All posts by Princess Gabbara

All the Tracks on Mariah Carey’s ‘Music Box,’ Ranked

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Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage

By the summer of 1993, the public had come to know Mariah Carey as the most successful new diva in the pop world. The brown-eyed, curly-haired singer’s glass-shattering voice and talent for writing hit songs was quickly setting the standard for ‘90s pop superstardom.

With two multi-Platinum albums already behind her, fans and music critics eagerly awaited the arrival of Carey’s third studio album, Music Box. While Carey’s previous studio effort, 1991’s Emotions, leaned on R&B, soul and gospel influences for inspiration, Music Box took a slightly different approach, focusing its attention toward more pop, radio-friendly confections. Lyrically, many of the songs depict Mariah as a hopeless romantic, while others (e.g. “Hero”) preach self-sufficiency.

Despite receiving some harsh reviews from music critics, who claimed that Music Box lacked emotion and substantial writing, the 10-track LP became Carey’s first to be certified Diamond by the RIAA, selling over 10 million copies in the U.S. alone, and spawned two No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, “Dreamlover” and “Hero.” The diva’s fifth studio project, Daydream, would mostly follow in the Music Boxmold, to even greater success and favorable reviews praising Carey’s songwriting skill. Mimi would eventually return to her R&B roots with 1997’s Butterfly, but the blockbuster success of Music Box and Daydream ultimately helped the Long Island native become the top-selling artist of the ‘90s.

To celebrate Music Box’s 25th anniversary this Friday (Aug. 31), we ranked all the tracks on the now-iconic LP.

Read my latest story for Billboard [here].

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[EXCLUSIVE] MÝA TALKS NEW ‘TKO’ ALBUM & 20 YEARS OF MAKING MUSIC: ‘I AM RELENTLESS’

Mya Stucco Wall #2
Photo credit: Jackie O. Asare

In 2000, Mýa acknowledged her Fear of Flying with the release of her sophomore studio project.

“Fear of Flying is a metaphor for the ups and downs of life,” she explained to Billboard magazine. “It’s about handling things like an adult, knowing you must have faith to make anything happen.”

Fast forward to the year 2018 and Mýa is now in complete control of her career and her image. Following the accidental release of her fourth studio LP, Liberation in 2007, the Washington DC native took the independent route and has been at it non-stop ever since.

We recently caught up with Mýa to discuss her ninth independent project, TKO (The Knock Out), trusting your gut and being a #GirlBoss.

Why do you think so many artists who’ve had success are taking the independent route nowadays?

Mýa: Artists who are passionate about their music and in love with their art go independent because they want to continue making music and serving it to the world. Often, when you’re signed to a major label, you have to wait in line for budgets to open up and get cleared. A life without music feels like it’s not a life at all, so when you’re in love with something, you want to constantly be able to do it without restraints. That’s part of the empowerment and freedom that being independent brings and allows.

Was there anything about going independent in the very beginning that made you rethink your decision?

Mýa: It was always a learning process and it still is for me ten years later. I learned different components of the business, from publishing to copyright to radio and how each area works. It has truly been a blessing for me to absorb the knowledge that I would not have absorbed had I stayed in a system, which is a beautiful system. It made me who I am, but there are fans that are still here and are hungry for music and now they can receive it because you have the luxury to put out a new project any time that you’d like as an independent artist. In the process of new territory, you learn new things, but there’s never been a moment where I regretted my decision. I have considered going into the major label system differently, which may just be distribution because I now have more to bring to the table as a label versus just an artist looking for a budget.

Read my full interview with Mýa for The Boombox [here].

Why Craig David’s ‘Born To Do It’ Is Still A Gem 18 Years Later

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Credit: Apple Music

R&B music was at its prime throughout the ‘90s with then-emerging acts, including Aaliyah, Brandy, Monica, Mýa, Destiny’s Child, Usher, Boyz II Men and Jodeci, working their heads off to keep the genre exciting and fresh. Quincy Jones enlisted Teddy Riley to work his new jack swing magic on the late Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album (e.g. “Remember the Time” and “Jam”) in 1991, marking the King of Pop’s foray into more of an urban sound. After ruling the ‘80s, Whitney Houston transitioned into the ‘90s seamlessly with the help of Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, who co-wrote the No. 1 hit, “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” A new generation of rising superstars forced veteran performers to take notes.

As 2000 ushered in a new millennium, British R&B singers wanted in on the excitement as well, but they had their own unique musical style to offer– enter Craig David’s Born to Do It, which fused R&B with England’s distinctive garage beats. Selling upwards of 8 million copies worldwide, the 12-track LP went on to become the fastest-selling debut album by a British male solo act. Just nine years ago, MTV UK viewers voted Born to Do It as the greatest album of all time behind MJ’s Thriller.

Nearly 20 years after its release, Born to Do It holds more relevance than ever before. Insert Drake’s vulnerability on “Find Your Love” (2010) or the intricate lyrical rhythm on Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” (2017). Justin Bieber’s “Recovery” (2013) borrows from “Fill Me In,” the lead single off Born to Do It.

The Born to Do It title was inspired by a quote in the classic 1971 film, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but it also presented David as the next big breakout star.

Read more of my latest article for Vibe [here].

Jennifer Lopez’s Best Hip-Hop Songs & Moments, Ranked

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Photo credit: YouTube

Before Jennifer Lopez landed the “role of a lifetime” in 1997 as the late Selena Quintanilla-Pérez in the biopic Selena, we were introduced to the aspiring singer-actress as Janet Jackson’s backup dancer in the video for “That’s The Way Love Goes” and as a Fly Girl on In Living Color, which was rooted in hip-hop culture.

Naturally, when Lopez ventured off into music, those influences followed her as an artist. “I love the hip-hop, I love the R&B; it’s gonna manifest itself in my music,” she told MTV News in 2013. Nearly 20 years after the release of On the 6, Lopez’s hip-hop collaborations have made her a familiar face within the community.

In celebration of the multi-faceted star’s 49th birthday this week, VIBE Viva ranked her greatest hip-hop tracks and moments throughout the decades.

Check it out below.

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13. “I’m Glad” (2002)

Don’t let the elegant harp strings on “I’m Glad” fool you. The mid-tempo track samples Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” Schoolly D has been recognized as the OG gangsta rapper; therefore, sampling anything from his discography proves that the World of Dance judge is a real G.

Co-written by Lopez herself, “I’m Glad” still goes hard to this day, and the accompanying Flashdance-inspired video ranks among her best.

12. “I’m Into You” feat. Lil Wayne (2011)

The island-flavored “I’m Into You” is hands down one of the most underrated songs of Lopez’s discography. And Lil Wayne’s clever wordplay is impressive, e.g., “You’re way too fly, I could be your jet fuel.” The second single released off Love? failed to crack the Top 40 in the U.S., which is absurd since “I’m Into You” is the perfect soundtrack for sipping piña coladas with the crew all summer. Reaching No. 9 on the U.K. Singles Chart, the Stargate-produced track further solidified Ms. Lopez’s international appeal.

11. “Get Right” (Remix) feat. Fabolous (2005)

Without a doubt, the lead single off Rebirth brought the funk, but Fabolous’ verse took it to the next level. “I ain’t Mr. Right, I’m Mr. Right Now,” he raps over those infectious horn riffs. Co-produced by On the 6 collaborator Corey Rooney, “Get Right” was a bit unorthodox at the time, but it translated into a classic J.Lo sound. Bonus points for the multiple characters (from a DJ to busy bartender to an exotic dancer) Lopez portrayed in the original video.

Read my latest piece for VIBE VIVA [here].

Flaunting Freedom: The History of Louisiana’s 18th-Century Tignon Laws

Beyoncé in How to Make Lemonade social image
Beyoncé in How to Make Lemonade (Photo courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment)

Frank Schneider’s portrait of Marie Laveau (painted in 1920 and based on an earlier work by George Catlin) hangs inside the Cabildo of the Louisiana State Museum, and shows the legendary “Voodoo Queen of New Orleans” wearing a butternut-yellow headwrap with burnt orange stripes. When Angela Bassett portrayed Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven, a headwrap was also an essential part of her wardrobe. Coven was loosely based on true events, but Laveau’s headwraps were real—and her decision to wear them was deeply rooted in the so-called tignon laws that prohibited Black women from displaying their hair in public for nearly 20 years.

During the 18th century, the tignon (a headwrap or handkerchief) emerged as a symbol of pride for free women of color in New Orleans. In 1769, the law of coartación allowed enslaved people in Louisiana to purchase their own freedom, which afforded them the opportunity to be able to build wealth and status, according to Jennifer M. Spears’s 2009 book Race, Sex, and Social Order in Early New Orleans. Toward the end of the Spanish colonial period (1763 through 1802), nearly 1,500 enslaved people in New Orleans “had acquired their freedom by cash payments,” according to Know Louisiana, and by 1810, free people of color made up 44 percent of the city’s free population.

Free women of color dressed elegantly and embellished their hair with feathers and jewels. They were flaunting their femininity because they now had the freedom to do so. While most free women of color married free men of color and raised families with them, they were also attracting the attention of non-Black men, which threatened an already fragile social order.

Read my latest piece for BitchMedia.org [here].

THE BEST THROWBACK TV THEME SONGS, RANKED

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Credit: IMDb, iTunes

The ’90s were a simpler time: Beanie Babies, girl power, the Macarena dance craze, fanny packs and dial-up internet. The year 2000 ushered in a new millennium, which caused panic to erupt over a Y2K disaster that never actually happened. Ah, those were the days, right?

Because a little nostalgia never hurt anybody, we’ve revisited—and ranked—some of the most beloved theme songs from our favorite television shows. If you were born anywhere between the mid-’80s and late ’90s, this list is for you.

Disclosure: We focused on TV shows with a target audience of children and preteens, so amazing shows such as In Living Color, Martin, GirlfriendsLiving Single and A Different World were purposely left off this list.

Honorable mentions include WayneheadThe Boondocks and The Famous Jett Jackson.

Everybody Hates Chris

2005-2009

Despite not containing any real lyrics besides “Awwww, make it funky now,” this underrated theme transports the viewer all the way back to the ‘80s.

Family Matters

1989-1998

“As Days Go By,” is as family friendly as they come with squeaky-clean lyrics, e.g., “It’s a rare condition, this day and age/ To read any good news on the newspaper page/ Love and tradition of the grand design/ Some people say it’s even harder to find.” Not to mention, the raspiness of Jesse Frederick’s voice feels like a warm blanket at times2

One on One

2001-2006

Starring Flex Alexander and Kyla Pratt, One on One chronicles the ups and downs of a single dad and his teenage daughter living under one roof. For the show’s theme, Flex—who also created and produced the sitcom—enlisted his wife Shanice (“I Love Your Smile”) andgospel singer Tonéx. Together, their vocals are unparalleled and Shanice’s high note (skip to 18 seconds) will take you to church. A remixed version kicked off season 5’s opening credits, but it doesn’t compare to the original.

Read my latest piece for The Boombox [here].

MUSIC OF THE SUN: A RANKING OF RIHANNA’S BEST REGGAE SONGS

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instagram.com/badgirlriri, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, YouTube

Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty) has been hella busy taking the beauty and fashion industries by storm with the launches of Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty, leaving her navy of fans to wonder if she’ll ever release new music again. The 30-year-old style icon told Vogue recently that she’s planning to record a reggae album, which would be the first time she’s done so since 2005’s Music of the Sun. During a sit-down on “The Graham Norton Show” in June, fans rejoiced as the Ocean’s 8 actress confirmed she was “actually in the studio at the moment.”

As reggae celebrates 50 years, we’re digging deep into the Barbados superstar’s discography to rank all the times she nailed the genre.

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” feat. J-Status

A Girl Like Me, 2006

Not to be confused with Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,”Rihanna finds herself gushing over a guy whose mere presence gives her butterflies. Lyrically at times, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” feels like a continuation of “SOS,” but its distinct dancehall beat sets it apart.

“Selfish Girl”

A Girl Like Me, 2006

Rihanna’s not a selfish girl except for when it comes to bae—and she’ll do whatever it takes to receive his full attention, i.e., “You might think I’m greedy, but I just don’t care.” Nonetheless, the then-budding star’s innocence shines through.

“Here I Go Again” feat. J-Status

Music of the Sun, 2005

A perfect blend of pop and reggae, “Here I Go Again” instantly brightens your mood. From the sunny, reggae-infused melody to the song’s relatable lyrics (i.e., “I look into your eyes and then/ My heart remembers when/ And I realize I neva gotten over you”), why wasn’t “Here I Go Again” released as Music of the Sun’s third single?

“You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)” feat. Vybz Kartel

Music of the Sun, 2005

Rihanna flaunts her Caribbean charm on a well-suited cover of Jamaican singer Dawn Penn’s classic ’94 hit “You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No),” putting her own spin on a beloved song in a way that feels organic and effortless.

Read my latest piece for The Boombox [here].