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Music Monday: Throwing Another Tantrum

I was first introduced to Fitz and the Tantrums on Halloween of 2011. I was featured on a radio interview with DLD the Eclectic (check out his show tonight at 7:00 pm CST, on the FK Show. I’m always open to new music and DLD was telling me about an overseas group that he was listening to. I heard a couple of songs and immediately started asking him more information on the group and their music. A few days later, I went out and purchased their CD, Pickin’ Up The Pieces. Although I can’t quite categorize the group into a certain genre, if I had to describe them, they would be “vintage soul, pop and rock”.  The group has an old school vibe, and a female singer who is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill in her glory days. If you could mix the pop funk of Maroon 5, the soul of The Fugees, and the chemistry (without the domestic violence) of Ike and Tina Turner, then you have something close to Fitz and the Tantrums. But part of what makes them so cool is that they really can’t be conformed to any specific genre.

The group tries their hand at such topics as politics, gold diggers, heartbreak and society’s current values system. And they not only try, they succeed and win. Only 10 songs strong, Fitz and the Tantrums seem to realize what so many artists of today’s time seem to miss….less is more. An 18 track CD usually means 11 of the songs are worth listening to. Although I have my favorites, there’s not one song on here I can say I dislike. My most favorite track here though is the song, “MoneyGrabber”. The lyrics are extremely addictive and it just sounds like something epic you’ve never heard before (Like the time you said you could buy it for me/Cuz I’m in trouble/Here’s my advice/I don’t pay twice for the price of a cheap dime whore). Who needs vulgar profanity? Tell us how you really feel Fitz! LOL. But seriously, this CD has great instrumentation, singing, and lyrics….a combination that’s severely lacking in much of today’s music. Other highlights on the CD include “Pickin Up the Pieces” (a vulnerable, upbeat declaration of love gloom….if there is such a thing), “Dear Mr. President” (a wake up call to pay attention and put our foot down to the real issues of the world) and “Tighter” (a pleading declaration of deep regret).

Look for a new album from Fitz and the Tantrums to be released soon, but in the meantime, check out Pickin’ Up The Pieces. And if you want to try out a sample of their music, go to and download their free EP, which includes live songs from their House of Blues Boston performance. I’m sure their new album will make an even bigger splash on the music scene than their current project. Something tells me Fitz, Noelle Scaggs, James King, Ethan Phillips, Jeremy Ruzumna and John Wicks will be around for many years to come.

SWV: They Missed Themselves…Do We?

Three groups. Nine women. Each broke their own ground and placed their permanent stamp on the music industry.Ironicially, something as simple as their stage names were intertwined at some point in their careers. First there was the most successful all female rap group, Salt N Pepa. We know them as Salt N Pepa today, but what you may not know is their original name was Super Nature. A few years later, another girl group composed of 2 singers and a rapper was formed….three women called 2nd Nature. We know them today as TLC. And then, there’s SWV…one of the premier R & B female groups of the 90s whose members consist of Taj, LeeLee and Coko….yep TLC. But T-Boz, Left Eye an Chilli beat them to the punch on the name and they became known as Sisters With Voices.  After 15 years since their last hits (“Rain” and “Can We”), they’re back on the music scene, hoping to once again rule the charts. But has too much time passed for this to be possible? Or is the music just not up to par?

90s R & B. One of the greatest times in music. SWV had a string of hits that left us wanting more. Who could forget “Weak”, “Anything” and “Downtown”? After a solo project, reality TV, and mortuary school, Taj, LeeLee and Coko have regrouped to give us their new project, I Missed Us. They start off on a promising note with the first single “Co-Sign”. I wouldn’t say the song fits comfortably next to some of their biggest hits, but it was a good choice for the first single. The first few tracks on I Missed Us are uptempo, and a bit dated. The group seems to be stuck in their heyday, but with less spark that we heard on songs like, “Right Here”.  “Do Ya” is a nice club track that samples the Rufus hit “Do You Love Me”. However, the songwriting lacks here, as it does on many of the tracks. Lines like “I’m a 10, so go run to your 3” seem a bit juvenile for a group that has such seasoned tenure. I’m just saying…

SWV slows things down after the uptempo tracks with “The Best Years”, a song where they tell a man that they gave him the best years of his life. As cocky as it sounds, they could have really worked this concept, but unfortunately it’s a lackluster track. “I Missed Us”, the title track, is a decent slow groove that I could see going over well with an older contemporary R & B audience. Interestingly, the group takes turns leading verses on several tracks, although Coko still takes most of the leads. Two of the CD’s standout tracks, “Love Unconditionally” and “If Only You Knew” (a remake) are not until the very end of the CD. Unfortunately, many listeners may not last until this point.

To declare, directly or indirectly, that you are missed by fans after a lengthy hiatus is a bold statement. I Missed Us has some potential, but SWV’s earlier works still reign supreme. The tracks are almost solely produced and written by Cainon Lamb could be partly to blame for the lack of variety on the project. They would have done better with a more diverse set of producers, and maybe a couple big names sprinkled here and there (I could see Timbaland and Rodney Jerkins working with them).  So is SWV missed? Yes, but I think the fans were expecting….eh, dare I say, more quality music. Time will tell how the CD fares on the charts, but in a fickle music business, they may need to quickly regroup and try again. I Missed Us gives enough for us to remember SWV, but the dated sound and generic lyrics are what makes it fall short….or “Weak”….and not weak in the knees.

10 Years Later… Remembering Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

If you read my recent post “VH1 To Produce TLC Biopic” (or heard in the news), then you know that TLC will be releasing a biopic produced by VH1 on their lives that will be released this year. Sadly, April 25, 2012 also marks the 10 year passing of the group’s most vibrant and outrageous member, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Their new movie is supposed to be released in conjunction with a new CD and possible tour dates, but TLC’s image was as big as their sound. Their efforts may be bittersweet at best, without the presence of Left Eye. I’m very anxious to see who will be cast as TLC in their upcoming movie…and especially Left Eye. That will be some quite large and colorful shoes to fill.

It would be really interesting to see where TLC’s place in music would be now if Left Eye were still alive. Ironically, through all of the bankruptcy, arson, illness, and fighting they never really broke up. And with over 65 million albums (not even counting singles)  sold worldwide, they’re still one of the greatest selling female groups of all time. But it was Left Eye who was the mastermind behind wearing condoms on clothes to promote safe sex, the concept behind the international success CrazySexyCool and even designing the stage setup for tours. Plus, she understood that controversy sells…something she nor T-Boz and Chilli were strangers to. Artists like this are rare and almost extinct in today’s music arena…..Left Eye, you are still missed and your legacy will always live on.

What’s your favorite Left Eye moment? What do you think her greatest memory with people will be on today? Or better yet, how do you want to be remembered?

Tupac’s Back?!?!

Well….not exactly, but it sure looks like it. In case you haven’t already heard, Tupac performed at The 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts last weekend, alongside Snoop Dogg. Needless to say his performance was the most talked about of Coachella’s 2 weekends of performances for the event. Other guests include Eminem, Rihanna, Dr. Dre, Usher, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean. I won’t be posting the video here due to the very explicit language, but it’s all over YouTube, so check it out there. How in the heck did they make it possible for Tupac to perform though??? Apparently there is a 3 part process which includes a reflected screen that bounces back to the on-stage image, which is located on the floor right below the stage. The behind the projected image on stage is a thin, foil like sheet that makes it all come to life.  But the image itself is only 2D. While Snoop Dogg was performing with the hologram Tupac, he could not stand too close to the image, in order to maintain the illusion for the crowd. He wasn’t even able to see Tupac on stage, like everyone else in the audience was.

Now there is talk of possible performances for next year’s show with Michael Jackson, Nirvanna, TLC and Muddy Waters? Hmmmm……I don’t know if I would pay to see a show like this. Sure, if it was part of a multi artist line up such as Coachella, I wouldn’t mind. Although, I’m sure the image of Tupac rising out of the bottom of the stage was quite a sight to see. And an eerie one at that. So before everyone starts with more “Tupac’s Still Alive” rumors, he even mentions Coachella in his performance. How is this possible?! Everything is pre programmed to what he will actually say during the show. I will admit, it does seem like Tupac has released much more music after his death than at the height of his popularity. Who has that much time to be in the studio?!?! And just as a side note, Dr. Dre is the one who came up with the idea to use the hologram during the performance. Interesting, especially considering that Dr. Dre was one of the many people Tupac lashed out at on record before his death. Word to the wise Dr. Dre, this may be the perfect time for you to release the Detox CD you’ve been promising for about 10 years now…..

Coachella 2012 wrapped up this weekend, but no one will receive the fanfare that Tupac got during this year’s event. I’m curious to hear what everyone’s thoughts are about it though? Was this too over the top or a great way to pay tribute? And dare I even ask, but is there someone out there that really thinks Tupac is still alive?

Lauryn, Please Miseducate Us Again…

“Ha ha ha ha….you shouldn’t diss refugees and ha ha ha ha…your whole sound set boo-ty and…” It was a bold statement that was backed up by as much talent as cockiness. The year was 1995. The Fugees were about to reach the pinnacle of their success and launch an even greater success with their lead singer/sole female MC, Lauryn Hill. The writing was on the wall for Lauryn Hill to eventually go solo and she initially seemed hesitant about branching away from the group. All of this despite the hugely successful “Killing Me Softly” single taken from the Fugees 1996 release, The Score.  Not to mention the other songs on the CD that featured Lauryn Hill’s unique vocals and conscious rhymes (I’m still jamming “Ready or Not”) Lauryn Hill quietly released her worldwide success, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. The Score was such a commercial juggernaut, that it had just lost its steam by the time Lauryn’s solo CD was released. Those were the days when music actually had staying power on the charts….but I digress, lol.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill seemed to be an overnight sensation with fans, except me. Never being one to jump on the popularity bandwagon, I bought the CD but couldn’t figure out what was so good about it. But I always respected the creativity and originality of the music on it. Then one day it just hit me…I started liking the CD more and more every time I heard it. By this time, Lauryn Hill had also proved herself as a worthy actress in the film Sister Act 2. Although she played a troubled teenage singer in a high school choir (not too far-fetched from real life), she proved that she could effortlessly switch lanes between singer, actress and rapper. Everything she touched turned to gold and it seemed like she could do no wrong. Songs like “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Ex Factor” are timeless classics in my opinion that will forever live on. Despite the millions of records sold and 5 Grammys won in one night (which at the time was the most ever by any female artist), unfortunately, you’re only as good as your last hit. It’s amazing to think that Lauryn Hill has really built her solo legacy from just one CD. So why haven’t we been able to get more music from the former Fugees front-woman? Well, technically we have…

In 2002, Lauryn Hill released a double disc collection of new material from her MTV Unplugged concert. Although the CD did contain some great songs and thought-provoking lyrics, the content was also a bit sporadic. Plus something now seemed a little off about Lauryn Hill’s voice. The smooth, raspy tone that we all knew and loved had turned into….well, just plain raspy. There was still an amazing talent there, just not the kind of spark we saw from her first solo release. She even admitted herself that the craze of stardom messed with her mind and caused her to withdraw from the public eye. Now, 10 years later from her last official release, we have heard promises of new material from her and the Fugees reuniting. Neither have yet to see the light of day. But there may be hope…just this past weekend, Lauryn Hill performed some of her classic hits and new material from her “upcoming” sophomore CD in London. There’s no word yet on a release date of the new material. But I must admit, this is one of her best performances in recent years. Check out one of the clips below.

At a time when hit music is driven by gimmicks, sex appeal, and tabloid headlines, we need Lauryn Hill now more than ever. I really hope she makes a comeback and shows the world she still has it. What do you think? Can Lauryn Hill actually come back to the music scene and still be as relevant as she was over a decade ago? Or have her 15 minutes of fame already expired?

Lauryn, come back. We need you. Some great new music would really be “The Sweetest Thing”.