About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Music Appreciation

When was the last time you heard a song that made your heart skip a beat? For me, it was about ten minutes ago when I listened to Cassandra Wilson’s rendition of “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” I’ve heard this song at least 50 times, but as I really listened to it, I felt the pain she put into those notes and felt that same pain in the accompanying guitar. I was appreciating music, real music.

Now, I’m an R&B and jazz girl. It’s just in me, so in recent years I’ve been lamenting the virtual disappearance of the likes of Anita Baker, Nina Simone (R.I.P.), pre-1996 Whitney (am I the only one who gets a little teary upon hearing “All the Man I Need”?), Ella Fitzgerald (R.I.P.), Regina Belle, and even the great Cassandra Wilson (I’m a huge fan). Now, some of these women are still performing, but do we hear them? Are they getting radio rotation? No. I have to go to my CDs, old-school R&B stations and Pandora to feel something in music.

India.Arie performing "India's Song" on Oxygen's
India.Arie: Up Close and Personal in 2002
When I’m not time-traveling, I remember that I am so lucky to have been introduced in my pre-teen and teen years to Erykah Badu, India.Arie and Jill Scott. I still start singing “Certainly” from the Baduizm: Live album at the drop of a hat, and India’s playing on my mp3 player every other day. While reading about the slave trade in Savannah during my trip there this past weekend, “Too much hypocrisy in this old Southern town for me. Way back in 1619 began this tragic story..." flowed into my head. If you don’t know “India’s Song,” check it out. Jill’s always in my rotation too, and I just saw her on tour with Maxwell. *Sigh* These truthful artists are still doing their thing. If you haven’t heard New Amerykah Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, you need to get on it. And I am impatiently waiting for Jill's Light of the Sun to drop. India, I’ll give you a little more time on your next one since Testimony Vol. 2 dropped in early 2009, but try not to keep us waiting too long, eh?

Now, there are some younger artists out there who can blow. I can’t deny Beyoncé’s talent (she’s a notable songwriter, producer, and entertainer too). Keri Hilson has a nice voice, but her music leaves much to be desired. Jazmine Sullivan’s husky voice is alluring, as are Melanie Fiona’s powerful pipes. Chrisette Michele is a cool breeze in the R&B game, with a killer voice and a devotion to the greats: “I've been studying Miss Billie, Miss Ella, Miss Sarah Vaughn and Miss Natalie Cole.” Esperanza Spalding and Janelle Monáe are two young, very creative artists who are doing their thing too. Corinne Bailey Rae is excellent, and I love her new album, The Sea. I can appreciate the fact that most of these women are not playing into the commercial titillating aspect of the music biz. Instead, they can rely on their talent—how refreshing.

Maybe there are some I’m missing, but that’s probably because they don’t get enough attention! (If I hear Nicki Minaj’s pitiful Annie Lennox sample one more time, I might throw up a little bit in my mouth. This is why I don’t listen to the current hip-hop and R&B stations.) Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my old-school R&B stations, CDs and Pandora to get my music fix. If I can’t get it elsewhere, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. Yeah, it’s that important. After all, if music doesn’t move you, what’s the point?


  1. It's so strange that you posted this now because just last night I was thinking that I needed to start including a "recommended listening" item on my weekly blog--and I already picked out this week's! (Spoiler alert: It's The Bravery's "The Ocean"--Sun Version.) I like to choose music that gets me in the mood of the scene I'm writing--and my heart almost breaks every time I hear "The Ocean," so you can imagine what I'm working on right now. :-(

    I'm a rock/alternative/indie girl, but I do love jazz, so I might try some of your recommendations if there are any that are particularly heartbreaking.

  2. For me, it was about a month ago when I heard "Golden Time of Day" by Frankie Beverly and Maze. That song plays regularly in my head. It's REAL soul music. Isn't that the purpose - to stir your soul? If you have not heard it, Mo, get on it!

    I am deeply saddened when I hear most current hip-hop and R&B songs, because they are a far cry from what they used to be. I will give credit to Monica for getting back to her old R&B sound. "Love All Over Me" is one of her new goodies!

    But yeah, we have to stick to our CDs and such to keep it real.

  3. @ Lacy: I'll recommend "You Don't Know What Love Is" if you want heartbreaking, but try Cassandra Wilson's version. Because it's a jazz standard, it has a very peppy, old-school jazz feel when it's usually performed. However, Cassandra's version features her and a guitar. It stalls on moments of lingering sadness and picks up when her emotion does. It's beautiful--not that I want to encourage your wallowing in heartbreak!

    @ Dar: I actually listened to "Golden Time of Day" on the radio last week. I've heard it lots of times before, but it's definitely a beautiful, good soul song. I like "All Over Me" too, definitely more than the first single (the one that samples "Silly"). She sounds good though, and I was just thinking the other day when I heard "All Over Me" that she was singing her heart out on that one. It made me wonder if she were sharing something really personal. In other words, I FELT it!

  4. Sadly, I haven't even heard of many of these new artists, although the older ones I do know and their music really does emote. Not bubblegum hip-hoppy garbage the music industry spews out to please pre-teens and club-goers. But, at least these artists ARE getting play somewhere - Pandora, Rhapsody, etc. - that's bringing the old along with the new and more people may discover them as a result! I'm going to look some of the artists (unknown to me) and check them out! Thanks for the recommendations! :)

  5. good post as usual. I always imagined that when I got a car, I would be bumping my music, listening to the hot songs on the radio. The majority of the hip hop songs today are just unbearable. I find myself mostly listen to Sports Talk radio an now that Progressive Talk radio has returned to Atlanta, there's no room for this new hip hop (Sorry Drake, but the amount of airplay you get is too much for your average talent)

    Haven't really heard a song that made me think twice in years seemingly. The last one I remember was Eric Benet's Spend My Life With You and that's was only when I heard him perform it acapella. I mainly just listen to R&B & rap pre-2003. It makes me seem old since I don't enjoy what my peers around listen to. It also makes it hard to hang with people because I detest the music they listen to so much.

    Oh well, still got classic Death Row, neo-soul R&B and rock

  6. Daniel, I was going through this same thing about Drake last weekend (scanning radio stations on the road from Savannah). I actually said, "I don't understand why Drake is so popular." There was Drake song playing every other track!

    I feel old too. I don't listen to stuff a lot of my peers listen to. Lol