Interview: Sidibe

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sisterhood declarations are a dime a dozen. When you find one that hollers your creed or speaks up for you in ways you couldn't express, there is always this urgent need to pocket it and then pull it out whenever it's just one of dem days. Somehow I wasn't looking for another sisterhood anthem --- I thought I had it covered for now --- but it was one of those stars aligning type deals that brought Sidibe's "See You Girl" into my orbit. I was immediately struck by how delicate and intimate it was, this considering all the women empowerment songs I usually hear are brazen and bold statements that are raisin' all kinds of hell. This one was different, special, as it made sure to spotlight all the kinds of ways women love and are inspired by one another. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, even lovers --- "See You Girl" is for women who flat-out just love to love and want to seek and spread that love around.

"See You Girl" is housed on Sidibe's second collection, Soul Siren, where other love letters are written and primed to be useful for those days (and nights) of soulful searching whether with a partner or on the solo tip.

Sidibe was gracious enough to answer some questions for me (okay, okay, a lot of questions --- you know me, inquisitive to the hilt), and from this chat, you'll learn about how this fresh n' soulful dame from Los Angeles is making a name for herself, and is a true 'soul siren' in her own right.

So without further adieu, kick back, give Soul Siren a spin, and allow Sidibe shoot from the hip for a bit...

D'Angelo Rises With 'Black Messiah'

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hark! What is this? A Christmas miracle?

It took about 15 years and lots of dashed promises and hopes, but with a twinkle in his eye and a sly smirk, D'Angelo decided to give us an early, wrapped present in the form of Black Messiah.

In a surprise attack, while not a creature stirred, and everybody had already unleashed their end-of-the-year lists (I see what you did there D), over the weekend some goodies were left in our social media boxes with care as a brief announcement of the album's arrival popped up on YouTube, then a few hours later, the track "Sugah Daddy" materialized.  D and his Vanguard troop decided to keep spreading the soul cheer 'round as he saved the biggest gift for last as Black Messiah dropped in full on iTunes and Spotify at midnight --- and of course everybody and their mama lost their collective minds.

As brilliant as this master release game plan was (how did we miss that it had been in motion since June?), what D had to say about the album is equally insightful, as it reads in the album's liner notes:
"'Black Messiah' is a hell of a name for an album. It can easily be misunderstood. Many will think it's about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I'm calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It's about the world. It's about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah."  
It's about Ferguson, and in Egypt, in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It's not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them. Not every song on the album is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album Black Messiah creates a landscape where these songs can live to the fullest. Black Messiah is not one man. It's a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader."
Spreading that good will towards man y'all.

Yours truly has called in "D'Angelo Ill" today to put aside a slice of time to digest the supreme soul and testament (and mumbled enunciation...) that is awash in this, and on first spin, "Really Love", "The Charade" , and the album shattering closer "Another Life" sound good to my ears, but that will probably change in the next few days, because yes, my Audio Children, the album is that good. D'Angelo still meditates in the church of guitar washed backwoods soul, but for all of his fuzzy lyrical mumbles and wailing falsettos, he's still pretty much given us somethin' we can feel that is out of time, but is still so lounging in it. Well, it took almost half a decade for D'Angelo to tinker and be the keen perfectionist on it so naturally we weren't going to get anything less than stellar, right?

Black Messiah has risen (it has already soared up to #1 on iTunes!) and in a time where soul and R&B music are in vastly different stages, this is a bold and somewhat foreshadowing entry to how the genres are going to sound in the coming year. The game plan has shifted...

Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars Are Bringing That Uptown Funk, Y'all

I feel like such a goober for missing this funky funky stuff, but this Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars collabo came out during a really bad time for me --- so better late than never right?

Ronson and Mars (who's seriously one of my favorite people) have done something special with "Uptown Funk" as it has influences galore, but instead of it being a cluttered mess, it truly does evoke all the best parts of the '70s and early '80s soul-funk foundation, giving big nods to a ignored period in funk and soul where the "disco backlash" reigned --- but didn't extinguish the spirit of the groove. Zapp, Cameo, Rick James, Kool & The Gang, One Way, The Time, Sly Stone, Michael Jackson, and of course James Brown are all embedded in this slam jam that boasts braggadocios lyrics and a killer horn section that is just bringing the electric heat.

The lively video visually gives great homages to the two eras, and is just egging on the fact that Ronson's upcoming Uptown Special is going to be super freaking fun when it arrives next year.

Mary J. Blige Hangs Tough & Tells Truths On 'The London Sessions'

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mary J. Blige has always been truth serum for the heartbroken. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free --- Blige was there, speaking out --- and she had her head held high, a tear or two flowing, fussing and fighting to just be well, happy. She just gets this thing called life, and it's why for 20+ years, Blige has been at the forefront of confessional soul and hip-hop, crowned as the queen.

Yet, for someone so intimately associated with heartaches, who had indirectly and directly endured abuse, and survived addiction, Blige seemed to wean off her usual script for her last few albums as the albums following the 2005 stunner, The Breakthrough, seemed to not possess the same introspective spark as her others. While she broke through and noted that she was 'just fine', and we were there rooting for her to climb above the grey clouds, there was some distance, and some sincere want for the raw ,"heartsick Mary" again just so we could have those "I'm Going Down" and "No More Drama" moments.

Still in-between the heartaches, it's always difficult to find artistic footing when you've been at it for so long, and when the musical climate shifts and blows frosty in your direction. What had been painful for Blige, and worthy of document, has dulled somewhat and left little room for contemplation. Yet, there was still room for change.

Change came when British production whiz kids, Disclosure reached out to Blige for a re-work of their single,"F For You". The result was undeniable as the two differing acts proved compatibility, and Blige sounded electrifying and anew. When crooner Sam Smith came into the picture another bond was formed as she found a kindred somber soul spirit and one of the best duet partners she's ever had. With these new ties, Blige decided change was in order, as she packed her bags and headed to London for a month-long stay to craft what is possibly her best foot forward in almost a decade.

Artist Watch: Mahaut Mondino

With a twitchy single like, "Jungle", Parisian singer/songwriter Mahaut Mondino is onto something. Infectious to the hilt and daring to be different, Mondino has sculpted her music in a vibrant new medium. It is a glaring fact though that Mondino is the daughter of THE Jean-Baptise Mondino, and he has helped her cultivate her visual aesthetic by directing her all of her videos thus far. But Mondino, while inheriting an artistic gene from her photographing papa, is still driving in her own lane.

She first cut her teeth working on production duo Supreme Cuts' 2013 album, Divine Ecstasy, contributing to the pieces "Gone" and "Brown Flowers". Out on her own, Mondino has gleaned together soulfully fringed trappy beat songs that, in essence, remind me of the humorous and harmonious funk of Maylee Todd. So full of play is the flirty "Voodoo Me", along with my favored "Jungle" and its hiccuping diction and punchy hip-pop sound. Unlike some, Mondino knows how to lasso that fluctuating voice of hers, and doesn't overindulge or overwork it. Her keen sense of this is best heard on her current single, "The Great Elements", a neo-jazz deal that steams and bewitches and keeps you intrigued throughout.

My only quibble is the quality of Mondino's visuals have left me a tad cold. Never the mind that Papa Mondino had a hand in them, and that Mahaut seems to exert a kinetic personality (though she skirts a wee bit too close to FKA Twigs' steeze for my taste...) --- they just didn't work for me. Uncultured swine I may be. Still, my criticisms towards Mondino's videos are not to belittle her voice, as she's got one --- a great one in fact --- and it's robust and soulful with just the right touch of variance that shows a kaleidoscopic personality at play.

Visuals aside, Mahaut Mondino is without a doubt one to watch, and with an EP premiering next year we'll be soon privy to many more 'great elements' when it arrives. So for now, lend an ear and fall into the funky....

Lifetime's 'Whitney' Biopic Actually Looks...Decent

Friday, December 5, 2014

In the wake of the mangled mess that Lifetime made of Aaliyah's biopic, there has been unease over how the network was going to bring Whitney Houston's legacy to life. Earlier this week, the network leaked out exclusive shots of the film, and just yesterday the trailer premiered over at Buzzfeed, and wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, it looks quite promising!

From first look, director and dame extraordinaire, Angela Bassett seems to have a hold on making this pic visually appealing right down to getting the wedding attire of Houston (played by YaYa DaCosta) and Bobby Brown (played by Arlen Escarpeta) on-point, and really capturing Houston in all of her facets, good and bad. Bassett has also been pretty straightforward about her vision for the film, citing that she wanted to seriously focus on the turbulent relationship between Houston and Brown, as well as the struggles Houston had with addiction, and there is plenty of skewed wigs and white lines to clarify that (though DaCosta needs a sweatier upper lip while performing --- just saying).

Unlike the crap trap Aaliyah movie (and its hilarious memes), Whitney will feature some of Houston's music, but sadly, the original tracks won't be played (Cissy Houston had her mad face on 'bout that) as Deborah Cox will fill in and perform the limited set-list, featuring songs, "I Will Always Love You", "The Greatest Love Of All", "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "I'm Every Woman". While I truly believe, Whitney Houston's life story deserves a splashy big-screen treatment like what we saw with the lives of Ray Charles and James Brown, at least Whitney looks entertaining, and will no doubt be a hell of a lot of fun to live-tweet when it premieres. So consider me cautiously optimistic and crossing my fingers and toes for this one....I mean, it can be as bad as that Aaliyah travesty, right? *shudders*

Whitney will premiere on Lifetime, Saturday January 17th. Check local listings for proper times and view the extended trailer after the cut.

Hold Up, Wait A Minute, Antonique Smith Has Got This

Nestled into Antonique Smith's debut single is this crackling line: "see your wining her, after dining me, but what's crazy is, my names on both receipts."

Damn. Preach on.

I came into "Hold Up, Wait A Minute (Woo Woo)" unaware of Smith's powerhouse vocals. I already knew she could act, as in addition to a number of stage and screen roles that she's already done, I best remembered her in a extremely effective role as Zoe Kravitz's older sister in the 2011 flick, Yelling To The Sky (check it out on Netflix --- it's pretty good). Smith is also effective vocal wise as she lays down a vocal assault on the funky brass blasting "Hold Up, Wait A Minute (Woo Woo)", giving off some saucy Blu Cantrell-meets-Christina Aguilera game.

Though this high-octane track has been out for about a year now, the official music video has been released with Larenz Tate at the directing lens, and Lance Gross making an appearance as Smith's suave n' sexy rebound guy. If you haven't gotten into this fireball kiss-off number then dig in, and be on the look-out for Antonique Smith's long-awaited debut album, Love Is Everything when 2015 rolls around.

Woo woo, y'all.

Little Boots Mixes Business With Pleasure

Monday, December 1, 2014

Can you mix business with pleasure? Little Boots certainly believes it's possible. Serving as a preview for her upcoming third LP, Little Boots (aka Victoria Hesketh) has released, Business Pleasure a four-track set that keeps the London singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist in experimentation mode.

After hitting some speed bumps on her 2009 debut, Hands, Little Boots absolved the four-year break between projects with last year's Nocturnes, trimming the fat and synth over-zeal of her debut to create a streamlined dip into a Vice City nocturnal groove, with single "Every Night I Say A Prayer" leading the way.

For Business Pleasure, Little Boots has still got that chilled nighttime vibe on the brain, but this 'fourplay' is a bit warmer, frothier, especially when the cheeky minimalist of "Taste It" comes to pout, and "Pretty Tough" dreamily lounges in a spacious alt-R&B arena. The two stand-outs for me are the breathy '90s trance piece, "Heroine" and the skittish title track which plays in the waters that Prince couldn't compute back in 1983, showing off once again how much Little Boots has her ear tuned to the synthesized vibes of the 1980s.

With Com Truise on production duties, Business Pleasure, while brief and wanting, teases to what can become of Little Boots' evolving sound, and you can almost 'taste' the goodness that is to be in store.

You can get down to business by streaming the EP this instant, as well as take pleasure in the pre-order via iTunes.

14th Tells Some Sweet, Slow Burning Lies

It's just a sheer hunch that the onslaught of boy-girl duos from the UK led as to why London duo, 14th flew under the radar. With their 2011 EP, Hide Yourself, 14th played like AlunaGeorge's more somber, older cousin, bringing a sublime, almost quiet quality to the revival garage R&B mix. After some years on mute, the duo of 14th have recently reemerged, expanded their intimate line-up to a trio, and have now closed the gap between their 2011 debut with a brand new number, "Sweet Lies".

It's a slow burn but "Sweet Lies" is 14th back to seamless fragile confessionals as the track strolls in the same back alleys of twilight ballads of the 1980s, with twinkling lonely synths and an impressive performance from lead vocalist Tracey Duodu, whose voice continues to soulfully crawl all over you. Even better news is that the track is up for free download, so snag it while you can, and wrap yourself into it, especially when the sun begins to slip.

On Slight Hiatus

Monday, November 17, 2014

I know. I know. I knnoooow. I have been slacking super hard and have been the worst blogger in the history of the Internet in these last couple of weeks. My sincerest apologies.

I do have my reasons...

Sadly, my grandmother passed away last week, and things have been super duper hectic from my end as of recent, thus I haven't been fully focused or committed to this blog.

But! never fear I will return in the next week or so, and with that I have some good news! Recently I did an interview with a new artist that you guys are going to love. She's super talented, extremely sweet, and she is a bigger music nerd than I am! Can it be possible? Oh, yes it can be! I've been itching to revive an interview series on this blog for awhile now, so this will be a great one to get the ball rolling on that.

Also, December is coming around the corner and y'all know what that means...yes, oh, yes, it will be time for my end-of-the-year wrap up! And I know a lot of y'all want to know what 30 albums and 30 songs (and then some) I'll give honor to this year, so stay tuned!

So just keep checking back in the coming weeks for any updates. In the meantime, please feel free to keep in touch through social media or scroll through the archives here or at my other blog Jen On The Rocks if you're missing my words.

Take care and keep the music playing :-)

Album Roundup: Kiesza + Goapele + Jessie Ware + Betty Who + Gorgon City + Jennifer Hudson + The Seshen

Friday, October 31, 2014

Long and short players that received heavy rotation in October...

Kiesza - Sound Of A Woman

Want an album that takes crisp nostalgic detours into '90s House and Hip-Hop? Want a singer that has combed through the vocal rulebooks of Robin S. and CeCe Peniston and steps into the platforms of DeeeLite's Miss Lady Kier with flourishing abandon? Then Kiesza and her Sound Of A Woman project is the antidote. The massive "Hideaway" was the electric current towards Canada's latest export, and Sound Of A Woman keeps the charge alight as Kiesza just sings her mutha fuggin' ass off. Yes, literally sings her rump off on this as exhibits like "The Love", "Piano" and "No Enemiesz" have you aware to that fact. Kiesza has got some pipes on her and they are primed and polished, bringing back yearn for those days where Mariah Carey's voice was in much better shape, and Whitney Houston was singing about being a queen of the night.

She can tone it down for ballad sake, and though her slowdown take of Haddaway's "What Is Love" is a little too precious, she brings things down to a smolder when "So Deep" and "Cut Loose" come slinking in with bedroom eyes and quivering lips. Some sequencing discrepancy aside, Sound Of A Woman is what a cohesive and vocally astute powerhouse diva album is supposed to sound like.


Goapele - Strong As Glass

Goapele has been edging slightly away from her earthy soul roots for some time now as 2010's Break Of Dawn was kind of a clue that the Bay Area songstress was going for warmer electric climates. Strong As Glass is another board on the bridge towards Goapele blending her neo-soul with future R&B, and as a whole she gets the script right, making tunes for the grown and sexy crowd. I was already pleasantly surprised over the re-working of  current single, "Hey Boy" as the addition of Snoop Dogg wasn't reductive in the slightest --- even though I've been worn on the call and rapper response for some time now.

The rest of Strong As Glass is just as pleasant, if not as eclectic as Break Of Dawn, but Goapele is showing the sophisticated side to Afro Future by fusing lovingly drawn imagery with hypnotic rhythms. Still there are plenty of bouncy trap jams ("Powerful") and sultry slow dances ("Some Call It Love") packed in just ten tracks, with some nods towards Goapele's 2002 debut, Even Closer in ("Last Days"). Still, stay woke for the gorgeous piano-led title track, and the expansive and technically engaging, "Truth Is", which both bookend the album smartly. Plus all the points in the world go to that severely great album cover...because where can I get that hat?!


Andreya Triana Has Got A Superlove

Monday, October 27, 2014

The cool and calm Andreya Triana is making her presence known again as her sequel to last year's Everything You Never Had EP is on the come up. She's dropping small pearls every now until its November 17th release date, as a week ago she released the autobiographical title track, and now this week "Superlove" is getting an early preview. Waltzing in a spin of orchestral strings and jolts of piano, "Superlove" is an instant winner, with infectious vibrancy and stellar vocal agility from Andreya that is sharp and slightly funky.

I was much a fan of Andreya's 2010 debut, Lost Where I Belong, as I loved every inch of its quiet and haunting musings, but "Superlove" is a welcome surprise towards her vibrant side, and I can't wait to hear more of it.

Corinne Bailey Rae Lets Paul McCartney's "Bluebird" Take Flight

It has been a few years since The Sea was released, but Corinne Bailey Rae has made quiet little sparks every now and again, once giving soundtrack love ("Chains") and even reworking a classic ("Is This Love") in those flickers of light. She's back to court with a cover and this time she's putting the sweet acoustic soul stirrings on Paul McCartney and Wings"Bluebird". Rae captures the original 1973 single with her class and astute musical ear, lining it in a plush bluesy interior that gives one of Band On The Run's most beloved tracks quite a lovely revamp.

The track should match well among the many other McCartney covers that are to appear on a forthcoming compilation entitled, The Art Of McCartney, which will explore and celebrate the legendary former Beatle and his catalog of solo and Wings-era work. For The Art Of McCartney, Rae will be in good company with the likes of Bob Dylan, BB King, Smokey Robinson, Willie Nelson, and many other legendary voices who are also featured on the project. Take flight after the cut.

Take 5 Friday: Andy Allo + Mayer Hawthorne + Ekkah + Kwaye + Shura

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reheating leftovers of the week....

Feeling Tongue Tied
Though she's a featured guest on Prince's latest set, Art Official Age (which I still haven't taken for a spin yet...), Andy Allo is back to her solo tricks again for an upcoming soon-to-be-titled EP. She quietly dropped the first impression, "Tongue Tied", a fizzy guitar-pop number that is truly a stark departure from the funky stuff she unleashed on her last effort, 2012's Superconductor. Allo truly backs away from her Prince principles on this one, but it's spacious and sunny, and I can just bet that you'll be humming it for the rest of the weekend because it is that catchy. Don't say I didn't warn you... [Listen]

Staying Put
Why hasn't Mayer Hawthorne thought of doing a covers album yet? He's so good at them. He's especially good at taking songs that people have probably heard a billion times and he makes it seem like it came fresh off the wax yesterday. He did it with Lorde, and now he's doing it with Rihanna. Like I said before, I usually like Rihanna when she's throwing shade on social media or when she struts down the red carpet in fierce attire, but her "music" leaves a lot to be desired, hence why it was super easy for me to enjoy Hawthorne's take of "Stay" so much. He fills in the vocal blanks, fluffs it up with some plush '60s soul, and completely makes it his own. [Listen