Thursday, August 21, 2014


Ariana Grande

My Everything (to be released August 26, 2014)

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, if you asked me about an Ariana Grande, I'd assume you were trying to order some cappuccino thing from Starbucks. But by the fall, I was up on game - and I was a huge fan.

Ariana's debut, Yours Truly, was one of the biggest surprises of 2013, blowing me away with a refreshing mix of lighthearted pop and hip-hop-drenched R&B. She easily lived up to those ever-present comparisons to Mariah Carey.

In an effort to ward off the monster known as the Sophomore Jinx, Ariana's follow-up, My Everything plays it safe - leaning more on current pop trends than experimenting with throwback R&B. It's enough to keep her core audience happy - and those cash registers ringing - but lacks the scope and diversity of her fun-filled debut.

The album's lead single, "Problem," arguably is the biggest song of the summer. It has all the elements of a hit - boisterous horns that make it instantly recognizable, a hook that burrows its way into your brain and says there, and a rap verse from the latest flavor of the month, Iggy Azalea. But Ariana's vocals get a bit too screamy as she tries to stand out among the chaotic production. That's not a common mistake though - in most cases, Ariana's voice is the star of the show.

Her vocals help elevate the otherwise pedestrian drum marches on "Why Try" and liven up the dull "Best Mistake." Actually, the worst mistake is Big Sean's verse on the latter: "How can we keep the feelings fresh/how do we Ziploc it?" Just keep on shovelin' dirt on hip-hop's grave, homie.

Things liven up on "Break Your Heart Right Back," which borrows from Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" (or "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" for you young'ns), including a great Biggie tribute verse from Childish Gambino. The R&B-tinged, upbeat "Be My Baby" also is a good fit for Ariana's energy and understated soul.

But besides those tracks, few leave a lasting impression. The bouncy "One Last Time" is definitely catchy - as is  "Hands On Me," which sounds like the weird offspring of Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied." Neither will leave you yearning to revisit them, though.

Still, give Ariana props for relying on her tremendous talent to drive her music, instead of gimmicks and forced sex appeal (unlike some people we know). The ballads "Just A Little Bit of Your Heart" and "My Everything" soar with the might of a 10-year veteran. They're solid and powerful but have just a hint of innocence as well - it's Ariana's signature touch.

My Everything is a perfectly safe, acceptable album that will do well at retail. The arrangements are good, the guest stars are predictable and the tracks are radio-friendly.

I'm sure Ariana will enjoy success but it's a bit disappointing when we know she's capable of so much more.

Best tracks: "Be My Baby," "Break Your Heart Right Back," "One Last Time"

3 stars out of 5
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Every woman I know is lining up to see "Addicted," some movie based off one of those ghetto romance books they sell in the bargain bins at Walmart, next to the giant pile of Goobers and Dots candy.

These ladies, including my own beloved wifey, are frontin' like they're going to support good black cinema. Nah, they're going to go drool over William Levy, AKA the M&M "iz it made uf chokolat tuuuu?" man.

Y'all are so transparent.

While you oogle some guy who can't pronounce half your names correctly, I'll answer your burning love questions. Here's how you can hit a brother up:

Send your inquiries to soulinstereoblog@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter @etbowser. Just provide your initials, or a fun nickname. 

Here's today's question:

I've been attempting online dating lately and it's not fun anymore. Guys are either weird (sending half-naked pics and constantly talking about sex) or just disappointing. I planned a date with one guy, who asked to reschedule out of the blue. I obliged, but then he texts back and says "I'm seeing someone." I'm not heartbroken, I just think these may be signs to give up on online dating. Am I right or looking way too much into this?

Computer Lover

I've said many times here before that I support online dating. Mind you, I've never done it myself. I'm old - online dating didn't exist back then. In fact, when I was dating, cell phones looked like this:

Image via
And computer games looked like this:


Our music was better than yours though:


Anyway, when it comes down to it, online dating is no different than meeting someone in a bar. You're going on face value until you make a real connection. That's just part of the game. The difference is, online dating allows you to have many options as once, which, theoretically should speed up your chances to find Mr. Right.

Yeah, things don't work that well, playa - as you've experienced with the parade of losers you've encountered.

Just like real life, it takes time to find someone you can really connect with. A computer isn't gonna speed that process up. Don't measure your worth by how many dates you have lined up. Just take your time until you find a decent dude. It can take awhile. And it will be worth it.

Unless you're really uncomfortable, I don't see why you shouldn't keep at online dating. Just make sure you take time to bring those budding relationships from behind the keyboard.

Watch out for the Catfish, don't send nude pics and you'll be good.

You'd think that would go without saying but you never know.

Who's next?

Here's my burning question. Well idk how to ask it but I'll break it down for you:  Recently my best friend broke up with her bum of an ex-boyfriend and a few weeks later, she jumped into a relationship with a guy I thought would be good for her. So I guess you can say, I played Cupid - which I sorta regret. She's already talking about marrying the dude. I feel like my best friend is slipping away to a guy she barely even knows. I guess my question is "What do I do when I stuck in the "Being too good of a friend role?"

Sincerely a beginning blogger,

Creative Old Kidd

Well, we have two separate things going on here. First, good for you for helping your girl get over her trash ex. That's what friends do. And since you're a concerned friend, it's no surprise that you're a bit conflicted about her preparing to jump the broom with a guy who probably doesn't know her middle name yet. Sounds like the ol' rebound syndrome to me - you'd be wise to tell her to slow down and examine the relationship before things get too deep. There's no need to rush.

And of course, there's the other 500 pound Rick Rawse in the room - it seems like you're feeling a bit left out of the equation. It's natural. It's hard - and a bit annoying - to see the person who spend nights crying on your shoulder suddenly run off with a new fling and leave you in the cold.

But it is her life. You play a part but you're not the ONLY part.

Maybe this is the guy for her, maybe it isn't. Either way, you were her friend first. Even with ol' dude running around, continue to be her friend - even if that means backing away and giving her some space while she explores her new relationship. And if you think she's rushing into things, don't be shy to tell her. Don't be too heavy-handed in your criticism, though, you don't wanna come off like a hater.

Friends should always be there for each other, but be sure give her space to live her life.
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Fans of New Jack Swing, get ready to jam. Ohhhhhhh jam.

R&B pioneer Teddy Riley has announced the return of one of the biggest acts of the 90s:


Guy is back!

Yep, yep, Teddy is returning with both Damion and Aaron Hall. It's good to see that they've finally put aside petty differences to get back to music. Plus, it'll keep Aaron Hall out of trouble:




No one cares about the women you slept with in 1991, playa, especially when you now look like a Raisinette in a Easter Suit. But what we do care about are those hits, and Guy had a phenomenal run. Let's look back at five of their best tracks:

"Teddy's Jam" (1988)



This was the original party starter at all the school dances. Whenever I think of Aaron Hall, the first thing that comes to mind are his vocals here.

"I Like" (1988)



Easily one of Guy's biggest hits, this was inescapable in the late '80s.

"Piece of My Love" (1988)



I don't think was an official single, but you couldn't tell by the frequent airplay it received. This one had all the brothers yelling: "IIIIIIIIIII do love you!"

"Goodbye Love" (1988)



The best Guy song no one seems to remember even though it's been sampled endlessly, from Mary J. Blige to Nas.

"Let's Chill" (1991)


In my humble opinion, Guy's signature song. I still remember all the girls in my science class randomly singing this one day - and the teacher didn't even mind, he was grooving to it too! A song so good that it takes precedence over education.

What are your favorite Guy songs? Drop 'em off below. 
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Friday, August 15, 2014

Guess what day it is?


Go away, annoying camel, it's not hump day. It's the day we actually care about.

And here's how we celebrate.


Lords of the Underground, Here come the Lords (1993)

The homie William Goddard suggested this one, and I'm not one to argue. The Lord's debut is their best. It's endlessly sampled and is one of the strongest releases of the heralded "golden age of hip-hop."




Also check out:
"Funky Child"
"Flow On (New Symphony)"


Mya, Fear of Flying (2000)

Back in 2000, Mya was being groomed as the next big superstar in R&B. She had the looks, dance moves and this album - her best work. Fear of Flying was a great mix of hip-hop-influenced R&B and tracks with pop crossover appeal. Too bad she never reached those heights again.



Also check out:
"Case of the Ex"
"Free"

Now, it’s your turn. Email soulinstereoblog@gmail.com  hit me up on Twitter @etbowser, or stop by the comments section and share your Flashback Friday album. Leave a couple of sentences describing what makes it so great. I’ll feature your album on the blog.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014



Allow me to slip into my finest purple gators as I once again slide down lover's lane. Here's how you can join me:

Send your inquiries to soulinstereoblog@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter @etbowser. Just provide your initials, or a fun nickname. 

Here's today's question:

Why are men so quick to ask a woman if they can cook?
Not Betty Crocker

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for another round of your favorite game: GENDER STEREOTYPES

In a world where our lives revolve around hand-held technology, we still cling to caveman mentalities in our relationships.

But as usual in this column, you've gotta blame gender stereotypes for a man's desire to marry a big bootied Chef Boyardee - it's because we were raised to believe it. Boys are taught that a good wife is a caretaker - cooking, cleaning, raising kids, etc. It's what we were told by our own mothers.

And ladies, y'all ain't off the hook, either. You were taught that a good husband is a provider - the breadwinner. The car fixer. The problem solver.

In theory, I don't have a problem with using these as broad guidelines to find a mate. A man needs a compassionate woman. A woman needs a strong, steadfast man. But when your relationship lives or dies by a woman's stove game, I think that's dumb.

My wife will quickly tell you that she's not a fan of cooking (she's not a bad cook though - her grilled salmon will make you wanna slap somebody). She cooks because if she doesn't eat she'll die. If I didn't pursue a relationship with her simply because she doesn't fry steaks every night, I would have thrown away one of my greatest blessings.

Ladies, brothers love to eat and if you're a beast in the kitchen, we salute you. But they're more to a relationship than just stuffing your face. You gotta bring more to the table than a book of recipes.

Oh and fellas, if you're gonna judge a woman for not cooking you better know how to change a flat tire. You can't have it both ways.

QUESTION NO. 2:

Do you think girls who have unresolved issue with their fathers inadvertently ruin relationships because of "daddy issues?"
Parental Discretion Advised

No question, playa. Now I'm not saying a girl can't grow into a successful woman without a father figure - far from it. But remember this sentence:

And ladies, y'all ain't off the hook, either. You were taught that a good husband is a provider - the breadwinner. The car fixer. The problem solver.

Some women twist those values. Instead of wanting a man with those characteristics, they're looking for a straight-up caretaker. Some brothers do this too, essentially wanting a mom instead of a mate.

A relationship should be a partnership - equals. Women should want a man who takes care of them, but they should also be willing to care for their man in return. Y'all are too grown to simply want baby-sitters and ATM machines.
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Monday, August 11, 2014


Never forgotten.
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Saturday, August 9, 2014


Tank

Stronger (to be released August 12, 2014)

Fans often don't want to hear this but it's true - your favorite artists have to evolve. They need to evolve.

Yeah, I know everyone likes depressed My Life-era Mary J. Blige and greasy, shirtless Confessions-era Usher. But if artists don't try new things, their music becomes stagnant - just a rehash of greater success.

At worst, they could wind up like the homie DMX, 65 years old and still barking and howling at the moon.

Tank realizes this, and he's ready for a change. His sixth studio album, Stronger, is mostly a departure from the emotional ballads that were his hallmark. Give him props for stepping out of his comfort zone - I just wish this new direction was a better fit.

Don't get me wrong, sonically the album stands tall. The single "You're My Star" expertly uses the upbeat, big band sound that's all the rage in R&B today. "Dance With Me" sounds like a space-age steppers jam, with Tank leading the Cha-Cha Slide across the Milky Way. Meanwhile, "I Gotta Have It" is straight out of the '80s - all Tank needs is one of those videos with the cheesy after-effects and a sparkly blazer.

Tank's not usually known for feel-good music, and it sounds like he's having a ball, but unfortunately none of the above tracks stick with you after the initial listen. The hyperactive "Nobody Better," for instance, proves to be a styles clash. Tank's vocals, while pristine, are too restrained to match the pace of the track. It's those little details that hurt in the long run.

Tank returns to his comfort zone halfway through the album, relying on his old standby - the slow-burning ballads. "Same Way" and "Hope This Makes You Love Me" are familiar territory, especially on the latter, where Tank airs his dirty laundry: "I'm such a mess/my problems are my ego." Again, these tracks are solid but we've seen Tank travel down this self-depreciating road many times before - with much greater success. 

But it's not all bad news here. The title track, "Stronger," exhibits Tank's emotional makeover after dumping the dead weight of his failed relationship. It's powerful, energetic and emotional - and works so much better than the forced energy of the earlier tracks. The Marvin-Gaye influenced "Missing You" also showcases a different side of Tank that works well. It seems like a more natural fit.

I can't blame Tank for attempting a new direction with Stronger. In fact, I applaud him for it. Unfortunately, even though the elements for a great album are all present here, it just doesn't work in the long run. It's like a good meal that doesn't stick to your ribs.

Evolution can be an long, arduous process. Those early setbacks eventually will make you, well, stronger. 

Best tracks: "Stronger," "Same Way," "Missing You"

3 stars out of 5
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