R&B Fridays: Episode 73

Lots of mainstream stuff this week, alongside a couple of surprise additions from the hip-hop world and the celebrity world.

R&B recap from the last week: Dirty Money’s new single, the first drop from Trey Songz’s new mixtape, Katy B’s latest video, Willow Smith’s television debut, Rihanna and Eminem’s latest collaboration, and Chrisette Michele’s new mixtape from earlier today. Also, soul heads should check out a great cover of Maxwell’s Pretty Wings, and a remix of Mayer Hawthorne’s No Strings.

El DeBarge-Format ft. 50 Cent
-Kicking off this week with yet another pop-R&B feature from 50 Cent. This one has El DeBarge’s old-school vibe all over it, with a retro pop production feeding into DeBarge’s trademark vocals nicely. A generally solid all-round pop effort.

Johnta Austin-The Angel Is Mine
-One of those typical Johnta tracks, with a mellowed out production being fitted nicely with his ever-relaxing vocals. There isn’t a great deal else that can describe this track: if you’re familiar with his material, which you should be by now, you’ll know what to expect. I’m sure this production has been heard somewhere else, either on a previous Johnta or Ne-Yo demo: whoever figures it out wins a prize.

Flo Rida-Who Dat Girl ft. Akon
-Apparently a version of this was circulating a while ago, though I can’t say I caught wind of it. This is the single version either way, and it’s yet another club banger for both of them. One thing I will commend Flo Rida for is that he’s gone with a more R&B/hip-hop ‘inspired’ effort versus the mainstream’s current craving for dance-infused anthems.

Cee-Lo-Please ft. Selah Sue
-A bonus track from his Lady Killer album, and a very good one at that. A very modern sounding soul jam, with some great songwriting  painting a detailed portrait throughout, giving the song a richness that is matched admirably by a really diverse production: it’s a story within itself, as it adds and removes elements in a really appropriate manner to the lyrics, giving this the rightful title of a ‘song’, and not just a beat thrown under some vocals. If the actual album is as good as this, we’re in for a classic.

-This guy doesn’t know how to make a bad slow jam. Despite being purely a slow jam singer, his diversity is incredible and this progressive piece of is pretty much a blueprint on how slow tracks should be made. A simple piano melody gives Tank a great platform to display his vocal range, which is suitably upscaled for the catchy hook. The production follows suit with some subtle and suitable additions to round off a very strong track.

Quincy Jones-P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) ft. T-Pain and Robin Thicke
-There was some controversy over this track when it dropped earlier this week. There were always going to be detractors given that it’s a Michael Jackson remake, but it seems the issue is with T-Pain’s heavy Autotuning. I can see the motivation, as the point of the album is to give old tracks modern spins, but it does sound horribly out of place alongside Thicke’s smooth, organic vocals. It’s a good remake, but only on the strength of the original being so good and Robin Thicke sounding great on uptempo tracks.

Taio Cruz-Higher ft. Kylie Minogue
-Originally posted here, this is just the high quality version I previously promised. Very good track which is significantly improved by the hike in quality.

Kim Kardashian-Shake
-I’m not joking. This is actually Kim Kardashian launching a music career. Not only that, but she’s managed to get herself a pretty good Neptunes beat for the occasion. Aside from the superb production, there’s not really much going on either way: it’s by no means entirely terrible, but it’s your typical, factory-produced pop music that could be made by anyone. Will inevitably be huge, and probably a club favourite.

Avant-Your Body Is The Business
-Good choice of title to follow the previous track/artist eh? Much like Tank, Avant is another one who gets these slow jams right more often than not, and this is actually very similar to the above Tank track: simple melodies provide a backdrop for Avant to deliver some decent vocals, with the track stepping up as a whole for the hook. Solid effort.

Trey Songz-Runaway
-The second track from his upcoming mixtape, this is a very interesting one. I was really looking forward to it as this sort of beat is perfect for a good R&B singer (see here for a good example), and Trey starts things off well. However, he switches to the rapping style for the verses which is usually OK, but doesn’t change the track enough from a structure perspective when compared to the innovation in his past remixes. It ends up being too similar to the original in that aspect, and verse vs. verse Kanye is going to trump Trey 9 times out of 10. Worth grabbing for the hook though.

-A pounding pop track from the brash Ke$ha. Not as upbeat and high-tempo as her usual material, which sort of turns this into a more hip-hop inspired track with ‘rapped’ verses. It doesn’t totally come off for me, but will work with a pop audience as a bit of pseudo hip-hop. Has a touch of Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl about it.

Bobby Valentino-Altered Ego ft. 50 Cent
-Essentially it’s this track with a decent 50 Cent feature. As I said in R&BF52, it’s a track that needs a few listens to get used to, but won’t blow anyone’s mind.

Jacob Latimore-Like ‘Em All ft. Diggy Simmons
-Child stars are all the rage these days, and 13-year old Jacob Latimore is the latest to land in my inbox. Lots of raw ability in the vocals though, and I’m assured he’s quite the ‘all-round talent’ which certainly makes him a name to look out for. This track feels heavily influenced by Chris Brown’s early material, not least due to Jacob’s energetic vocals bearing quite the likeness to Chris’. Top feature from Diggy too, I could see him being really good at killing guest spots. A very solid all-round track: good vocals, high-tempo production and a great feature spot.

Enrique Iglesias-Tonight ft. Ludacris
-From a future guest spot killer to the current king of them: Ludacris comes through with another strong mainstream feature, bringing his catchy flow to this club banger. Very strong electro influence on the production, and Enrique swears a lot in this one which is pretty cool.

Tank-Good Lookin’ Out
-Very similar to the earlier Tank track from a production standpoint. His vocals have a much stronger positive inflection though, giving the production a different feel and hence further validating my claim about his versatility. It’s still fundamentally a slow jam, but the passion is switched to ‘appreciation’ rather than ‘bedroom’.

Johnta Austin-I Just Gotta Know
-It’s easy to forget just how good a songwriter this guy is: his material is so consistent that it becomes the general standard. This goes above and beyond that, with a strong storytelling emphasis driving the track, which does a great job at keeping you interested in the track. The production is well-suited to this style too, being rich enough to enjoy independently but omitting any potential intrusive melodies or elements.

Jason Derulo-Automatic
-Has anyone’s own name ever been as big a catchphrase?! JAAASSOONN DERRRULLO comes through with another pop-R&B track that will definitely appeal to his ever-growing fanbase. Undoubtedly a club track, but it feels like it’s missing a little something. Possibly the fact it’s basically the same as his other songs.

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