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Album Review: Candiace “Deep Space”

A no-skips album from a Real Housewife? I couldn’t believe it either.

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Unpopular Disclaimer: I don’t need to like someone as a person to enjoy their presence in the ensemble of a reality TV show. Candiace Dillard is not one of my favorite people, but I think she works very well on The Real Housewives of Potomac. In the pantheon of badly behaved Housewives, she’s not a completely vile human being like Kelly Dodd, but plenty of what she says is wholly indefensible. She’s not a widely liked person the way Kandi Burruss is or a very sympathetic character along the lines of Sonja Morgan, so this project has an uphill battle, but we’ll come back to that.

The long and short of it is, Candiace has a better voice than any Real Housewife who has ever put out a project. I hesitate to call her a better singer than Kandi, because Kandi has more range and better ears (both of which make you a better vocalist), but her voice is more naturally soulful without trying and her timbre isn’t nearly as polarizing as Kandi’s. Being a better singer than the Housewives isn’t a high bar to clear, but Candiace’s voice can stand in the same lane with any of the R&B singers of the past five years or so.

But are the songs good? You can have all the vocal talent in the world, but if the song is bad, you’d need to be Whitney Houston to pull it off. Deep Space is a cohesive, polished, high-quality selection of very short songs. The average length of a track is about two and a half minutes because Candiace and her team have hardly written any bridges. The instrumental is excellent, the verse is excellent, the chorus is excellent, and then it’s over. As a student of 90s R&B, a school of which Candiace has also clearly matriculated, I need the bridge.  It not only lengthens the song and prolongs my enjoyment, but it also gives me that extra level where you can transition to show out on the last chorus.

Candiace also doesn’t need interludes. They may serve to reach out to her fans from the show, but for those of us who love the music but not the Reality TV Character, hearing a clip of her fighting with her husband tarnishes the project. Countess Luann makes music for her fans. Candiace has made an album for the public at large, so I hope she keeps that in mind going forward — your fans will come along with the general public when the music is good, but the general public is not as keen to support a reality TV star when we are being reminded that this album is indeed the offering of a reality TV star.

My other criticism may be a strength depending on your point of view: It’s not solidly current or solidly throwback. I’m not sure what the market is for this sound. R&B isn’t popular right now and I can’t tell if this is going to appeal to fans of both Tamia and Chloe.

Criticisms aside, Deep Space really is a no-skips album (aside from the Interludes, which I don’t count as tracks). Openers “Cause a Scene” and “Hands In The Air” are the hoodbrat sides of Candiace with just enough 808 to drop it low. “Is It Enough” is the most immediately stage-ready song — you can imagine the live band and Candiace on a small stage with two backup singers. It’s very much giving mid-90s Chucky Thompson, slinky and sensual without being overtly sexual. The background vocal here, as well as “Benefits” and “Situationship,” take a couple of notes from Janet and Brandy to great effect. Janet’s DNA is baked into the feel of “Do It (Nostalgia)” which could’ve been a bonus track on 20 Y.O. sung by Monica. The Queen of the DMV Ms. Traci Braxton Herself makes a surprise appearance on “Stay With Me,” and Candiace could be a Braxton cousin with her delivery (I didn’t initially realize Traci was on the track when I was listening in the shower — their voices were so similar). Deep Space closes with “Win,” a retro-soul gospel track that hit my atheist spirit just right. It’s going on my Sunday Cleaning playlist immediately.

Candiace has an exceptional product with all the makings of a successful career, but it won’t be easy. Other than Cardi B. and Bethenny, reality TV stars don’t transition into other areas of the entertainment business successfully. Bethenny was polarizing, as Candiace is, but Bethenny launched an entire brand that struck at the lucrative diet/weight-control market. Candiace is every bit as talented as Cardi B., but Cardi had two great advantages before launching Invasion of Privacy: she was popular and her genre was popular. Cardi B. was a personality hundreds of thousands of people had rallied behind before she was ever cast on Love & Hip-Hop for two seasons. Her appearance on the show only grew her fanbase, so there were a lot more people rooting for her to win when “Bodak Yellow” came out and became an instant classic. And the reason her single took off so quickly was, aside from the fact that it’s insanely and immediately catchy, the market was ready to make space for a female rapper to give Nicki Minaj competition. “Bodak Yellow” wouldn’t have been as successful if it was released by a man, released by an unnattractive woman, released by someone who was less likeable, or released in 2002.

You have to hit at the right time with the right product by the right artist. A slightly retro R&B album in 2021 from a largely unknown and highly polarizing personality is a challenge I wouldn’t take on, but I’m glad Candiace has. Deep Space is an R&B album that I was looking for this year when most of the girls are whispering or leaning too hard into trap music. I’m here for it Ms. Dillard, but let’s get some bridges on the sophomore effort and leave any references to Bravo back in Potomac.

Score: 7.5 / 10

Songs to get into:

Is It Enough

Benefits

Do It (Nostalgia)

Drive Back

 

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Music

Brittney Spencer is your country artist to watch in 2022.

Shoutout to Black women in country music trying to shake it up.

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One thing that will immediately make me cool on someone: When we’re talking about music and they say they listen to everything but country. They almost never have any sort of reason they can actually support. It’s just…the thing you say when you have a small minded view of an incredibly varied and popular genre of music.

If you do not know country music — that’s totally fine. I don’t really know jazz — but I enjoy it casually and I’m down for the ride with an experienced listener. But to just fullstop assert “Oh I don’t like country music.” What does that even mean?

You don’t like the song structure?
The only difference between a country ballad and an R&B ballad is some instrumentation and phrasing.

You don’t like the topics because it’s tractors and she shot my dog and drinking beer?
Well…that says more about your stereotypes about Southerners than it does about country music.

You don’t support racists and Republicans?
Well you don’t have to! Pop, hip-hop, and R&B is full of misogyny, yet you either ignore it or decide not to listen to those artists who you know to be terrible. You enjoy people’s art until you have a reason not to.

Plus! Quiet as its kept, as far as popular musicians making money, country is more consistently putting out good singers (who will sell out a concert) than any other genre. They don’t whisper and mumble and autotune. You get what you get. They can stand on a stage with just a guitar and give a show.

Country has roots in Black America just as much as any other genre. You could throw Rosetta Tharpe in the middle of any country artist’s set and it wouldn’t sound out of place.

Today we have Millennials like Kane Brown, Maren Morris, and Chris Lane who came of age during the R&B/hip-hop takeover of the 90s and you can hear that influence in the covers they choose…

…and the ballads they write.

Still, it’s hard for Black artists in country music. It’s easier for a white rapper like Eminem to find major success in rap music partly because white people buy rap albums. If every Black person in America ignored Eminem because they thought rap should belong to us, he still would’ve been a success through record sales to white people. Black country artists don’t have their skinfolk to fall back on, but we are going to support Brittney Spencer, do you hear me?!

I have already decided that we must, so tell your friends.

Brittney has three strikes against her: she’s Black, she’s not a size 2, and she’s from Baltimore. Taylor Swift is from Pennsylvania, so clearly the first two strikes are the bigger hurdle. When I was tweeting about country music I’m into currently, someone dropped her name into my mentions, and I was hooked from the first listen.

Brittney gives me so much of what I enjoy from a singer-songwriter. Authenticity, simplicity, and clarity. It’s just her and a guitar singing lyrics she wrote. So, I investigated further. She only has a handful of songs (no record deal, no album out) but if “Sober & Skinny” is any indication, this should be her breakout year. Listen to these lyrics and rejoice with me real quick.

She said “you want me to shrink, I think we should go to one” and I hollered. That is a country storyteller right there I don’t care where she came from.

Anyway, I haven’t been all that excited by a new artist in awhile. I enjoy them, but I am very much getting old and find myself looking around at some of the hype after hearing a new album like” this is what all the fuss was about?” But I am fully stanning Brittney Spencer and I wanted to share the good word.

Stan Black women in country music, period.

 

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The ANOINTED(!!!!) Britney Jean Spears

Let us rise for an extra-special performance from the Queen of Music.

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Y’all. Britney Spears is free and we are still thankful!!!! Let the church say Amen.

And let Britney Spears herself sing those praises to our Lord & Savior Jesus Herbert Christ.

Whitney Houston biopic when?! 

Tasha Cobbs Leonard is shaking you guys. Yolanda Adams has quit gospel because she cannot compete! Britney has been dabbed with the oil! How else can you explain a third Mary so seamlessly and flawlessly blending in with the definitive pop-gospel crossover of our generation.

Don’t you just wanna praise Him?! Hallujah! Ishouldaboughtahonda! Just in time for Jesus’s birthday too. A moment from a true vocalist is exactly what I needed on today.

The ANOINTED Britney Jean Pace.
The SANCTIFIED Britney Clark Sheard.
The MOST HOLY Britney Spears-Winans.

Amen.

(PS. Listen to Femme Fatale for good credit, improved muscle tone, a balanced diet, and a secondary ketamine high this season.)

 

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Music

Christmas Music Playlists!

I’m here to get you right this season!

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It’s time!

Some of y’all (the ones with taste and home training) turn on the Christmas Music during Thanksgiving, because honestly, Thanksgiving is a bum holiday that don’t even have cute sweaters or any songs that slap. It’s just greens and football and colonialism.

Anyway!

I have not yet updated my Christmas Playlists for this year, but you can go ahead and save them and I’ll update as I listen to the new holiday releases. You should have already saved these last year but I’m feeling peaceful and generous, so I will share them again.

A Diva’s Christmas

This is for the folks who need a voice to carry the Christmas spirit. Real singers only.

As an avowed atheist, if you want me to care about some lady’s side-baby doused in frankincense, give me the message from somebody who knows what they’re doing behind the mic.

Fireplace Christmas

This is for the grown & sexy Christmas with warm mulled wine and a blanket.

It’s only about an hour and a half currently, so I need to really dig in Santa’s bag and come up with some more mood moments. Might put that on my todo list this weekend.

Ultimate Christmas Party

This is for the holiday function or the office cocktail party. Bops only!

I love all genres of music, so we’re covering the gamut from gospel to rock, country to R&B. What I don’t always love is a Christmas party where everybody is drinking and having a good time and the mood DIES because yet another maudlin version of “Silent Night” comes on. No ballads for my party, please.

Ultimate Christmas Party (Deluxe)

This is for the holiday party that needs some secular variety.

It’s the same playlist as Ultimate Christmas Party, but for every holiday song, there’s also a non-holiday hit by the same artist. I actually put this playlist on all year.

Christmas Favorites

This is my catchall Christmas playlist.

The holiday songs from all my other playlists plus other songs and instrumentals that haven’t found a theme to fit into.

So! Let me know what has come out recently that I should be listening to. I’m about to put on JoJo’s Christmas album and see what my good lightskinned cousin is bringing to the table.

 

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