Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.
If you’re talking Tamia, you gotta go with the best – and I don’t know anyone on the planet who loves Tamia more than Nicolette Carney. For more than two decades, Tamia has quietly and consistently dropped some of the best R&B records of the modern era. Yet she’s often overlooked in convos about the best the game has to offer.
Nicolette and I are changing that right now; we’re giving flowers to an incredible vocalist. There probably won’t be too much arguing going on in this one. This is all about giving props.
What are Tamia’s three best albums?
2. Love Life
3. Between Friends
Having a solid music catalog is a blessing for an artist, but it’s difficult as a fan. When it comes to looking back and picking the best. My fandom really wanted to put Between Friends at the top of this list, because it came at a special time in life. However, her debut was a fantastic way to make an entrance. Everything was excellent, from vocals, to songwriting, and production.
2. Love Life
3. Between Friends
Let’s keep it a buck right out of the gate – there is NO SUCH THING as a bad Tamia album. I’ve never scored any of her releases lower than 4 stars out of 5. She’s the queen of consistency, that’s why ranking her top releases is so tough. For me, her 1998 debut still stands as the gold standard, one of the few albums to get a coveted five stars from your boy. 2015’s Love Life was sorely overlooked and some of her greatest work ever (more on that later) and I’ll give the third spot to Between Friends, a really air-tight release. Honestly, there’s no wrong answer here.
What’s Tamia’s most underrated album?
Nicolette: Love Life
Love Life was released 20 years after Tamia’s career debut, and it showed that she had no signs of slowing down. It was a class on sensuality and adapting to the current sounds without compromising who she is as an artist. It’s an R&B gem and one of the best from the previous decade.
Edd: Love Life
Sadly, almost every Tamia album feels underrated by the masses – that’s no reflection on her talent, of course. But Love Life was such a breath of fresh air, landing smack in the middle of a decade where strong R&B releases were about as rare as a D’Angelo release date. Love Live was an oasis of incredible R&B in an often-barren land – sultry, passionate and effortless. It’s rare than an artist nearly 20 years in the game can drop such a standout release but Tamia delivered. It’s just a shame so many seemed to miss out.
Andddd, what’s your least favorite album?
Nicolette: Passion Like Fire
Passion Like Fire is far from a terrible album, it’s just the one album that I haven’t gone back to and played over and over like the previous projects. While vocals are never an issue, the album lacked cohesiveness in sequencing and production. If this album’s sequencing was different, we might be telling a different story.
Edd: Passion Like Fire
I’m with you. As I said earlier, there is no bad Tamia album. So while Passion Like Fire might reside at the bottom of my faves list, it still wound up No. 15 on my 50 Best Albums of 2018 list. From a technical standpoint Passion Like Fire excels but there’s just not much here I revisit often. Very solid, just a little unspectacular.
What’s Tamia’s best single?
Nicolette: “You Put A Move On My Heart”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if you are going to breakthrough in music, you better kick down the door. And this is exactly what she did. At my big age of 5 years old, this song became an instant favorite, and this was the start of me becoming a fan of Tamia.
Edd: “Officially Missing You”
“Officially Missing You” might not be quite as memorable as “Stranger In My House” or “So Into You” but it’s a wonderful balance of beauty and heartbreak, one of the most emotionally driven songs in her vast catalog. My biggest pet peeve with modern R&B is the lack of emotion in performances – go listen to Tamia’s performance here and I swear you can hear her heart tearing in half in the final minute of the track. Never has pain sounded so elegant.
Let’s dig into the album cuts. Which one is her best?
Nicolette: “Last First Kiss”
I remember hearing this song for the first time and saying, “If love doesn’t make me feel like this, then keep it.” This song is one of many reasons why Between Friends is my favorite Tamia album. Tamia’s passion paired with the amazing songwriting of Shep Crawford makes them one of many great singer/songwriter combos in R&B.
You could pluck nearly anything from Love Life for this answer – that album is loaded. But the first thing that jumps to mind is “Lipstick.” That track just oozes sexuality yet never crosses the line to become to crass or corny. It’s truly how grown folks get down.
Which album cut should have been a single?
A moment was missed when “Lipstick” was not made a single. This song is an example of sexuality and taste fusing seamlessly. To this very day, I’m still a little salty that this did not get the single treatment that it deserves.
Edd: “Rain on Me”
You can’t go wrong singing about precipitation in R&B. New Edition did it. Mariah did it. SWV did it. Oran “Juice” Jones did it. Soul for Real sorta did it, I think, still not sure what those brothers were talking about. “Rain on Me” just FELT like a single to me back in 1998. And the video writes itself – just have Tamia staring at a rain-soaked windowpane and/or standing drenched in the middle of a barren street and boom, instant hit. Also, the song is fire, so there’s a another plus.
Tamia has several stellar collabos. Which duet is your favorite?
Nicolette: “Slow Jams”
Tamia showed us what was to come in 1995 with her appearance on Quincy Jones’ album Q’s Jook Joint. Along with the hit single “You Put A Move On My Heart,” “Slow Jams” is a funky & smooth collab with Babyface, Portrait, and the iconic Barry White. Everybody did what needed to be done on this track.
Edd: “Spend My Life With You”
I mean, it had to be this one, right? Shout out to my fellow Midnight Love fans during the heyday of BET music videos. They know BET played this joint EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. There’s a reason it’s one of the most enduring tracks of the 2000s – the chemistry here is undeniable. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re two of R&B’s best voices ever. It’s a simply magical performance.
Let’s keep the collabo talk going – what’s your dream Tamia collaboration?
Nicolette: I want the Queens Project to happen along with Deborah Cox and Kelly Price. We got LSG, TGT and even Milestone, and that was a group made for a movie. We need a female super R&B group.
Edd: KING KEEF SWEAT OF COURSE. Seriously, Keith has seemingly worked with every major female R&B star except Tamia. With their experience I’m confident they’d make magic. I second Nicolette’s wish for Queen’s Project (there’s still time, ladies!) but I’ll also throw Kevin Ross in as a new-school pick. I think his voice would complement Tamia’s nicely.
Why is Tamia so talented yet has constantly flown under the radar?
Nicolette: From industry politics to overcoming a life-threatening illness, a few things have played a role into why Tamia has flown under many radars. I think the transition from major label to independent played a factor. During a time where being signed to a label was favored more than doing everything on your own, she made a decision to leave the majors to be independent in 2006. While it pays off because you don’t have to fight for creative control, going independent when comes to promotion can be very difficult. The current shift of artists being more vocal about ownership, the promotion side of being an independent artist is hopefully coming into the conversation now.
Edd: Look, I’ve seen some of the artists y’all hype, “talent” clearly isn’t a pre-requisite for fame these days. Nicolette isn’t far off – Tamia’s greatest mainstream success came when she was signed to a major label. But honestly, even then she deserved more. The lack of huge mainstream hits (“Stranger in My House” did well, though), inconsistent promotion and, quite frankly, Tamia prioritizing to her own health and family were all factors in keeping her out of the spotlight she deserved.
Is there still time for Tamia to become a mainstream player?
Nicolette: There is absolutely time for a resurgence. Tamia is an example of what happens when you take serious care of yourself and your gift. When you got that part in control, the opportunity will come. We’ve seen many artists see a second wind because their hit from 10-20 years ago gets new life from a singing challenge. With the announcement of a live album on the way, this is the moment because we know that mic is going to be all way on.
Edd: Sure, there’s time. I always say that any artist is one hit away from mainstream relevance again. Nas, Mariah Carey, LL Cool J and more were all written off at one point only to come roaring back, revitalizing their careers in the process. Of course, it’s harder than ever before for R&B artists to catch mainstream ears these days without totally selling out your sound. Thankfully, I doubt we hear Trap Tamia anytime soon. The most beautiful thing about Tamia’s music is that she never compromises – that’s why her discography is so expertly crafted. Her music may never be mainstream again, but I guarantee that it will be of the highest quality regardless. That’s all I ask.
Whom did you agree with, Nicolette or Edd? Let us know below and share your favorite Tamia tracks as well.