Why are People Ignoring Mary J. Blige?

I wrote a piece for Salon about the new Mary J. Blige album and the strange treatment of R&B in the music press. Read it here. Check out Blige’s explosive “Power Back” below, a song that shows her perfectly at home in a pop climate dominated by DJ Mustard.


Same Name, Different Tune

I’ve been reading Willie Nelson’s memoir, Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die, for a review I’m writing, and I’ve been listening heavily to Nelson’s music at the same time.  Nelson has put out a massive number of albums in his lifetime, but I’ve been mainly focusing on his work from the 70s, which is often remarkably spare and wonderfully simple.  In 1977, he recorded To Lefty From Willie, a short tribute album to the country singer Lefty Frizzell.  It includes the song “That’s The Way Love Goes,” a pretty little ditty:


Janet Jackson also recorded a “That’s The Way Love Goes,” the highlight of her 1993 album Janet (it shares nothing with Nelson’s tune, aside from the use of the title phrase for the hook).  Jackson steals the circular guitar riff from James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” for the song’s backbone, but she removes its thinness and tension, transforming it into something secure and soothing.  Where Nelson goes for satisfying chord changes and interlocking parts, Jackson locks in a single, unified pulse.

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