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Watch This: Deborah Cox & Tamia cover “Count on Me”

Deborah Cox & Tamia covered “Count on Me” by Whitney and CeCe today. Here are my favorite songs by the two of them.

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Deborah Cox and Tamia are two of the only vocalists in the game who regularly come up in conversations about who can actually hang with Whitney THEE Houston. To have the two of them singing together is a blessing I always want and need, and here they are covering a classic Whitney duet (with CeCe Winans, another Whitney contemporary). They’re not even in the same room and it’s the best thing you haven’t heard.

Since we’re here, I’m always primed for an Underrated R&B Vocalist moment, so here are my top five songs by each of these under-known greats. (Note: My top five for artists I love regularly changes with my mood, so ask me again next month and it might be different.)

Tamia “Deeper”

Tamia doesn’t sell the records she used to, but she still has the pipes, even though you can hear more of the grit with age. “Deeper” is a huge ballad off her last album that gave me goosebumps.

Deborah “Same Script, Different Cast” with Whitney

When I said Deborah Cox is one of the only women who can hang with Whitney, I meant that. There’s a reason why she was tapped to do all the covers of Whitney’s songs for the Lifetime biopic. At times it’s hard to tell their voices apart — and that’s the highest praise.

Tamia “Officially Missing You”

There’s not a lot to say about this song. It’s just smooth R&B with a great voice. You can put it on for a Saturday night drive, Sunday cleaning, or Weeknight wine.

Deborah “Things Just Ain’t The Same” (Remix)

Deborah accidentally became somewhat of a dance diva due to THAT remix of “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” but any true fan of dance music knows, the best tracks are anchored by a big R&B voice. This is that kind of track and one of my favorite dance remixes of an R&B song.

Tamia “Lipstick”

This song from Tamia’s 2015 album came out of nowhere to become my favorite bop of the moment for a good 6 months. Tamia has a big voice, but I actually like when she reigns it in and gives a Quiet Storm vocal.

Deborah “Where Do We Go From Here”

Speaking of big voices, this is the ballad I thought should have had the success that “Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here” had. This is a classic lockjaw ballad that you scream from the rafters.

Tamia “You Put A Move On My Heart”

Tamia recorded this cover when she was 19 years old for Quincy Jones, but you can’t tell. This is grown woman phrasing and this was the first of 3 Grammy nominations she managed to nab before she even released her debut album.

Deborah “Absolutely Not”

An underrated bop! The production definitely has that Atlanta Turn of the Century feel, but you a lie if you say this comes on in the club and you don’t give a shoulder shimmy.

Tamia “The Way I Love You”

This has been one of my top twenty favorite songs since the first time I heard it. It’s the best song to make you feel like falling in love in the summertime — only second to Amerie’s debut single — and it is, by a longshot, my favorite song to sing. If I auditioned for American Idol, this would be the bridge I’d choose.

Deborah “Sentimental”

When Deborah Cox came on the scene, people called her the Canadian Whitney Houston. She had the poise, the beauty, and the voice. She showed all that on “Sentimental,” but I still think it was an odd choice for a debut single. It didn’t really sound like anything else on the radio, and even today it still feels unique within the pantheon of R&B radio singles. It’s my favorite Deborah Cox song because it doesn’t sound like everything else and she sang the mess out of it.

If you just wanna play these in the background and go about your business, here’s a short Spotify playlist.

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Music

Watch: Diana Ross “Ninety-Nine and a Half”

Look at Diana Ross hollering for the Lord!

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I love Diana Ross.

She has hits on hits and I love her singing tone, but she ain’t no sanger and that’s fine! Janet isn’t either and she’s the most-played artist in my collection. I have heard many things about Diana Ross in my years on this Earth and read many more from before I was born, but nobody ever accused her of having any sort of volume in her little body.

So color me surprised stumbling upon that lil bird lady belting her lungs out for Jesus with Little Richard back in 1987!

Clearly, I need to find this entire production because I need to know why Diana Ross is pretending to be 16 and 76 in the same clip. It’s from her TV special from 1987 to promote her album Red Hot Rhythm and Blues but I haven’t found the whole program yet (here’s Part 2, I’ll dig some more later).

What I didn’t realize was just how big Diana Ross was. She had a whole TV special to promote this album, but when you look for it, you find her 1981 special for CBS. And her 1971 special. Diana Ross was like “hey I wanna do a special” and TV networks were like “sure!” over and over. There’s really nobody to compare that to in today’s entertainment climate other than Beyonce, which is absolutely fitting seeing as how they both rose to fame as the lead singer of a girl group and then catapulted to iconic legend status afterward.

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Now I have some homework to do and a Youtube hole down which to descend.

 

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Watch: Janet Jackson “Got ’til It’s Gone”

One can only imagine how this music video would’ve been received in this political climate.

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Watching music videos you loved as a child decades later as an adult gives you a new lens. Janet Jackson won a Grammy for this excellent visual ode to Black beauty long before it was mainstream and popular to do so and I didn’t realize that until this week.

Janet went introspective (and a little dark) for The Velvet Rope and she gave a lot of interviews in the run-up to the release. One was about “Got ’til It’s Gone” where she said she knew she wanted a rapper somewhere on the album, and when “GTIG” came together, Q-Tip’s voice fit perfectly. In the same interview she talked about being a fan of Joni Mitchell and how rap and folk were both poetry set to music, and that’s how two very disparate artists ended up on the same Janet Jackson song. (Janet actually called Joni Mitchell personally and sent a copy of the song to get permission for the sample, after being told Mitchell would never approve it.)

For the music video, Janet went with Mark Romanek (who has more Grammys for Short Form Music Video than anybody else), and she portrays a lounge singer in South Africa during Apartheid. Joni Mitchell — on a television screen — is the only white face in this video. Whiteness only exists in this space as a target of Black revolution, as the last scene ends with bottles being thrown at a Europeans Only sign. With Beyonce set to release Black Is King in a couple of days and all of the press and petulant backlash from Saltine America taking offense at her pro-Blackness, one can only imagine how “GTIG” would be received in this political climate.

Twenty years after The Velvet Rope, people (including me) made note of Janet Jackson’s love letter to the African diaspora with “Made For Now” through the sound and the fashion and the dance sprinkled throughout the video. But really, Janet has always been that girl. We just pay more attention these days.

 

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Watch: Brandy sings her classics.

Listen to this vocal technician!

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Brandy is the only singer who sounds better singing her debut album 25 years later than she did when she recorded it. That’s not shade to anybody else — Toni, Deborah, Monica, Mary can all still blow. But Brandy is the only one who keeps improving with age.

Listen to this vocal technician y’all.

1:15 Almost Doesn’t Count
5:30 Best Friend
6:43 I Wanna Be Down
8:52 Sittin Up In My Room
12:38 Baby
14:10 Baby Mama

Every new Brandy album is an event for me because she’s been my favorite R&B singer since Afrodisiac renewed my love for mainstream R&B back in the day. I don’t know why she chose “Baby Mama” as her lead single (or as a song to record period?) but I still have high hopes for the record. Because it’s Brandy. And she still sounds like that.

 

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