New Jack Wins Again

Well this happened… and to be honest I’m glad it did for a myriad of reasons. Thank you Bruno Mars! I’m not sure I’ve ever written this on this site but the continuous victory lap for Cardi B just feels good and the reason that I say that is because I’ve always been of the understanding that there’s a lot more to Ms. Almanzar than meets the eye. There is.

My entire adult life I have worked with every age group imaginable from Kindergarten to Graduate School. Small cities, rural areas and metropolitan areas. One theme has remained clear to me: No matter what else is going on in a child’s life the light of intelligence will shine through. Yes Cardi’s calling card is the ratchetness of Insta and Reality show fame but if you take the time to really listen to how she’s saying certain things as to what she’s saying you’ll see. Also, I would highly recommend checking out any of a number of long form interviews Cardi has done to get a feel of who she really is…

The Color Is Pastiche

Listen, maybe the word folks are trying to use in criticism of this and other work from Bruno Mars is pastiche as opposed to appropriation of the cultural type. There’s a difference. Like many of you upon first hearing 24k Magic (the album) I knew exactly what Bruno was paying homage to because I lived it. I remember the criticism then and I will say here now what I thought then – do better, step your game up if the work offends you so much and you’re a creator. Oh you don’t create anything? Oh ok.

Listen I get it. Bruno Mars is a major artist on a major platform. That fact is not lost on me one iota. Bruno Mars benefits from a type of visibility that many artist just won’t receive. But the other side of the coin is Bruno Mars is one helluva Pop Songwriter. That’s the part that many miss, Bruno Mars excels at the Pop Game in the Pop World even though his last two projects were decidedly funk and New Jack Swing/90’s R&B respectively. When I make the statement “step your game up” what I am alluding to is your ability to write singable and memorable verses and especially hooks. I didn’t make the rules I’m just telling you what they are as they relate to the Pop World.

How Ya Livin’

In Living Color of course! As someone who saw the pilot episode in realtime in early ’90 my heart was warmed on this chilly day to see that set again populated by a few folks who are the age now that I was then. It’s like when I was that age and there was a big resurgence around some of the cultural artifacts of the 1970’s. In Living Color was beyond “Must See TV” or “T.G.I.F” shows grouped under the aforementioned slogans were important in an overarching what’s going on in popular culture sense, but In Living Color gave a voice and language to what was going on at the time. I would need an entire blog post to coin all of the significant catch phrases that became a part of everyday conversation that were birthed on that show.

Finesse

As we talked about yesterday nostalgia can be a fuzzy fleeting character. Whereas some tunes on 24k Magic fall squarely into the 90’s era of music, “Finesse” has always felt late 80’s first gen. New Jack Swing to me. I say this with the utmost respect and high regard “Finesse” sounds to me like an album cut on Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel that became such a fan favorite that MCA had to release it in late ’89 as a remix with MC Lyte supplying a few verses. The synth sounds, drum breaks(and even down to the volume of the breaks in the mix) give me that first gen feeling, pre-Teddy’s use of the Vocoder if you will.

In closing as I take my seat, I don’t want to hear from not nary a Grown talmbout “They don’t make music like they used to…” sure they do. The question is(shout out to Marvin Winans) are you listening?

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.