R&B Fridays: Episode 70


Over the last 70 episodes, we’ve delivered music from your favourite acts, introduced you to some new and exiciting ones, and of course given a new lease of life to otherwise forgotten artists. To celebrate that, I’ve ensured this week’s episode covers all of that ground nicely, to keep everyone satisfied.

Not much to recap on this week, besides two big video premieres from Rihanna and Lloyd. Click on to grab a chunky, 20+ track episode that’ll keep you going for a while.

Monica-Here I Am Remix ft. Trey Songz
-Kicking things off with the official remix to Monica’s latest, with Trey Songz making a really worthwhile feature. He comes through with a smooth verse that, unlike some other artists’ features, actually has relevance to the song and adds a new perspective. Monica’s vocals are really good on this too, a decent slow jam all-round.

Johnta Austin-Fancy Remix
-An OK remix again from Johnta, but raises some real questions for me: if you can put this new work in for a mixtape, why not use some of the incredible original material that hits the net all the time and make an album/mixtape out of it?! Confuses me why he’s doing rap remixes when he’s sitting on piles of top class R&B.

Ne-Yo-Know Your Name
-Really relaxing stuff from Ne-Yo, which could be off the Libra Scale album that seems to have disappeared. The simple, mellow production suits Ne-Yo’s voice perfectly, as he comes on a more soulful tip with the vocals to create an easy-listening track.

Francisco-Still My Love
-So rare to hear from this guy nowadays, which is a shame as he has a lot of talent. This is a good uptempo jam, with a bittersweet edge that gives it a little more depth lyrically than most fast-paced tracks. As ever, he nails the hook with some great vocals and has again picked the right sort of production for his voice.

El DeBarge-Lay With You ft. Faith Evans
-Really like this track. Somewhere between pop, soul and R&B, it’s all held together with an old-school sensibility that produces some great vocals over a good production. You’ll need some good headphones to truly appreciate this well-made production.

Jamie Foxx-Living Better Now ft. Rick Ross
-He seems to enjoy working with these slightly disorienting beats! It’ll confuse you a little as there are some unexpected jumps and additions to the beat throughout, but it’s actually decent in an off-beat kind of way. Utilising a Biggie sample for the hook, this is one you can really nod your head to and could be one of those club tracks that quietly gathers some real momentum.

Rotimi-Forever
-Props to the GWHH boys for the premiere on this. I first heard of Rotimi in South Africa (evidenced here) and really enjoyed what I heard. Since then, the track in the previous link has apparently topped the charts out there and he continues to build on that success with this decent slow jam. With good lyrical content and strong vocals, you can’t go wrong.

Shakira-Islands
-Hmm. Shakira covers The xx’s fantastic Islands, and actually does a decent job. Vocally, there’s no question she’s up to par, and does the original justice with her usual passionate delivery. The beat is the controversial part: it’s very much changed, and made into a much more uptempo, pop effort. It hence drains a lot of the isolated, lonely charm the original’s minimal tones had, though it is likeable in its own way. Good bit of variety, but not better than the original.

Bruno Mars-Today My Life Begins
-It wouldn’t be a milestone episode without the undoubted star of recent months. As the title suggests, this is one of those uplifting, ‘time to move on’ type tracks that always go down well with you lot. The key to getting these tracks right is the production, which correctly grows in depth as the track goes on. As the sort of track that is made for Bruno’s reaching, desperate vocals, this is definitely top drawer material.

JyJ-Ayy Girl ft. Kanye West and Malik Yusef
-First he works with a Belgian, then an English duo and now a Korean boyband: Kanye is seriously doing the rounds! Probably goes without saying that the Ye verse is the highlight, but the track itself isn’t entirely terrible and works as an inoffensive, if not particularly replayable, pop effort.

Ray J-Last Wish
-First he had One Wish, and now a Last Wish? Wouldn’t they sort of be the same thing? Anyway, this is a good slow jam that shows off Ray J’s often-underrated vocals well, and has a commendable organic feel to it throughout-the production feels pretty natural, as it utilises fairly simple elements to back his vocals well.

Truth Hurts-Bullet
-You’d be forgiven for not remembering who this is. I don’t know if she’s even made any music since her one huge hit,  but she’s back with a surprisingly decent effort here. Her voice seems to have changed quite a lot since Addictive, and for the better as it sounds much more refined and far easier to listen to. Good songwriting on this too, definitely one to check out as you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Kat DeLuna-Be There
-Every so often, she pops up here with an enormous club banger that by rights should be really popular. For some reason, it just doesn’t seem to be working and it’s a bit of a shame as she’s getting everything right in terms of making a mainstream-ready sound. This one seems to have more dance-influence on her production than before, without sacrificing her natural vibrance as she comes through with an energetic vocal performance.

Kelly Rowland-Forever Is Just A Minute Away
-Interesting contrast with the vocals and production here, as the beat in the verses seems to dictate ‘slow jam’, but Rowland goes in the opposite direction with some powerful vocals that the beat seems unable to contain. This all comes to a head in the hook, which has the beat stepping up appropriately to match the vocals. Well put together, good to see this kind of care being taken. Could be a big track.

Miguel-Battery (Usher Demo)
-Decent one here, and you could definitely hear Usher (or even Ne-Yo) taking this one. That’s no disrespect to Miguel though, who clearly does a good job to be make it sound this good, and hence worthy for either artist. One of those that’s somewhere between a club track and, er… not a club track. Midtempo would be the most fitting description!

Akon-Give It To ‘Em ft. Rick Ross
-I swear Ross appears in R&BF more than anyone! This sounds very much like throwback Akon, with a much stronger R&B/hip-hop vibe running through this one as opposed to his recent dance direction. The production is a little like the Jamie Foxx one above, with some slightly unexpected beat transitions throughout, but like that track it requires a few listens to properly judge.

Marsha Ambrosius-The Ballad Of Hope She Cheats: Sex So Good
-Marsha’s great single is taken in a new direction, one that original Marsha fans would probably be more accustomed to. This smooth, soulful ballad does a great job in projecting the natural brilliance of her voice, and has a live, raw quality that makes this a must for the soul heads.

Bobby Valentino-Words
-Slow R&B jam from one of the best at them. Along with Lloyd, he’s great at taking on these drifty, wispy beats and comes through here with some good vocals, and memorable lyrics. A solid track all-round.

Ne-Yo-Not Stupid
-The production boasts a nice blend of guitars, synths and easygoing percussion work to create a good framework for Ne-Yo to lace some of those top vocals on. Somewhere between Try Me Out and Don’t Wanna Be In Love in terms of overall feel and tempo (although both songs are better than this one).

Johnta Austin-Hook It Up
-More from the LSR mixtape, though this is undoubtedly more like the Johnta we’re used to. A positive piano-laced melody makes for a nice backdrop, whilst Johnta delivers in spades with the vocals. It’s very well written too, with that rare quality of having memorable lyrics the whole way through the track, which is also a testament to his delivery.

Raheem DeVaughn-Can’t Be Friends Remix
-Radio Raheem comes through with a superb remake of the already-brilliant Trey Songz track. When I got this I was worried he’d change everything about the track, but I was wrong as he retains the beat in its entireity and keeps the hook’s lyrics, but replaces it with his own vocals. One of the best remixes the R&B game has seen recently.

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