Whitney Houston

Aretha Butchers The Great Diva Classics – An Album Review

So you might remember this being a thing that happened:

Aretha’s Wet N’ Wild Eye Shadow.

Aretha’s wobbly knockers sitting sideways like boys in the days.

Aretha’s minty green discount prom dress.

Cissy’s perpetual over it face and lack of effort.

It’s amazing.

Well all of this was leading up to a new album release!!!

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So this is a cover of the “great diva classics” and Aretha is here to show you how she does it in 2014.  I’m going to listen to what can only be a flaw-free album.

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I’ll be rating each song on a scale of 1 to 5 Aretha Jigs.  One Aretha Jig being a live Jhene Aiko performance.  Five Aretha Jigs being this Respect performance. Let’s get started!

Track 1: At Last (originally performed by Etta James)

This one starts out pretty well.  Aretha seems comfortable and ready to slay.  But then, we get some of Aretha’s slight liberties where she slides up an octave. But you know this is nice.  Aretha’s trademark rasp and lisp are here, but there was some restraint here.  Both in the performance and the post-production (you’ll see what I mean later).  This is a good start to the album!

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 2: Rolling In The Deep – Aretha’s Version (originally performed by Adele)

You’ve already laughed at that live performance.  But how does the recorded version hold up?

Not too well actually.  The autotune on her voice in the verses are strange.  I like her performance during the pre-chorus for the most part.  But I just don’t follow where Aretha was going with the arbitrary octave jumps.  Her slides in the chorus are just as hilarious as they were live.

WE COULD HAVE HAD IT aaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLLLLL!

ROLLING IN THE DeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPP!

But I can’t recommend this for any reason other than the lols.  There’s so much happening and it’s such a tonal departure from the original.  That doesn’t mean I’m not going to listen to it over and over again.

The bridge into Ain’t No Mountain High Enough is an interesting choice.  But they’ve autotuned her belting and it’s just so weird and, sorry to say, bad.  It’s just bad.  This is not a good song.  But it is an amazing one.

Rating: 2/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 3: Midnight Train to Georgia (originally by Gladys Knight & The Pips)

Ooh I love this song!

::starts bopping::

“aHeeeeeeLL AAAAAAAAAYYYYEEEE”

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This one is going to be a hard one.  Part of it is that I absolutely adore the huskiness of Gladys Knight’s voice and her vocal performance on this song.  Aretha staying in her upper register does not fit this song even a little.

Once I get over that tragic mistake, it’s listenable.  The beat is comfortable and the background singers are killing it.  Aretha’s voice is much more natural here than in Rolling In The Deep.  Her ad libs as the song closes is some of the best stuff on the album so far.  It’s not too bad.

Rating: 3/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 4: I Will Survive – The Aretha Version (originally by Gloria Gaynor)

Okay this is the first song that should really use her upper register.  Is that auto-tune???

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What is the jazz hi-hat??

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Okay.  It speeds ups after the first chorus.  I love the scatting! For the most part, once the disco beat kicks in, this is good.  Not great, but solid.  Aretha could have kept that ending run.

Wait, is that Survivor by Destiny’s Child?!?!?!? Okay, that is how a mash-up is done.  Wait, is this about her broken engagement from Catfish??? Okay Aretha! Sing from your pain!

Whomever thought it was a good idea to use effects on Aretha Franklin’s voice should be put out to pasture.  Her voice may not be at peak, but what in the absolute fuck? Leave it as it is.

This song has all the parts to be a good cover.  I like the scatting and Aretha’s mashup.  But I hate that the auto-tune and I especially HATE the intro.

Rating: 1/5 Aretha Jig 

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Track 5: People (Originally by Barbra Streisand)

Now I’m not as familiar with this song in comparison with the first four tracks.  But I think that it truly benefits from a more laissez-faire approach to the production.  The slower songs let Aretha be Aretha.  That’s all we really need.  My only complaints here are that I wish she had taken a bit more care to enunciate the song.  With the lisp on each “people,” the message loses just a hint of its power.  The other is that there’s a slight thinness to her voice in the later parts of the songs.  I wish it had a little more power to it.

Overall, I like this and it befits the Queen of Soul.

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 6: No One (originally by Alicia Keys)

Umm, is that the Casio keyboard Reggae 2 beat?

Wow…this intro…

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It doesn’t get any better from there honestly.  This is a travesty.  The voice is processed with in an inch of its life.  The beat is just awful. The vocal performance does not fit at all.

This is the first song that is actively terrible.  Yikes.

Rating: 0/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 7: I’m Every Woman/Respect (Originally by Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin)

Pump up the groove! Okay, this is already miles better than No One.  This song fits so much better on her voice.  I also love that the first voice stays in one octave.  It’s rare that she doesn’t arbitrarily jump up the octave.  (See the second verse and chorus).

Even with that complaint, it’s still good.  I’m bopping you know!

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Now, the Respect portion of the song doesn’t work at all.  I mean, did you click that video I linked earlier in the post?  Now that was over 50 years ago. But once you listen to that, it’s hard to listen to this.  That said it’s still good, and I almost upped the score to five jiggin’ Arethas because I love a good key change.

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 8: Teach Me Tonight (This was performed by everyone, but let’s go with Dinah Washington)

Ooh, the slower songs are better.  And this is no exception.  The simple production really lets her shine.  Though the touches of autotune are completely out of place.

But this is beautiful.  This is the kind of cover I want to hear from Aretha Franklin.  Soulful, simple, all about her voice.

Best song on the album, by a wide margin

Rating: 5/5 Aretha Jigs

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Track 9: You Keep Me Hangin’ On (originally by The Supremes)

Okay, the opening is promising.  I love that Aretha performed with a bit of sweetness in her voice (a lovely nod to The Boss).

I like this a lot.  It’s much more relaxed and truly uses Aretha’s gifts appropriately.  Minor pitch correction.  Minimal octave jumps until Aretha is allowed to just go at it.  There’s such restraint here and the album shines in those moments.  Now excuse me while I bop my shoulders.

Another of the finer moments of the album.  Not as good as Teach Me Tonight, but solid all around.

Rating: 5/5 Aretha Jigs (I originally had this at a 4, but I honestly don’t have any real complaints)

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Track 10: Nothing Compares 2 U (originally by Sinead O’Connor)

Did you all know this was written by Prince?  Great diva classic, indeed!

Okay, this is jazzy. With a big band arrangement.  This isn’t what I was expecting.  I like  it, I think.

So I need to actually write about this song.  It’s so far outside of what I was expecting that I’m struggling to write about it.  There’s no way to compare this to the original.  That’s actually smart.  I’m not so sure that the song itself fits the production.  It’s an admirable attempt, but my brain just associates this lyric with Sinead’s buzzcut and lone tear.

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Taking it from  an sparse, emotional ballad to this upbeat, sassy song.

Don’t let my critique take away for Aretha’s singing.  I actually think this is her strongest vocal performance on the entire album.  So soulful and full of life.  The beginning of the album has this weird feeling of trying to modernize Aretha.  I don’t know about you all but that’s not what I want.  She has a voice that is representative of that bygone era and we don’t need to plasticize it, even if it’s not in prime condition.

Rating: 4/5 Aretha Jigs

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Overall Rating: 3/5 Aretha Jigs

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I like this album way more than I thought I would going into this review.  After that Rolling In The Deep, what possible opinion could I have??

But as I started to mention in the last song critique, the strengths of this album lie in letting Aretha be Aretha.  She’s not Kesha.  She doesn’t need vocal effects.  Give her a standard or a song from an era where covers of covers were number one hits and let her do her thing.  Despite age, Aretha still has a remarkable ability to convey emotion in her voice and to really use her voice as an instrument.  Look at the difference in her performance on Keep Me Hanging On versus the power on the opening verse of People.  Most of your famous singers these days are incapable of that versatility and it is why the divas are revered.

The album goes wrong when we try to modernize Aretha to make her “palatable” for the current music scene.  The covers of Rolling In the Deep and No One are easily the worst parts of the album.  Someone with good sense could have stopped this and steered her towards more classic sounding songs or at least better production as it relates to these two.

The other issue that I may not have raised is that there definitely is something cheap sounding about the album.  I mentioned that there are some pre-packaged sounding beats here and there.  Again, this isn’t as big a release in 2014 as say a Taylor Swift album (I just vomited in my mouth typing that). So there’s not going to be as much of an investment in the production on behalf of the label.  This can work for certain artists, but since most classic songs rely on a hearty instrumentation, it weakens the song rather than adding to it.

Go take a listen and let me know what you think! I’m off to bop to Hoodrat Tunes.  My basic side has been neglected.

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Another Feelings Dump

What’s up y’all?  While I wouldn’t expect a return to regular posting just yet, I do have some stuff on my mind that I need to get out of my system.  So what better place?

This list is not at all in order of importance.

1) Coping (How to Fail at It) featuring Trash

You all have to know what’s going on in Ferguson, MO at this point.  I’m not here to recap it.  I’m not even here to argue the facts.

I don’t have the strength to point out how all of this is because Black people and their lives are denied value in America.

You should already know that no matter what you wear, no matter how many degrees you have, no matter how much you avoid being “stereotypical,” you’re still just another black person.  When the chips are down, you can be shot.  They will get away with it.

We all know that this teenager is going be criminalized and smeared in the media, because any minor discretion is just another reason his life didn’t matter.  You’re constantly going to be reminded that any fault in his character justified his murder.

We all know that clueless assholes are going to idiotic statements.  Newscasters will say to use “water cannons.” The killer will talk about how his life has ended too, even though he’s at home on paid leave.  New Blacks are going to talk about how Black on Black crime and rap music is the cause of all of this.

You’ve already seen someone on your social media try to make it about them with clueless statements, incorrect information, and a general ain’t-shit demeanor.

Truth is, I’m tired.  I’m trying to deal with all of my outrage, my inability to create meaningful change, my inability to protect people I love from the same fate.  There’s not a day where I don’t think, “I’m blessed to be alive.”  I haven’t done anything to deserve it.  But I am.  Instead of productively letting it out, I’m just stewing in my anger and hopelessness.  It’s making me feel ugly inside and preventing me from enjoying the day-to-day.  I don’t want to be around people because all I want to do is talk about it and be angry.  I don’t have the luxury of taking off and being alone until I’m able to face regular society again.  I’m trying to just plow through life in order to sit home in the dark and think about this situation.

There’s no comfort in knowing that no matter what I do, no matter what advice I give my nephew and niece, no matter how many books I read, and no matter how polite I am, my life means nothing if a White person so deems it.

2) Taylor Swift

I haven’t really raged against the Swift in recent moments because she doesn’t really have a song out and she hasn’t been publicly dating anyone.  Not so lucky for me and the rest of the world, she released “Shake It Off.”

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I’m not going to link because she’s not getting a single view on my behalf.

But this is tangent to the first point.  The root of my hatred of Taylor Swift (and Jennifer Aniston) is that for my money they represent peak whiteness. This isn’t a critique of every white person (again, I should not have to say this) but of the dominant American culture.  I’ll let Omarosa take over…

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Where a “wholesome” and “sweet” girl who are just “hassled” are given passes for complete mediocrity because of her perceived girl next door image.  It’s like “Ooh, she’s bland and I can sing better than her.  Give her all my money!” 

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Throw in some questionable appropriation moments and her absolute refusal to sing on key and it’s already terrible.

But this song has a message of “SUCK IT HATAZ” for critiquing her image.  So she’s shaking off any criticism of her bland, mediocre, white bread music and image that appeals to middle-of-the-road, “put-upon”, middle class America. The very same America that is notably quiet whenever an unarmed Black man is killed in cold blood.

For me, this song is the essence of “First World Problems.”  And this is not the day, the week, the month, nor the year for this shit.

Sure, that may seem like a reach for some readers, but think about it this way.  Think back to a time where you felt depressed or upset over something in your life.  Now somebody you don’t particularly like (a coworker or classmate) comes up gloating about their promotion when you know they do nothing or a great exam score on a test where they have cheated.  You wouldn’t have the time for it.

And that’s what this song is to me.  It’s Taylor Swift singing a song that say “nah nah ni boo boo” to all you minorities for not being White.

Fuck.  Her.

3) Reality TV Thoughts

On a lighter note, Project Runway and Top Chef Duels have come to television.  Since So You Think You Can Dance continues to be pretty terrible, I had high hopes for each of these shows.

Project Runway is about as average as any of the other later seasons with some confounding judging thrown in.  Three of first four episodes have handed out wins to questionable garments. Props to Tom & Lorenzo as the source of these photos.  Also, if you love celebrity fashion, Mad Men, Project Runway, or RuPaul’s Drag Race, it behooves you to frequent their site.  Also, read their book!

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The first two are from comeback contestant Amanda.  Fringe really shouldn’t be a thing.  The second two are from Sandhya.  I like the pink look with the metallic detail, but that poorly dyed, ripped shoulder, frayed edge abomination should have at least put her in the bottom.  No thanks.  That said, I do think that there’s some talent in the cast and the judges seem to be making good cuts.  I have hope that someday Michael Kors will come back.

Top Chef Duels is pretty good!  It’s a lot more low-key than your traditional Top Chef, but it brings back familiar faces and gives them space to be creative.  As a huge Gail Simmons fan, I’m glad she’s a part of the show.  I could live without Curtis Stone, but that’s not my decision.  I hope that the show does well and continues to bring back some great chefs.  (Although, go away Mike Isabella.)

Love & Hip Hop Atlanta is finally winding down after a particularly raggedy season.  When Karlie Redd is the source of your most entertaining moments, it’s time to take stock.  Seeing Rasheeda take Kirk back after complete and blatant disrespect for her, their child, his mother, their family, and her image (which is the family business) is not good television.  Seeing Erica and Scrappy be friends is nice for the sake of their daughter, they’ve been complete non-entities since we stopped seeing O’Shea Da Model and The Bambi.  Benzino continues to be neckless and ThiThi is the most obvious case of fame-hungry gold digger we’ve seen since Flavor of Love 3.  Stevie and Joseline’s soap opera relationship is not funny.  Joseline is best when talking shit about other girls, not crying about beefcake and her awful music.  Tammy & Waka are sweet but boring.  Karlie is trash on trash, but at least she gave us more terrible music and Yung Joc’s decision to air our her sexual habits.  Momma Dee & Deb are reliably fun though.

But let’s about Mimi again.  All of Mimi’s struggles, barring the death of her father, are her own doing based on her own choices.  Her absolute refusal to be told that she is wrong only serves to make her look like the weak-willed dingbat that she is. It’s painful to watch her get mad at people when she is forced to reveal her lies.  Like if you don’t want to hear what they have to say, stop going to them.  If you’re going to defend being wrong so vehemently, you’re going to continue to have to eat crow.

To be frank, I’d have cut her off when she accepted Stevie’s car.  Girl, you can’t be over him and accept things that aren’t child support.  Your dependency is showing.

But truth be told, she needs to leave the show.  Nothing has been good for her since it started and now the world knows her for being an idiot who is easily fooled and bought.  Sucks to be you.

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4) The Future Looks Bleak

If you haven’t gathered, I’m not in the happiest of places now.  As cliché and standard as it sounds, I’m used to telling myself that it will all work out. It will all be okay. But these two weeks have reminded me of the feeling of despair that I either ignored or suppressed as a part of the move.  It’s that I don’t know the future and not seeing much in the way of encouragement.  It’s not that I don’t believe God has a plan or that I believe I should have all the answers.  It just seems like I keep waking up to bad news. It’s like a nightmare. I want more than what this is for America and for my friends.  I don’t know how to tell them that, being someone who hates only tolerates melodrama/emotions.

That said, I’ll end this with simply.  I care.  I’m not great at letting people know that.  I may not ever say to your face.  But you’re cared about and I want what’s best for your mind, body, and soul.

Stay safe everyone and do your best to maintain positivity in your days.

Keep Your Mess To Yourself

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Woo hey lovelies!  It’s been a while hasn’t it?  Sorry to leave you without a dope beat to step to, but we’re back.  Let’s get this started with a quick word from our sponsors.

Just for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

I could tell you stories of this weekend, but they would only bore you.  So I needed to give you all a quick tip in keeping your life in check.

Tighten it the fuck up!

I swear, how are you all living as adults in 2014 without learning how to keep it together.  I’m so sick of hearing back stories about myself from other people.  I’m sick of you all trying to throw the rock and hide your hand.  You’re not swift enough to stop us from figuring out your game, ashy.  Let’s take two quick scenarios.

So you’re not having a great time because you keep “running into” “old flames” who still “want you.”  Cute for you!  Live your best life and fly above ALL the haters.  But if I don’t know them, I really and truly don’t give a fuck.  By sharing all of your trashy past experiences, no matter what the topic of conversation is, you’re always going to look foolish.  Save your bedroom antics for a sleepover or your therapist.  It doesn’t make you look desirable, it makes you look desperate.

Moving on to number two.  Talking recklessly about people you consider your “friends” and casually spilling tea will get your face sliced.  Or at least your ego.  Here’s the thing.  Freudian slips happen.  Sometimes we’re trying to relate and say too much.  But if all I get from you are snide remarks and late shade, why the hell are we hanging out?

You’re mad you weren’t invited?  The exit is that-a-way! My life doesn’t revolve around you and unless you are paying my bills, you can’t direct my time.  Then to reach into my texts?  With unearned indignity?

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Keep it.  Write it in your journal and leave me the hell alone.  Better yet, take those weak reads, pack them up, and send them to the illiterate children of the Third world.  That’s the only way anyone will see them and give a shit.

I don’t know, this came across angrier than I intended.  But it really butters my biscuits to hear someone claim to be a good friend when they have offered nothing but trouble or an obnoxious attitude in the process.

How do you feel about it?  Let me know!

 

 

“I GOT THE VOICE” ~Effie White… Not Jhene Aiko. Bye Girl

Jhene Aiko.

Ma’am. You can not sing. The song is cute but you can not SING. You are dismissed.

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Now I know that we all come with different voices. Not everyone can be a Whitney, Mariah, Beyonce, Gaga…hell Miley Cyrus or Demi (they have a voices y’all. Especially Miss Demi…girl can BLOW but is stuck in this pop lane.) Heck Janet Jackson is not a belter or the strongest but she can out dance and out coo your fav. She can make you shimmy and then put you in your feelings. Don’t believe me? Go listen to “If” and then put on “I Get So Lonely.”

I digress. Jhene you are the worst. (okay she’s not the worst ::glares at this new Ashanti song and album::). She is BASIC and y’all are going to stop running around like she is the TRUTH. Wait until Jojo releases an album and shows y’all how to SING. Hell Tori Kelly is making her coins singing at charity events and YouTube gatherings and she can sing CIRCLES around you little girl.

Okay. She’s not really that OFFENSIVE. BUT the song is hella basic and the vocals are so lackluster. OVER IT. What I am HERE for is Jojo REHEARSING “Rapture of Love”. Again…REHEARSING…

In 16 seconds Jojo does what your fav can’t. (Remember that time Britney Spears said she had “whiplash” from whipping her hair too hard? BYE ASHY!) Listen when this vocal queen releases her album it’s going to EVERYTHING (it better not get in the way of Bey taking all of the Grammys tho.) While we are talking about Bey…. If this tour rumor is true…My body is ready AND not ready all at once. BITCH. PARTITION LIVE?! AND I GET TO GET MY HOODRAT ON WITH THE FEW JAY-Z SONGS I KNOW?! Bitch. BITCH.

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What needs to NOT happen is all the hoodrats trying to see Jay snatching tickets before I get mine. OKAY?!

Happy Thursday Y’all!!

The Supreme Diva. The VOICE. Whitney Houston.

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Two years y’all. It’s STILL not real to me but we can’t continue on the day without giving Whitney a shout-out. She is the gold standard. No matter HOW great an artist of today is or will be, Whitney will ALWAYS be better. Many have come close, but she remains untouchable. We DO know that she’s up in Heaven showing OUT in the choir! So here are few of my all-time favorite Whitney Houston moments.

1) THIS. PERFORMANCE. It’s a cool 10:00 long but if you have the time, you won’t regret it. This is how you perform: a band, a stunning dress, and a microphone. This is how you control your voice. This is how you sing with an emotion. This is how you perform without just belting or shouting in a microphone. Her tone is crystal freaking clear.

2) Another live performance that needs to be mentioned. I would DIE if she ever told me to “Shoop” with her. The important parts of this video is the tender moment with her daughter and Monica. Sometimes we forget that Monica can BLOW and Whitney approved.

3) Carrie Underwood, we’ll let you finish BUT Whitney and Brandy had the BEST made for TV Movie-Musical. HANDS. DOWN. You might even be able to find the whole movie online if you search….. 😉

5) This.

6) BET Awards Tribute

Now BET mostly gets it wrong. That award show can be very embarrassing to watch. After the Michael Jackson tribute, I think we were all worried at the what they would throw together for Ms. Houston.  When I say that they got this tribute all the way right? Monica and Brandy came to snatch wigs. And Cissy….okay…I had to stop because tears were welling up. (This wasn’t about hitting the right notes so don’t even come for Momma.

Whitney is, was, and will continue to be music to me. It just doesn’t get better. We miss and love you Nippy!!!!

What are some your favorite Whitney moments?