R&B Fridays: Episode 72

Plenty to recap from the past week: Behind-the-scenes with Rihanna and Drake, new visuals from Nicki Minaj, a video for Dirty Money and Drake’s collabo, three mastered tracks from Ciara/Usher, Akon and Nicole Scherzinger, and finally the finished version of Jamie Foxx and Drake’s fantastic Fall For Your Type.

Click on for this week’s R&B fix.

Jessica Mauboy-Saturday Night ft. Ludacris
-Kicking off with a club track that will go down well with the mainstream fans. It’s a very slow build, as things slow down extensively after Luda’s opener but pick up considerably for the hook which has that dance-influence the pop fans go crazy for.

Ne-Yo-Shot Down
-Apparently a cut track from Libra Scale, this one has Ne-Yo inject a little hip-hop into his repetoire. The verses are certainly closer to rapping than singing, which makes for a nice bit of variety, even if it doesn’t quite boast masses of quality. It would have probably just been album filler, so it’s understandable that it’s a cut.

J. Holiday-Romantic
-Solid slow jam, the likes of which J. Holiday has mastered over the years. His smooth, buttery vocals are ideal for this sort of music, and he delivers some relaxing vocals over a mellow production to deliver a good all-rounder. Top marks for the improvement in his songwriting too.

Jah Cure-Like I See It ft. Rick Ross and Mavado
-Strong reggae vibes coarsing through this one, with a vintage, bouncy production providing a lively backdrop for each artist to bring their gifts to the table. Ross doesn’t actually sound too bad on this, although the highlights are definitely Mavado and Jah Cure’s contributions, with the singalong hook being particularly memorable.

Tank-That’s What You Are
-More top quality bedroom music from the incomparable Tank. A light, airy production makes this incredibly easy to listen to, and works well with Tank’s voice to highlight it in the right places. Great vocal work throughout too.

Robin Thicke-She’s Cold ft. Swizz Beatz
-One of those classic Swizzy productions, with all the bells and whistles (literally). Sounds like 2007 Swizz, with the slightly off-beat feel, but he’s thrown in some stretched out synths that tailor this toward Robin’s whispery vocals. It does work well, although it seems stuck in a middle ground between a club track and a slow jam, which can be disorienting.

Range-While The Gettin’s Good
-Roc Nation’s Range comes through with a nice R&B track that delivers on all fronts: great hook, well-written verses and thought-out production. Crucially, the hook boasts a step-up in production that is always so worthwhile, but so often forgotten by producers. Vocally, Range shows off his…range…of vocals, coming on a slower tip for the verses and injecting some energy for the hook. Reminds of a Ryan Leslie-style track.

Sean Garrett-Feel Love ft. J. Cole
-Roc Nation’s newest signee revamps his single, replacing Drake with J. Cole. I assume this was done as he was originally set to sign with Young Money (hence featuring Drake) but is now labelmates with Cole: great to hear him on these R&B tracks, and he improves the track by virtue of being rare on a feature, unlike Drake. The track is the same otherwise, which therefore means it’s superb!

Cee-Lo-Bright Lights, Bigger City
-The newest single from Lady Killer, this is an uptempo track in a very different style to F*** You. Not as in-your-face, but probably more likeable musically as it has a modern, diverse production that boasts urban influences with the percussion, classical elements with the string section, and an R&B/pop influence with the synths on the chorus. The vocals are superb too, as they have an echoed feel that adds an epic feel to a grand production. Great track, one that would easily get you motivated for a night out.

Leona Lewis-I Know Who I Am
-More soundtrack contributions from Leona, with this one set to appear on the For Coloured Girls OST. One of those typical Leona tracks, with progressive vocals and production that build into a big climax. You can’t argue with it though: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ne-Yo-My Mind
-A reference track for a female artist, this is yet another Ne-Yo demo that’s going to be difficult to improve upon no matter who takes it on. It has that signature Ne-Yo sound, with futuristic synths, a mid-tempo percussion line and versatile vocals throughout. Solid effort.

Jackie Boyz-Walking on Water
-Sounds a little unfinished as the vocals are a bit low, but this has potential to be a huge club track. It’s got both of the right elements, with a dance-influenced beat and catchy vocals, and will appeal hugely to the mainstream fans. One that could set any party off with ease.

Jagged Edge-Forever My Girl
-These guys need to release another album. The majority of the stuff I’ve posted across the last 72 episodes from these guys has been of a really high standard, and this is no different. The highlight here is the very slight use of synths, which transitions the verses and hooks superbly, and draws more attention to the adjustment in their vocals, which themselves are very good.

Jay Sean-Like This, Like That ft. Birdman
-No Jay, no. Mainstream fans will eat this up, but I personally don’t like this style of production. The minimalistic, pseudo-hip hop beat in the verses is something that should be solely reserved for the talentless, and there’s no denying Jay Sean does have talent. However, the hook is much better as there are some additional elements thrown in, along with an improvement in vocals.

J. Holiday-Full Time Hustle
-A different style of track for J. Holiday, which a much livelier production and more diversity in the vocals. It’s got a hip-hop theme, and occasionally has Holiday bringing a rap-style flow, but retains that soulful flavour which keeps this accessible to his usual fans. Really interesting delivery from Holiday, as it comes across as an almost storytelling style of song. There is a miscellaneous, uncredited rapper (who sounds a bit like Ja Rule) featuring on this too.

Tank-Fix Me
-This most certainly has a storytelling feel, which given the slow jam style of the track is a rare accomplishment. Tank paints a vivid picture in the verses with his emotional, reaching vocals, and caps it off with a memorable hook that contains a shift upwards in both vocals and production. One of the more ‘complete’ tracks I’ve heard from Tank, as he takes on a much richer production and does a great job.

Bow Wow-Ain’t Thinkin’ Bout You ft. Chris Brown
-I didn’t feel Bow Wow had earned a post of his own, so he’s in here despite coming through with a decent track. As with his usual material, it is very R&B influenced, with the lyrical focus being on relationships/women. Highlight is Chris Brown’s hook without question, as his catchy rhymes will stick in your head.

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