Category Archives: Music

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].

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].

A Ranking Of Beyoncé’s ‘Dangerously In Love’ Tracklist

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Credit: Genius

Going it alone takes guts, especially when you’ve spent over half of your life as the frontwoman of a wildly successful group, selling millions of records and establishing a mountain of platinum hits. Riding solo means that the public’s criticism grows harsher and the expectations become preposterously higher, but Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter pulled off the transition seamlessly.

At the time, R&B trio Destiny’s Child, who started their musical career in 1990 as Girl’s Tyme, were on a hiatus. Michelle Williams’ Heart to Yours and Kelly Rowland’s Simply Deep were both released within six months of each other respectively. Beyoncé was riding high off the success of Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Fighting Temptations, as well as the smash hit “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” with future hubby JAY-Z.

Meanwhile, the young starlet’s first solo project was quietly bubbling beneath the surface.

Behind the scenes, Beyoncé was patiently waiting for her turn to dazzle critics. The long-awaited Dangerously In Love had been postponed, which allowed the then 21-year-old more time to record additional tracks, including “Crazy In Love.” Determined to carve out her own destiny (pun intended), Beyoncé enlisted several well-known hitmakers, including Rich Harrison, Scott Storch, Missy Elliot and Bryce Wilson, to create the most anticipated album of 2003.

Read my latest piece for VIBE [here].

10 Years Later: Mariah Carey’s ‘E=MC²’ Tracklist, Ranked

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Credit: Apple Music

Following a massively successful album would be a daunting task for most artists. But in 2008, musical icon Mariah Carey eagerly accepted the challenge when she released the long-awaited E=MC².

The 14-track LP felt like a continuation of The Emancipation of Mimi, which was dubbed as Carey’s comeback album. Earning a whopping 10 Grammy Award nominations, TEOMwas a pivotal career moment, and it went on to produce the smash hits, “We Belong Together” and “Don’t Forget About Us.” Selling an upwards of 10 million copies worldwide, MC silenced naysayers and proved that she was capable of achieving commercial success after experiencing a mini career slump in the early 2000s.

As acts like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift started to hit their prime respectively, critics foolishly pondered Carey’s lasting power when E=MC² arrived on this day in 2008, claiming that it offered no new feels from its predecessor. During that time, R&B became stagnant and was experiencing somewhat of an identity crisis, but Carey working with people like The-Dream helped keep the genre fresh. The album was also another step in her journey to creative freedom.

“Basically, I’m freer on this album than I’ve ever been. Some of the songs on the last album were cool but maybe not quite as neat as this album,” Carey told The Sun’s “Something for the Weekend,” explaining the album’s physics-inspired title, which can also be seen as a not-so-subtle nod to the singer-songwriter’s musical genius. In a separate interview, she said, “This album is so much about fun and freedom and just the continuation of me feeling emancipated … people ask me all the time, ‘How do you stay relevant? How do you stay current? How do you make music that people continue to respond to?’ You just keep being real, keep being you, stay true to who you were from the beginning.”

Read my latest piece for VIBE [here].