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.



I wrote about Babyface–a songwriter, producer, and singer who has a Motown-like ability to get smooth black pop accepted by white audiences–for Splice Today. Babyface recently put out an album with the singer Toni Braxton, a frequent collaborator. Read the piece here and check out a Babyface-Toni Braxton #1 hit from the ’90s below.

The Liberation Tour

This summer, D’Angelo has played his first U.S. shows in a long time (he played Europe earlier in the year), and I saw him “co-headlining” Mary J. Blige’s Liberation tour.  I have a longer piece coming out soon for Popmatters about his music, so I won’t go too much into his recordings here, but they rely heavily on his layered vocals – unlike many soul or funk singers, he doesn’t rely on the single powerful voice, he multiplies his voice repeatedly and sends it out in unpredictable waves. To account for this, his band included four backing vocalists; three guys and one mesmerizing lady clad in shiny leather pants.  In addition, he had a drummer, two guitarists, a bassist, and two men barricaded behind a rampart of keyboards and synthesizers, capable of wringing pretty much any sound out of their instruments (notably, they effectively replicated a tooting horn section).  On top of all that firepower, D’Angelo now plays a guitar of his own in performances – he strapped it on for threeish songs – and he retains his virtuosity behind the keyboard.


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