Jan 02

VOX POPMUSIC – R & B Tunes Of The Year

FT2 comments • 8,929 views

1) “I Refuse”, Aaliyah.
Cinematic like the best R&B. Icy cold, the fury that hell hath not. The deliberation in vocal control is astonishing, each phrase with a sharp crescendo and equally sharp decay, aching to break into invective, but that would be what he wants. Rockstar’s beats gallop below the piano and harpsichord like an eighteenth-century lover leaving the morning after. The intensity of the vocals gradually build, the tremelo becomes more wild, and when the orchestra begins to hit on the bridge she comes out street-smart and full of sass. “No way, cause I can’t take it baby.” She inhabits her character so completely that the slightest nuance takes on an entire mise-en-scene, and right then I see her about to hang up a phone, well furnished apartment, hardwood floor, stylish evening gown, impeccable posture. After she hangs up, you can hear the howl, the loss of poise, and the collapse onto the floor. If anything, too raw to the nerves to be a single.

2) “Lifetime”, Maxwell.
If “I Refuse” is a dramatic monologue, then this is a soliloquy. Understated organ leaves the voice in the center of a swirling arrangement. There are few words, and hardly anything resembling a verse. The singing is unhurried, syllables stretched into entire melodic phrases. He’s got all the time in the world, leaning far back into the already sparse beats. He knows. She will come to him.

3) “Differences”, Ginuwine.
He squeezes his voice through a tiny sounding chorus, howling and emoting like none of the words they can sing are enough. He’s whispering sweet nothings into her ear, like a backup singer to his own song, all tone, texture, and intuition. The devil is in the microstructure, how many beats he waits to mirror the response to their call, eventually erupting from guttural declarations into synth-vox for a moment, and mounting in density though not intelligibility. This is the type of jam that could go on forever, cooing sweet declarations of love all night long.

4) “Step Off”, Missy Elliot.
Absolutely the most disturbing track on So Addictive, breathtaking in its vulnerability. “Is she better than me? Does she cook, does she clean?” These are sentiments we don’t want to see expressed, especially from self proclaimed “Bitch” heroines like Missy. The production is more intrusive here, being Timbaland and all, but he keeps it admirably low key. The string sample is just hesitant and trembly enough, augmenting Missy’s own low-frequency tremolos which are imbued with a troublesome warmth, an open invitation to come back the same jerk that you left as. We hear somebody beaten and needy, caught in the throes of codependence. In the context of the album an eerie reminder that even party people live a life of consequences, and sometimes you wake up next to somebody who you want to keep.

5) “Independent Woman Part II”, Destiny’s Child.
While there’s something to be said for vivid rendition of pain, there’s also a great deal to be said for strength and vitality. This track is where I first drew the connection between Destiny’s Child and LiLiPUT, in music which as Kim Gordon’s notes to the LiLiPUT reissue describe as “girl voices in a joyous language that pronounced freedom without commercialization of girlhood or political pedantry …sounds [that are] their own outside the conventions of male oriented rock or punk rock.” There is, of course, no unique language of girls, but Destiny’s Child, like LiLiPUT ardently desire to create one. The track is self-contained and self-satisfied, like they’ve found a circus of their own. The melody is madly inventive and celebratory, and the singers careen around utterly at home in this mirror-world of whistles, chirps, flutes and cymbals. Most striking is the way in which the trio (or trinity?) transform their voices into percussive instruments, clipping each word before decay sets in, the wholeness of the worldview recapitulated in each ecstatic utterance.

Sterling Clover


  1. 1
    tom on 16 Nov 2007 #

    you fuking ass

  2. 2
    tom on 16 Nov 2007 #

    i had bum sex

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page