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Tag: R&B (21-30 of 491)

Video: Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens' soulful 'Sinner'

Naomi Shelton has been singing professionally for over five decades, beginning in the midst of the early-’60s soul-music explosion, where she was inspired by the likes of Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding, and later expanding into gospel. Since 1999, she’s been fronting the long-running vocal group the Queens, which has since been rechristened Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens.

Backed by a band that includes former side men for Pickett, Sam Cooke, and James Brown, Shelton and the Queens have just recorded their sophomore record for leading soul revivalists Daptone Records. Cold World walks the blurry line between gospel and classic R&B that artists and ideas have been crossing back and forth for ages, with a rich, warm-blooded sound that comes in part from having tracked the songs live to analog tape. Shelton’s voice remains an impressive instrument, and the pleading vocal part on the album’s lead single, “Sinner,” is an ideal setting to show it off.

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BBC Radio names Ed Sheeran most important singer of 'black' music, faces backlash

BBC Radio station 1Xtra has voted British crooner Ed Sheeran the most important British artist in urban music—and in the process, has sparked an online debate about a “power list” that predominantly features white artists in a genre of music created by black artists.

1Xtra—which describes itself as “the UK’s leading black music station”—released its list of the most “important UK artists in the scene” on Friday. Sheeran topped the list of approximately 20 artists, submitted by radio listeners and chosen by 1Xtra DJs on variables such as “sales statistics, plus more subjective areas like the quality of music and impact across the wider industry.”

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Blood Orange releases moody 'High Street' video

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Near the end of Blood Orange’s outstanding 2013 album Cupid Deluxe, the psychic tension that’s been building up over its course finally has a moment of release as project mastermind Dev Hynes veers sharply away from the retro-tinged funk that makes up most of the record. The result is “High Street,” a gentle, meditative ballad where he takes a secondary role providing hooks for British rapper Skepta’s verses.

Despite the novelty value of the its Parade-era-Prince-meets-UK-grime approach, it’s a subtle composition that finds a steady balance between its two sides. With Skepta’s introspective lyrics, Hynes’s echo-soaked vocals, and the weightless flourishes of piano and synth pads that prop it all up, it sounds like a song made for contemplative late-night walks.

Fittingly, its video is heavy on atmospheric shots of Hynes wandering the nocturnal streets of London, and it also features a visually impressive setup with Skepta rapping in front of an array of unmanned double-decker buses. While there are significantly fewer of Hynes’s fantastic dance moves in “High Street” than there were in Cupid Deluxe‘s first three videos, it’s still pretty great.

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The-Dream returns to form with 'Royalty - The Prequel'

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Last week, R&B god the-Dream released a video for his single “Black” that underlined the song’s triumphant political message–inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela–with a staged protest pulling together representatives from a diverse range of causes, from Ukrainian sovereignty to the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago. It was a remarkably solemn moment from a performer who’s biggest moment of mainstream exposure in recent memory was when he got clowned by Jay-Z for the outfit he wore to the Grammys.

At 7 p.m. last night, the-Dream that his cult of devotees know and love—the one who writes songs about things like buying women expensive handbags in order to get off the hook for doggish behavior or getting drunk on tequila and crashing an ex’s weddingcame bouncing giddily back with the surprise release of a free seven-song EP called Royalty – The Prequel. It is, thankfully, a far less serious record than “Black,” or even most of last year’s IV Play, which even his hardcore fans had a hard time finding much pleasure in.

The-Dream is an R&B artist, but he’s always had a rapper’s spirit, and Royalty is, on one level, a playful tribute to the rap music that he loves. “Pimp C Lives” transmutes Houston’s syrupy hip-hop sound into future soul with a chorus that shouts out the late UGK rapper. “Cold” samples Mobb Deep’s classic NYC thug anthem “Shook Ones, Pt. II.”  On “Outkast” he compares true love to the feeling he got from listening to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik for the first time.

Getting to goof around and indulge his geekily obsessive rap-fan side is one of the benefits of the mixtape form. It also removes much of the pressure to produce radio hits, which seems to have begun having a detrimental effect on his work. Where IV Play feels constrained and lifeless, Royalty (and the free online album 1977 that he released in 2012 under his given name, Terius Nash) is vibrant and mischievous, the qualities that made his fans fall in love with him in the first place, and ones that help sink his hooks into you even when they’re not particularly sharp. Royalty‘s supposed to be the first release on a new “Designer and Culture Label” he’s starting called Contra Paris. Hopefully he won’t go back to a traditional label—he’s much better when he’s off his leash.

The Breakdown: Robin Thicke's 'Paula' influences, by the numbers

Earlier this week, Robin Thicke released his seventh LP, Paula, just shy of a year after his last album, Blurred Lines. It’s been an eventful year for Thicke: “Blurred Lines” finally broke him with the mainstream American audience he had been courting relentlessly for a decade, his image has grown more salacious (helped out by his breakout single’s nudity-filled video and his on-stage freaking of Miley Cyrus at last year’s VMAs), and his wife of nearly nine years, Paula Patton, left him, apparently for reasons stemming from these developments.

As its title suggests, Paula is an album-length examination of their estrangement, as well as a pitch to convince Patton to reconcile. It’s the kind of flop-sweaty grand gesture that men have long been making when their partners finally get fed up with their nonsense, on an epic scale. A forgiving critic might call it “deeply personal,” but so far it’s mostly been called creepy and invasive, not to mention fundamentally flawed and misguided.

After the jump we’ll dig through this mess and figure out what it’s made from. READ FULL STORY

'Weird Al' Yankovic: The Stories Behind The Songs

For 35 years, “Weird Al” Yankovic has been music’s most reliable satirist, sending up the biggest pop hits and the most iconic artists for the sake of belly laughs. He’s about to release a brand new album called Mandatory Fun on July 15, so to prepare for a fresh batch of tunes we caught up with Yankovic to get the stories behind hits both big and small.  READ FULL STORY

Video: Get hooked on Tunde Olaniran's 'Critical'

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While many of his contemporaries work to cultivate an air of mystery through secret identities and un-Google-able stage names, Tunde Olaniran is generating a more intriguingly ambiguous vibe with a fraction of the effort. A native of Flint, Michigan, better known as Detroit’s less quaint sibling, Olaniran works in the gaps between hip-hop, R&B, dance music, and punk, weaving together aggressive beats, noisy electronics, and an intuitive knack for melody into a seamless, surprisingly pop-friendly whole. His recent five-song EP Yung Archetype sounds like Yeezus as a soul record, or if The-Dream made a record with TV on the Radio.

Last week Olaniran released a video for the brooding, spacious Yung Archetype track “Critical,” which he wrote for a family member who was diagnosed with cancer. It’s an emotionally intense four-and-a-half-minute ride, but I’ve had it on heavy rotation nonetheless. Hit the jump to get hooked. READ FULL STORY

The-Dream gives 'Black' the full video treatment

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Back in April, R&B king the-Dream released a new song, “Black,” that traded in his usual strip-club-friendly beats and bedroom-focused lyrics for anthemic sweep and a political message inspired by Nelson Mandela’s death. It was miles away from the Dream that so many of us know and love with a ridiculous, almost cultish avidity, but he managed to stick the tricky landing; “Black” is like one of R. Kelly’s patented Inspiration Jams without the shlockiness that those usually come with, or the creepy feeling that you’re getting life advice from a sexual predator.

“Black” launched with a lyric video cut together out of footage of political activism in progress, ranging from Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics to Pussy Riot marching defiantly down a crowded Russian street. Today he dropped the song’s official video, which continues the political theme with an almost surreally broad coalition of protesters marching against racism, classism, homophobia, Wall Street, the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, violence in Chicago, and what seems like dozens of other causes. The video’s message may be a tad muddled (especially when you factor in the singer’s recent arrest on assault charges), but with the-Dream flexing a newfound ability to manipulate emotional switches beyond horniness and regret, it still hits. It’s probably not a coincidence that it’s dropping right before a day commemorating revolutionary political activity.

Watch the video below. (It may be NSFW because of brief female toplessness.)

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Beck: On the scene at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom

A few months back, I had the distinct pleasure of receiving a phone call from Beck. The connection wasn’t great, though I chalked that up to the fact that he was calling me from a parallel universe—one that was not wholly unlike the one I exist in, but both slightly more contemplative and way more funky.

We discussed the artists, albums, and songs that have informed his life, and more than once he brought up British death metal band Carcass (whose Surgical Steel was one of my favorite albums of 2013). He seemed mostly charmed by their insane-sounding song titles (“Cadaveric Incubator of Endoparasites” was a favorite), but based on Beck’s show at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Monday night, he also digs Carcass because, when given the chance, he likes to shred. READ FULL STORY

Listen to Grimes' new R&B-meets-EDM banger 'Go'

Synth-loving art-pop faerie Grimes has been on the verge of a major breakthrough ever since she released her 2012 album Visions, which refined the experimental electronic approach of her first two LPs and infused her sound with big, undeniable hooks that can stand up next to anything on the Top 40. It has stealthily become one of the most influential records of the past few years, and you can hear ideas borrowed from it all over the radio, including pretty much every synth-heavy pop song by a female performer that’s broken big in the past year.

Grimes herself has been patiently setting up her next move, signing to Jay Z’s Roc Nation for management and apparently fielding some songwriting gigs from major stars. Earlier this month at the Governor’s Ball festival in New York City she played a handful of new songs, including one that she claimed was written for, and rejected by, Rihanna. Today, she posted the finished recording of that track, entitled “Go,” on her SoundCloud. Produced with her longtime musical partner Blood Diamonds, it’s her most ambitiously accessible song yet, with an R&B-heavy vocal melody and arena-sized EDM synths that sound like they could have been lifted off of a Diplo track. It strongly hints that her next album (which she’s still working on) will be aimed straight at pop radio.

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