It’s an international affair in Estelle‘s “Wonderful Life.” As she treks through Moscow, London, Jamiaca, Sweden, Norway and beyond, she finds inspiration through the natives. The “American Boy” star has shows night after night, but takes the time to stop and meet the people, and to sight-see what makes each country special. After the shows and radio interviews she signs autographs, hugs fans and immerses herself in all activities that make each country unique. And that’s what makes for a wonderful life. Read more…
Tamia is truly one of the most underrated R&B artists out today. We’ve loved the five-octave range soul singer since her debut album in 1998. After a three year hiatus, Tamia is back with her first single, “Beautiful Surprise,” from the upcoming album of the same title. There’s not much going on in the video, not that there needs to be with a voice like Tamia’s. She’s sprawled across the floor solo for the majority of the time as the radiant sunlight beams on her glowing skin. “For you to wake up, holding me/Telling me you loving me/You got my heart on lock,” she belts out. Read more…
Whatever you do, don’t call Leah LaBelle an overnight success. While it’s true that she walked into an audition for LA Reid last year and was given a deal with Epic Records on the spot, she’s been putting in work to become an artist for the better part of the last 10 years. A former Berklee College of Music student, LaBelle was a contestant on the third season of American Idol back in 2004, but even with the support of Paula Abdul, wasn’t able to advance past the semifinal round. She kept grinding, though, posting covers of artists like Beyoncé (“Sweet Dreams”) and Frank Ocean (“Thinking About You”) on her MissLabelle1 YouTube Channel, eventually catching the eye of superproducers Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri.
The trio of music industry heavyweights — LA, JD and Pharrell — have been working on material for Leah LaBelle’s debut album (release date still TBD) for close to a year now, and the stunning LaBelle decided to give the new songs a live trial-run during a 6-song showcase in front of 200 or so sweaty onlookers at New York City’s Tribeca Grand Hotel last night. Before she took the stage, each one of these gents took some time to explain what they see in LaBelle, where LA explained that “She has soul. She has real soul, like real, real bonafide singer soul, like you don’t hear. And you especially don’t hear this from girls that are so cute.”
You would expect that kind of praise from a born promoter like LA, but once LaBelle hit the stage, she more than delivered on that promise, both in the voice and looks department. There’s no use tiptoeing around the fact that LaBelle is gorgeous —the moment she hit the stage, we witnessed a hundred or so jaws simultaneously dropping to the floor— but to LA’s point, her vocal chops are legit, and she’s got that charismatic “it” factor as a performer. Truth be told, she kind of reminds us a bit of a female Robin Thicke, in that her sound is perfectly suited for the urban market in a way that feels both wholly authentic and completely organic.
When Donna Summer passed away today at the age of 63, the world lost its undisputed Queens of Disco. During the year 1979, which was arguably the high point of the disco craze, she had five songs chart in the Billboard Top 40 (!!!), three of which — “Hot Stuff”, “Bad Girls” and “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”— made it all the way to #1.
Thanks to her incredible vocal range and an ability to appeal pop, rock and R&B audiences, Donna Summer was able to survive the disco implosion (a fate that a lot of her peers cannot claim). In fact, there was a 14-year span in which Summer had songs that made America’s Top 40, a period that began with the release of the sensually charged “Love To Love You Baby” in December of 1975 and closed in May of 1989 with her Top 10 single “This Time I Know It’s For Real.” And although her mass appeal dimmed as the Nineties dawned, she remained a vital creative force; she picked up a Grammy in 1998 for Best Dance Recording, which was just one of five Grammys she won during her legendary career.
While we mourn the loss of an American legend, we thought the best way to pay tribute to her incredible body of work was to put together the following Spotify playlist, which includes all of her songs that charted in the Billboard Top 40*.
Song: “Bad Girls”
Released: June 9, 1979
Peak Position: #1 for 5 weeks (15 total weeks in the Top 40)
Song: “Hot Stuff”
Released: April 28, 1979
Peak Position: #1 for 3 weeks (17 total weeks in the Top 40)
Song: “MacArthur Park”
Released: September 30, 1978
Peak Position: #1 for 3 weeks (15 total weeks in the Top 40)
Song: “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” featuring Barbra Streisand
Released: October 27, 1979
Peak Position: #1 for 2 weeks (13 total weeks in the Top 40)
Down to Nawlins, up to Chi-Town – for the last several weeks Nelson George has zig-zagged around the country, celebrating the impact of African American culture on certain metropolises. Tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 16 at 9 pm, Soul Cities comes to a conclusion on the West Coast, examining historic and modern aspects of L.A.
He begins with explaining the importance of Berry Gordy‘s decision to move his Motown headquarters from Detroit to the Sunset Strip, and he gets his hair cut at the High Line Barbershop, a place where Magic Johnson or Andre 3000 might walk in for a trim.? The show spills forward from there: a chat with Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds about 80s groove music and 00′s business logic, a plate of fried chicken at? Aunt Kizzy?s Back Porch and Roscoe?s Chicken n Waffles, a tete a tete with Angie Stone where the singer discusses the spirits residing in in Marvin Gaye?s studios, and a connection with Al B. Sure, New Jack Swing hero and current radio jock, talking about the city’s R&B lineage.
And as he does in ever episode of Soul Cities, George goes crate-digging, this time at Amoeba Records where he declares Gaye’s I Want You to be the “best in-the-basement record ever.”
Facebook members can see photos from all the Soul Cities shoots on Nelson George’s page.
Check the full list of Team George’s L.A. stops, and see extra clips (Angie Stone and Amoeba Records) after the jump.
This week on Soul Cities Nelson George swings south to sing the praises of New Orleans, from the origins of jazz to the rise of Lil Wayne. Along the way he bounces through all the hippest spots, chatting with Irma Thomas and Raheem DeVaughn in the French Quarter and connecting with trumpeter-composer Terence Blanchard. He tips the hat to the city’s Essence Music Festival, calling it the “Black Lollapolooza,” and drops into Olivier’s restaurant for a Creole spin on a rabbit, crawfish, and gumbo dish. Oh yeah, when you see him building a po-boy at the Praline Connection, you might feel a bit hungry. Ditto for the way trumpeter Kermit Ruffins shakes up some street sausage.
Check the above clip for a sneak peek at the full show, which premieres Tuesday, December 4 at 9 pm on VH1Soul.
A full list of all the places Soul Cities visited in New Orleans is after the jump. So is a clip of Kermit Ruffins in action.
In the last couple weeks Nelson George has taken us through Philly and Chicago. Tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 25, the host of Soul Cities heads out West for a stroll around Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco. Watch it on VH1 Soul at 9 pm ET.
Nelson drops into the Museum of the African Diaspora, waxes sentimental about his boyhood hero Willie Mays, gives shout outs to local author Ishmael Reed while visiting the black-owned literary center, Marcus Books. Don’t worry, he manages to hit some hip restaurants, too.
As with all episodes of Soul Cities, there’s plenty of music. We catch Raphael Saadiq (who says “music is my PlayStaion, my XBox”) during a rehearsal, and Robin Thicke explains his definition of soul backstage at local club. As usual, Nelson also rolls through some of his favorite albums when he hits the Groove Merchant shop on Haight Street. For a full list of all the places team George hit, and sneak peek clip of this week’s episode, make the jump.
VH1 Soul’s latest show is getting lots of buzz because it’s so much fun to follow host Nelson George as he moves through America, celebrating the specifics of the African-American culture. There’s lots of black history in each metropolis he visits; seems like every time he plants his flag in a new spot, there’s some learning going on.
This week George and team hit Chicago. He clues us in on the town’s Haitian founder, the migration of Southern blacks during the mid-20th century, and drops us off at the Negro Leagues Cafe in the Bronzville neighborhood. The restaurant celebrates the historic achievements of black baseball while serving up collard greens and mac ‘n’ cheese. George also roams from Hyde Park (Barack Obama‘s turf) to Michigan Avenue (and its Chicago Defender offices, founded by John H. Sengstacke). Other interviews include singer LaLah Hathaway, who says she’s rather sun bathe on the shores of Lake Michigan than the Pacific Ocean. He also samples soul food at Army & Lou‘s, and tries to make a deep dish pizza. House music, blues, Chi-town stepping, and Nelson’s tribute to Curtis Mayfield all make this episode a must-see.
Check Nelson George’s Facebook page for photos from the Chicago episode.
After the jump is a full list of all the spots visited in Chicago.
The best way to find out about a subject is to jump in and drill down, right? Travelers know that the “drill down” part is the most fun when visiting various locales. You can’t get a full taste of New York or Paris by hanging at the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower – you’ve gotta get to where the people actually live and the culture is created.
Nelson George created Soul Cities with that in mind. For the next several weeks VH1 Soul is airing a string of episodes that finds the author, screenwriter, and music critic roaming through six of a the hippest towns in the U.S., including New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago, L.A., and the Bay Area. He creates a portrait of the artistic, cultural, and political vibe that help define each location.
Philadelphia is first (the show premieres Tuesday, November 11 at 9 pm ET on VH1 Soul). George chats with Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff about classic Philly R&B, swings by Geno’s to wolf a cheese steak, drops into Ms Tootsies soul food restaurant for an interview with LaBelle, talks politics and music with ?uestlove from the Roots, browses the ultimate R&B record store, and lots more.
Facebook fiends should check out the photos associated to each episode that live on George’s profile page.
Check the specific addresses of the Philly sites after the jump.