| I remember the precise moment when it became ok for my generation to admit to loving disco: when Lisa Stansfield's "All Around the World" became a massive R&B, dance, and pop crossover hit in the fall of 1989 (I don't discount Jody Watley's decision to wear bellbottoms in the video for "Friends" a few months earlier, though). The third and least known hit from Stansfield's Affection LP is the one in which she and her producer/collaborators realize their ambition to meld Italian house (think Black Box's "Everybody, Everybody"), discoid choral symphonics, and shufflebeats. Stansfield's big, brassy vocal evokes Patti Labelle and Chaka Khan, but that frisson of thawing English reserve is all her own. She had no business covering a Barry White stalwart seven years later.
Another shock-of-the-new how-the-fuck-had-I-never-heard-this-before?! moment when this came up on my Launchcast, like whoa: this De La track from their 2001 non-starter AOI: Bionix (oh, so that's why I don't know it...) is based around a sample of the squiggly keyboards from friggin' Macca's "Wonderful Christmastime" (they refer to it lyrically, too, in the chorus). The lyrics may or may not be notable; I honestly didn't notice much beyond that shocking sample. What a great idea, and how'd no one think of it before? (Oh, you mean b/c they're De La?)
| By and large the Jets' Polynesian-American pseudo-R&B/pop was crap, but they hit it just once on this peppy, ace uptempo dance-pop confection, just silly enough to be sublime. I'm coming out of the closet: I looooooove "Crush on You," and I won't be ashamed any more.
| OK they're white, but this charted at #15 on the black charts, a little over six years after "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" became the first single to simultaneously hit Number One on the Hot 100. The arrangement is as billowy as the duo's mullets, flaccid almost -- the first time since the late '70s that Daryl Hall and John Oates merely replicated other contemporaneous chart hits rather than attempting a weird-ass overstated hybrid; and there's some poignancy in H&O chasing the sound (nascent quiet-storm New Jackism) with which Al B Sure! would score an even greater hit a few weeks later. Although Hall gets sole songwriting credit, the twinkly keyboards and harmonies echo Oates' work earlier that year on Australian band Icehouse's sole American Top Ten hit "Electric Blue" (which has become, defying all comprehension, one of my evergreens). Hall still hasn't lost the cynicism which made most of his previous slow jams the sort of laments that Bryan Ferry would have written had he been Ted Nugent; but, showing how much he'd learned about riding a melody instead of overpowering it, he renders "Everything Your Heart Desires" as tongue-worthy as "One on One."
The genius part qualifying "Everything..." as a member of H&O's all-time list comes during the 3:18 mark, when the duo's multitracked harmonies tremble and teeter over an unexpectantly humble Hall; they never crush him, but that they come close enough is a most welcome gesture in a career infamous for crooning free of calamity rather than facing the consequences. I'm not surprised that "Everything Your Heart Desires" was H&O's last big hit.
Actually, this is the deserving recipient of my "OMG." I have got to get VH1 Soul.
Also, disconnexions' YouTube channel is pretty much the (un)official channel of Back and Forth - I mean, for pete's sake, he's got the video for Chuckii Booker's "Turned Away"! What more do you need to know? (BTW, Chuckii's apparently the musical director for Lionel Richie these days, and leading his band on tour, so good for him.)
Always one of the highlights of 1998's of-course-it's-uneven-it's-a-'90s-double-album R. for me, "We Ride" services one of R.'s plushest grooves (I mean really, it's so cushy you could damned near fuck it) with verses from the abovelisted guests (and, of course, Kelly's crooning across the chorus). Highlights: Noreaga's "I used to be in Chi-town and collect panties," and Jigga rhyming "hotter than," "lotta men," and "Rodman."
This is one of the most overlooked R&B cuts of this decade. It was on a Snoop Dogg All Stars compilation and the video for it was equally astounding. And the video for it was equally jaw dropping. It's not on YouTube yet, but I can't wait for the day it is.
| Went again this year. Saw and loved: Kanye West (nice string section, lots of energy, Lupe Fiasco not boring, total star power, a cappella verses from next album--Graduation, duh--even more braggadocious than the stuff we know and good for him), Blue Scholars (Seattle hip-hop duo, local champs, total pros, hope the next album jump-starts 'em nationally).
Saw and liked: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (mostly background as I was socializing w/long-untalked-to friends and enjoying strawberry shortcake and corn on the cob), Lady Sovereign (presence aplenty, but we were exhausted and left after five very good songs).
Um, saw: Jamie Lidell. Anyone enraptured by his sequined jacket, monkey leaps, and oh-so-cute accent who later went on to make fun of R. Kelly deserves all the names I called them on the lawn.
Lord, it was less than a decade ago when T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili were runnin' t'ings, when along with Aaliyah, it felt like they were pointing the way forward for music, making all this machine musik, heavy on the weird synths. TLC had vision; they were huge popstars but also pretty cutting-edge (and, I suspect had Left Eye not died, would've gone further out there) by the time of their third album, the freaky Fanmail. It's not always successful, but when it is, it's nearly mindblowing. "Silly Ho" is a good example - egads, they released this as the album's first single! (Even "No Scrubs" is fairly weird, when you think about it. But not like this.)