Another 15 Diva Records to Always Be Thankful For

Janet….Shirley…Gloria….Madonna…Cyndi….Poe…..Cathy….Mariah….Wilson Phillips….Debbie….Britney…..TLC…..Katy…P!nk and our dearly departed, Ms. Houston. 

Let’s get to praisin.’ 

Janet/Rhythm Nation 1814   No words here….just lots of repeat viewings of the videos for “Miss You Much,” “Escapade,” “Alright,” “Come Back to Me,” “Black Cat” and “Love Will Never Do(Without You).” Or, as any Ms. Janet fans knows them as….the classic clips that changed the fucking music video landscape forever. But of course, it’s the video and oh, so still relevant thunder of the album’s title track that truly put this epic event record in its place…as a part of true pop music history. Is that end? Never when it comes to this standout Janet Jackson venture. 

Garbage/Self-titled “I can’t use what I can’t abuse” coos lead Garbage diva Shirley Manson on electric lead single, “Vow,” just one of the many satisfying Butch Vig cooked up offerings on the legendary rock band’s amplified debut opus. Whether you’re still just feeling all sorts of life with “Only Happy When it Rains,” trying to figure out exactly what “Queer” is really all about, or just straight up rockin’ it the fuck out to “Stupid Girl,” “Supervixen,” “Dog New Tricks,” or “Not My Idea,” even two decades later, there’s still not a dull moment to be found on Garbage’s groundbreaking freshman record…and that’s the angst-y truth.

TLC/OOOOH….on the TLC Tip While, yes, T-Boz, Chili and the dearly departed Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes’ sophomore set, CrazySexyCool, is indeed that fucking record, there’s no denying that their debut was–and most certainly still is–that fire. Whether gettin’ it done on “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” keepin’ it actual and factual for their men on “Baby, Baby, Baby,” or serving up friendship truth tea on “What About Your Friends,” the ladies of TLC delivered a stellar debut that’s still in a “Hat 2 Da Back” class of its very own because “Das Da Way We Like ‘Em,” indeed.

Katy Perry/Teenage Dream:The Complete Confection  No matter the shade you’re still throwing at Ms. Perry’s latest set, Witness (it’s not really that bad, is it?…sigh), it wasn’t too long ago that she was giving us hit-after-number-one-hit (five, to be exact…you know them) off of her wildly successful Teenage Dream venture, which in turn was completely confected with the chart-topping “Part of Me” and the number two grabbing, “Wide Awake.” They’re all here and so much more, and for that we shall be forever grateful, bish. 

Poe/Hello While we could easily spill about how every beat, rhyme, ebb and flow (“Dolphin,” “Beautiful Girl,” “Junkie”) from Ms. Poe‘ s excellent debut set sounds as fresh as the day they were served into our lives over two decades ago, let’s face it, the album’s spooky title track and oh, so delightfully murderous “Angry Johnny” still hit our music “G” spots every fucking time.  And for that, we’ll certainly be saying “Hello” to all things Poe and this album for centuries to come. 

Debbie/Out of the Blue Before Ariana, Taylor, Selena, Demi, Mandy, Willa, Jessica, Xtina, Britney and Tiffany there was…Debbie. Not only was she just as perky as her music, but she truly was–and still is–a talented force to be reckoned with. Although her debut set is now thirty years old (pass the, each track including the cheeky title anthem, as well as “Shake Your Love,” “Staying Together,” “Red Hot,” and of course, “Only in My Dreams,” still get us shakin in our Jellie shoes upon every delightful romp. And when it comes to the music history making ballad “Foolish Beat” (at sixteen, Ms. Gibson is still the youngest person to have ever penned a number one single) and all of its sax-ed up, brokenhearted realness? Well, pass all of the Bon Bon’s and Kleenex now because it just came on and we still fucking can’t. Sigh…

Britney/Britney   Just think…..without this epic 2001 Godney offering there would be no “Slave” choreo…Banana the Python…Wade Robson…Dream Within a Dream Tour…performing in the god damn Bellagio water fountain…”I Love Rock and Roll”…..”Boys”(Co-ed Remix)…..”I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”…Crossroads………”What It’s Like to Be Me”(Hay, JT)…..and “Anticipating”( which is one of the best fucking tracks of Brit’s career). But most importantly, without Britney there would be no Britney. Now, get to praisin’ and thankin,’ y’all…because we must. 

P!nk/Can’t Take Me Home  Judging by the light rock anthem vibes of her chart bulldozing new single,”What About Us,” (and its politically charged music video), you would never know that there was a time that Mizz Alicia Moore was living that hot fushica haired R&B life on her 2000 debut. But, gurrrl, that she did for a sound that was complete with lots of cut-a-bitch sass, especially when it came to the 1,2,3 punch of singles “There You Go,” “Most Girls” and “You Make Me Sick.” And that time she owned MTV Icon Janet Jackson with her on point “Miss You Much” choreo? Fucking classic…and one of the top reasons we still live for all things P!nk today. 

Wilson Phillips/Self-titled  Corny? Yes. All things ’90s pop music cheese? Omg…seriously, kween. But those harmonies laced on #1 smashes “Hold On,” “Release Me” and “You’re in Love?” God damn priceless. However, any true, true fan of this Billboard Album Chart owning set knows that the true standouts are “Impulsive” and “The Dream is Still Alive,” you know, those two times that lead songstress Chyna Phillips (let’s face it, she was) let sisters Wendy and Carnie Wilson take lead vocals. Pure magic..and arrows through hearts drawn on misty windows for life, of course. 

Whitney/I Look To You   While any of our dearly departed Nippy’s Billboard smashing records will do just fine at any given one music moment in time, it’s I Look to You that deserves special attention as it’s not only Houston’s final record before she left us, but it’s actually, like, really, really good. While it’s noticeable that her voice is blessed with a huskier vocal range than we’re used to, it’s taken to full advantage here and shines on tracks “Million Dollar Bill,” “Nothin’ But Love,” “Like I Never Left,” and, sigh, “Call You Tonight.” And when it comes to the Diane Warren penned balladry of “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” and the album’s title track? Well, it’s like Ms. Houston never left us because it’s all still here and then some in her final studio set. Miss you, boo. 

Madonna/Erotica   One of the best albums of the ’90s is also the most controversial as Madge’s fifth studio offering was full of in-your-face bedroom beats and sex club sonnets, all of which were fueled by the fire that came prior with the release of her now, oh, so infamous Sex book. And Since ’90s soccer Mom’s across the globe were busy throwing all of their shade at Madonna during this time, the Erotica struggle became a little too real and nearly eclipsed Dita’s music career. However…this album, tho. Full of Shep Pettibone provided deep house ditties “(the steamy title track, “Secret Garden,” “Deeper and Deeper,” “Thief of Hearts,” “Waiting”)with lyrics about finding yourself sexually (“Colonel Sanders says it best..finger lickin’ good,” Madonna spouts out on the oh, so double entendre laced “Where Life Begins”), indeed Erotica was a sex album for the ages. And guess what? It still is…and there’s a good chance those soccer Mom’s eventually did the nasty to it because it really is that fucking good. And when it comes to “Rain,” one of the the best ballads ever god damn recorded? Well, we’re still drippin’ and livin’ for all things Erotic….a

Mariah Carey/Daydream   As much as ’97’s Butterfly is the MC album that settled the diva into a more R&B laced territory, it was her fifth studio set that started to pointed the singer’s fancy heels in a new musical direction. From the Tom Tom Club sampling stomp of “Fantasy” to the Jermaine Dupri perfected “Always Be My Baby” (Camp Mariah, anyone?) to the dearly departed pearl clutching fodder that’s still laced in the Boyz 2 Men co-starring “One Sweet Day” (which is still the longest running Billboard Hot 100 #1 single..ever), it’s Daydream that started to turn Mariah into Ma…rye..uh…and for this Mimi moment of truth we shall forever be thankful. Isn’t that right, Mr. O.D.B? Yes. And of course, “Underneath the Stars” and “Open Arms” for life. 

Cathy Dennis/Into the Skyline If there are any of you out there who might be shaking their heads in wondering who Cathy Dennis is, first of all, shame on you, second..listen up and then let’s fucking dance. Not only is Ms. Dennis’ sophomore set loaded with lip smacking’ ’90s dance flavor(“Why,” “You Lied to Me,” “Falling,” “Everybody Get Up”), but the English Breakfast tea sipping dance diva has also penned and produced many, many pop hits over the decades including Kylie’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” Britney’s “Toxic,” Katy’s “I Kissed a Girl,” Janet’s “Island Life” and many, many more. There’s really nothing left to say here except bow down and let’s keep movin’ to everything served up by the one-and-only, Ms. Cathy Dennis. 

Cyndi Lauper/Bring Ya to the Brink    With a slew of producers including Max Martin, Kleerup and Basement Jaxx, everyone’s favorite Unusual gal cooked up one of the best dance pop records of the late ’00s…it’s just a shame that no one paid attention to it as it’s a truly mah-valelous studio set. From the twerks and thumps of “Rocking Chair,” “High and Mighty,” “Lay Me Down,” “Lyfe,” “Same Ol’ Story,” “Give it Up,” and the simply gay-mazing lead single,”Into the Nightlife,”(the video was shot at now closed NYC gay hot spot, Splash), Ms. Cyndi’s ninth studio set is one that everyone should experience at least one or two hundred times in their lifetimes. Meaning..right now. Go. 

Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine/Let it Loose  While pretty much every track and single (“Betcha Say That,” “1-2-3,” “Surrender,” “Love Toy”) served up from Ms. Estefan and her merry MSM band mates’ sophomore set taught us to bailar por el resto de nuestras vidas, we also learned a valuable life lesson here…..that indeed the “Rhythm is Gonna Get You.” And when it comes to this still fiery record..we might as well let it. Now, dance..todos los dias..because we must when it comes to not just this set, but all of these diva offerings. Let us bow our heads and..go. 

For Part One… here. 

For Part Two… here. 

Cover photo courtesy of Billboard 



5 Albums Celebrating Music Milestones in 2016

Before you reminisce like Mary on this list of 5 albums celebrating music milestones this year, there’s a little backstory that goes along with this new column. Originally, Philly Mixtape was set to run a piece called 20 Albums Celebrating Music Milestones in 2016 and was just going to serve them all up to you at once. But after a meeting of the writers the other night, naturally, another list of twenty was formed. Because, you know, albums back in the day were known as…albums. 

With that being said, we’re still going to dish out all 40 records, but it will be over the course next eight weeks. So you can really think of this as a “winter column.” But what a column it will be as over the rest of the (ugh) winter, you will no doubt have reactions to your favorite albums really being that old, but you will also get to take a fabulous stroll down music memory lane with all of these albums as they most likely are ones that most likely hold many delightful memories for many of you out there. 

In round one, we’re going to celebrate the Philly life that’s laced throughout the dearly departed David Bowie’s Young Americans set (which will be 40 this year), as well as Paula Abdul’s Spellbound, the Romeo+Juliet soundtrack, No Doubt’s Rock Steady, and last but certainly not least, Spice by the Spice Girls which is celebrating a major milestone this year. 

David Bowie/’Young Americans’/41 YO Starting this list with just a touch of local music love, Bowie’s brilliant set showcases Philly music truth at its very finest and boldest. Recorded at the City of Brotherly Love’s famed Sigma Sound Studios during breaks from his Diamond Dogs tour, Young Americans was helmed by legendary local music producer Tony Visconti and was recorded “about 85% live” with Bowie’s full band playing perfectly alongside his delightfully spaced out vocals, with each of the tracks being recorded in single continuous takes.

In order to create the authentic Philly Soul sound and style, Mr. Bowie brought in a range of musicians from the funk and soul music world, including an early career Luther Vandross and Andy Newmark, famed drummer of Sly and the Family Stone. The critically acclaimed record was also the first time Bowie worked with producer Carlos Alomar, and it from the Young Americans‘ sessions that the two would form a long-lasting collaborative relationship that would go on to span three decades.

However, it wasn’t exactly music love at first sight when it came to Alomar’s first meeting with Bowie. In a later interview about their first recording sessions, Alomar said that he never even heard of Bowie before their first session and also recalled that David was “the whitest man I’ve ever seen – translucent white” when they met.

However, any doubts soon faded once the productive pair got to work in the studio with Alomar later boasting about Bowie’s recording work ethic, “David always does the music first. He’ll listen for a while then if he gets a little idea the session stops and he writes something down and we continue. But later on, when the music is established, he’ll go home and the next day the lyrics are written. I’d finish the sessions and be sent home and I never heard words and overdubs until the record was released.”

There’s that Bowie music genius at full play.

Paula Abdul/Spellbound/25 YO Prior to the ’91 release of Spellbound, Ms. Abdul was certainly on top of the music world. The pint-sized pop princess had just signed a multi million dollar deal with Diet Coke, married the man of her dreams, Mr. Emilio Estevez, and her debut set, Forever Your Girl  danced all over the Billboard charts and gave her four number one singles–the title track, “Straight Up,” “Opposites Attract” and “Cold Hearted.” So, naturally the pressure was on for Ms. Abdul to release a smashing follow-up–and that’s just what she did, well, sort of. 

While Spellbound‘s first two singles, “Rush, Rush” (which producers didn’t want as a lead single because it was a slow jam. Keanu Reeves fixed all that, didn’t he? ) and “Promise of A New Day,” gave Abdul another pair of number one singles, the album quickly lost chart steam, despite the fact that follow ups singles “Blowing Kisses in the Wind,” “Will You Marry Me?” and of course, “Vibeology” achieved moderate success. It also didn’t help that Paula was plagued with a major court battles (and a rapidly changing early ’90s music industry)  involving her and a backup singer who claimed that Paula had lifted her vocals and used them as her own. As if. 

However, Spellbound still went on to sell five million copies and Paula did record a follow-up, the vastly ignored, Head Over Heels, and it would be just a few years later when she rightfully owned her judges chair on Fox’s once red-hot American Idol. Let’s face it, the Paula and Simon years were like no other. And so were the days when Paula Abdul had us all rushing to be by her music side. 

Spice Girls/Spice/20 YO Let the 20th anniversary celebrations begin because this album. Served up in September 1996 by Virgin Records (thank you, Mr. Branson), Spice was and always will be a monster pop record with killer hooks, ’90s flair and gigantic helpings of straight up girl power. An immaculate set that contains elements of dance, R&B,hip hop and pop, there’s no denying that this album became the pinnacle of ’90s music and is one of those few albums that changed the music landscape…forever. 

Spice was a huge worldwide commercial success pretty much straight out of the music gate, fueled by singles, “Wannabe,” “Say You’ll Be There,” “2 Become 1” (are you a little bit wiser now?), and their ode to Mr. Big Stuff, “Who Do You Think Are.” The Girls’ high kicking record would go on to peak at number one in more than 17 countries across the world, as well as becoming certified multi-platinum in 27 countries, that by the time it finally hit stateside in February 1997, we were more than ready to get our headphones and our lives on it. 

While their lyrics never make any sense (think about it), it didn’t matter because even if you hated them, you’ve seen Spice World at least once, and there’s been at least one time in your life where you wondered if you were Scary, Sporty, Posh, Ginger or Baby. 

Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack/20 YO Where do we truly begin when it comes to the buzz worthy ’90s music brilliance supplied on the accompanying soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio starring remake of Romeo + Juliet? Locked and loaded with a feast of music artists who were all pretty much showcased on MTV’s 120 Minutes at the time, the soundtrack quickly became bigger than the film itself, thanks to contributions by Garbage (#1 Crush), Radiohead (“Talk Show Host”), Everclear (“Local God”) and one little ditty called “Lovefool” by The Cardigans that we still can’t get out of our heads even twenty years later. 

But..sigh…if there’s one song on this classic soundtrack that has destroyed our souls since we first glanced at Leo through the fish tank (hey, Mr. Rudd), it’s “I’m Kissing You” by the gorgeous Des’ree. Not only did this become the love theme for the film, but it became the love theme for our lives. If you’re not reaching for a Kleenex after one listen, you truly don’t have a soul and should just adopt all of your cats now.

Adele’s “Hello” can have all the seats compared to Des’ree’s booming piano kissed ballad.  Sigh….here comes that middle breakdown again.

No Doubt/Rock Steady/15 YO Let’s face it, before Rock Steady was served up fifteen years ago, No Doubt’s music was in a bit of a tough spot. While their previous album, the aggressive, Return of Saturn, fared well with critics and (some) fans, it struggled to achieve the same stature of its ten-times platinum predecessor, Tragic Kingdom. (No need to fire up “Don’t Speak,” this is about Rock Steady).

So, what does No Doubt do? Get back to their dancehall roots and cook up an easy, breezy pop album that boosted their career in all the right ways. Because, really, when this Grammy nominated set came out, Ja Rule and Ashanti were ruling the music charts, so it was refreshing to hear No Doubt serving up a sound that was different from what was on mainstream radio at the time. 

Although more pop than were used to from Ms. Stefani and her merry band of rock misfits, the group delivered a solid set that was armed with plenty of punch, as well as giving them the biggest hits of their Billboard career, including “Hey Baby,” “Hella Good” and “Underneath it All.” Other tracks on the album including “Detective,” “Making Out” and “Platinum Blonde Life” also added to the robust mix, keeping Rock Steady plenty fresh through the years.