Posts tagged "Backtracking"

TLC’s ‘CrazySexyCool’ Turns 20: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

The point of TLC‘s sophomore album, CrazySexyCool, wasn’t to reintroduce T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli as personae by way of Spice Girls, despite what Wikipedia thinks.

“A lot of our producers misunderstood us when we told them the idea – they’d do a crazy song for me, a sexy song for Chilli and a cool song for [T-Boz],” Left Eye said. “We had to explain that CrazySexyCool doesn’t just describe us individually, it describes all the parts of every woman.”

Those producers included T-Boz’s childhood friend Dallas Austin, longtime collaborator Jermaine Dupri and TLC’s own spunky resident rapper Left Eye – the only woman in that group.

Thank goodness for CrazySexyCool. On November 15, 1994, this R&B staple breezed in while male artists ruled the charts. (Boyz II Men‘s clean-cut, romantic crooning was king; the group’s lone sex song, “I’ll Make Love to You,” was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 straight weeks.) The album sold 23 million copies – the second best-selling LP worldwide, second only to Spice. And even as it turns 20, CrazySexyCool still feels so crucial. When reality TV mogul Kim Kardashian poses with her family for Vogue, readers remind her that she starred in a sex tape. When she poses nude for Paper, followers (ahem, Naya Rivera) remind her that she is a mother. Society at large still doesn’t get that every woman is, and has every right to be, more complex and complicated than even Left Eye had in mind.  More »

Madonna’s “Bedtime Stories” Turns 20: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

Throughout her extensive career, Madonna (a.k.a. The Queen of Pop) has worn many, quite controversial hats. Whether it be a girly-girl for 1986′s True Blue, a political rebel for 2003′s American Life or a disco goddess for 2005′s Confession On A Dancefloorthe entertainer always knows how to switch up her persona to keep her fans interested and the world guessing what her next move will be. (Well, maybe not with MDNA. I’d like to forget that album.)

But one of the singer’s greatest musical eras was arguably her most subtle. On October 25, 1994, her sixth studio LP Bedtime Stories released worldwide. The album found Madonna easing up on her naughty persona and going for a softer vibe, and today (October 24) we celebrate its timeless sound.

Madonna’s much talked about album, Erotica (released in 1992), did not go over well with critics or some of the entertainer’s fans. The backlash she received from it stemmed from its explicitly sexual nature (which included the infamous Sex book). Two years later, Bedtime Stories acted as the tamer, more mellow sister that tried to gloss over the singer’s panned image. While it was obviously a cleaned-up and more accessible album, it still signified another era of change for Madonna. Sure, she makes incredible dance-pop classics, but Bedtime Stories displayed the evolution of a soulful singer, and it helped lead to albums like the adventurous Ray of Light (1998) and possibly even the “B-girl” edge of 2008′s Hard Candy (as crazy as that sounds). More »

Christina Aguilera’s Debut Album Turns 15: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

1999: the year when pop music ruled the world. From the United States to the UK, the genre was inescapable on music charts, televisions shows, the radio and even our favorite magazine covers. The brink of Y2k gave way to the fresh faces of pop that quickly became music legends of our time: Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, *NSYNC and Christina Aguilera. All but Aguilera were already dominating the international charts, with the singer being the last of the four to release her debut. She was introduced to the music scene as part of the 4 Pop Blondes, which included Spears, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. The battle of becoming the the “It” girl in music at that time was a tough one, but nobody could hold the then-19-year-old down (never can, never will)!

Prior to her debut album, many knew Aguilera as a bright-eyed young girl from from 1993′s The New Mickey Mouse Club. Released just eight months after Britney Spears’ iconic …Baby One More Time, at first Christina’s debut was placed in the shadows of pop music’s first princess. But the worldwide success of the four singles that emerged from Christina Aguilera proved that she was a star all her own. While Spears was looked at as the sweet girl next door with her endearing personality, Aguilera showed early signs of her “Xtina” alter ego, as she was unafraid to be mainstream music’s sexualized and rebellious bad girl. Both stars may have had a lot on common at the time, but there was no doubt that Christina Aguilera was bound to achieve a status that placed her within the ranks of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

During this musical era, record labels were focused on creating flash-in-the-pan pop phenomenons. Nonetheless, the raw talent that shone throughout Christina Aguilera saved the album from becoming too candy-coated.

Today we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Christina’s self-titled debut album, which was released on August 24, 1999, and gave rise to an international superstar — as well as the birth of Legendtina. (SAY!) More »

Destiny’s Child’s ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’ Turns 15: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

With the tremendous success of TLC and the Spice Girls in the mid-’90s, girl groups from all around the world began popping up like wildfire! Sure, there were acts like Blaque, All Saints, B*Witched, and En Vogue — but the biggest stars in town were the four young girls behind Destiny’s Child. The Houston, Texas-bred group achieved stateside popularity with their self-titled debut album, but it was their sophomore effort that propelled them to superstar status.

After the release of 1998′s Destiny’s Child (which went triple-Platinum), the quartet went back into the studio a year later and dug deeper into concepts of relationships and empowering women, themes that ultimately became the inspiration behind 1999′s The Writing’s On The Wall. Taking notes from TLC’s Fanmail (which was released just five months prior), Destiny’s Child formed this album as a “how-to” guide of sorts, as they taught women how to deal with no-good men and to go after what they want in life. Lead singer Beyonce had a heavy hand in the writing process, but all-star R&B producers and writers like Kandi Burruss, Missy Elliot, Rodney Jerkins and Daryl Simmons played key roles as well.

During this era, there were changing faces in the lineup, tension between members and their manager Mathew Knowles, and media speculation of them possibly going solo (we’re looking at you, King Bey). But throughout the drama, Destiny’s Child was able to create a solid R&B album that sounds just as fresh in 2014 as it did in 1999. In celebration of its 15th anniversary today (July 28th), we take a look back at a record that helped to inspire independent ladies worldwide! More »

Jennifer Lopez’s ‘On the 6′ Turns 15: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

By 1999, Jennifer Lopez knew how it felt to face a crowd of thousands. But that crowd wasn’t hers – it belonged to Selena, the young Mexican-American star whose life was tragically cut short in 1995.

For the opening scene of the biopic Selena, released less than two years after the singer’s death, fans flooded Houston’s Astrodome to recreate the moment when Selena drew the largest crowd in the stadium’s history. And Lopez, Selena‘s star, was dedicated to her role – her most demanding yet. She smiled and waved like Selena. She nailed the choreography, too: every hip swing, step ball change and spin, with that glittery purple jumpsuit catching the light. But as this former musical theater kid and budding actress went through Selena’s motions, she realized that she wanted a singing career, too.

Jennifer’s 1999 debut On the 6 turned 15 on June 1, and the concept of the all-around entertainer is just as rare as it was back then. While actresses still try their hands in music, those records rarely hit the top of the charts. On The 6 was an exception, because of how Jennifer made that crossover effort seem both hard-earned and effortless. More »

Beastie Boys’ ‘Ill Communication’ Turns 20: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

Even Ken Jennings looked stumped. On May 14, Jeopardy! featured a category titled “The 1990s Rap Song.” And to the surprise of no one, Jennings nearly swept it. A decade prior, the Seattle native won a record-breaking 74 games and $2.52 million on the show. He completed the title of Notorious B.I.G.‘s 1997 anthem (“What is ‘Mo Problems’?”), named the Digital Underground‘s “Humpty Dance” and rattled off MC Hammer‘s “U Can’t Touch This.” But no one buzzed in when host Alex Trebek recited the lyrics to a 1994 Beastie Boys song: “I can’t stand it, I know you planned it … listen y’all, it’s a – ”. Jennings gazed to his left, trying his best to recall, while the other contestants were silent.

To be fair, Trebek’s delivery was all wrong. He was jittery, while the Beasties (Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock) practically barreled through the defiant, thrashing hit “Sabotage,” the song in question off the group’s fourth album Ill Communication. As that record turns 20 today (May 23), it’s worth examining why exactly it’s a must-hear album, and how it helped shape the era even though it often gets overshadowed by other landmark releases from that year. More »

Backstreet Boys’ ‘Millennium’ Turns 15: Backtracking

Barring the whole Y2K-will-kill-us-all thing, the turn of the century was a great time to be a teen. There was something exciting and a little scary about being so conspicuously young at a time when the world was getting so conspicuously old. Fin de siècle fears didn’t stand a chance, however, against the unstoppable forward momentum of young hearts and the pop music that propels them.

The fizziest year of that sugar-rush resurgence of teen pop, 1999 gave us constellations of era-defining stars — within those 12 months, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore all debuted. (Say What? Karaoke.) The biggest act of ’99, however, was Backstreet Boys, who released their masterpiece Millennium on May 18 of that year. Nominated for five Grammys, it became the year’s best-selling album with almost 10 million copies sold. One of — if not the — most iconic sonic snapshots of its pop cultural era, Millennium to date has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

So read on as we celebrate the landmark LP, which turns 15 on Sunday. More »

Usher’s ‘Confessions’ Turns 10: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

There’s a scene in Eminem’s semi-biographical film 8 Mile, where he’s about to deliver his final battle rap, preparing for his opponent to air out all of his dirty laundry. Instead, Eminem chooses to confess it all — from minutiae to major factoids -—ultimately leaving his opponent Papa Doc with no fodder left to expose. That was Usher’s angle taken with his fourth studio album, aptly titled Confessions.

R&B music in 2004 was approaching a crossroads. It was a year for women to takeover, as acts like Destiny’s Child, Ciara, Ashanti, Janet Jackson and even Jill Scott were either delivering breakout projects or critically acclaimed masterpieces. The men were lacking. John Legend wouldn’t arrive until the end of the year, and R. Kelly wouldn’t pair with Jay Z for a second time until close to Halloween. The lane was wide open for Usher Raymond IV to become what he always wanted to be: a chart-topping global sensation. In order to do that, he had to release some of his demons and replace them with sonic innovation that would not only soulfully bend genres in a way that had never effectively been done before, but reinvent the wheel for the male R&B artist.

From top to bottom Confessions had a formula, which was to emote in a way that would still be punctuated with machismo, even at the most vulnerable moments. At the same time, Usher was tinkering with a new style that would make his music more “Rap-friendly.” Sure his earliest days were spent with Diddy, and his right hand producer man was (and still is) Jermaine Dupri, but it wasn’t enough in the burgeoning Hip-Hop-Meets-Pop scene. He needed more. Much more. And he found it. On his own terms. More »

Eminem’s ‘The Slim Shady LP’ Turns 15: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

Looking around today’s popular music landscape for a corollary to the kind of once-in-a-generation controversial shitstorm Eminem whipped up with his 1999 breakthrough record The Slim Shady LP is damn near impossible. Outside of maybe Miley Cyrus — who caused controversy not with the thematic material of her music but the package it was presented in — the closest we probably get is what Odd Future managed to accomplish a few years ago, which makes complete sense. Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, the group’s de facto leaders and most talented rappers, have repeatedly cited the influence of early Eminem on their own violent, personal, misogynistic brand of laughing horrorcore rap. But when Tyler won the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in 2011, it felt more like an attempt to cash in on what was essentially a transgressive internet meme than a reflection of the culture writ large, anointing significance to a sliver of truly viral hip-hop in an extremely fractured popular music industry.

And while this may just be a reflection of the generational differences in music consumption, Eminem managed to capture the unwavering attention of a significant block of the nation’s music-loving youth back in 1999 because of his music, aided by his inventive videos which corresponded with the peak popularity of MTV’s influence on the pop charts. He wasn’t making headlines or selling records because of racy performances, outlandish interviews or highly publicized legal trouble. When The Slim Shady LP dropped on February 23, 1999, it sounded absolutely nothing like anything in hip-hop, presenting a hilariously strange alternative to the weirdly glitzy, Puff Daddy-driven, post-Biggie & Pac playing ground that had existed for the previous few years.

If Eminem accomplished anything with his 4x platinum selling Slim Shady LP, beyond becoming one of the patron saints of Total Request Live-era MTV (along with Britney, Christina, *NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys, Limp Bizkit, Blink 182…yeesh), it’s that he produced one of the most enduring pieces of transgressive art the mainstream music culture has ever celebrated. More »

TLC’s ‘FanMail’ Turns 15: Backtracking

Backtracking is our recurring look back at the pop music that shaped our lives. Our friends may come and go, but we’ll be spinning our favorite albums forever.

1999 was undoubtedly the year of the bubblegum pop takeover, headed by Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys and a shipload of European importsBut it was also the year TLC sliced through it all with their third album, FanMail, which turns 15 on February 23. The LP’s electronic-meets-urban production was ingrained in futurism, and it embodied the impending Y2K era of digitization.

It’s almost genius how the album’s concept was so ahead of its time, and still resonates with the modern world we live in. From the Tumblr-obsessed teenagers to self-proclaimed addicts of Twitter and Facebook, and corporate workers frantically checking their email accounts as a mini-escape, the Internet has become embedded in our daily lives. Fifteen years prior, TLC  predicted this digital domination and created a sonic experience complete with dial-up connections, missed voicemails and pre-Her computerized assistants.

FanMail was marketed as a tribute to TLC fans who sent fan mail during the group’s five-year hiatus — which was tainted by rising tensions between the girls, Chilli having a child with the album’s future executive producer Dallas Austin, an exploited bankruptcy case and Left Eye infamously setting her boyfriend’s house on fire. These issues, along with the reduction of Left Eye’s presence to sporadic eight-bar features, create an uncomfortable void that envelops the entire album. Save for songs like “Unpretty” and “I Miss You So Much,” FanMail feels tense, cold and distant — which is all reflected in the vocals, the production and the introduction of the female android Vic-E. But don’t get it confused, this almost palpable emotion is what makes this album so powerful. Today, as part of its 15th anniversary, we take a look back at an album that shattered the sonic expectations of its era. More »