Tag Archives: R&B

Most Influential Albums

I haven’t written in this blog for a hot minute. Been busy starting my business and also performing around LA. I had a gig last night at the Viper Room on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood and I’m performing Friday, October 7th at El Cid, 9pm, near Silverlake. So, things are picking up, but still working on things.

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a couple of days, and I thought I should write this out. There are some albums that really had an impact on my life. I wanted to write about my favorite albums, but that was tough, because what I like keeps changing, so I thought some of these top albums are actually the most influential albums, the albums that came into my life at an important time in my life that I cannot forget.

So, here goes!

First off, Madonna’s Ray of Light album.

This album came out in 1998, over a decade ago. This album came after Evita and Madonna’s first child, Lola. Giving up her weights for yoga, Madonna changed her beliefs and this album is her most spiritual yet. The album won four Grammys and launched a comeback touring career in 2001 with the Drowned World Tour (in which I happily attended).

I remember when this album came out, on VH1 (when they actually showed music!) They had a massive, I mean massive video documentary on Madonna’s music career, hours of showing her music videos and chronicling her life. After that, I was a bonafied fan. I loved the Frozen music video, I loved the messages and this album also came out the year my mother passed away. This album means a lot to me, it launched my Madonna obsession, and it’s a beautiful, classic album that still holds up beautifully today, and still today, nothing really can compare or sounds similar to this album.

Next up for me is Michael Jackson’s Dangerous Album.

I know, I know, what about Thriller? Off the Wall? Bad? He had way better albums. Yes, but Dangerous came out in the 90s when I was growing up, and to me, it just blew me away with the timing, rhythm and production. Yes, I’m gonna be the cheese standing alone, but I liked this album. I wanted to sing and dance like Michael Jackson. It was like flying. I started twirling and I taught myself how to dance. “Who is It”, the syncopation and rhythm is ridiculous, one of my top MJ songs of all time. Also, the music video releases of “Black or White” and “Remember the Time” were huge. I remember waiting by the TV, watching MTV WAITING for the release of the music video. That JUST doesn’t happen anymore. Those were huge music videos. I wanted to create music like that, music that inspired people, that made people excited. I wanted to fly like Michael.

Aaliyah’s last studio album has a special place in my heart. That album is true soul and R&B and those songs talk about domestic abuse, being the other woman, and other topics that I still don’t hear about. A very soulful album, from the late Aaliyah, she proved that she had more soul crooning a note than a diva belting out her heart. It wasn’t about being a complicated singer, her voice was smooth and wiser beyond her years. I love this album and I pull it out from time to time. The production still holds up to today and her voice was one of a kind.

Alanis Morissette with Jagged Little Pill did things with lyrics that’s hard to say anyone else has done. Her syllables were all over the place and she made things work and broke the rules in song writing that not only was catchy, but started a mini-revolution of girl power. Her angst-ridden songs let women be pissed off at their exes, in a way that really doesn’t get talked about at all. Usually break up songs are sad, with a lonely feel, Morissette was like, dude, you screwed me over and you’re gonna hear about it! It was one of my first albums I ever bought and I remember lying in bed with my walkman waking up in the morning to this album, listening to it over and over. What a great first album to buy and get hooked into. I feel sorry for people that buy whatever pop fluff is out now.

Another album, I actually don’t really listen to much anymore, but has made an effect on me, was TLC’s Fanmail. I travelled to Paris and Spain and I remember listening to this album while driving around Europe. This was a great power group, and this album was awesome with “Scrubs” Yes! A song about these loser guys that we’re sick of! I gotta remind myself of that song more often. There were song great songs and productions on this album. Sometimes I’ll hear a female R&B singer copy what TLC has done with their sultry voices and melodies, but it’s not the same.

Please don’t shoot me for this next selection, but Ace of Base’s The Bridge was an awesome Pop album, and if you listen to it, you’ll definitely see where Lady Gaga has gotten a lot of her inspiration. The Bridge pushed the boundaries with Pop music and synths. The melodies and lyrics are great, they sing about different kinds of topics, and it would be awesome to hear a modern day version of this album. Ace of Base is bomb, and I always come back to this album. I heard “Beautiful Life” on an airplane and instantly loved it.

And I’m going to have to stop for now. I’m missing albums of course, there are so many albums that have influenced me, but this is a pretty good start. As you can see, I love 90s pop and rhythm.

What are your most influential albums? Please write a blog and post a link to your list in my comments section. 🙂

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The Girls Just Keep on Rocking: Avril Lavigne, Beyonce, Keri Hilson feat. Nelly

Music videos have obviously upped their visual game. Music videos cater to the internet audience, MTV long gone from premiering new music videos. Vevo has control of music videos releases, audio leaks, and music videos themselves have higher budgets than the past.

Avril Lavigne has been making a slow comeback ever since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland released. Her latest single, “Smile” is probably one of my favorite Lavigne songs. I was not a fan of hers in the past. But now, I like this happier sound, it’s not so idiotically catchy, it’s light and fun. I also have to say, I think Lavigne is the only person that can pull off green hair.

Beyonce is back with “Run the World (Girls)”. I remember hearing the song on the radio, I sort of liked it, but felt weird about it at the same time. I think this song has its good moments, and moments where it falls flat. As for the music video, I was stunned at the first dancing sequence. I have not seen choreography that made my jaw drop like that in a while. Choreography seems like, “one and two and three and four” to me, because it just seems so emotionless. The dance sequence at “0:52” is just amazing. She’s doing that in HEELS too! That blew me away. The way Beyonce flings her hair and her facial expression at “3:56” is fierce. I saw complaints online that the dancing wasn’t good, the music video sucks, the song sucks. It’s a different song, not for everyone, it’s a stepping/cheer kind of song. I appreciate the message, and honestly, I like it better than “Single Ladies”. I think the ending with all the girls dancing together is chilling.

Keri Hilson has also debuted a visual stunning video, “Lose Control”. She reminds me of Rihanna and Beyonce. The song is good, nothing groundbreaking, but still catchy and has potential to be a hit. I think this is Hilson’s best work as of yet. Nelly is a nice touch in the song. I think my only gripe is I’m kind of tired of hearing songs about “hooking up”. I hear enough of that, tell us something new, ok? The bridge with the piano solo is one of the best parts of the song.

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The Girls are in Charge: Nicki Minaj “Super Bass” & JLo’s “I’m Into You”

I’m MIA a lot, I know, excuses. I was in the audience for the Conan show today. It was fun. Anyways, needless to say, sometimes I’m not great with juggling life and keeping up with writing… but I’ll come back.

So, on the back catalogue that I wanted to talk about, was Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” which is “super-catchy”. The video is cute… with the pink theme all over the music video. I kind of appreciate the gratuitous male bodies in the music video, because it’s a nice change from seeing naked girls EVERYWHERE. Let’s even up the odds a little bit, eh? It’s not really great to focus on body parts, no matter the gender, but the media is geared for the male eye, from female magazines to fashion runways, so it’s refreshing to have a female perspective.

I especially like the day-glow bridge in the song. I think music videos have already been playing with light and will continue to push visual limits with lights. I also heard a little bit of the remix Minaj has with David Guetta, “Where Dem Girls At”. I don’t like it. Guetta has the same sound for everything now. He used to be my favorite DJ, and I hate to say I think he sold out. Anyways, I am aware of that song, and yeah, I don’t think it’s that special. I am also aware of Lady Gaga’s latest with Judas and Edge of Glory. I really don’t know what I think of those songs just yet, so I’m sure I’ll get back on that topic in another post.

Jennifer Lopez already has a new music video when her song, “On the Floor” is still rotating on the radio. “I’m Into You” Feat. Lil’ Wayne, is a good song. I especially like the breakdown, and it’s such a tease, because that breakdown or sample of a new song coming out sounds better than the song itself.

And by the way, can you believe this woman is in her 40s??? I want that skin cream when I’m that age, I’m just saying…

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Blast from the Past Fridays: En Vogue – “Free Your Mind”

“Free your mind! And the rest will follow, Be colorblind! Don’t be so shallow!”

En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” was released in September 1992 from the Funky Divas album. I can’t really think of any diva/progressive/rock-inspired anthems that compare to “Free Your Mind” that also combine amazing vocals. En Vogue was from Oakland, CA. (Yay, Bay Area!)

This song is about prejudice, how women can dress how they want, how one shouldn’t be judged on what they like, what they look like and proclaiming their independence. The music video is fabulous, starting off with a runway show, and all the colors are black and white, signifying the the blend between “black” and “white”.

I think of this song from time to time, and I would love to hear a new female R&B group be this gutsy and in-your-face. Since there is a void, isn’t it the law of physics to fill a void whenever it presents itself? Let’s see when the next female R&B group materializes.

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Blast from the Past Fridays- Aaliyah

Aaliyah’s death was such a tragedy. Right when her career was really taking off, her life was taken while flying out of location for a music video.

Growing up, I heard “One in a Million” and other hits. I didn’t become a fan until her last red album, “Aaliyah”. That album was brilliant. That was a true R&B album, with soul, heart and smoothness. I bought her last album after her death and I knew I would have become a big fan. I’m picky with who I become a fan of, Madonna is my idol, I love Michael Jackson, but Aaliyah was going to be up there for me too. I would have went to concerts, etc.

With that last album, it starts off strong with “We Need a Resolution”. The production on that song is still relevant today and doesn’t sound old at all. It’s also not mimicked at all, it stands alone as an original sounding song.

“Rock the Boat” is such a calming song, great groove and this song is the last music video Aaliyah performed in. This song is special for me. I always think of white sandy beaches and clear blue waters.

“I Care 4 U”, wow, if you are really crushing hard on someone, this song will pull on your heartstrings until you can’t bare it anymore. “Extra Smooth” and “More Than a Woman” have good upbeat grooves, something you can jam to and dance to.

This album is also interesting and unique because it also discusses domestic abuse, something I don’t really hear much of and still don’t hear much of. Of becoming a stronger woman and leaving a bad situation, and I think these songs are sorely needed to inspire women to reflect on a negative relationship. “Never No More” and “I Refuse” talk about domestic abuse, and “I Refuse” is a beautiful song, with good harmonies, and a dramatic piano.

Also, another interesting topic Aaliyah discusses, is cheating. In “I Can Be” the intro is haunting, and the song discusses being “the other woman”, letting the man cheat on his girlfriend with her. Although it’s a taboo topic, not really something a girl strives for in life, this song has a seductive energy to it, and it is one of my favorite songs on the album.

In “Those Were the Days” Aaliyah sings about a broken relationship. What it’s like when a relationship is over. Something everyone can relate to.

The album ends with “What If”, a very distorted guitar, I can’t describe what the instruments are. Disturbing sounds, but it works and this song is about turning the tables on a man and treating him the way she is treated by him.

This album has stories about being a strong woman, giving into weaknesses and all the rhythm and soul packed into a beautiful album.

And this album is over ten years old, and it stands the test of time. RIP Aaliyah.

 

 

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Changing Musical Tastes

My musical tastes have changed gradually lately. I go in and out from pop music, dance music, some rock, R&B and trance music.

I feel what your emotions are, how you’re feeling, how open you are, is revealed in the music you listen to. Right now I’m listening to alternative rock. Not really a genre I say I’m familiar in. I’ve dabbled in just about every genre, not really becoming a master of all genres, but more like sampling a little bit of everything.

I’ve really dove into pop music most of my life. Madonna, Michael Jackson, some of the top hits on the radio and on iTunes usually makes it’s way into my iPod, and just as fast as fast food is made and consumed, I’m onto finding the next song to get a high from.

For a minute, I thought I was going to go back into a classical phase, listening to “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by J.S. Bach, and then I started to listening to One Republic’s “Secrets” and Muse’s “Undisclosed Desires”, then got inspired by Journey’s “Separate Ways”.

And then, hearing a Diet Coke commercial, I got into The Temper Trap, “Sweet Disposition”. It was previously in the movie, 500 Days of Summer, but I didn’t really notice it until I heard that Diet Coke commercial. I had to have it and the song really puts me at ease.

And I decided that I didn’t have enough of the The Temper Trap (which is rare, because I usually just jump to the next artist/song that gives me a high) so I went to iTunes to download some more songs and I got “Love Lost” and “Down River” and then I saw Miike Snow.

Now, I’ve heard a lot of people mention Miike Snow, and I didn’t realize that I’ve heard a Tiesto remix of “Silvia” by Miike Snow.

(Song doesn’t really start until 1:04 minutes)

Anyways, I downloaded “Burial” while I was at it. I’ve heard “Animal” probably in other T.V. shows, when I heard the sample I was instantly familiar with the song, not even knowing who the artist was.

That happens a lot. I’ll know a lot of songs, but not know who or what the song is.

Other artists I would go to in this mellow, want to chill out and de-stress mode would be John Mayer, something from the Eclipse soundtrack, like “Let’s Get Lost” by Beck and Bat for Lashes.  Maybe some Frou Frou, Florence + The Machine or maybe even some R&B.

R&B isn’t doing it for me lately though. Bruno Mars is really good. But I dunno, I try not to let musician’s personal lives not taint my listener’s ear, but the whole cocaine charge he was going through kind of turned me off to the reliability of his music. It’s kind of a turn off if you suspect written lyrics are a complete hack. Maybe I’m thinking too deep into it, or not deeply enough, but I’m just turned off and I don’t want to buy “Grenade” or at least not yet.

So, leading back to this alternative rock state. What does this mean that I’m feeling? Wanting an escape, really wanting to de-stress, wanting to chill out amongst all the things going on in my life. There’s a rush to do a lot of things, a lot of important things, but there’s this never ending deadline, and I think this kind of mellow music helps me chill out, enough for the moment and stop time for a minute… or three.

I still listen to my dance music, when I want to dance. And was just dancing to DJ Enferno’s Madonna mix that’s available on his twitter @djenferno. A good “Like a Prayer” remix.

My musical tastes have been changing so much, that it’s hard to keep a track of what’s going on. Kind of like what’s going on in my life. One minute I’m listening to Taylor Swift’s “Innocent” and reliving the experience seeing her live at the VMA’s and contemplating my personal meaning of the song, then I’m dancing to Kaskade’s remix of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”. Which is better than the original song in my opinion.

Yes, the music is all over the place in this blog, and it’s noteworthy to find a trend in this mellow alternative rock phase that I’m going through. The music I’m writing on my guitar is like this as well.

And it’s pretty late now… and I should jump into bed where it’s warm.

Good night.

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