R&B Fridays: Episode 74

Bumper episode this week, with 20 tracks making the cut. It’s been a pretty busy time for R&B, hence I’ve let plenty of big R&B/pop tracks loose early this week.

The recap: Drake’s full version Fall For Your Type, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj’s first collaboration, a diverse track from Christian Rich, Trey Songz and Keri’s remix of a Dirty Money track, the final version of a great Lloyd track, and some ‘new’ Michael Jackson music.

A lengthy catchup, and it’s followed by a big episode: click below to get involved.

Chris Brown-Between The Lines ft. Kevin McCall
-He’s been on great form for the last year, and this is another top track from his upcoming mixtape In My Zone 2. A midtempo track of the highest order, this one boasts a lively percussion line that gives it a strong base. The melodies are simple synths, with the highlight being the vocals from both McCall and Brown: Chris is on his quick-flow, emotional style here whilst McCall surprises with a nicely-delivered verse.

Mario-Number One

-Mario is the kind of artist that is easy to sleep on, but it’s dangerous to do so. He has some great ability, and soulful tracks like this suggest he’s got much more than people give him credit for. A progressive production makes this track very gripping, and Mario delivers with great vocals throughout.

Chrisette Michele-So In Love ft. Rick Ross
-From her upcoming Let Freedom Reign album, this is a relaxing track with an edgy twist. The mellow production is supplemented by some powerful vocals from Chrisette, with the hook in particular being a loud, catchy vocal performance. Great lyrics in this one, and they work to add some welcome depth to this solid soul/R&B effort.

-Almost certainly a female demo, Ne-Yo’s undoubtedly gone for the angry, brash style here! Held together by a bouncy production, the live drums work well to give this track a more open, organic feel. Clearly, this is a track that’s centered around the lyrics, as the vocals are really pushed forward by the lack of ‘obvious’ melodies in the production.

-Nice extended metaphor used throughout by Avant, which is combined superbly with a diverse production: the synths are drifting, but the drums are most certainly pounding, making for an attention-grabbing mixture that supplements the clever lyrical work well.

Rock City-Morning, Noon and Night

-Even Rock City have succumbed to the dance revolution sweeping music it seems. Having said that, their island roots still show through and add a really different twist to this David Guetta production almost purely by virtue of their accents and flow. The vocals in the second verse are absolutely identical to Akon’s style (and I think he’s on background vocals in the chorus), so I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being a demo for him. A really feel-good, energetic mainstream track.

Nelly Furtado-Stars
-Wow, this is unexpected. An acoustic track from the Furt (ha!), and a pretty decent one at that. Solid, almost haunting vocals throughout, and decent songwriting always results in good acoustic music, and this track boasts all that. A surprisingly good track.

Sterling Simms-Who’s This Girl
-One of the better vocalists in the game, Sterling goes right through the styles here with desperate, reaching vocals alongside a whispery, softer style. The production is simple but effective, with a simple drumline being laced with light melodies from synths and flutes. A great slow jam: when he gets it right, he gets it very right!

Usher-Missin’ My Woman

-The mature lyrics and vocals of this track has the feel of his Here I Stand material, which is certainly no bad thing. Throw in a rich production and you’ve got a track about as good as anything on that album, with a vintage feel on the production giving the track a strong sense of identity. Good to hear Ush on his lyrical game.

Raheem DeVaughn-All I Want Is You Remix

-Raheem’s shredding of beats continues with the latest from his Jackin 4 Beats mixtape. The production on the original Miguel track was absolutely superb, and the potentially-timeless quality of it as an R&B beat is tested here with this remix. Unsurprisingly, it passes with flying colours and Raheem delivers some strong vocals to do the beat justice. Probably the best remix of this track so far, would love to hear this mixed with the original.

Nelly-Gone ft. Kelly Rowland
-The follow-up to their smash-hit Dilemma, Nelly and Kelly (cringe) try to recapture the magic with this effort. It’s much of the same, with an easily-digestable and mainstream-targeted effort that will surely impact the charts. Great production on this one, would be interested to hear remixes from other artists.

Keri Hilson-The Way You Love Me ft. Rick Ross
-Lots of intensity, energy and passion in this one. A high-tempo intro leads superbly into a booming, driving verse which will be absolutely prime for clubs and radio. Very catchy, and the huge, Lil’ Jon-esque beat makes this busy and in-your-face from a production standpoint, which suits Ross well as he does a nice job on his feature. Definitely one you can get down to in a club. There’s also an alternate version without Rick Ross: you can grab that one here.

Rihanna-What’s My Name ft. Drake (Ted Smooth Remix)

-Not really sure how I feel about this one. The vocals sound like they’ve been put through further digitisation, which really doesn’t do it any favours. I like the reggae-style beat though (I’m sure I’ve heard it before?), and it’s a good remix from that aspect.

R. Kelly-Hard Times

-From that piece of digital R&B, let’s move to some classic, organic R. Kelly. This really does sound like that early 90′s Kelly, with strong vocals being the focus on this slow, meaningful track. Oddly though, it doesn’t actually sound like Kelly at times which is a bit disorienting. That’s how I got it though, and if it is him, it’s a good track.

Chrisette Michele-Goodbye Game

-Another one from LFR, this is one the soul/pop heads (yes, there is crossover!) will really enjoy. A grand, epic production is tied with Chrisette’s huge vocals to deliver a track Mary J. Blige would be proud to call her own. In particular, the rough qualities in Michele’s voice are really endearing, giving this track a very honest and raw feel.

Mario-Cheat Sheets
-Not exam advice, FYI. Instead, this is a slow jam with a nice spin on the lyrics. A smooth, winding production really holds this track together, especially as the vocals aren’t totally clear at times, though it’s still a very solid all-round effort.

Chris Brown-Boing
-One more from In My Zone 2, this one has a unique mixture of bedroom-based lyrics with a pop sensibility. It works in parts, particularly on the hook, but comes across as a bit silly in the verses. Not sure why they had to have the ‘boing’ in the verses to be honest, they don’t add anything. Otherwise, it’s a solid track.

Avant-Body Police
-This guy has some great titles for his music. Another smooth Avant track, with a nice step up for the hook being a highlight. The extended metaphor doesn’t quite work as well as Graduated, but it’s probably better from a production perspective with more impact from the percussion.

-Interesting spelling. Can’t complain when the song is this good though, as Ne-Yo delivers a slice of uptempo pop/R&B that has good all-round strength. The production has a light dance influence, which works well in not being too overbearing, whilst his vocals are really smooth throughout, and a catchy hook tops the song off nicely.

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