Monthly Archives: August 2014

Jody Watley Visits “Paradise” on Her New EP

Cover to Jody Watley's Paradise EP

Cover to Jody Watley’s Paradise EP

She’s back again, though to the initiated Jody Watley never left. The Queen of Cool’s Paradise EP is her return to music since her last ambitious undertaking,  2006 / 2009’s The Makeover.

Watley’s R&B has always been progressive and the arc of Paradise is no different from Watley’s past endeavors―somewhat. This time, Watley exchanges the electronically charged rhythm and blues from her last three records with a classic / contemporary fusion of disco. Understand, this isn’t your little brother’s hipster disco, nor is it just a retroactive Shalamar redux. Paradise melds elements of the aforementioned disco genre from today and yesterday.

Horns announce the lead single “Nightlife”; the song’s beat whacks and whips in a modern way, ensuring her dominance of the dancefloor in 2014. The energy levels don’t dissipate after “Nightlife,” they keep hustling on the multi-layered Los Angeles funk of “Dancer”. It’s here that Watley’s commitment to quality is made clear with her longtime producer (and friend) Rodney Lee co-piloting Paradise. Thanks to Watley, Lee and Co., Paradise maintains its bright exterior with heart from a production standpoint.

Vocally and lyrically Watley still has it with her integrity colored escapism―see the MdCL remix of “Tonight’s the Night”. “Sanctuary” and the CD exclusive cut “Everlasting” steal the spotlight on Paradise though. Both songs capture the slippery sensuality that made “Still a Thrill,” “I Want You” and “Whenever…” classics. Watley’s lowlit tones imbue these calmer tracks with an enthralling presence.

“Nightlife” (Dave Doyle Remix)

Directed By: Ray Easmon, Jody Watley, Steve Willis

The only real sticking point with this project is that there isn’t more. This sonic avenue definitely would have lent itself to an album’s span. While you could never accuse her of being shy on previous platters, this recording finds Watley dancefloor bound like never before. The new EP will assuredly appreciate in value like much in this R&B icon’s versatile discography. Ranking: Semi-Classic

[Editor’s Note: Paradise is available at most digital music outlets; the CD is exclusively sold through Jody Watley’s own online boutique. For details on Paradise, Jody Watley and her current affairs, visit her official site.-QH]

 

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Kimbra’s Sonic “Madhouse” on “The Golden Echo”

Kimbra's "Golden Echo"

Kimbra’s lost in the music on “The Golden Echo”

What a crime that this New Zealand native’s debut record Vows (2011) received critical acclaim, but went unnoticed commercially in most major music markets.

Kimbra did makes ripples, and land a Grammy win, as a duet guest on The Police inspired “Somebody That I Used to Know” with Gotye in 2013. In that time, Kimbra worked with a variety of artists and gathered her strength for the sequel to Vows.

The Golden Echo announces that Kimbra is going to be one of the bright lights of pop for years to come. Often trippy, The Golden Echo pulls its sound from everywhere―as all good pop should. In fact, for those in the know of Kimbra’s influences, The Golden Echo pitches its tent between Lovesexy (1988) era Prince and Post (1995) era Björk. Both LPs are evoked within The Golden Echo’s surrealistic sonic sprawl.

The alien lead single “90s Music” only references the decade it speaks of in its lyrics; its beeping-booping bump comes from another planet altogether. Kimbra does get straight new jack swing with “Madhouse” though; it’s a delight to see someone actually recreate an era versus just boasting about it. Kimbra’s groove fetish is expanded on with the staccato skipping of “Goldmine,” the disco flush of “Miracle” and the dimly lit R&B of “Rescue Him”. The trio of songs evince Kimbra’s songwriting is continually compelling―when you can hear it.

The sole problem with The Golden Echo is that its rich production often verges on smothering. The majority of the record’s first side obscures Kimbra’s voice and subsequently her words. Whether or not this was her intention isn’t clear. Last year, V V Brown achieved a weird, but wonderful feat―lyrics, voice and production exchanging the spotlight at various intervals on Samson and Delilah (2013). It’s something that not everyone can do and V V Brown’s project polarized her base.

One gets the impression that this isn’t the case with The Golden Echo. Maybe Kimbra just gets carried away, but a great example would be the aural juicy fruit of “Carolina”. The music is succulent, but Kimbra herself seems to be behind the track, not leading it. For a voice as boundless as hers, it’s a shame it doesn’t get to broadcast itself more until Echo’s last half. On the quieter works like “As You Are,” “Love in High Places” and “Nobody But You” Kimbra is the star of her show instead of its guest.

“90s Music”

Directed By: Justin Francis

The Golden Echo is far from a failure, nor is it a transitional bridge-way to her eventual junior recording. It is an artist making her own music and letting its fate rest on each respective listener. Regardless, Kimbra’s growth will generate conversation as all good art should. Rank: Above Average

[Editor’s Note: The Golden Echo available in all digital and physical music retailers now. For more information on Kimbra, visit her official website.-QH]

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Countdown: My Week with Beyoncé Featured on Blogcritics

Beyoncé from the "Ghost" video, circa 2013

Beyoncé from the “Ghost” video, circa 2013

My essay on Beyoncé’s entire discography (thus far), is up for reading now at Blogcritics, where it was first published. I discuss the week I spent listening to this polarizing singer’s music after purchasing her entire output last Sunday afternoon. Make sure to check it out!

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