Riddle Me List: 10 Faces On The Milk Carton Of Music

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Artists of all formats are fickle people, especially when they want to take a break from their work. Writers take sabbaticals to beaches, painters might chop off an ear (I kid.) while film actors get bored and do stage work to gain artistic cred. Musicians on the other hand kind of drop a one or two manifestos of sound and then drop from sight, never to be heard from again. In light of Sade, Keke Wyatt and possibly D'Angelo (cough, cough) making 2010 their year to break their hibernation habits, lets look at some musical artists who we haven't seen much of lately. Some are old, some are new...and all are really just artists that I'm sort of waiting for their second act so I can stop holding my breath.

Canadian bred, Shand physically had an advantage as the soulful Caucasoid long before Justin Timberlake left *NSYNC, Robin Thicke gained a foothold and after Jon B. escaped from people's minds. Shand was a promising artist, well on his way to bigger things when his 2002 debut, The Way I Feel was released with the single, "Take A Message", becoming a darling of the neo-soul movement. He had that raw artist power (The Way I Feel was recorded in his own bedroom, now that's roughin' it) and soulful quality that brought in a blend of Maxwell and Jamaroquai mentality. All good stuff occurring yet, we haven't heard from him since. So where is he? Still in his bedroom recording an album?

2. Puff Johnson
Puff Johnson had a fool-proof music career, as her 1996 debut album, Miracle was classy, had the ability to be so consistent that it could go past its shelf-life and it was just good. Produced by Randy Jackson (yes,  Randy "Yo Dawg!" Jackson) Miracle made it seem like Puff had something good going...yet good things don't last for long as after her strong chart entry, "Forever More", the hits evaporated. Puff has only recently last seen as a credit on three Leela James songs off of Ms. James' 2005 debut, A Change Is Gonna Come. But no follow-up to Miracle has been in the works, nor may never appear.

3. Billy Lawrence
Lawrence came into the R&B world circa 1994 with her debut, One Might Say, and it was perfect timing considering how the 1990's was a prolific time for R&B artists, as they were coming out of the woodwork by the hundreds. Exaggeration aside, Billy Lawrence was one of the more unique vocalists of the time as her cooing soprano made her debut quite the lush treat. To throw this out, One Might Say is one of my favorite R&B albums from the 90's, so yeah, I'm being obscenely bias...but  its a shame that Billy didn't go pass album #2 (Paradise) and gain a foothold. 

4. Alice Smith
Rolling Stone dubbed Alice Smith a "one to watch" in 2006 along with Lupe Fiasco and The Noisettes. Yet, maybe I need a telescope to find out where Ms. Smith is at. For Lovers, Dreamers and Me was an unique entry, as it blended in the sounds of alternative rock with gravel cobbled soul. Refreshing at a time when soul and R&B artists were sorta of sounding the same, Smith's debut showed that there were soul artists out their experimenting with their sound and broadening it past the Motown revival backyard. Maybe Ms. Smith is crafting her second masterpiece on us, hence why she's been on the quiet front...but throw us a bone if you will...

5. Gina G 
Miss G is kinda sorta maybe not really okay truly...bad. Still she's better than half of what the is passing off as a singing pop tart these days (insert Katy Perry and that dirty dishwater bather, Ke$ha), and she actually had a rabidly catchy debut album, 1997's Fresh!. So what was the problem? Maybe a little bit too much? Or maybe it was because Gina came out at a time where the Spice Girls were to be the biggest foreign export at that time with no room for an Australian lass not Kylie Minogue to come out. In 2005, she quietly released the album, Get Up & Dance on her official web page, but by then novelty for the G wore out. Still it'd be nice if she gave us something fresh.

Maybe it is premature since the boy just released his debut solo album in 2007. But it's been awhile since we've heard anything new from him (sans his cameo in (500) Days Of Summer) and its kind of a wonder since his self-titled first handshake was quite charming, if not uniquely different from other R&B cats out there as he projected himself as a young apprentice to Van Hunt. Shame that it went absolutely nowhere, unless you count Hastings bargain bin sections. If he got promoted correctly, I think we wouldn't even give a second glance to Chris Brown because this guy would've creatively ran him out of town.

7. Zhane
Neo-Soul was in its baby crawling stages when these sistas came on the scene and well, they gave us two perfect albums (Pronounced Jah-Nay and Saturday Night) and then just disbanded. Both women have stretched out into solo projects, but both haven't made a splash like the success from their time together. Maybe Queen Latifah should resurrect them back, since they were apart of her Flavor Unit back in the 90's...the good ole days. Still I really dare anybody to tell me that "Hey Mr. DJ" isn't a 90's soul classic. Go on double dog dare me.

8. Mona Lisa
Tried and true R&B heads know that there is another Mona Lisa...and she's not a painting done by Da Vinci. She was an singer with a noted single called, "Can't Be Wasting My Time", and an album  11-20-79 that was released in 1996. To my knowledge, "Can't Be Wasting My Time" was quite a constant radio play back in the mid-90's, but I never heard anything else being released after that. Her follow-up album, Gett'in It On, was to be released in 1998, but saw the back end of a shelf. She has recently succumbed to backing up low-end rappers such as Soulja Boy and Cam'ron...and it seems like she needs some saving because thirteen years has been a long time.

9. Daniel Bedingfield 
Like Remy Shand, Bedingfield came out during the cusp of Timberlake-dom, and it quite made his 2002 debut and his 2006 second effort, Second First Impression get the eclipsed moon treatment. With singles, "Gotta Get Thru This", "If You're Not The One" and "James Dean", Daniel's career looked to be blossoming. Now sister, Natasha Bedingfield has taken over, but it seems that with Timberlake opting to do anything else but singing, Daniel could easily whittle his way through. Currently, "Gotta Get Thru This" is getting raped by rapper, Gucci Mane as a sample...doesn't that sound like a cry for help to you?

10. Jane Child 
Crazy braided mohawk hair-do and nose chain aside, Jane Child did cause heads to turn in 1990 with debut single, "Don't Wanna Fall In Love", which to me, is one of the best singles of the 90's. The keyboardist had a industrial-technological whiz kid mindset when it came to making her music (her debut album was purely all her on instruments, except for the guitar) and to me, Child had that Alanis Morisette and Tori Amos anger/quirk to her, just in synthesized format. Her ambitious genre bending 1992 follow-up, Here Not There (an album, that I will one day shed light on) didn't catch on, as a ballad was released as the first single (bad move). Bad management and single drops led to Jane Child's plight, yet it'd be quite cool to see what she could come up with in 2010 and beyond.


  1. I love Billy Lawrence and I love her 'Paradise' album. Zhane I love too and 'Vibe' is a song I been playing lately. I remember Puff Johnson and I like 'Don't Wanna Fall In Love' by Jane Child.

  2. Alice Smith is recording her second album; she also performs in NY a lot

    Mona Lisa-totally forgot about that song! i didn't really recognize it until the chorus

    I remember the hype around Kevin Michael then he kinda disappeared

    That Billy Lawrence song sounded vaguely familiar but I don't really remember it

  3. Hey!

    You left KINA off the list. What's up with her?


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