in my opinion.

Record of the Year

Pharrell Williams, G I R L © Columbia

1) “Happy,” Pharrell Williams

2) “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

3) “Dark Horse,” Katy Perry featuring Juicy J

4) “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX 

5) “Problem,” Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea

The record of the year category continues to be a tight race each year. With so many big singles released in 2014, it won’t be a surprise that big pop records could dominate this category. “Happy” has lost some steam after a formidable run, but it still could get honored here given its widespread impact.

No changes here for now.  That said, could “Bang Bang” (Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj) make a late push?  What is missing form this category is a big rock record, which has often been victorious here.  

Album of the Year

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour  © Capitol

1) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour

2) Beyoncé, Beyoncé 

3) Pharrell Williams, G I R L

4) Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence

5) Jack White, Lazaretto 

Much like last year, finding one dominant album that is a shoe-in for the “W” here isn’t easy. Sam Smith has certainly had a big year, but what about the omitted Frozen soundtrack, which was the bestselling album of the year? Beyoncé is considered a ‘veteran’ artist and the upmost entertainer at this point, and her fifth album was a shock to everyone. These five albums could be frontrunners, but then some obscure album could also sneak into this category.  

While I’ve been high on these five albums throughout 2014, there are some x-factors.  Barbra Streisand’s Partners is an album that could earn a nomination in this category by all means – it’s a duets album with a veteran vocalist who continues to allure vocally.  Katy Perry could knock Lana Del Rey and possibly Jack White out of nomination given the hits that Prism has produced with “Roar” and “Dark Horse” especially.  The Black Keys and are Grammy darlings, and could find themselves nominated, even with Turn Blue falling short of the glory of their previous albums. 

Song of the Year

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour  © Capitol

1) “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith 

2) “All of Me,” John Legend 

3) “Happy,” Pharrell Williams

4) “Let It Go,” Idina Menzel 

5) “Sing,” Ed Sheeran

It won’t be surprising to see Pharrell Williams score a nomination (or nod) here for “Happy.” Also, “Let It Go” seems almost too big to at least honor it with a big-time nomination, if not a victory itself. Then again, should Sam Smith lose to Williams in the record of the year category, doesn’t “Stay With Me” have to win? Throw in the possibly ineligible “All of Me” by John Legend and the previously-nominated Ed Sheeran’s “Sing” and the category is another tightly contested battle. The best, most true song here does belong to Legend, hands down, but Smith stands a strong chance.

Again, a lot depends in this category if “All of Me” is eligible… It’s the best available in regards to being a ‘song’ and not a ‘record.’  

Best New Artist

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour  © Capitol

1) Sam Smith 

2) Iggy Azalea

3) Ariana Grande

4) August Alsina

5) 5 Seconds of Summer 

Another stacked category, it is hard to envision anyone else but Sam Smith wins this one. That said, Grande and Azalea both have compelling arguments. So does August Alsina, but with R&B as underrated as it is of late, his chances become slimmer. Sure, 5 Seconds of Summer are crowd pleasers, but they just might be the Justin Bieber type acknowledgement of this year with little chance to win. 

No change. 

Pop Solo Performance

Pharrell Williams, G I R L © Columbia

1) Pharrell Williams, “Happy”

2) Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”

3) Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”

4) Sia, “Chandelier” 

5) Ed Sheeran, “Sing” 

6) Lana Del Rey, “Ultraviolence” 

Ultimately, “Happy” should probably be nominated in urban categories, but it just might keep others from achieving Grammy glory. Again, it seems that “Stay With Me” will be a huge challenger, not to mention the possibility of a big record like “Wrecking Ball” actually getting some love. Other efforts like “Chandelier,” “Sing,” and “Ultraviolence” should be ignored but have an uphill battle against the top.

No change.  

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Ariana Grande, My Everything © Republic

1) Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang” 

2) “RUDE,” Magic!

3) Maroon 5, “Maps”

4) Ariana Grande featuring Zedd, “Break Free” 

5) 5 Seconds of Summer, “She Looks So Perfect”

“Bang Bang” is deserved hands down should it be nominated. “Rude”, should it be nominated was a former #1 hit, in addition to being the best part of the band’s debut album, Don’t Kill The Magic. 

No change. 

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Barbra Streisand, Partners © Columbia

1) Barbra Streisand, Partners

2) Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Cheek to Cheek

3) ???

Barbra Streisand currently leads the charge in the traditional pop category.  

Best Pop Vocal Album

Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour  © Capitol

1) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour

2) Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence

3) Katy Perry, Prism

4) Ed Sheeran, X

5) Ariana Grande, My Everything

We’ll take Pharrell Williams out of this category. Even so, there are no shortage of scenarios for each of the five albums. Grande, who I have placed in 5th place has a compelling argument herself. That said, ultimately, if the nominations fall the way that I have them, Smith wins, even against Katy Perry who has yet to win a Grammy.

It’s hard to imagine Maroon 5 not scoring a nomination for V, but should Ariana Grande‘s My Everything be ignored, given the hits she’s delivered in 2014? Yours Truly received no nominations, but is 21 years old still too young to get some Grammy-love?  

Best Dance/Electronic Album

1) Lady Gaga, ARTPOP

2) Skrillex, RECESS 

3) Porter Robinson, Worlds

Lady Gaga may pick up another Grammy. Then again, she may not.

Best Rock Performance

Jack White, Lazaretto © Columbia

1) Jack White, “Lazaretto” 

2) The Black Keys, “Turn Blue” 

3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “American Dream Plan B” 

4) Bruce Springsteen, “Just Like The Fire Would” 

5) Counting Crows, “Paisley Park” 

Jack White had a bad Grammy night when his first album Blunderbuss was nominated (he won nothing), but he might find himself winning Best Rock Performance. Still, a win won’t come easily.

Can Ryan Adams score a nod here for “Gimme Something Good?” 

Best Rock Album

Jack White, Lazaretto © Columbia

1) Jack White, Lazaretto

2) The Black Keys, Turn Blue

3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye

4) Coldplay, Ghost Stories

5) Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes

Jack White may have lost to The Black Keys in this category last go round, but I can’t see him losing to the Keys again. Both albums were solid, but White may have the edge this time. Coldplay may very well receive a nomination, but they’ve done better… just saying!

Best Alternative Music Album

1) Arcade Fire, Reflektor 

2) Beck, Morning Phase

3) St. Vincent, St. Vincent 

4) Spoon, They Want My Soul 

5) The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt 

The Alternative Music album category is always tight, and this year is no different. I’m not convinced that The Gaslight Album will even make the cut, but for now they stick in the fifth spot. Beck’s Morning Phase is a fine album that is deserving of this honor, but I don’t put it past last year’s high-flying double album by Arcade Fire (Reflektor) to ultimately go home with the win.

Some may argue that Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is too dance-oriented for this category.  Still, it’s hard to label Arcade Fire as an dance/electronic act, even for one album, against more tried-and-true electro acts.  I still like them as a frontrunner in this category, which they lost to The Black Keys previously (they’d end up winning the album of the year for The Suburbs though). 

I’d like to see a nomination for Lykke Li potentially for I Never Learn, but I’m not confident she gets a nod in the least… If she does, should she fall into the pop category? Furthermore, would Lykke Li really supplant a nod for a more tried-and-true pop act?  

Best R&B Performance

Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

1) Beyoncé, “Partition” 

2) Prince, “BREAKDOWN” 

3) Aloe Blacc, “The Man” 

4) Pharrell Williams, “Marilyn Monroe” 

5) Jhené Aiko, “The Pressure” 

6) Tank, “You’re My Star” 

The top three songs in this category are juggernauts. Likely, Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” will be forgotten after cooling off since its peak, but Beyoncé’s “Partition” will remain fresh. Still, besting “Partition” should be Prince’s “BREAKDOWN,” which just might be the best, most compelling R&B performance of the year.

I’m not sold on the aforementioned songs as there are plenty of worthwhile omissions.  That said, I don’t feel like I even know/understand the R&B categorical nominations as of late.  Still, Ledisi could earn love here (“I Blame You”), Jennifer Hudson (“It’s Your World“), Luke James (“Exit Wounds”), etc.  

Best R&B Song

Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE © Warner Bros

1) “The Breakdown” (Prince) 

2) “Drunk in Love” (Beyoncé)

3) “The Pressure” (Jhené Aiko) 

4) “Marilyn Monroe” (Pharrell Williams) 

5) “Benediction” (August Alsina) 

6) “You’re My Star” (Tank) 

Who likely wins this – probably Beyoncé for “Drunk in Love.” That said, the best song that could potentially be nominated here is Prince’s awesome “The Breakdown.”

No change. 

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Pharrell Williams, G I R L © Columbia

1) Pharrell Williams, G I R L

2) August Alsina, Testimony

3) Trey Songz, Trigga

4) Jhené Aiko, Souled Out

5) Chris Brown, X 

Pharrell Williams stands a great shot if he is nominated in this category. That said, G I R L could be nominated as a pop album, but would face steeper competition, specifically with Sam Smith. Beyoncé plays spoils if her self-titled album is nominated here instead of Best R&B album. 

No change. 

Best R&B Album

Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

1) Beyoncé, Beyoncé

2) Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE

3) Jennifer Hudson, JHUD

4) Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love Marriage & Divorce

5) Michael Jackson, Xscape

5) Kem, Promise To Love 

Predicting the Best R&B Album anymore is almost pointless. You just never know how the vote will sway in recent times. If Beyoncé is nominated in this category, it wins hands down. If not, the door is likely opened. Michael Jackson’s album Xscape has received mixed reactions, so I don’t put much stock into it sticking as a nominee (Michael wasn’t even nominated a couple of years back).  Jennifer Hudson’s JHUD is a terrific album, and even though sales are subpar, this is a category Hudson won in 2008.  Still, bet on Beyoncé or Prince.  

Best Rap Performance

Common, Nobody's Smiling © Def Jam

1) Common featuring Vince Staples, “Kingdom”

2) Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda” 

3) Childish Gambino, “Sweatpants”

4) Rick Ross featuring Jay-Z“Devil Is A Lie” 

5) Jeezy featuring Jay-Z, “Seen It All” 

Honestly, wouldn’t it be nice to see Childish Gambino get recognized for Because The Internet? That said, likely Gambino will have a Kendrick Lamar night and go home empty-handed. Common definitely has a shot. Maybe Nicki Minaj can break her Grammy drought with “Anaconda?”

No change. 

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Beyoncé, Beyoncé © Sony

1) Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Drunk In Love” 

2) Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea, “Problem” 

3) Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”

4) Iggy Azalea featuring Rita Ora, “Black Widow” 

5) August Alsina featuring Rick Ross, “Benediction”

If this field look liked this, it’s actually sort of tight. That isn’t saying this is the strongest category of Best Rap/Sung collaborations ever, but at least the top three are huge. Still, don’t underestimate the power of the Queen – Beyoncé and her partner in crime Jay-Z that is.

No change. 

Best Rap Song

Iggy Azalea, The New Classic © Virgin EMI Records, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited

1) “Fancy” (Iggy Azalea) 

2) “Kingdom” (Common)

3) “Me OK” (Jeezy) 

4) “Sweatpants” (Childish Gambino) 

5) “Devil Is A Lie” (Rick Ross) 

There have been stronger rap songs in the past. The strongest song is actually “Kingdom,” but doesn’t Iggy Azalea need to be recognized somewhere or somehow for “Fancy?”

No change. 

Best Rap Album

Common, Nobody's Smiling © Def Jam

1) Common, Nobody’s Smiling

2) Childish Gambino, Because The Internet

3) Jeezy, Seen It All: The Autobiography

4) Iggy Azalea, The New Classic

5) Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron

6) The Roots, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin 

Rap has not been at the strength it’s been in the past. There was no Kendrick Lamar caliber album this year, and that’s no shade to the genre or the artists who released albums this year. If I had to pick out the best rap effort of the year, it would be a closely contested contest between Common and Childish Gambino. Common is the ‘darling’ of the Grammys, so I’d give his underappreciated Nobody’s Smiling the edge. But then we all all Macklemore & Ryan Lewis stun Kendrick Lamar, and Iggy Azalea has definitely had some kind of year… 

No change. 

Best Country Album

Miranda Lambert, Platinum © RCA Records Label Nashville

1) Miranda Lambert, Platinum

2) Eric Church, The Outsiders

3) Tim McGraw, Sundown Heaven Town

4) Brantley Gilbert, Just As I Am

5) Hunter Hayes, Storyline 

Best Country Album is one of those categories in recent times that has yielded some surprises. One is that for as popular and consistent as Taylor Swift has been, she has only one Best Country album once, and that was for album Fearless which also won album of the year. Last year’s winner was Kacey Musgraves. So, call Best country album a crapshoot of sorts. Any of the nominees listed her could win or lose. Miranda Lambert has had previous success, and Platinum was an exceptional album, so I give her the nod at the moment.

No change. 

PHOTO CREDITS: © SONY, © CAPITOL, © COLUMBIA, © REPUBLIC, © WARNER BROS, © DEF JAM, © RCA RECORDS LABEL NASHVILLE
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Cheek To Cheek © Streamline/Interscope/Columbia

Looking Ahead to September: 10 Most Anticipated Albums


Your face when your like wow that wasn't the best intro ….

A photo posted by Jennifer Hudson (@iamjhud) on

August is nearly done – thank goodness? Why ‘thank goodness’ you ask – well because the release weeks at times left much to be desired.   September 2014 is definitely promising with a number of new releases. After examining a whole list via amazon.com, here are my 10 most Anticipated albums for September 2014!

 

1) Maroon 5, V (Interscope) September 2

81wKk1GFETL._SL1500_ I haven’t exactly ‘hearted’ Maroon 5 as much as once did – Overexposed was my least favorite album – but who can resist Adam Levine’s vocals seriously? “Maps” is no “This Love,” but let’s keep our fingers crossed V is truly special.

 

2) Lecrae, Anomaly (Reach Records) September 9

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The Christian rap thing isn’t necessarily my lane (being honest), but I am a fan of Lecrae by all means.

 

3) Jhené Aiko, Souled Out (Def Jam) September 9

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Usually, this guy prefers powerhouse vocals, but Jhené Aiko definitely provides an interesting antithetical approach. Her coolness works, or at least it did on Sail Out EP.

 

4) Barbra Streisand, Partners (Columbia) September 16

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It’s Barbra Streisand – there really is nothing else to say. The legendary vocalist has a fantastic voice STILL at 72 years old.

 

5) Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Cheek to Cheek (Columbia/ Interscope), September 23

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Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga really recorded an album? Amazing. Judging by the track list, it’s definitely in Tony Bennett’s lane, but who wouldn’t want to record with a legend? Plus, after ARTPOP was more lukewarmly received, Gaga likely needs to plan her next career/album move.

 

6) Tweedy, Sukierae (ANTI), September 23

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The Wilco front man is releasing this highly anticipated solo album. Jeff Tweedy is one of the most versatile musicians of the times, and Sukierae should prove to be exceptional.

 

7) Jennifer Hudson, JHUD (RCA), September 23

817gCL7+rxL._SL1500_ My girl Jennifer Hudson is back with her long-awaited third album, JHUD. “Walk It Out” definitely satisfied me, even if it was more gimmicky than Hudson’s past work, but it wasn’t exactly a radio staple. Hopefully, Hudson really tries to promote this album. R&B has been suffering for sales.

 

8) Lenny Kravitz, Strut (Kobalt), September 23

51t1+3OitCL It’s a shame more people aren’t on the Lenny Kravitz bandwagon – he’s a truly awesome musician. Regardless is no one else indulges, this guy will be there to buy.

 

9) Weezer, Everything Will Be Alright in The End (Universal Republic), September 30

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Weezer’s last album Hurley wasn’t my favorite, but that doesn’t dissuade me from being excited about a new album from the aging hipsters.

 

10) Gerard Way, Hesistant Alien (Reprise), September 30

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My Chemical Romance is no more, but Gerard Way is still in the house. As Fantasia sang, “It ain’t all bad.”

 

25 Best R&B Albums of 2013


John Legend-20130621-53

It truly saddens me to see R&B, a personal favorite style of music, in a state of uncertainty.  2013 found the numbers of R&B down considerably, a trend that is consistent year in and year out. Save for a select few commercial bright spots (led by an unexpected Beyoncé album), R&B only dented the charts.   Even so, finding 25 albums with some significance wasn’t difficult to do.  Sure, some of the lowest ranked albums have their flaws, but each has some reason for being selected.  Enjoy! 

1

Janelle Monáe

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_In a world where R&B and soul music have cooled off considerably, one incredibly talented Janelle Monáe is still ‘on’ so to speak.  Monáe balances the retro with the contemporary and alternative like a champ on her brilliant The Electric Lady, my pick for the best R&B album of 2013. Simply put, this album kicks some serious… watch yo mouth!  Consistent, fresh, retro, and captivating, Monáe paves her own way and has it going on in a big way.  All hail “Q.U.E.E.N.” Janelle!

 

Recommended Spins:

“Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”; “Q.U.E.E.N.”; “Primetime”; “We Were Rock and Roll”; “Ghetto Woman”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes” 

2

John Legend

Love in the Future

G.O.O.D. / Columbia

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend may take some risks on Love in the Future, but ultimately, his formula is the same as it always has been.  Love in The Future not only has the goods to challenge for the best R&B album of the year, but it also challenges Legend’s own discography as his best album yet.  With five years between solo albums, Legend sounds riper than ever on this top-notch work.  Rock on John!

Recommend Spins:

“In The Beginning”; “Made to Love”; “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

3

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

Digital Booklet - BEYONCÉBeyoncé shocked the world by keeping her fifth studio album Beyoncé a secret.  Her rollout wasn’t the only shock; the album itself is alluring because of its cutting edged approach.  No longer does Beyoncé show herself as a suggestive R&B diva – she’s now an unapologetic, fierce one unafraid to state her emotions or intentions.  At her most naughty, ‘Yoncé is at her best.

Recommended Spins:

“Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z; “Blow”; “Rocket”

4

Charles Bradley

Victim of Love

Daptone

Charles Bradley1-20131108-265-year old soul singer Charles Bradley represents for the retro-soul veterans atop these rankings.  Bradley isn’t nearly as ‘decorated’ as his colleagues of similar age because his ‘chance’ didn’t arrive until late in his life.  Regardless, Bradley does it like a pro, delivering a compelling, soulful tour de force on Victim of Love.  The young bucks can learn plenty from Bradley, who is on autopilot throughout the course of Victim of Love – no misses to speak of.

Recommended Spins:

“Strictly Reserved For You”; “Victim of Love”; “Confusion”

 

5

José James

No Beginning, No End

Blue Note

412OsY-eNgL._SL500_AA280_Distinctly voiced jazz/soul singer José James joins a list of incredibly underrated, super talented artists.  His Blue Note January release No Beginning, No End was nothing short of a critical smash, consistent through and through.  Sure James is refined like any jazz musician, but he also allows for his sensual, soulful side to shine on tracks like “It’s All Over My Body.”  His best moment, however, comes by way of instant jam “Trouble”.

Recommended Spins:

“It’s All Over My Body”; “Trouble”; “Vanguard”

6

Fantasia

Side Effects of You

RCA

51R6Qpg7HKL._SL500_AA280_Over the course of four albums, former American Idol winner continues to captivate vocally.  Sure, sometimes the material doesn’t always match up with her prodigious pipes, but more often than not, Fantasia makes up for it with her heart-wrenching, soulful vocals. Side Effects of You overall is well put together featuring some enjoyable songs showcasing ‘Tasia at her best.

Recommended Spins:

“Supernatural” featuring Big K.R.I.T.; “Ain’t All Bad”; “Without Me” featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott; “Change Your Mind”; “Lose To Win”; “End of Me”

7

Bilal

A Love Surreal

Entertainment One

518G2jOk81L._SL500_AA280_Bilal has been captivating alt-soul fans’ hearts years before Frank Ocean, Miguel, or The Weeknd came along.  He continues to shine on his fine A Love Surreal, where his vocals remain powerful and soulful. Eclectic and consistent, A Love Surreal is easily one of the year’s top R&B efforts.

Recommended Spins:

“Westside Girl”; “Back To Love”; “Winning Hand”; “Slipping Away”; “Butterfly”

8

Alice Smith

She

Rainwater

Alice Smith's She easily ranks among 2013's best albums.

Underrated and under-appreciated, Alice Smith is an exceptional artist by all means.  On She, Smith delivers magnificent vocals coupled with magnificent songwriting and production.  Among her most triumphant moments is a fierce cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fool For You”, which she makes her own.  A tight album with only 11 tracks and 36 minutes in duration, She is that exceptional album you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on.

Recommended Spins:

“Cabaret”; “Another Love”; “Loyalty”; “Fool For You”; “Be Easy”

9

Jhene Aiko

Sail Out (EP)

Def Jam

51vWznSh56L._SL500_AA280_Don’t let Jhene Aiko’s chill delivery discourage you – the girl can pack a knockout punch without sweating once! Sail Out provides an excellent picture of what the singer’s full length will sound like, embracing elements of pop and alternative R&B.

Recommended Spins:

“The Vapors”; “Bed Peace”; “Stay Ready (What A Life)”; “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)”

 

10

Chrisette Michele

Better

Def Jam

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Chrisette Michele just might be R&B’s most underrated female.  While commercial success has only been so-so for Michele, she’s been rock-solid where consistency is concerned.  Better is a sensational and eclectic R&B effort that shows Michele’s range as an artist.  Nothing is better here than promo single “A Couple of Forevers”, which was easily among the year’s best.

Recommended Spins:

“A Couple of Forevers”; “Let Me Win”;  “Love Won’t Leave Me Out”; “Visual Love”; “Charades”

11

Jaheim

Appreciation Day

Atlantic

51Fc7Pmf5aL._SL500_AA280_Jaheim has cleaned up his act since his excellent ‘Ghetto’ days, but don’t get it twisted, he’s still an edgy R&B singer.  Jaheim appreciates the female throughout, perhaps most specifically on “***** Appreciation”… gasp.  But he’s most impressive on his socially conscious turn on “Florida”, written about the Treyvon Martin controversy down south.

Recommended Spins:

“Age Ain’t A Factor”; “He Don’t Exist”;  “Morning”; “Baby X3”; “Sexting”; “Florida”

12

Raheem DeVaughn

A Place Called Loveland

Mass Appeal

61WNU5xS-EL._SL500_AA280_Raheem DeVaughn is one of the most underrated R&B artists, but he’s also one of the best and most consistent.  A Place Called Loveland may lack the flash to appeal to a new audience, but it is exceptionally put together.

Recommended Spins:

 “Love Connection”; “Wrong Forever”; “Complicated”; “Cry Baby”; “Make A Baby”; “Make Em Like You”

 

13

Ariana Grande

Yours Truly

Republic

41VAP7icdZL._SL500_AA280_Is she pop or R&B – that is the question? Not from my perspective, as Ariana Grande cements herself as Mariah Carey’s successor on her fine debut Yours Truly, which debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200.  Quality from start to finish, Grande has a promising career ahead of her.

Recommended Spins:

“Honeymoon Avenue”; “Baby I”; “Right There”; “You’ll Never Know”; “The Way” featuring Mac Miller; “Almost is Never Enough” featuring Nathan Sykes

 

14

Mavis Staples

One True Vine

Anti

51fqkurDW+L._SL500_AA280_You could argue this album is ‘Americana’ as the Grammys suggest, but the Mavis Staples I know and love has gospel and soul roots.  Album One True Vine may be a genre bender, but Staples sounds incredibly compelling as a 74-year old.  “Age ain’t nothing but a number” Mavis.

Recommended Spins:

“Holy Ghost”; “Every Step”; “Can You Get To That”; “I Like The Things About Me”

 

15

K. Michelle

Rebellious Soul

Atlantic

51AjsEvsGwL._SL500_AA280_I’m not sure if its cool for guys to listen to K. Michele, but ole girl definitely keeps it real.  Early cuts like “Kiss My A$$” and “I Just Wanna” don’t even grace the set… If you are a woman scorned, K. Michele is who you should listen to for reassurance or a ‘pick me up’.  Brash but honest, K. Michele soulfully executes on her debut, Rebellious Soul.

Recommended Spins:

“Damn”; “Can’t Raise a Man”; “V.S.O.P.”; “Ride Out”; “When I Get A Man”

 

16

Robin Thicke

Blurred Lines

Interscope

91zMqP7d2NL._SL1500_For Robin Thicke, it was a career transformative year.  “Blurred Lines” was the gift single that kept giving (and perhaps taking), making the former neo-soul singer relevant within pop circles.  “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the only shining moment, as Thicke kept his silky, smooth pipes going strong on thoughtful ballad, “For The Rest Of My Life”.

Recommended Spins:

“Blurred Lines”; “Take It Easy On Me”;  “Give It 2 U”; “Feel Good”; “For The Rest of My Life”

17

TGT

Three Kings

Atlantic

51Y8U1sKI3L._SL500_AA280_Super groups are hard to come by these days.  TGT, comprised of Tyrese, Ginuwine, and Tank, three of R&B’s finest, come together to deliver one of the finest panty-dropping fests of the year.  Just imagine of Trey Songz had somehow made his way in and Three Kings would’ve totally been too hot to handle.

Recommended Spins:

“Sex Never Felt Better”; “I Need”; “Next Time Around”; “Explode”; “Running Back”; “Burn Out”

18

Mayer Hawthorne

Where Does This Door Go?

Republic

41bg0QHWBCL._SL500_AA280_Mayer Hawthorne’s album sadly drifted from the ranks of playlist glory on my iPod, but I couldn’t tell you why.  Where Does This Door Go certainly had its skeptics, but I wasn’t one of them.  Vocally, one of the hippest bespectacled white dudes can blow and does here.

Recommended Spins:

“Back Seat Lover”; “The Innocent”; “The Only One”; “Her Favorite Song”; “Reach Out Richard”

19

Ciara

Ciara

Epic

51TpXUESJhL._SL500_AA280_Even though Ciara received high marks on my end of things, I may have still underrated it.  Ciara doesn’t sport a powerful voice like some of her contemporaries, but it sits well contextually within her music.  Ciara is both sexy and enjoyable.

Recommended:

“Sophomore”; “Body Party”; “Keep On Lookin’”; “Super Turnt Up”

 

20

Kelly Rowland

Talk A Good Game

Republic

8121kg2H5XL._SL1500_Kelly Rowland has been consistently patterning herself as a more risqué alternative to her ‘sister’ Beyoncé (well until Beyoncé itself shocked the world).   Talk A Good Game comes full circle, intact with parental advisory label to match.   It doesn’t supersede the exceptional Here I Am, but it definitely has some shining moments.

Recommended Spins:

“Kisses Down Low”; “Down on Love”; “Dirty Laundry”; “Red Wine”

 

21

Joe

Doubleback: Evolution of R&B

Massenberg Media

6160ddGP8hL._SL500_AA280_After several albums lacking the quality of his best, Joe returns with a throwback (“doubleback”) R&B album that finds him flexing his sensual muscles like a G.

Recommended Spins:

“Something For You”; “Easy”; “I’d Rather Have A Love”; “Love & Sex” featuring Fantasia; “More”

22

Tamar Braxton

Love and War

Epic 

51WHDUdSVlL._SL500_AA280_Tamar Braxton makes this list because of the significance of her accomplishments with Love and War.  The album has some shining moments, but doesn’t lack flaws.  Even so, Braxton has an exceptional voice and when she’s fully invested with superb material to perform, it’s pure fire.

Recommended Spins:

“The One”; “Stay and Fight”; “Love and War”; “One On One Fun”; “Where It Hurts”; “Prettiest Girl”

 

23

Teena Marie

Beautiful

Ume

51qA7widqQL._SL500_AA280_Teena Marie passed on in 2010, but she left a stunning final studio album in Beautiful, which is just that.  Beautiful is Teena Marie at her very best – soulful, sensual, and brilliant.

Recommended Spins:

“Luv Letter”; “Sweet Tooth”; “Love Starved”; “Definition of Down”; “Beautiful”; “The Long Play”

 

24

Aaron Neville

True Story

Blue Note

51FcjEZV-6L._SL500_AA280_My True Story isn’t a flashy album, but it is a fine retro-soul effort that covers classics from the early era of R&B, the 1950s and 60s.  Neville may be long past his prime, but vocally the 72-year old still got it.  Bow down!

Recommended Spins:

“My True Story”; “Ting A Ling”; “Under The Boardwalk”

25

R. Kelly

Black Panties

RCA

51l9Oz9KgnLMaybe it’s a stretch to include Black Panties on this list, but part of the reason for its inclusion is because Kelly returns to his true self – edgy, sensual, and just plumb freaky.  Sure he overdoes it and seems to think sex supplants sexiness, but there’s some pieces there.  Oreos are still tasty…

Recommended Spins:

“Legs Shakin’” featuring Ludacris; “Cookie”; “Genius”; “All The Way” featuring Kelly Rowland

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

10 Memorable Tracks from November


Justin Bieber performs live in concert as part of his 'Believe Tour' at the Jos Miguel Agrelot Coliseum Carolina 10/20/2013 © WENN

Need ten jams to spin? Here’s my list of ten of November 2013’s hottest joints!

1)  Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly, Do What U Want” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga seen leaving her hotel carrying a large seashell umbrella in London London 10/31/2013 © Palace Lee, PacificCoastNewsApplause” may have been a bust of sorts, but Gaga got herself together with the help of one of R&B’s most salacious presences, R. Kelly.  Playing on words, “Do What U Want” accomplishes Gaga’s love for double meanings.  If examined sexually, Gaga presents herself as, well easy.  But when examined less pervertedly, Gaga is suggesting she is more than her body and could care less how you scrutinize it, etc.

2) Bun B featuring Pimp C, Lil Boosie & Big KRIT, “Cake”  (Trill O.G.: The Epilogue)

 

Bun B probably isn’t most of the present generation’s ‘go to’ MC, but the veteran UGK MC is nothing short of a beast.  Here, his late, great partner Pimp C delivers a masterful hook, while Bun is joined by Lil Boosie and Mississippi underrated MC Big KRIT.  KRIT also handles the production work, which seems like the perfect match for the 42-year old Bun B. My favorite catch line, “Them thighs come with that shake / b**ch in yo mind, ho I got cake.”

3) Justin Bieber featuring R. Kelly, PYD

Justin Bieber, PYD

R. Kelly may just be R&B’s most popular commodity again as Justin Bieber taps him for arguably his best Music Mondays release to date, “PYD” (“Put You Down”).  Previously, the Biebz has been whining about heartbreak and Selena Gomez namely, but on “PYD” he wants to get… well, down. No more of the G- and PG-rated Bieber where “damn” is as far as he’ll step from his teen-pop roots… he’s ready to step it up a notch.  And if we didn’t understand his intentions, him and Kelly repeatedly iterate the acronym throughout (“P-Y-D, P-Y-D”)

4) Jhene Aiko featuring Vince Staples, Vapors”  (Sail Out – EP)

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

From the first track “Vapors”, one knows that  Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out is something special.  Playing doubly as a weed-smoking joint as well as a yearning for an ex- who was good in bed, “Vapors” is both brilliant and highly representative of the newfound alternative R&B movement.  “Can you hit it again?” never sound more telling from Aiko’s cool, calm, and collected vocal perspective.

5) Celine Dion, Water And A Flame” (Loved Me Back To Life)

Celine Dion, Loved Me Back To Life

Celine Dion’s latest album has plenty of strong songs that tickled my fancy, with the Daniel Merriweather cover “Water And A Flame” amongst ‘em.  The original is little known as Merriweather isn’t a big name in the United States.  Regardless, if Merriweather never receives his deserved recognition, at least one of the greatest pop singers provides a stirring rendition here.

6) Eminem, “Rap God”, (The Marshall Mathers LP 2)

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP2

What more is there to say, Eminem delivered the hottest rap track of the year this side of Kanye West’s “Blood On the Leaves” and Kendrick Lamar’s epic rap verse on Big Sean’s “Control”.  If I’d been Big Sean, I would’ve fought to have gotten “Control” on Hall of Fame, even if it meant delaying it (it’s sold abysmally anyways).  But this is Eminem’s moment and quite an electrifying moment it is indeed.

7)  Jake Miller, “Homeless” (Us Against Them)

Jake Miller, Us Against Them

Homeless” is among the cream of the crop from Jake Miller’s debut album Us Against Them.  Vocally, Miller sounds solid as he sings plaintively on the chorus: “Here I stand in the cold / I try to knock as you change the locks / now I’m all alone / where am I supposed to go / if you are where my home is, I guess that makes me homeless.”  The serious vibe of the sung vocals is matched by Miller’s more agile, rhythmic rapped vocals. While  it’s a ‘bummer’ as far as its overall tone, it is at least a standout ‘bummer’.

8) Mariah Carey, “The Art of Letting Go” 

Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse

Mimi’s latest single, “The Art of Letting Go”, finds one of R&B’s preeminent divas doing what she does best, BALLADS.  Whether she’s singing in her lower register or ascending to her upper register with every bit of her emotion, Carey compels the listener and makes us think of our own moments when we’ve struggled to let go.  “The Art of Letting Go” is filled with exceptional, memorable, and prudent lyrical moments including “Evidently your words were merely lies / reverberating in my ears / and the echo won’t subside / there’s a deep deep loss of hope…” from verse two.  The bridge confirms that “Baby letting go, baby letting go / ain’t easy…”

9) Jake Bugg, “A Song About Love” (Shangri La)

Jake Bugg, Shangri La

Recently I reviewed Jake Bugg’s sophomore effort, Shangri La.  While I had mixed feelings, I certainly had rave reviews for one particular standout in “A Song About Love”:

“Is that all you wanted? Songs about love? / Is that want you hoped you would find / when it’s burning inside / but a song about love’s not enough.” Poetic by all means, “A Song About Love” seems to be the most complete performance of the album.  The metric shifting “A Song About Love” certainly offers the incredible nuance and an overall unique selection  Where many of Bugg’s songs seem quite simple, “A Song About Love” definitely steps up the game.

10) Lady Gaga, Dope” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga, ARTPOP

Another Lady Gaga track really? Yep.  “Dope” is completely different from “Do What U Want”.  Sure, it sounds as if it shouldn’t be a substantive track, but Gaga’s intents are quite notable, more so than some of ARTPOP’s ‘looser’ cuts. On the sole ballad from the album, Gaga opens herself up to vulnerability, suggesting that despite her past screw-ups with substances, she needs her man “more than dope”.  Sure she’s literal and dope doesn’t lend itself to the greatest heart-warming moment ever, but her personalized touch truly shines here.

Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Hits No. 1


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81s5KwsrJIL._SL1500_Unsurprisingly, Lady Gaga finds herself at no. 1 once more with latest album ARTPOP.  Selling 258,000 copies would be pretty impressive if it weren’t Lady Gaga.  Born This Way moved 1.1 million, and while a special discounting offer helped to seal the deal there, 258,000 copies seems like quite the fall off from her previous sales best.  Still, her Gaga-ness outsold her next closest competitions, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (210,000) and the debut of Now That’s What I Call Music, Vol. 48 (142,000).  What is impressive about Eminem’s second week numbers and Now 48’s debuting numbers is that both buck the ugly trend where lately the second and third bestselling albums fail to move 100,000 copies. Billboard rightfully discusses the significance of  Now 48’s sales in particular.

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Even though Lady Gaga was the big thing, ARTPOP wasn’t  the only new blood to the charts. Other debuts also make their respective splash into the top 10.  The BeatlesOn Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 bows at no. 7 with 37,000 copies.  Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out lands at no. 8 with a respectable 34,000 copies.  Holdovers within the chart aside from Eminem included The Robersons’ Duck the Halls: A Roberson Family JakeBugg9-20130807-102Christmas (no. 4) , Katy Perry’s PRISM (no. 5), Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 6), Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (no. 9), and Lorde’s Pure Heroine (no. 10).   And just because you asked, yes “Royals” is no. 1 on the Hot 100 for the eighth consecutive week.

Who’s Got Next? Well now… Daughtry’s Baptized could certainly make some noise. Yo Gotti releases his major label debut (after being an independent artist mind you) with I Am.  Also  Jake Bugg releases his sophomore album Shangri La.  Basically, it seems like a ‘down’ week, compared to previous ones.  No disrespect of course.