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Archive for the ‘Rihanna’ Category

  SOUNDTRACK: THE-DREAM-Tiny Desk Concert #886 (August 30, 2019).

I had never heard of The-Dream and couldn’t imagine why the name was hyphenated.  Turns out The-Dream is an R&B singer with a kind of gentle falsetto (not too high, but higher than expected).  The blurb says: “The-Dream delivered his lyrics with that signature high-pitched whisper, just shy of a falsetto..”

He’s also written hits

for the likes of Beyoncé (“Single Ladies”) and Rihanna (“Umbrella”).

and apparently he is a big deal.

R&B hasn’t sounded the same since The-Dream changed the game. Maybe growing up off Bankhead on Atlanta’s west side gifted him with a hip-hop swag native to the soil. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that he preceded the current era of melodic, sing-songy rappers who disregard traditional lyricism for raw, heart-rending delivery.

All three songs here are about getting into the bedroom as one might guess from the title of his album: Ménage à Trois: Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3.

The first song “Bedroom” (calling all bodies to the bedroom) is soft and steamy.  It’s also got some humor

All ladies read before 11
So you got all day to get your mother-n’ nails done
I know you soak that thing ’round 7
And it’s already 4, go get your mother-n’ hair done
Ooh, you look so sexy
Come and bless me

[I found out later that these lyrics are cleaned up for Tiny Desk].

There’s gentle horns from DeAndre Shaifer and Theljon Allen (trumpet) and Elijah Jamal Balbed (saxophone) and a smooth bass line from Justin Raines.

He is also amusing at the end of the song:

“It’s kinda hard to sing like that with the daylight out,” The-Dream said after finishing the first number in a steamy set of songs more appropriate for the bedroom than the sunlit cubicles of NPR.

“Back In Love” has more simple echoing synths (from Carlos McKinney) and spare drums (from Larone “Skeeter” McMillian) and with some clever rhyming:

I miss that body in the hallway
I used to meet that body in the foyer
If you were right here, we’d have to skip the foreplay

and

I was mad at you, you was mad at me
C’est la vie, arrivederci
Still, all I loved was you

“I Luv Your Girl” is a less of a sexy song and more of a stealing-your-shawtie kind of song.

I hate the adenoidal “ahhhhh.” that apparently indicate sex, but the lyrics are pretty funny nonetheless.  Actually in looking at the actual lyrics I see that he has really made himself more PG-13 than X-Rated on these songs.

And she runnin’ Fingers through her hair, tryin ta call her over there but she like, Na Na Na Na!
She drop it down to the floor, I’m sayin shorty you should go, and she like Na Na Na Na!

Those na na’s are an amusingly safe version of the actual lyrics.  And after listening to the actual song, I found even the original to be kind of funny-while he’s stealing your woman.

As with a lot of R&B I prefer the Tiny Desk version because it’s much less produced.  Of course I still don’t know why there’s a hyphen in his name.

[READ: October 14, 2019] “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

This is a dark story (very Joyce Carol Oates) about the environment and how you can no longer flee to the country to get away from pollution–or worse.

It begins enigmatically with

“This matter of the mask for instance.”

Luce sometimes wears the mask–a half mask, green gauze mask–but never outside of the home.  She wore it any time the wind “smelled funny,” “smelled wrong.”  Especially from the industrial cities to the South.

She removes it if Andrew comes home. When he sees her he claims she is “catastrophizing” (Is that even a word?). (more…)

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SOUNDRACK: T.I.-Tiny Desk Concert #780 (August 27, 2018).

Sarah asked me to describe trap music and I couldn’t.

So Wikipedia tells me:

Trap music is defined by its ominous, bleak and gritty lyrical content which varies widely according to the artist. Typical lyrical themes portrayed include observations of hardship in the “trap”, street life, poverty, violence and harsh experiences that artists have faced in their urban surroundings.

It’s interesting that the music isn’t really mentioned in this description.  Because it was the music that I was most attracted to in this Tiny Desk Concert.  The riffs and melodies are really interesting–especially in this concert in which he brought along high school students from a non-profit Atlanta Music Project, who put a classical twist on his street anthems, adding strings and brass in place of 808 bass.

Tip “T.I.” Harris has lived the last 15 years of his life on the big stage. Fans have watched him rise, fall and ascend to new heights again, remaking himself each step of the way. From dope boy to dope emcee. From inmate to activist. From reality star and box-office draw to real estate developer and film producer.

Rapping along to a group of high school string players instead of his classic tracks. Without his usual audio prompts, he kept lyric sheets close at hand while running through the definitive street hits “Rubber Band Man,” “What You Know” and the Billboard 100 chart topper featuring Rihanna, “Live Your Life.” He may have stumbled a few times, but when you’ve successfully reinvented your career as often as Tip has had to it’s probably hard to stick to the same old script.

This Tiny Desk Concert is barely 8 minutes long–one of the shortest I can think of and certainly the shortest for a major act like this.  I didn’t know any of his songs before this, so I was puzzled why each song appears to be barely a minute long (he is either using only his verses because he has guests on the record, or he is only doing a verse and chorus).

The first song, “Rubber Band Man” has a great melody–made even better by the live instruments.  But he seriously plays it for one minute (the band plays it for two).  After a verse or so he

kept his set funky with off-the-cuff stories of the drama behind his music — like the time when he found out, after shooting the video for “Rubber Band Man” with Puff Daddy, that his home had been raided by police. “This music was about the elements that people have to endure in their lives every day and find a brighter side and make a way out of no way,” he said. “That’s what this music represents.”

I love the melody of “What You Know” (I listened to the recording and like this version much better).  The crowd really responds to him as if he were a preacher.  Again, this is a short song, just a verse, and at the end he says he goes into the studio to  bring some soul and funk to get you through the day–to reach the best side of yourselves.

He is super polite and friendly and is very kind to the kids:  “That’s a true example that really says that you’re never defined by your environment unless you want to be,” Tip said, crediting the youngsters for their commitment to craft.

Introducing “Live Your Life” he says that Rihanna ain’t here so…and the crowd responds “we got you!”  It’s fascinating that his original songs are some 4 or 5 minutes long.  This one is reduced once again to a minute or so.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Thirteen Dreams”

This is indeed a list of thirteen dreams.  They were translated from the Arabic by Raymond Stock.  The full book is described that in his final years, Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz distilled his storyteller’s art to its most essential level. Written with the compression and power of dreams, these poetic vignettes… telescope epic tales into tersely haunting miniatures.

I’m not sure why they chose these 13, but I’m summarizing without the endings.

Dream 105
All men get their beard trimmed at Uncle Abduh’s salon by a beautiful woman.  One day he was walking down the street and she came close to him.  He had to stare, but she soon turned into a block of wood.  When he turned around…

Dream 106
There was a coup d’etat and an older man said he’d heard such a thing once in his youth.  The dreamer said he knew who started the coup and he laughed with pride.  But the old man said he once laughed with pride about such things…. (more…)

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