Sunday, August 31, 2014

MY TUNE OF THE DAY



Today's tune is "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off" by Jermaine Stewart. The song, suggesting to simply enjoy a glass of wine and some dancing instead of a casual romp, is a highly unusual request particularly coming from a male. But that's exactly what makes this slick bit of dance-pop so irresistible with Mr. Stewart selling it so convincingly.

To be honest, I don't really recall Stewart when he was dancing on "Soul Train" but I do remember his friends, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel on the show. They all went to audition for Don Cornelius when he decided to create a singing group. However, only Watley and Daniel were accepted which would later evolved in to the hit r&b trio, Shalamar. Not discouraged, Stewart worked on demos and performed background work for Culture Club. This helped the artist get signed to Arista Records and recording his first album, "The Word Is Out" in 1984. The title track was only a minor success but helped indicate that the singer was one to watch.

The next album, "Frantic Romantic" featured "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off". The song reached the top-five in the U.S. and Britain and became his biggest hit. Stewart went on to release two more albums, "Say It Again" (1987) and "What Becomes a Legend Most" (1989) that were pretty much ignored in America but found greater success in Europe. Sadly, Jermaine Stewart passed away in 1997 due to an AIDS-related illness.

I really loved the music video for this tune because it's fun and  full of energy much like the song. I also appreciated the singer's flamboyant sense of style. Enjoy the sight and sounds from Mr. Jermaine Stewart:


As a bonus, here is the follow-up single from "Frantic Romantic" that was a tribute to his good friend, Jody Watley:

"Jody" - Jermaine Stewart (1986)

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 MTV MUSIC VIDEO AWARDS


Back in 1984, I saw the very first MTV Music Video Award program. Bette Midler and Dan Aykroyd hosted the show at Radio City Music Hall during the height of popularity for videos. The irreverent show was notable for the first major live appearance of rising star, Madonna who premiered her latest single, "Like A Virgin" in a shocking performance (certainly at that time) that ended with her writhing on stage in a wedding dress. The evening was capped with The Cars taking home the first Video of The Year Award for the innovative clip of "You Might Think".

I've watched all of the following presentations and this marks the thirtieth year. The MTV award show has always been a hit or miss affair with at least some sort of controversial event occurring during the telecast. While music videos are barely even played on MTV now, the awards are still quite popular although it's much harder to cover the show's only purpose which is for performers to showcase their new songs and presenters to plug upcoming projects.

Ariana Grande, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj kicked off the show with each performing a selection from their forthcoming albums before coming together to do "Bang Bang", the uninspired hit they all appear on. With the exception of Sam Smith delivering a moving rendition of "Stay With Me", all of other musicians were lackluster or unmemorable which included Iggy Azalea, Maroon 5, Usher and new pop princess, Taylor Swift.

After being completely dismayed by the generic girl-group, Fifth Harmony beating out the amazing Sam Smith for the Artist To Watch Award and Miley Cyrus sending some apparent former homeless youth up to accept her award for Video of The Year with a speech that seemed to mock the situation, I was ready to turn off this nonsense. However, it was Queen Bee that saved the show from being a complete disaster at the very end. Accepting the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award, Beyoncé put all the other performers to shame as she easily displayed why she deserved this honor. The dazzling vocalist went on to deliver a thrilling set as she performed a medley of all of the songs from her recent million-selling, self-titled album. With their baby, Blue Ivy in his arms, Jay Z presented his overwhelmed wife with the award which also served to show the world that they are a solid and united family. Time will reveal how accurate this may actually be but it was still quite a touching and moving moment. If you missed it, take a look:



Let's flashback to Madonna's virgin appearance on the award show thirty years ago:



Finally, here is the 1984 MTV Video of the Year:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

HOT AND FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN

FKA TWIGS - "LP1"


Tahliah Barnett began her professional career as a teenage back-up dancer who appeared in several music videos which earned her the nickname, "Twigs". Now the twenty-six year old Brit has decided to move in front of the mic using the moniker, FKA Twigs which stands for "Formerly Known As". After writing, producing and self-releasing an EP ("EP1") in 2012, Twigs signed with Young Turks Records and released another EP ("EP2") the following year.

Now her full-length debut album, "LP1" is out and creating some serious buzz. Taking elements of classic soul and merging with trip-hop and electronica, the music of FKA Twigs has an ethereal quality despite the hard-hitting beats and quirky rhythms. While she may be too "out there" for the average American listener but I think FKA Twigs brings a much needed freshness to the music scene. See what you think of one of my favorite tracks:

"Give Up" - FKA Twigs (2014)

In the video for the first single, "Two Weeks", FKA Twigs makes me think that she's channeling Aaliyah in the movie, "Queen of The Damned":



ED SHEERAN - 'X"



Ed Sheeran burst on to the scene in 2011 with the acoustic ballad, "The A Team" that reached the top-ten in several countries and earned him a Grammy nomination for "Song of The Year". For his follow-up release, "x" (pronounced "multiply"), the British artist called on top producers, Rick Rubin, Benny Blanco and Pharrell Williams to help expand his sound while still allowing him to keep his guitar in hand. The album is off to a great start with the Williams produced, Justin Timberlake inspired single, "Sing" which has become a world-wide smash, reaching number one in seven countries.

While "x" is a solid production but there's still a whiff of calculation that I find troubling. Sheeran has added current musical trends to some of the songs that seems too much like catering to capture the attention of a pop audience. The problem is that it's doesn't always feel authentic or necessarily a good fit for the talented singer. Anyway, I ain't mad at him because overall, I really like the album. In fact, here is one of the songs that I really like:

"Thinking Out Loud" - Ed Sheeran (2014)

SINEAD O'CONNOR - "I'M NOT BOSSY, I'M THE BOSS"


The one thing you can say about the troubled and controversial artist, Sinéad O'Connor is that she's unafraid to voice her opinion regardless of the outcome. At the height of her fame, she infamously tore up the photo of Pope John Paul II to protest child abuse in the church after a performance on "SNL" in 1992. That act essentially put the brakes on O'Connor's career and never really fully recovered. O'Connor continued to create some interesting music over the years but has garnered little attention from an unforgiving public.

On the cover of her tenth studio album. "I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss" (I love that title), O'Connor appears dolled up like her idea of a modern, young pop star. She is back to form with some well-crafted songs about sex and love that are far more insightful and clever than anything from Miley Cyrus. Listen to the first single:

"Take Me To Church" - Sinéad O'Connor (2014)

SIA - "1000 FORMS OF FEAR"


After putting her own career on hold and becoming a very successful songwriter-for-hire for the last few years, Sia has finally decided to record her own music once again. She saved some interesting material for herself but it's far darker than your standard pop tune. Using that full-bodied drawl of a voice, Sia gives these songs an extra edge. "1000 Forms of Fear" is the Aussie singer's sixth studio recording and her first to reach the top of the U.S. Billboard album chart. The moody first single, "Chandelier" has made it to the top ten across most of the globe.

While Sia may have resumed her singing, she has no desire to promote her music in the conventional fashion. No picture of Sia is on the album, she will not appear in any videos and has gone as far as performing live with her back to the audience. This may come across as a bit extreme but it does put the focus back on the music where it actually belongs.

"Big Girls Cry" - Sia (2014)

Nicki Minaj has received plenty of attention for the second single, "Anaconda" from her next release, "The Pinkprint" but it's been more for the cover art than for the actual song. Minaj has left little to the imagination, as she displays the inspiration for the tune and I say, "If you got it, flaunt it".

Sampling the 1992 Sir Mix-A-Lot track, "Baby Got Back", the song is classic Nicki Minaj and burning up the charts:



Kimbra is back with a new song, "90's music" from the soon-to-drop second CD, "The Golden Echo". The video is wild and colorful ode to that decade which includes some of the clothes and dance moves:



Finally, this is my current favorite music video. I don't know anything about this artist, Kiesza but this slick vid for the song, "Hideaway" is a seemingly non-stop dance routine that covers pretty much every dance move that has ever been created:

Friday, August 8, 2014

TAKE TWO: BARRY WHITE


With that smooth, bass voice and songs of sensual romance, Barry White was one of the top creators of sexy, baby-making, soul music that became very popular throughout the 1970's.

White's early childhood in South Central L.A. was filled with crime and gang activity but after a stint in jail, where he heard the Elvis Presley song, "It's Now or Never", he decided to change his life's course. White moved in to music and performed with several vocal groups before being hired to do A&R for Del-Fi Records in the early 1960's.

White's first major break came when he discovered a female singing group, Love Unlimited which included his future wife, Glodean James. He wrote and produced their debut, "From a Girl's Point of View We Give to You... Love Unlimited" in 1972. The single, "Walking In The Rain With The One I Love" was inspired by conversations White had with James and went on to sell over half a million copies.

While preparing demos for another artist, the record label heard the songs and insisted that White release them using his vocals. White was very reluctant to put himself out there as a solo performer and the label had to work hard to convince him. In 1973, White's first album, "I've Got So Much To Give" was released and, like his record label predicted, went on to become a major smash. The first single, "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" went to number one on the r&b chart and number three on the U.S. pop chart. Other top-ten hits (with equally lengthy titles) followed including "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up","What Am I Gonna Do with You", "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe". White also found success with his 40-piece orchestral backing band, The Love Unlimited Orchestra who had a number one instrumental song, "Love's Theme" in 1974 and is credited in helping usher in the disco era.

By the 1980's, White was still making music but record sales and radio play had diminished. The beginning of a comeback occurred in 1990 with White contributing vocals for a Quincy Jones track, "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" which reached number one on the r&b chart. A few years later, White made a triumphant return to the top of the r&b chart with "Practice What You Preach" from the equally successful album, "The Icon Is Love".

After years of suffering from several health issues due to his weight, White died from complications from a stroke in 2003. The love songs of Barry White continues to stir passion within listeners and gets them moving either on the dance floor or in the bedroom (wink, wink). Here are two of my favorites cuts from the Man:

"Never Never Gonna Give Ya Up" - Barry White (1973)

"It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" - Barry White (1977)

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK

I can't believe it but it's been forty years since " Best of My Love " by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop...