What I Was Feeling | September 2014
Sorry I’m late yo!!! My apologies. Writing this as I shut off everything around me to concentrate, as I’ve finally gotten round to doing it, so yeah. It’s a little bit delayed (well, honestly… a lot more than that!) but I’m here to contribute the latest instalment (as I said I would do, each week) to What I Was Feeling. So then let’s get straight into it. I found myself on this week, to be hung up on some real good music, cohesive too. Here’s what I thought.
Jhene Aiko / Souled Out
Jhene’s debut LP is a follow up to her previous projects with a recurring theme/concept, where you will see the pattern, if you are familiar Sailing Souls (Mixtape, 2011) and/or Sail Out (EP, 2013). With heavy anticipation behind the release after two solid consistent projects, and a string of favours done for J. Cole, Big Sean, Drake & Common’s albums by blessing their songs with a guest appearance, and whilst also doing her live performance rounds, such as opening up for Drake on his tour, and the BET Awards with John Legend, this has given her not only a chance to build up her on-stage experience but has also seen her popularity skyrocket – gaining more attention and recognition; having a hit [The Worst] on the charts and with a huge number of the female population who seemed to resonate with the lyrics (about a bad relationship) – it has already been a success for Jhene as it peaked at no. 43 on Billboard 100, and it seems she’s having her time, for sure. It’s looking looks like she is on course for a beaming future – being a raw musical talent with a rare artistry to find in the present day hoping to cement her career. On this album [Souled Out], you will notice Jhene doesn’t shy too far away from her past themes, so fans should straight away click on. She uses her usual melodies and brings a soothing tone in songs such as Brave, where she sings about her admiration for a guy who has put up with the pain of her haunting past – being that she is still insecure, warning him that it is a sacrifice he has taken by pursuing her. “You’re so brave…. Don’t go crazy for loving me…” is the hook she croons, which sounds almost more like a lyric in a verse, rather than a hook, she again makes it boldly crystal clear she is aiming for not going for a catchy chorus for people to remember, although it is where she really displays incredible vocals with control, which leads me onto my next point. Here in this score, it is obvious that her influence previously cited as female R&B artist, Brandy, you can tell has rubbed off on her in terms of singing style – silk-like soft tones as opposed to singing in high octaves like Mariah Carey or reaching high notes that Beyoncé does… the harmonious feel on Spotless Mind – she lays her voice to fit on what sonically paints a picture, almost like a canvas – so you can say that art is definitely what she does with her music. The Pressure, a standout track, for me, on the album, is where she showcases her ability to switch between two styles of one genre. On the track, she boasts an “old skool” vibe with the hard beat (which she has over the years given off from her days of collaborating with B2K, a time in her earlier years, being the background to her start in early beginnings to even now). Her cool, laid back, sexy style is perhaps what you could call reminiscent of Aaliyah (whom she considers to be heavily influential to her music) rather than a homage. Aaliyah is arguably a pioneer of an initial sound Jhene started off with originally – conventional R&B which for female artists back then in the 90s era where the genre bloom was typically ruled by upbeat party mood music or romantic songs to her… at the same time as she brings the old skool feels for maybe the older generation, she hasn’t left her playground (that the younger generation know): contemporary R&B, which through her offerings over the years she has already shown confidence in as well as where she has found her comfort, firming her position as one of the female artists who had already discovered her creative niche. She keeps it smooth with melody. It is a song that’s something for the bumpers to bump to and one for the swayers to sway to. Whereas Jhené is someone you would see as an original artist, the issue seems to remain that some may view her music as TOO influenced and say that she has drawn inspiration from several artists she listens to, which to me would be a fair criticism; however I don’t believe her music should be judged from as standpoint like such…instead I think that Jhené’s strengths musically overpower, because she is one of the artists doing well at what they do, with their own style (even if it may have been mixed up & concocted through several styles), giving us fresh music, which I have not yet seen another artist to do, better than she does it. So it does very much go both ways in a sense that it is her downfall but not a weakness or disadvantage, she instead flips that to use it to her advantage as a strength. With songs like Promises (accompanied by vocals from her daughter, Namiko) you could quite easily find where her diverse style and focus on lyrics stem from an artist like John Mayer, a singer-songwriter who she also claims to admire. I think that her interest in more than just R&B music, being a fan of more genres is what has helped mold Jhené into a songstress who has no limit, she feels no pressure to make one type of music, she just loves to make raw music that is written by her too, coming from the soul – which is where I think her obsession with souls comes from snd why she has created this album. Like Frank Ocean, Miguel, Elle Varner, The Weeknd, Jessie Ware, and Tinashe, she is cultivating quality music that is playing massive role of contribution to a fast-growing genre [Contemporary R&B] in music culture.
Jhené is clearly a versatile artist, and an asset to the R&B game who has been bringing something distinctive to the table. She has made her mark, created an album which gives listeners a chance to hear her story, honest emotions on a collection of beats with a smooth sound which make for a peaceful listening… If you ever feel like chilling out or “vibing” to something, then she has delivered an album just for you. If you ever loved Sade (who made a classic album: Diamond Life, also who Jhené’s style has been very much compared to), then Souled Out, is an album in 2014, that is not so much parallel, but very similar to what Sade brought to us. I must admit it was at least two or three listens it had took me before I was feeling the whole album, however after I got into it properly I saw the potential of songs I definitely want to replay (Limbo, Limbo, Limbo. To Love & Die. Wading. Eternal Sunshine).
The album is packed with material that should last for years upon end, seeing that she has created something many of us could relate to, being that her subject matter is based on every day life – situations, struggles we all go through, emotions we feel; which is why I feel that with time, she will become more of hit in the music industry like Adele did, purely since she speaks for the younger generation, has a voice that can connect with teenagers & adults, which is great – she is a talent who can tap into more than one audience. She has already proven she can touch her fans, but I’m sure she will break the mainstream, she is now seeming more than ready for it, to take the musical universe by storm, worldwide and along the way, developing more chart hits to add to her résumé, gaining a bigger fan base…however should she fail at that success she still has solid bodies of work to back up just how good she really is… The numbers don’t lie, indeed but that quality is always above quantity. Good luck, Jhené!
What I’m recommending:
Music: Lecrae / Anomaly (LP) [Aug 2014]
Lecrae’s seventh album. Christian Hip-Hop is what they call it but to ME, Hip-Hop is what he makes. Just a quick one, I’m not going into too much examination, doing it without that. Don’t put this guy in a box. I feel like he is a rapper who more should pay attention to, in a year like 2014 where problems around the world like the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson last month are happening… These things by a long shot aren’t to be ignored and when you have MUSIC artists in this day and age who are also positive figures, taking action by putting it into art rapping with both passion and skill about a social issue, encouraging a change…then that too should not be looked at lightly or gone unnoticed. The album has something for many hip-hop fans “ignorant” “trap” “ratchet” “conscious” “boom bap”, you name it. I’m saying that Lecrae is one of the few guys who has for years been bringing back and reminding me of something strong that’s been missing, a spot needing to be filled & tapped into by more in modern day hip-hop… and that’s the real, music with substance, rhymes, melodies, stories, emotion, honesty and originality…and plus what better way to do it than on an album, not even a mixtape.
Film: Save The Last Dance (starring Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas, Kerry Washington) 
I’m throwing in a throwback film of my favourite for the fun of it, just because. Personally, I call it the best dance film out of all I’ve seen, out of the Step Ups, Stomp The Yards, Dirty Dancing, You Got Served, Breakin’. The reason it’s the best in my eyes, is for the narrative of a young girl [Sara] whose Mom died, hates herself, has to move to a predominantly African-American school in Chicago, IL where she is of the minority, being Caucasian, so she immediately feels uncomfortable already, picked on early into her first few days alienated but quickly clicks with the Chenille, who has a brother [Derek] in the same class as Sara that she falls in love with. They began an interracial relationship, so with this she would at times suffer as a victim of discrimination, nobody wanted to see a white girl with a black guy, little did they know the pair had something in common, dance. The film to me always showed the importance of clashing cultures and the learning of new things. She went to the club and got to experience Hip-Hop/R&B dance which she got very into, also incorporating into her Ballet, which Derek learned the story about her Mother through as well as seeing this girl’s true passion which glared even in her eyes he could sense it. The soundtrack alone is precious and truly has a place in my heart, songs like: Get It On Tonite, U Know What’s Up, U Can Do It, Only You are all priceless – they take me back to my childhood and also hits my psyche, able to break into my emotions and evoke nostalgia. Those are songs my elder sisters would play when I was young, I’d hear them booming from my room, I’d be dancing to those songs, that was what my childhood was, when I wasn’t watching wrestling. THAT’S why I dearly cherish music much… so even suggesting this film has actually allowed me to tell you little story about what I did as a kid.
Thank you, for reading what I’ve had to say. Until next time, watch a film, a documentary, T.V. listen to some music, anything, whatever *laughs*… feel something! Enjoy what you love to do.
That’s me out for this month.