R&B Fridays: Episode 86

All good things come to an end, and my recent run of posting these on time has been broken. The football fans out there will also note that another streak was broken today, but we are NOT getting into that.

A quick round-up from the week gone by: UK upcomer Talay Riley grabs Wretch 32 for a remix of his single, Timbaland’s latest weekly instalment, Trey Songz’s take on Chris Brown’s latest single, and finally a medley of incredible Michael Jackson covers from the fantastic Patrick Stump.

Lots of big names in this week’s episode, and many that will certainly catch your mainstream eyes. Click below for a sweet-smelling blast of R&B to your sweaty, sweaty face.

Jay Sean-Hit The Lights ft. Lil’ Wayne
-Originally leaked last week with tags all over it, this is the tag-free version (and better quality) version for you meatbags to enjoy. This is a pretty standard and formulaic bit of pop, with a catchy, repetitive hook, electro-infused production and token rapper verse for good measure. It’ll be enjoyed by the mainstream/pop heads, less so by the more mature audiences.

Skylar Grey-Love The Way You Lie (Demo)
-Skylar’s one of the most buzzed upcomers right now, and seems to really be mirroring the rise to fame of many of today’s pop/R&B singers, as she’s been a prominent songwriter (of mainstream hits) for quite some time, and is now cropping up with some solo features of her own. This track in particular has caught real hype this week, with the original demo recording for Love The Way You Lie part 2 (and the hook for part 1, by association). This version is great, as Skylar gives the track a much more personal, emotional and passionate feel, though that’s not a slight to the production on Rihanna’s finished version, which is also very good. However, Skylar clearly has the advantage vocally, and hence this is really worth a listen.

Snoop Dogg-Dirty Dancer ft. Trey Songz
-Another one that had an early version leaked, though that advance version had a demo singer on the hook instead of Trey. It’s a slower club track, though isn’t lacking mainstream appeal with a catchy hook, simple verse selection and winding production. I’m not a fan of it, but as with the Jay Sean track it’s definitely one for the pop/mainstream crowd.

Lee Carr-What’s It Gonna Be ft. Cory Gunz
-Solid effort from Lee Carr, in keeping with his recent consistency. Really enjoying this blend of midtempo percussion, upbeat synths and emotional, reaching vocals, as it makes for a track that almost covers all angles as far as R&B goes: Lyrically, it’s a slow jam but the production is more ‘positive’, and hence it’s a very solid all-rounder.

Raheem DeVaughn-No Bullshit Remix
-Slowing things down for a minute, Radio Raheem takes on Chris Brown’s enjoyable slow jam, and does some serious work on this production. It’s the sort of smooth, sultry production that’s made for Raheem, and he does it justice with some solid vocal work. Having also been remixed recently by Dondria, it’s odd that this track seems to have taken on a new lease of life a year after its original emergence, but it’s pretty solid so I can’t complain!

Akon-One More Time
-One more time is right: it’s Autotuned, dance-inspired, has a big, repeated (and hence catchy) hook and is fairly simple lyrically. Recurring theme with the mainstream uptempo tracks, though this beat is a little different to Akon’s usual selection as it’s extremely dance-driven, versus his usual infusion of more pop elements.

Dawn Richard-Me, Myself and Y
-Not a misspelling, don’t worry. 1/3 of the Dirty Money trio is embarking on some solo work, with this being the first drop from a mixtape due in the near future. It’s quite a unique affair too, with an offbeat production that draws on multiple influences, including alternative, pop and R&B. Dawn’s vocals remain solid throughout, with a pop style adding some structure to the track. A little difficult to get accustomed to at first, but gets better with a few listens.

Jason Derulo-Maniac ft. Auburn
-Two of JR Rotem’s signees hook up for a midtempo pop jam in which Auburn really shines. That’s no doubt thanks to Derulo’s over-Autotuned vocals, which are not only 4 years removed from the trend, but far too high-pitched to be remotely enjoyable. Auburn’s are pretty solid though, and the relaxing production isn’t too bad either. Another one for the pop heads.

Chris Brown-Boombox
-Sounds a little unfinished as the production/vocal levels aren’t quite right, but there’s definitely potential for a good track here. Enjoying the very hip-hop inspired production, complete with scratches and all, as Chris delivers a pretty captivating performance with some diversity in the lyrics. Probably quite endearing as its a little rough, and hence adds a raw and unfiltered feel.

Skylar Grey-It’s Raining Again
-Part 2 of my Skylar Grey ‘bio’! She was previously known in music as Holly Brook (which I think is her actual name), and was most notable for her work on the fantastic Fort Minor album, specifically on the superb Where’d You Go. I believe this track is from the ‘Holly Brook’ era, and has a more upbeat, alternative pop feel than the demo posted above, with a perky melody throughout and more positively-tinged vocals from Skylar/Holly. Pretty relaxing stuff to be honest, and very reminiscent of Dido’s material from the early 00′s.

Mike Posner-Bow Chicka Wow Wow (Official Remix) ft. Lil’ Wayne
-Wayne jumps on the remix of a very likeable album track from Posner’s summer 2010 debut effort. The original was a laidback track that served as Mike’s first stab (at that point) at the ‘bedroom music’ style, and he certainly did a decent job. Wayne comes through with a short verse that fits the song nicely, as he swaps his high-pitched tones for a lazier, more relaxed delivery that doesn’t break up the flow of the track at all, and slides comfortably in. Definitely worth a listen, a very worthwhile remix.

London-Romeo ft. Fatman Scoop
-Enjoyable stuff here from one of my favourite upcoming singers, combining a smooth soulful vibe with an uptempo drum sample, a mixture that really brings the best out of his voice. Some enjoyable diversity in his vocals, and the hook is very catchy without being boring and repetitive. More solid material from London, though I’m not sure he needed the Fatman Scoop samples as he brings enough energy of his own.

Kevin Cossom-Black and Yellow Remix
-Just when you think the remixes of this track have stopped, Cossom pops up with another. I have to say this is very good though, as the vast majority of the remixes were from rappers (or singers opting to rap), whereas Cossom sticks with his singing vibe to bring a different style to the track. He sings about his significant other too, which makes for a change of subject matter on this production, and essentially transforms the entire feel of the track. Very much worth a listen, one of the better remixes of the track.

Clinton Sparks-Unless We F*ckin ft. Akon
-Respected DJ Clinton Sparks keeps making forays into the world of solo material, and continues his venture with this thudding effort. The production is pretty minimal, and almost exclusively utilises thick, bassy synths for the beat, which gives this a perfect appeal to for any club DJs. Worth checking out if you’re after something a bit different but with an electro vibe.

Trey Songz-It’s Gon’ Be On ft. Rico Love
-One that definitely sounds like it’s from the vaults (I’d guess at around 2007), this is a midtempo effort that is solid, if unspectacular. It’s ‘just OK’ in pretty much all departments, with a production that relies mostly on its percussion, and vocals that don’t really step up to the kind of quality Trey is capable of. Probably one that the Trey fans may want to check out, if for anything just to add to your collection.

Jay Sean-Home
-Pretty heartfelt stuff from Jay Sean, with a very simple, unobtrusive production giving this an almost acoustic-like feel. It definitely puts his lyrics and vocals at the forefront of the track: the vocals certainly exhibit a lot of diversity as he experiments with a few different deliveries, and although he doesn’t necessarily perfect them all, his lyrics fill the gaps with their emotional approach.

Skylar Grey-High and Low
-It’s only right we close out with Skylar. This is another supposedly from the ‘Holly Brook’ era, and another that switches up the style and feel of her work. This is a much more pop-R&B style track (and actually sounds ideal for Rihanna), with a softer melody style being accompanied by head-nodding percussion work, making for a very enjoyable production. Holly/Skylar’s vocals adapt superbly, as she shows off her range throughout with some catchy and memorable work: combine the three tracks in this episode and you get an idea of the diversity she possesses, as well as her obvious talent as a singer-songwriter, and hence the reasons why she’ll almost definitely be a really big prospect this year. Edit: Turns out this and It’s Raining Again (posted a few tracks above) may not be Skylar/Holly tracks at all, according to one source.

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