Is Ralph Tresvant Right? Can Money Really Not Buy You Love?

ralph-tresvant-money-1

 

This September has been filled with a bunch of rainy days. Rather than going out in a downpour, I kept to myself indoors with some activities like sleeping, studying, listening to music, and watching a ton of movies and TV shows. During this weekend, I was able to watch the new “Eight Days a Week”, “New Jacket City”, and “Mo’ Money”. These movies shared one common theme together. And, that was music.

I always wanted to watch “New Jacket City” and “Mo’ Money” as their soundtracks included a few of my favorite artists like Johnny Gill, Janet Jackson, Ralph Tresvant, Christopher Williams, and others. The songs appearing on these soundtracks were heavily influenced by a popular genre of the late 80’s and early 90s called New Jack Swing, which I really love as it perfectly blends together different musical elements.

Ralph Tresvant started his music career in the early 80s as a member of the “boys next door” R&B group New Edition. Labeled as the new Jackson 5,  Tresvant was only 13 years old when the group released their first album entitled Candy Girl. The album’s lead single reached #1 on various music charts. The group released more hits as the group grew up by changing their sound from sweet, innocent R&B to adult-oriented new jack swing. The group initially broke up in 1990 to let the members pursue their own solo careers. However, they continue to reunite from time to time for special occasions, TV shows, and concerts.

Billed as one of the leading vocalists for the group, Tresvant was all too ready to go solo when New Edition dissolved. There were rumors in the late 80s about the musician wanting to make his own music. However, the ambitions didn’t come into fruition until the success of Bobby Brown’s New Jack Swing-fused album Don’t Be Cruel in 1988 and the wildly popular New Edition album Heart Break. Knowing what to do, the musician released his self-titled album in 1990 with huge success. The album was #1 on the R&B charts and spawn a couple of hits. His follow-up album didn’t meet the same success as it reached #24 on the charts. 

“Money Can’t Buy You Love” was the fourth and last Top 10 single for the New Jack Swing singer. The song was in the 1992 Wayans Brother film Mo’ Money. The movie itself was critically panned by movie critics and actually bombed at the box office. On the contrary, the soundtrack fared better as it reached #6 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The soundtrack features a variety of splendid songs by Johnny Gill, Color Me Badd, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, and other well-known artists. Adam Greenberg  from AllMusic.com gave a spot-on analysis of the soundtrack as it “is a perfect blend for a fan of the early-’90s R&B sound. Yet, the praises do fall short to a weak point with Greenberg mentioning that the soundtrack “doesn’t really meet the same standard as music of later years”.[1]

Tresvant’s tune is a true embodiment of the new jack swing style as it features elements of rap, hip-hop, jazz, R&B, funk, electronica, and a bit of dance. The song starts with the singer’s smooth vocals singing “Can’t Buy You” while a slick rap is placed over. The song leads into the first chorus which is my favorite part. The chorus is the meat of the song’s sandwich as it is well-crafted with an SP-1200 providing the hip-hop styled MIDI sequences, the beautiful electronic piano bits here and there, and Tresvant’s smooth background vocals (which are heaven-sent and sooooooooooo smooth that it is so wonderful).

The lyrics are pretty satisfying as there is a strong message behind them. They were originally written with the idea of the movie’s theme of “money can’t buy can’t buy love” in mind Nevertheless, I feel like the message can apply to everyone and how they live their lives. Haven’t ever you thought about the issue deeply before? Is money REALLY THAT important in buying someone’s love and affection?

“Money Can’t Buy You Love”  is a wonderful example of what new jack swing was in the 90’s. It’s smooth, slick, meaningful, and catchy. The song might make you want to listen to it over and over. Or, just sing the lyrics out loud at random moments like walking to work. I know I have.

 


Sources

[1]  Greenberg, Adam. “Original Soundtrack Mo’ Money.” AllMusic.com. N.p., 2016. Web. (http://www.allmusic.com/album/mo-money-mw0000079784)

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Achieving the Dream Within the Olympics

1984olympicscover

Another round of the Summer Olympics has come and go. Legions of countries sent their finest athletes to Rio de Janerio to see who would come on top. Athletes trained for years and years to try to perfect that one moment of their lives. Capturing Gold.

Many around the world have watched various portions of the Games, cheering on their national treasures to excel and take the prized metal. Viewership peaked sharply when the opening and closing ceremonies. Dance, art, and music interpret the host city’s purpose and histories during these ceremonies. At the same time, each athlete enters the stadium and greeted by a thunderous applause from the millions attending.

Many of the world’s brightest music and movie stars perform in front of the world audience during these events. Some even come out of retire to sing one more time, like The Spice Girls. with their most anticipated reunion at the 2012 London Olympics.

However, there is one important piece of the Olympic puzzle that sometimes go unnoticed during the hype. That would be the soundtrack. This collection infuses the spirit of the Games with music through its rhythms, beats, notes, and words. One of the best representation is the soundtrack for 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

By the time of the album’s release, Christopher Cross was no stranger to the world’s attention. The singer-songwriter became an instant success when he released his self-titled album in 1979. Scoring several top 20 singles, Cross also walked away with five Grammys the following year. His follow-up album, “Another Page”, was yet another success that included various hits.

Cross’ career was never the same after the Summer Olympics as the musician couldn’t successfully gain a strong fan base with the new MTV generation. Cross continued to release albums with small success throughout the years. The latest album he released was “Secret Ladder” in 2014.

Christopher Cross was such an influential musician during the late 70s and early 80s that most Americans have listened to at least one of his songs during their lifetime. Even though he wasn’t very prominent in my generation, I grew up listening to his songs like “Ride Like a Wind” and “Sailing” as my parents loved listening to music from their youth.

Cross is a well-crafted musician as he has a smooth singing style, catchy tunes, and writes lyrics that is relatable to anyone. Because of his talents, Cross was able to successfully create “A Chance of Heaven” as a catchy and pleasing tune that could inspire anyone, athletic or not. The evidence is in the song as it starts off with a worried mood. This could be a motif for an athlete who has fully concerned everything on winning. However, with help from the lyrics, the mood lightens and becomes fully positive during the chorus as Cross reassures that there is always one more chance at everything.

The musician never falters as he amazingly arranged this song with electronic instruments like a blazing electronic guitar, synthesizer, and drum kits. Cross doesn’t use these instruments heavy most of the time. He uses them instead in a light way to create a dreamlike, calming atmosphere. His voice also portrays this light tone very well throughout the verses.

“A Chance of Heaven” is a magnificent piece for the Summer Olympics. Cross used the music and the lyrics triumphantly to paint a delightful musical picture of one’s ambition at getting gold during the Games. It’s not over the top and heavy but instead light and laid back as it’s mood tries to present the theme vigorously.

 

Please check out the 1984 Summer Olympics soundtrack too. It has wonderful pieces from John Williams, Quincy Jones, Toto, Loverboy, Bob James, and others.

 

 

 

Surviving With Adventure in Modern Living

Combonation

WordPress had reminded me that it has been 22 days since I last posted  Sorry for the long hiatus. I been super busy with work observations, ups and downs, and etc. I also have been catching up on sorting the massive stockpile of music that I inherited from other blogs and auction sites. I still got a lot to get through but I don’t mind taking a break to blog about a song I recently found buried deep in this pile.

Usually every morning, I play iTunes on shuffle mode while I get ready for work. And on a normal weekday morning, I discovered Combonation. Yes, it’s not spelled wrong (although that is what Google and every other site thinks as they try to search for Randy Crawford’s “Combination” album instead). Not much is know about this 80’s band, except that it had around five members; drummer Billy Thomas, percussionist Randy Foote, vocalist and keyboardist Mark Hart, bass guitarist Randy Moors. and guitarist Steve Dudas, The band released their only album, a self-titled record, in 1984. It was produced by Ted Templeman who oversaw Van Halen’s releases.

The members went off to do their own stuff after the album’s release. Mark Hart went on to release two albums in the new millennium while performing in bands like Supertramp and Crowded House. Steve Dudas played guitar alongside Ringo Starr on tours and albums. It is unknown what Thomas, Foote, and Moors did after Combonation as there isn’t a lot of information on the internet about them.

“Adventure in Modern Living” is the second track off the album. It’s upbeat while a bit strange. You can tell that this was influenced by art rock artists like Kate Bush by the various techniques used in the song. You can hear that the bass is really prominent throughout, even more important than the guitar, when it switches back and forth from supporting the lead singer to having it’s own solo moments like during the bridge. Another art rock-like theme going on throughout the song is the use of a mandolin sound on the keyboard. It reminds me of how Kate Bush used the same instrument in the song “Babooshka”.

The lyrics may be a bit strange to some. The opening lines goes something like this: “A bird calls, a bear stalls, and gorillas grumbles. A city wakes, a mountain shakes, and an island crumbles.” However, I feel like it was the style of time; to display the simplicity of life through the music and lyrics.

If you enjoy any of the art rock acts of the 1980s, I am sure that you would like “Adventure in Modern Living”. I looooooooooove the art-rock aspect of the tune. I also like the vocal slides that the singer uses during the pre-chorus of “We are the audience”. It’s so awesome.

Choosing the Right Key to My Heart with Choice

kazaam-soundtrack

Hey, hey, do you remember Kazaam?

That horrible movie that featured basketball legend Shaq?

You probably have at least seen it once if you a child of the 90s. I remember watching this bizarre film on videotape when my mom bought me every kid movie tape out there.

Nooooow, do you remember this movie?

What?  You want the painful memories to stop?

Don’t worry, we won’t be talking about the movie, which will turn twenty years old next month. Instead, we will briefly talk about a song from it’s soundtrack, which features a mixture of R&B, hip-hop, and pop. It had songs from well-known artists like Spinderella (from Salt ‘n’ Pepa), Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (from TLC), and Nathan Morris (from Boyz II Men). But, it also spotlighted up and coming artists like Backstreet Boys, Usher, and P!nk who were just scratching the surface of the music world at the time of Kazaam’s soundtrack release.

One of the groups featured on this album was the girl group Choice. The group was made up of three girls from the suburbs of Philadelphia; Stephanie Galligan, Alecia Moore, and Chrissy Conway. The R&B-flavored group recorded songs and sent them to various record companies in order to get a deal. One person who noticed the group’s music and talents was L.A. Reid, who signed Choice on his own record label LaFace Records. He flew the girls down to Atlanta to record their debut album. During this time, one of their recorded songs, “Key of My Heart”, appeared on the Kazaam soundtrack.

However, Choice’s debut album never saw a physical release as the group disbanded before anything could be released. One of the possible reasons behind the breakup was the LA Reid gave Alecia a hard choice, go home or go solo, as he thought she was too talented to be in Choice.[1] And so she did, changing her name to P!nk and releasing her two time platinum-hit debut record “Can’t Take Me Home” in 2000. The edgy, in your face singer has had a successful career since her debut as the artist has dabbled in various musical genres from R&B to rock and beyond.

While P!nk was doing her thing, Chrissy Conway went onto join a Christian pop girl group called ZOEgirl from 1999 to 2006 and COLMANblue from 2008 to 2010. Meanwhile, Stephanie Galligan left the music business after the breakup.[2]

You probably wouldn’t notice P!nk’s vocals when you first listen “Key to My Heart”. The song features vocals that is completely different then P!nk’s powerful, brazen vocals that you typically hear in such songs like “Just Like Fire” and “Get This Party Started”. Instead, it features a mellow tone from the then-young singer to fit in with the mid-tempo flow.

The song is pretty soothing with the light tones from the members’ tone, a great flow, and a laid-back mood. It’s a basic 90s’ mid-tempo R&B that is a bit generic as you could hear the synthesizer, those types of vocals run, and the prominent woodblock mixed with snaps backbeat that you could find in any smooth R&B jams during the same time (see SWV, Allure, and others). However, it’s a pretty decent tune that doesn’t really bore anyone. It’s a great listen while you are relaxing on this beautiful Sunday.


Sources:

[1] Behind the Music. Perf. P!nk. VH1, 1999.

[2] Ali, Rahsheeda. “Solo Artists Who Got Their Starts In Now-Forgotten Bands.”VH1. 2014. Web. 05 June 2016. <http://www.vh1.com/news/53694/solo-artists-forgotten-bands/&gt;

It’s My Birthday!!

o/~ It’s My Birthday and I’ll cry if I want to,

I’ll cry if I want to,

You would cry too if it happened to you. o/~

Well, that’s not exactly how Lesley Gore’s heartbreak hit “It’s My Party” goes.  Maybe it’s not appropriate to relate my happy and incident-free birthday with this song as they are polar opposites. However, I keep on listening to “It’s My Party” every Birthday since after college. Maybe it’s my anthem of my self-pity party of growing old. Or, that I enjoy the major tonality and the nature of the chorus. I would cry at any party, even if it’s happy or not, right?

Maybe I need to change my birthday theme to this:

o/~ Say hello to all the laughter

Say hello to here and after

‘Cause it’s a new day o/~

An Endearing Tune About a Mom’s Thankfulness

thankforyoumychild-cpr

A Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all the precious and hardworking moms out there! This post is dedicated to all the moms, especially my own mom.

Today’s post is brought to you by Cheryl Pepsii Riley. A New York native, Riley was a nurse while pursuing a side job of singing. She would sing at nightclubs, do community theater, and also be part of of a group called Stargaze during her free time. During this time, Full Force member Bowlegged Lou approached Riley with an offer to produce her singing career with a song called “I Wonder If I Take You Home” in 1984. But, Riley refused the song and Lou eventually gave the song to Lisa Lisa & The Cult Jam, which was a huge hit for the group.

Regretting the decision of rejecting the succesful “I Wonder If I Take You Home”, Riley reached out to Lou again in order for him to write another song for her. Eventually, she hit success with one of her first singles, “Thank You For My Child”, in 1988 when it reached #1 on the R&B charts in the US. The song, written by Bowlegged Lou, was a mid-tempo ballad about Lou’s experience with his wife’s complications during her first pregnancy.[1]

Although Riley enjoyed the success of having her song top the charts, she continued her career as a nurse while releasing songs and other material. She released three albums, which the first one reached #18 on the charts, with semi-successful singles. However, she took a break from the musical industry after the release of her third album in 1993.

Riley reemerged in the late 90s and early 00s as an actress in a bunch of Tyler Perry’s plays. She also appeared in various film adaptations of Perry’s productions such as 2011’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family”.

“Thank You For My Child” starts off with a lento tempo. Only a series of triads and skeleton chords are played to support Riley during the first verse. The instrumentation rarely ever expands on those chords with the help of an 808 bass, Roland synthesizer, and electric piano. The instrumentation doesn’t gain memento until the last third of the song when the instruments plays a little bit more of recognizable melody. Although, one of my favorite parts of the song is when the electric piano plays an a sweet chordal progression when the song briefly switches to a minor key during the first verse.

Riley’s vocals is one of the pinnacle points of “Thank You For My Child”. Her voice is smooth yet just the right of powerful needed for this song. It’s a perfect fit for this inspirational ballad as it isn’t overpowering the backing instrumentation. It’s tone is pretty warm in order to help support and convey the song’s meaning in a motherly way. An example of this is found at the ending when Riley sings strong yet tender vocal runs.

The lyrics are another important point. It’s beautifully written as it told from a perspective of a single mother who cherishes and thanks the man above for her precious child. It is such an inspiration to mothers and non-mothers alike as anyone can relate this warm and caring thank you letter. If you have a chance, you should check them out on Genius.com to see how inspiring these lyrics are.

Moms, thank you for all what you do and loving your family unconditionally. You’re the true superheroes.


Credits

[1]  “Cheryl Pepsii Riley – Thanks For My Child.” Genius. Web. 15 May 2016. (http://genius.com/Cheryl-pepsii-riley-thanks-for-my-child-lyrics)

Playing Another Slow Jam with Gyrl

gyrl-pasj

Over the weekend I surpassed the “2,000 items in my physical collection” mark. Can you believe it, 2,000 already! But it did took me 10 years to build it up and I have more to collect. I usually purchase stuff that I can’t find on iTunes or other media sites. I also like stuff that weren’t very popular or just one-hit wonders. And, of course, I like extended 12″ singles, which the local second-hand usually has a lot of.

A 12″ single I recently picked up was “Play Another Slow Jam” by a short-lived R&B girl group named Gyrl. This group was orginally made up of three members: Jamila (who was a dancer in Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” video), her sister Miyoko, and Paulette. They started off as backup dancers, under the name Innosence, for the R&B group Immature. It wasn’t until 1995 when the group made their debut with the single “Play Another Slow Jam”. The single reached #74 on the Billboard Top 100 R&B singles.

The group experienced a loss soon after the single’s release as Paulette quit the group. Jamila and Miyoko kept dancing while looking for a replacement. The girls got their wishes answered a while after after when Jeanae’ Briley and Tai-Amber Hoo joined. The now quartet released their second single, “Get Your Groove On”, in 1997. The single, which was featured in the Halle Berry movie “B*A*P*S”, was a success as it reached #30 on the R&B charts. But, the group broke up soon after.

The members went onto focus on different careers. Jenae’ Briley did some songwriting and became a cosmetologist. Tai-Amber Hoo joined Nobody’s Angel in 2001 for a brief time. Miyoko became a stylist. Paulette Maxwell appeared as a dancer on a late 90s’ UPN show “One on One” and composed for another UPN/CW show called “All of Us”. She also became the CEO of her own company, Creation Soul Productions.

However, the most successful member was Jamila, who now goes by the name Mila J. She has appeared on various songs done by Omarion, Treyz Songz, and other artists. The latest song she appeared on was Timberland’s  “Don’t Get No Betta”, which its music video was released earlier this year. She made her debut in 2014 by releasing the EP “M.I.L.A”. She is expected to release a full LP by this summer. She recently released a song, entitled “#TBH“, from upcoming LP on Soundcloud.

 

“Play Another Slow Jam” is a mid-tempo jam that isn’t hard to follow alon. It doesn’t feature a lot of synthesized instruments, opting to a bare instrumentation in favor to feature more of the vocals. Speaking of the vocals, they are a hit or miss depending on which part you listen to. When the girls sing together, the vocals can be very strong and pleasing to listen to. The chorus features the typical 90s’ R&B girl group sound but it’s not overly annoying, it actually sounds pretty nice. However, whenever Paulette or Jamila sing their solo parts, their vocals come off as airy and weak with little or no breath support. Jamila does hav a voice that suits the song well and can control her breathing better than Paulette. Nevertheless, I am going to chalk up the weak vocals to the reason that these girls were pretty young when “Play Another Slow Jam” was released and it was their first song. The second single and the girls’ newer releases prove this as the girls learned from this song and improved their skills.

This Gyrl song isn’t anything too special; it has a basic melody, basic instrumentation, typical R&B sound, and sub-par to weak vocals. But, it’s pretty decent to listen to if you want to remember the 90’s or just want something to chill with.

Besides, doesn’t this song sound like Aaliyah’s “Old School“?