Artist: Leah Labelle Title: Lolita Label: So So Def/Epic Genre(s): Soul, Pop, R&B, Dance You Will Like This if You Like: Kerry Hilson, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna Released: February 2013
Late last year, following the BET aired Soul Train Music Awards, we talked up relative newcomer Leah Labelle, who appeared on the show in a segment honoring soul legends. Her performance of Square Biz was honorable enough to get our staff searching for more of her music to bring you. We found the super (but slept on) single “Sexify” and hoped this Pharrell Williams produced artist would break through commercial radio. Although she experienced some regional success, nothing has broken through just yet. Read more of this post
Title: Beautiful Artist: Teena Marie Label: UMe Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Classic Soul Released: January 15, 2013
Last week the world got a new album from the late Teena Marie. Lady T laid down the tracks to Beautiful before her 2010 death; the album was mixed and mastered, posthumously, by Marie’s 21-year-old daughter, Alia Rose. Read more of this post
Earlier this week, following the BET aired Soul Train Music Awards, we talked up relative newcomer Leah Labelle, who appeared on the show in a segment honoring soul legends. Her performance of Square Biz was honorable enough to get our staff searching for more of her music to bring you. After learning that she was a contestant on season 3 of American Idol, which was won by Fantasia, we soon discovered that she has been signed to a major deal and a single has been floating around for a while now called Sexify. We love this mid tempo tune and hope that it will help propel this new voice to the top of the charts. With folks like Pharrell and Jermaine Dupris involved, she’s got a great shot.
Anyone who checked out last night’s Soul Train Music Awards saw a relatively new voice step to the fore. This lovely young lady, Leah Labelle, appeared in a medley of Soul Train greats which included Blue Eyed soul legend Teena Marie. We have to be honest that based on her looks alone, we had to take a further listen. When digging for more of this singer, we came across several examples of her vocal abilities, which we have to say are quite impressive. She is not blowing you away like Fantasia (who won Season 3 of American Idol, on which Leah appeared) or similarly named Patti Labelle, but she does an impressive job at delivering a soul classic first sung by The Stylistics. Enjoy and look forward to seeing and hearing more from this young lady since she has been working with Jermaine Dupris and Pharrell Williams. Read more of this post
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves last weekend at the EMP Pop Conference held at our alma mater, NYU’s Kimmel Center. We saw loads of folks we knew and several we wanted to meet. And while we didn’t get the chance to check out the lunch session about Prince, we are fortunate that they did publish an article related to the presentation of Columbia University doctoral candidate Zaheer Ali. So check out this abstract of his paper and interesting related article on artists that were influenced by the Prince sound.
“MPLS (Minneapolis): As Site and Sound”
By his 1982 release 1999, Prince had consolidated all the sonic elements that would come to be known as the “Minneapolis sound”—a genre-bending mix of thick layered R&B horn synths, funk bass lines and “chicken scratch” guitar, New Wave electronic rhythms, and searing rock guitar solos. With the success of his 1984 follow up album and film Purple Rain, and the proliferation of his productions through protégé acts like The Time, Apollonia 6, and Sheila E., the Minneapolis sound began to inspire a range of productions by non-Minneapolis-based artists like Flint, Michigan’s Ready for the World and New York’s Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam. Yet, for Prince—the most successful artist to be identified with the Minneapolis sound and arguably its pioneer—Minneapolis figured as more than a sound, but as a site of production, one to which he has been fiercely loyal. Against the advice of industry insiders, Prince built his recording studio complex Paisley Park in the Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen; and while he spent time recording in Los Angeles or New York, he reflects ambivalence to those locales in songs like “Big White Mansion” and “Dream Factory.”
This paper examines the historical emergence of Minneapolis as both a musical subgenre and as a place—a site of music production and an imaginary represented in the music of Prince. The story of the Minneapolis sound is partly the story of local music scenes, fostered by local-based radio programmers, venues that catered to local acts, and a healthy rivalry among local bands; but it is also the story of the geographic isolation and insulation of a relatively small population of black culture workers with limited access to the kinds of black urbanity that were more easily accessible in larger cities. The paper will close by pondering the state of Minneapolis–as site and sound–and look at recent attempts to preserve the local integrity of its musical culture.
Two Paper Presentation: Prince, bizarrely, apart from a few things here and there, has never been the subject of the sort of sustained academic or crticial inquiry bestowed on artists of comparable musical and cultural importance. Our presentations seek to join the nascent wave of Prince scholarship in correcting this oversight by exploring Prince’s music in light of the conference themes and in so doing model new approaches to him and his work.
In the mid-1980s, if you tuned in to radio, especially black radio, within the hour you would be hard pressed to not hear a song featuring synthesized horns, funk bass lines, choppy rhythm guitar, New Wave-inspired electronic rhythms, and/or even searing guitar solos. All these sonic elements were brought to the forefront of rhythm and blues thanks in large part to Prince, whose 1982 release 1999 had consolidated these elements into what would come to be known as the “Minneapolis sound.” With the success of his 1984 follow up album and film Purple Rain, and the proliferation of Prince’s productions through protégé acts like The Time, Apollonia 6, and Sheila E., the Minneapolis sound began to inspire a range of productions by other Prince associates and non-Minneapolis-based artists as well, such as Flint, Michigan’s Ready for the World and even New York’s Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam, as record companies scrambled to capitalize on the latest trend. In order to understand exactly what the Minneapolis sound is, it is best to review some songs that exemplify the style. Since Prince’s publishing company has aggressively policed youtube and other internet sites for unlicensed broadcasting of his music, it is fairly difficult to find archival video clips of his music that have longevity online. (My co-panelist, Matt Thomas will explore Prince’s changing relationship to the internet.) As such, here are ten songs by artists other than Prince who incorporated the Minneapolis sound into their work. What better way to illustrate the impact and reach the sound had anyway?
1. The Pointer Sisters, “Automatic” (1984)
Besides sharing the same title as a song on Prince’s 1999 album released two years earlier, the Pointer Sisters’s “Automatic” also shares some key elements of the Minneapolis sound and style: synth horns and electronic drums contrasted by choppy rhythm guitar. Further, the lead female vocal sung in her lower register delivered with robotic cadence references not only the kind of afro-futurism represented in Prince’s work, but the way he too chose in contrast to sing most of his work (his first three albums) in his falsetto. Prince’s “Lavaux,” from his 2010 release “20Ten” seemingly references the melody of the Pointer Sister’s “Automatic,” bringing the Minneapolis sound references full circle.
2. Teena Marie, “Lovergirl” (1984)
Teena Marie opened for Prince during his “Dirty Mind” tour in 1980; and she was a long-time musical companion of Prince-rival Rick James, for whom Prince had opened earlier during James’s “Fire It Up Tour.” Already a trailblazer in her own right, Marie’s “Lovergirl” exhibited both the synths and electric guitar associated with the Minneapolis sound (the song’s opening echoes the drum openings of both “1999” and “Automatic”), and would go on to become her biggest pop hit. As a white artist successful in R&B, she also represented the same kind of challenges to racial stereotypes in music that Prince was attempting with his multi-racial band.
From TVOneOnline.com – There may never be a more soulful, sexy, funky combination of voice and music like that which emanates from the “Ivory Queen of Soul,” Teena Marie. Her phenomenal range and unique tone has made her among the most recognizable voices in R&B. At the age of 17, Teena fulfilled her childhood dream of a music career when she signed with Motown Records. There, she teamed up musically – and for a time, romantically – with funk master Rick James, who produced her debut album, Wild and Peaceful. A hit song with James, Fire and Desire, along with Teena’s robust sound and powerful delivery, helped to overcome long standing racial barriers between black audiences and white singers. Teena talks about leaving Motown at the height of her career, losing her long-time friend Rick James and her fight to take control of her life.
According to BlackAmericaWeb, soul legend Teena Marie was laid to rest on Monday, January 10 at Forest Lawn cemetery in Hollywood Hills, CA. Many celebrity guests attending including Motown founder, Barry Gordy, Smokey Robinson and his wife, Flex Alexander and Shanice Wilson, and Sinbad among others. Check photos here.