Sunday, October 11, 2009

Baby Girl.

My blogging hiatus of late has very little to do with my being in a new place or finding music right now boring. I have been out of touch recently, but that had more to do with my previous situation working in a more traditional office environment. It killed my listening habits, as did working Tuesday to Saturday. Now that I am a member of the 9-5 work crowd (kind of... for now), I can spend a lot more time with music. So here's something I've been thinking about writing for a while, I just couldn't work up the motivation to sit down and flesh it out:

If you'll recall a little while back, I wrote something about how a Jay/Timbaland album back in '98 or '99 would have been terrific. Now, it is true that Tim brings (brought? I can't get with "Off That" or "Reminder") out the best in Jay, but the reverse, I'm sad to say, just isn't true. For all their highlights, Jay and Tim have only really recorded a handful of tracks together. So where to go for the bulk of Tim's genius? It's tempting to say Missy, just because they as a duo were so successful for so long. But, I've come to conclusion that after Da Real World, Tim started to rein himself in more and more to fit Missy's "I love the old school" vision. I guess the production is still quite good, but it stands out less. Bubba Sparxxx? I love Deliverance, don't get me wrong, but I don't feel comfortable bestowing that honor upon Bubba K. So Petey Pablo and Miss Jade are shit out of luck.

That leaves me with two viable choices: Ginuwine and Aaliyah. There's more to choose from with Ginuwine, since Tim handled most of the production of his first two albums. Yet, I get the feeling many of you don't really appreciate something like "Final Warning" or "None of Ur Friends Business." Thus, we are left with "Baby Girl," Aaliyah.

First, let's get one thing out of the way: "Are You That Somebody?" is flipping fantastic in every respect. But, when I was a kid occasionally checking out MTV since I couldn't handle the poor production value of BET, I was drawn to her single "One In a Million." You'll have to excuse me if I wasn't checking for her back when she was singing with the Remix Killer on "Summer Bunnies", I was only seven. But I distinctly remember one summer afternoon watching television and seeing this shy, beautiful girl talking about her upcoming album and video. So I stuck with MTV and watched her video for "One In a Million." From that point on, I was hooked.

I remember back when LL Cool J made "Headsprung" he mentioned that Timbo was a true producer; working with the artist to make the best music possible. That is so true of his work with Aaliyah. Let's be honest: her singing range is rather limited and it's not as though she's writing her songs. In many ways, then, it was left to Tim and Missy to bring her personality out, or at least something people would find believable. Clearly, they knocked it out of the park. Whenever I listen to Aaliyah/Timbo songs, I always feel like there is some sense of mystery around her. Many of her songs are about her apprehension about entering a relationship, her constantly thinking through what she is doing. Yet, I never get the feeling I know her any better at the end of a song. An obvious contrast is Beyonce, who totally puts herself out to be seen. Maybe it's my own personal taste in women that biases me, but I find the former more appealing (not to mention "Halo," or "Daddy" or some other crap are terrible to me). Anyway, as much as I like the Jay/Tim connection, it's rather sparse compared to the almost two albums of music Tim did with Aaliyah. Surprise surprise, they're all great.

This was just something I thought about a few weeks ago after getting into an L-I-Y-A-H phase one morning. Just some quick thoughts. As I find more stuff and continue to get settled, there should be more.


tray said...

No Limit re-made/interpolated 'If Your Girl Only Knew' on the TRU double album, back in 1997. It's called 'Fedz' ("if the Feds only knew, that you were the one, selling all the dope", etc.) and isn't a bad song. As for Aaliyah, I've never really found her mysterious at all. Shy and not totally up front about her sexuality, yes, but mysterious? How don't you feel you know her better at the end of a song? I mean, I think you know her a lot better at the end of a song than someone like Keri Hilson, who always sounds like she's acting one role or another out.

bding7 said...

This is why I should think more clearly before I write something. "Shy and not totally up front about her sexuality" is probably a lot closer to what I originally intended. But, I feel like a lot of her songs are about the characteristics of guys she doesn't like. I can get a sense of what she does like, but it's not as upfront as some other singers. Again, think of her contemporaries. They were much more upfront about what kind of girl they were and what kind of guy they wanted. I think Aaliyah was pretty open about her sexuality ("Hot Like Fire"), it just wasn't randomly up for grabs.

As for Keri Hilson, you're right, she's constantly changing characters. And that just does not work for her, in my mind.

tray said...

I forget who her contemporaries were, but basically what it comes down to for me is that she managed to be sexy and to sing about what she wanted without coming off like a slut. These days, Ciara's alright at that, but there's just way less going on there. I'm always impressed, when I listen to 'I'll Miss You' or 'Are You That Somebody,' by the way she sings the word 'heart.' It strikes me that there's very little talk of heart in r&b these days, and the little there is isn't a tenth as heartfelt, or is really soppy and hallmarkish (Alicia). Aaliyah took love and relationships and the anxieties of liking someone and not knowing if they like you seriously; her best songs are analogous in some respects to great high school movies.

bding7 said...

Aaliyah took love and relationships and the anxieties of liking someone and not knowing if they like you seriously

This really hits the nail on the head. Monica, Brandy (the only two contemporaries i can think of right now, how sad) and the other young ladies of the 90s just didn't do this.

I've always really wanted to like Alicia Keys, but her songs feel just a little too well constructed. I don't know, it feels like for all of her focus on love and relationships, her songwriting feels like it's lacking any real experience with her subject matter.

Out of curiosity, what are these great high school movies?

tray said...

I haven't seen enough great high-school movies but I was thinking of Risky Business, which has been reduced in the popular imagination to Tom Cruise sliding across the floor and a pair of Ray-Bans, but is actually a surprisingly touching and deep film. I'd also probably include Clueless, Sixteen Candles, Ferris, Carrie, The Last Picture Show... The 400 Blows is a bit of a stretch, more of a brooding French middle-school movie, but a lot better than any of the aforementioned. I'm not a huge Rushmore, Breakfast Club, Superbad, Election, or Fast Times At Ridgemont High fan, though I should probably revisit Fast Times. And though The Wonder Years has its major flaws (all that voiceover, sappiness), probably a great high school sitcom.