R&B Fridays: Episode 89

Genuine reason on the delay this week: I wasn’t happy with the amount of good quality material as of yesterday afternoon, but the R&B/pop world has delivered in the last 24 hours or so to make sure that situation has improved.

Not too much to recap on from the past week, with only the three related items: UK starlet Jodie Connor released her newest single, fellow homegrown upcomer Jaya released a new video featuring two prominent MCs, and Mike Posner let loose of official visuals for his collaboration with Lil’ Wayne.

Click below for this week’s R&B fix.

Kevin Cossom-My Love
-Kevin’s profile has raised considerably recently, and here he continues his hard-working nature with a solid R&B jam. The Runners serve up a production that fits the current mainstream tastes perfectly, and Cossom duly delivers with a diverse vocal performance that culminates in a catchy, if unimaginative hook. Decent all-rounder.

Ne-Yo-Give Me Everything
-Considerably more pop-oriented than almost anything we’ve heard from Ne-Yo, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a demo for another artist. The dance-pop, synth-heavy production makes for a familiar backdrop in the R&B/pop world, but one that’s fairly new to Ne-Yo’s vocals, which are delivered as well as ever without ever really being fully utilised or tested. One the mainstream will really enjoy by virtue of being a dancefloor filler and having a memorable hook, and one the older heads may enjoy to see just how these productions negate any unique qualities the vocalist may have.

Pitbull-Give Me Everything (Tonight) ft. Nayer & Ne-Yo
-Oh, I forgot to mention: the above track IS a demo. Unsurprisingly, the dance-pop beat ends up in the hands of Pitbull, with Ne-Yo’s vocals largely confined to the hook. Makes more sense that this is now Pitbull’s song given the style of the track, and there’s no reason for this to not be a big club/chart hit.

Jasmine Villegas-Hello ft. Ryan Leslie
-Produced by R-Les, and right from the off those trademark keys catch the ear: It’s another enjoyable Ryan Leslie beat, and there’s no doubt his production style still feels as fresh as ever. Jasmine’s vocals are decent, if a little generic, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing here as the beat is the undoubted star of the track.

Johnta Austin-Take My Love
-Yet another solid jam from Johnta, taking on a diverse mid-tempo production that brings that relaxed element he’s so accustomed to working with and infusing it with a hint of bounce. Great vocals from Johnta as ever, switching between his whispery style and a more passionate delivery to good effect. Not a classic by any means, but solid enough. I wish this guy would stick to a project. One minute his album is coming, then a mixtape’s ‘in the works: no matter what, we seem to end up with nothing!

Mya-Runnin’ Back ft. Iyaz
-Quite an unexpected collaboration here, but one that works well. Hovering that pop and R&B boundary, Mya’s trademark tones are put to good use in an atmospheric production, whilst Iyaz adds a nice bit of diversity to the track. Very solid material, and would be a good choice of single for Mya.

Keri Hilson-Black Cloud

-I’m absolutely convinced this production is a bassier version of one of the Sonic levels on the Sega Mega Drive. As nutty as that sounds, it comes off fairly well and makes for a pretty playful and catchy melody, which is supplemented in the hook by some light guitar work. Keri comes on a more soulful tip with the vocals, and turns this track into something far better than it should be with this (possible) sample!

R. Kelly-Back To The Way We Were
-Along with Tank, Kelly has been producing some of the finest slow jams in recent months and continues that streak here. He seems to have reverted to a more vintage style in both his vocals and production choices, which makes for refreshing listening in today’s synth-driven R&B environment. Vocals are on point as ever, production is minimal but effective: ticks the right boxes as far as slow jams go.

Clinton Sparks-Rockin’ With The Best ft. Diddy
-Not R&B per-se, but mainstream/pop nonetheless. Nothing complicated here: a hip-hop/pop crossover production, club-targeted and relatively brainless lyrics, and a repetitive, chart-ready hook. “Hip-hop” for the masses/clubs.

Cee-Lo Green-Bright Lights, Bigger City (Scoop DeVille Remix)
-Big fan of the original, and bravely Scoop retools the superb production of the original into a more downbeat, vocal-focused effort. Really can’t complain about this either, as although it removes that big and atmospheric feel, it replaces it with a softer, easier-on-the-ear style that maximises Cee-Lo’s vocals. Definitely worth a listen for a break from the intensity of the original.

Bruno Mars-Grenade (Grammy Version)
-A very good quality recording of Bruno Mars’ retro take on his huge hit, Grenade. The vintge stylings of this version make for addictive listening, pushing the limits of Bruno’s voice excellently and utilising a jazz/swing backdrop that adds a little elegance and originality to the heavily-overplayed original. One to check out for a welcome refresh (and probably replacement!) of the track.

T-Pain-I’m Dancing ft. Flo Rida

-T-Pain and Flo Rida: no prizes for guessing who this collaboration is going to appeal to. With that said, it’s a far less annoying than some of their previous efforts, with a hip-hop infused production that boasts some solid layers and commendable diversity. Not too much of that dance style in here which is good, and instead it opts for a more R&B/pop crossover. Still club-targeted of course, but much less irritating than the collaboration threatened to be.

Kevin Cossom-Change Yo Mind

-Another pretty solid one from Kevin, and one that focuses much more on the lyrical work. The production is smooth and unintrusive, upscaling quietly and efficiently in the right places. Vocals are solid, but the praise comes for the lyricism which paints the situational picture quite nicely. Might have benefitted from a slightly more adventurous approach on the vocals.

Mike Posner-Rolling In The Deep (Adele Cover)
-Closing out with a cover that Posner made on his ‘day off’. Very solid too, and whilst Adele’s vocals are always going to be difficult to match up to, Posner’s huskier and whispered style avoids that direct comparison by virtue of being a different take on the vocals. The production tweaks are enjoyable too, as Posner throws in a more futuristic style on the hook alongside a muted, yet bass-heavy style on the verses. Very good cover, and good to see an original take on the song.

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