R&B Fridays: Episode 81

Will R&B Fridays ever be on time? That’s the question.

I’ve more than compensated though, throwing in almost 20 tracks for you to enjoy this week. There’s no skimping on the big names either, as there are some strong contributions from some of the bigger stars in the R&B/pop world. No real recap this week as the music industry has all but shut down, though the Alicia Keys version of Devil In A New Dress is a must-download.

Click on for the first R&B Friday of 2011.

Chris Brown-Where Do We Go From Here ft. Pitbull
-Entirely the sort of track you’d expect from this collaboration. Jim Jonsin serves up a pop-dance production that fits both acts nicely, as Chris brings the energy with his vocals, and Pitbull adds the ‘mainstream stamp of approval’ with a verse. Potentially a big hit for Chris Brown, and one that will certainly do a job in clubs.

Colby O’Donis-In Love With You
-It’s been a long time since we heard from this guy, and I’ve got no idea what his label/album situation is these days, but either way it’s nice to get new music from him. You’re always guaranteed great vocals from Colby and this is no exception, delivering superbly over a strong pop production with nice touches of both guitar and synth.

Taio Cruz-Imagine (John Lennon Cover)
-Didn’t see this coming! Of course, it’s asking a lot to come anywhere near the original as far as quality goes, but Taio gives it a very commendable shot here. Delivering some pretty smooth vocals, Taio goes at the classic track with real passion, and it’s certainly worth listening to.

Karina Pasian and Sammie-Broken Hearted
-Nice to see two of R&B’s most talented upcomers working together, with this slated to be a ‘real’ single for both acts. Proper duets are rare these days, and it’s nice to hear that style back on this track, and the verse sharing works well with both sets of vocals. The production isn’t lacking either, as futuristic synths come back and forth throughout the track to give it a solid all-round feel.

Justin Timberlake-Take You Down
-Produced by The Neptunes, it’s not clear whether this is a demo for himself, another artist, or simply an unreleased track from the vault. Either way, it’s fairly decent material, though the offbeat nature of the production will take some getting used to for most listeners. It’s a good track after that hurdle though, with an enjoyable hook giving this an uptempo feel.

will.i.am-Don’t Trip
-So, will.i.am is trying rapping again? I suspect this is a demo, though either way it’s not actually too bad. The beat is very good, with a driving percussion and pounding bass adding real depth to the production, whilst a lively piano melody is thrown in with some synth bursts to thicken the beat further. The raps are typical mainstream fare, but are easy to ignore as this one is all about the superb production.

Brandon Hines-Network
-Anyone who’s picked up any of his past material will probably be more familiar with his slow jam style. Here Brandon goes for an upbeat jam that’s really enjoyable, as a mid-tempo percussion is supplemented by a strong bass and simple flashes of melodies to create a very effect production. His vocals aren’t really tested here, but he delivers some great stuff in the bursts he is allowed to cut loose.

Akon-Drop Down ft. Ludacris
-Wow, now this is an obscure sample. Remember Public Domain’s Operation Blade? Maybe not by name, but you should remember the track itself after listening to it. Akon spins it into an anthem of his own, giving it a very welcome refresh with this potential club monster. He’s suited well to these dance productions, and with Luda providing a typically show-stealing verse, they’ve unleashed a potentially enormous banger here. The next big thing.

Katy Perry-E.T. Remix ft. Tinie Tempah
-Highly doubt this is an official remix, but Tinie’s been jumping on as much US Pop as possible recently, and goes at Katy Perry’s alternative-inspired track here. The original is surprisingly bearable, with an anthemic pop-rock feel suiting Perry’s voice much better than the squeaky-clean style of her usual fare. Tinie comes through with a passable verse, nothing particularly life-changing as you’d expect, but takes to the beat well enough.

Rocki Evans-That’s My Bitch
-Big, big fan of this. Rocki delivers some really enjoyable vocals over Kanye and Jay-Z’s That’s My Bitch (yeah, we didn’t post it. It wasn’t an authorised leak!). This beat is absolutely superb though, with a high-tempo percussion giving this an addictive, head-nodding quality that is only enhanced by the melodies and bass. Rocki takes to it superbly, alternately giving his vocals and the beat appropriate shine.

Lloyd-Lay It Down Part 2 (Tribute To The Legends) ft. Patti LaBelle
-Fantastic ‘sequel’ to Lloyd’s King of Hearts single, paying tribute to some of the real legends of the R&B/pop/soul game. The legendary Patti LaBelle adds the seal of approval from the veterans, and the vintage soul flavour of the original is really brought to the fore with her inclusion. I was a huge fan of the original, but there’s no question that this version is better, with Patti’s inclusion adding a touch of class and real quality and Lloyd’s own changes/additions being very enjoyable.

Iyaz-What’s My Name Remix
-One that got accidentally left out of last week’s episode! Hit and miss here, as Iyaz opens the track with some nice vocals, but switches to a rapping style that doesn’t really do him any favours. However, the last third of the track has him back on his singing tip which works well, and certainly fits the beat easily. Decent remix.

Eve-Make Up Sex ft. will.i.am
-Eve’s on a bit of a roll, as her ‘return’ has been full of good tracks: this is one to add to that collection, as she comes through with a nice storytelling approach that fits this lively, uptempo production very well. It’s a shame this is quite short, as it’s got all the ingredients of a good mainstream hip-hop/crossover track.

Jagged Edge-I Need A Woman
-Release a new album! They’re taking forver with their next album, but along the way are consistently providing some fantastic R&B. This is everything you’d expect from a JE slow jam: searching, passionate vocals, a simple yet captivating production, and well-written lyrics. Their consistency over the last 12 months has been superb, and hopefully they come through with an LP soon.

Craig David-Dirty Mouth
-Strong electro influences here, as Craig goes over a high-tempo, pulsating production that is tailor made for the club scene. It’s difficult to catch any sort of outstanding vocal work over this sort of overpowering production, but he does a good job in taking this beat on from a flow perspective, and brings his own energy to a high-octane production.

Mishon-Ain’t No Other
-Solid all-rounder from young Mishon. Boasting a production that draws influences from a range of styles (in particular, there are strong guitar/live drum inclusions), Mishon provides his own R&B/pop style with his mainstream-friendly vocals, with the hook showing off those credentials nicely.

Ron Browz-I’m Smacked ft. Red Cafe
-Typically minimalist, off-beat production from Browz. As with most of his beats, it takes a few listens to really figure out whether it’s decent or terrible, though his generosity with the bass thumps always makes for decent club music. Probably one track too far for me, as this style is getting pretty boring.

Tank-Waterfalls ft. Isaacs
-I’m 100% convinced this production has been used before, but I can’t figure out where. Prize for whoever figures it out. Either way, it’s yet another fantastic slow jam from Tank, who quite simply can’t stop making high quality music. Both vocalists bring relaxing, consistent and smooth vocals to the track, with a piano-laced production that remains subservient but enjoyable in its own right. Really good track.

Chris Brown-Look At Me Now ft. Busta Rhymes and Lil’ Wayne
-Closing things out with another Chris Brown track (both were released last night on Twitter), and another potential club track. This one approaches from a more hip-hop mindset, with a minimal production held together by a deep, booming bass. The highlight is another song-shredding verse from the rejuvenated Busta Rhymes, who delivers yet another tongue-twisting effort that far outshines his cohorts on the track.

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