The state of music today is.... Uhmmm...... Hmmm... It's.....? For one of very few times in my life I am speechless. But I will say this.... If you're listening to mostly mainstream music, then it's understandable when someone says no one makes good let alone real music anymore. But the truth is people are still making real music. The problem is exposure. The crop of real singers and musicians only get airplay on certain stations and video channels. If they've been in the industry for a little while, it's a miracle if they're even getting any airplay. So if you're looking for substance, you need to look under radar. Here's a small sample of what I'm digging right now.
Teedra Moses - Complex Simplicity
Teedra Moses is one of the most underrated singer-songwriters in the game. She's written or co-written songs like Christina Milian's "Dip It Low," Mary J. Blige's "So Lady," Macy Gray's "Finally Made Me Happy" and Trina and Kelly Rowland's "Here We Go" to name a few. She's released several mixtapes. And her music's been featured on Noah's Arc. She has a funky, sassy, and soulful style that manages to be both sweet and street (think Cherrelle or Pebbles meets Mary J. Blige). Her music sits somewhere between hip-hop soul and neo-soul. She holds nothing back lyrically (especially on songs like "You Better Tell Her" and "Backstroke"). And she's no slouch vocally either. She uses her smooth, sexy, flexible soprano to great affect on songs like "I Think of You," "You'll Never Find (A Better Woman)" and "Outta My Head." Having been released in 2004, it's a shame this record failed to get the attention it truly deserved. But no fret here. Word of mouth, her songwriting, and live performances are helping to get Teedra Moses where she needs to be. With the next release The Young Lioness upon the horizon, johnny come lately exposure is never a bad thing.
Urban Mystic - Ghetto Revelations II
You can't help but to feel this brotha. It's all in the voice. A voice that evokes the spirit of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett. He has a raspy baritone that's raw, passionate, and soulful. He's able to make you feel every word. It's everything your favorite soul singer is capable of. Urban Mystic is an old soul who easily mixes the old school with the new school on songs like "It's You," "Where Were You?" and "Let's Make a Change." He's at his best on gospel-tinged ballads like "I Refuse," "Your Portrait," and the Sam Cooke remake "A Change Is Gonna Come." He's not your average male R&B/Soul singer (thank God). His talent goes much deeper than many of his contemporaries. Now, only if he can get a few platinum records.
Chrisette Michele - I Am
I love Chrisette Michele. Absolutely love her. I think I've listened to her music everyday for the last month-and-a-half. Aside from Teedra Moses, I have to admit--I haven't felt this way about a female R&B/Soul singer since Jill Scott came along. If you aren't familiar with her name, you've probably heard her beautiful voice on Jay-Z's "Lost One" and Nas's "Can't forget About You," "Still Dreaming," and "Hope." If you've lost all faith in R&B/Soul music, it will be restored after listening to I Am. She has a voice that evokes Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Natalie Cole. Though she has an admirable range, she doesn't need to resort to vocal acrobatics to emote (a lesson that many of her contemporaries need to learn--well the ones that can sing at least). Aside from the singles "If I Have My Way" and "Your Joy," standouts include "Is This The Way Love Feels," "In This For You," "Golden," "Work It Out," and "Be O.K." She'll be in DC this weekend at The Black Cat and I'm going to do whatever I can to be there.
Vikter Duplaix - Bold and Beautiful
There are so many adjectives to use to describe this Philly brotha's music. Vikter Duplaix is a singer, songwriter, producer, musician, and DJ. He composed the score for the DL Chronicles and has produced music for Vivian Green, Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu. His music is what I'll call, electronic chillout, lounge soul. It's lush and can be very sensual (Duplaix will definitely set the mood right). Using both electronic and organic elements (and his sexy voice), it mixes hip-hop, soul, funk, jazz, Afrobeat, and drum 'n' bass. Duplaix's music has the versatility and otherworldly appeal of Sade and Andre 3000. If you like them, along with Esthero or Lisa Shaw, then you'll more than likely love Duplaix's music. Highlights include "Stimulation (with Ms. Saigon)," "Fade It," "Another Great Love Gone By (with Esthero)," "Nothing Like Your Touch," "I See The Sun (with Tye Tribbett & GA)," and "The Way That I Feel.
Amerie - Because I Love It
Ok. You're probably thinking, "Something here doesn't quite belong." Well, I can't help it. Everytime Amerie releases a new album, I seem to fall more in love with her. Because I Love It is her third release, only available on import in the US at this point. Like Kelis, she's on a label that has no idea what to do with her and she seems to get more love overseas than in her own country. This album also is the first without production from longtime collaborator Rich Harrison. Amerie wrote, arranged, and produced much of the album herself. It's actually quite good. She channels her love of 80s music on many tracks like "Some Like It," "Crush," and "Crazy Beautiful." She also includes more ballads and mid-tempo tracks this time around like "That's What U R," "Paint Me Over," "When Loving U Was Easy," and the inspirational "All Roads." And you know she couldn't stray too far from her signature sound--aggressive drums, heavy percussion, layered vocals--on tracks like "Hate 2 Love U," "Gotta Work" and "Make Me Believe." Because I Love It does a pretty good job at showcasing the many sides of Amerie and her love for her art. The real kicker here will be seeing if this record gets an actual release date here in the US and decent marketing. And once it's released, how well it will do in setting her apart from her contemporaries.
Robin Thicke - The Evolution of Robin ThickeI agree with Jill Scott in that soul comes in all colors. Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Osborne, Janis Joplin, Bobby Caldwell, Hall & Oats, Teena Marie, Lisa Stansfield, Swing Out Sister and Jon B all have/had soul. Robin Thicke is another name to add to that list. Who would've thought that Alan Thicke's son would grow up to be a soul singer? Well he did and turned out to be a pretty damn good one. It's apparent that Thicke grew up listening to a lot of soul music. You can hear shades of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Prince, and Stevie Wonder throughout. However, it's remarkably his own effortless style. (Take note Timberlake.) There is not one bad cut on this album. It's sung, written, arranged, and produced very well. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say The Evolution of Robin Thicke is a modern masterpiece. He's going to be around for sometime. And the music, I'm sure, will only get better.
Now playing: Chaka Khan - The Drama