Friday, November 18, 2005

2005, The Year In Review - Music

I can't say that I am overly impressed with the new music that I've heard this year because eventhough a lot of great music may have been made
2005 was a year of many format changes. Most notable in New York the end of WCBS-FM. This station had good ratings, never finding itself in the number one spot but still maintained a rather large listening audience. Many R&B and particularly Motown Golden Era tunes were played frequently. This station will definitely be missed. The R&B listener still has a few choices in New York City that feature classic R&B (as opposed to today's R&B, which is not the same). Pioneer Hal Jackson puts on a fantastic program every Sunday morning on WRKS and Imotep Gary Byrd can be heard on WBAI on Friday nights. This show features interviews with the people who made the music what it is. I also must mention Felix Hernandez, who also has a high caliber program heard on WBGO on Saturday mornings. As a lover of classic rhythm and blues it was an unpleasant experience to see how the genre seems to have disappeared from the earth. But one of the new artists who came into his own in 2005 was John Legend, whose poignant "Ordinary People" was among the most requested songs on national airwaves. An indication of the disappearance of R&B was that in 2005 you could no longer find Jet Magazine's Soul Brothers top 20 for singles. Bonafide R&B artists are still out there doing their thing but they are not nearly getting the exposure that they so rightfully deserve. Recently I checked Billboard Magazine's assessment of the top R&B songs and found that most of them were not even today's so called R&B but Hip-Hop, which really rules the airwaves. Although I am not a fan of hip-hip I do realize that change must come. In 2005 we see the first emergence of a hip-hop variation called "Crunk" which is coming from the Atlanta area. Although I find most(but not all) hip-hop distasteful I find "Crunk" or possibly"Crump" much worse. Thank God for Alicia Keyes and Angie Stone who are two R&B exceptions that are getting some decent airplay. It was also nice to see Mariah Carey make a comeback. Though she has changed her "sound" to be more appealling to today's young people she is once again a superstar. The surprise source of showcasing new mainstream artists suprisingly comes from Fox. The program "American Idol" has given us the likes of Fantasia, Kelly Clarkson, Reuben Studdard and Bo Dice, who although not necessarily an R&B singer does make one think of a young David Clayton-Thomas when he performs songs popularized by Blood, Sweat & Tears and Ides Of March. The year's best song would have to be "Dance With My Father", the late Luther Vandross and Richard Marx created a masterpiece. Through most of his career Luther longed for the #1 hit single that always seemed to be just out of reach eventhough he consistently recorded platinum albums. With "Dance With My Father" he finally got it, but unfortunately could not enjoy the fruit of this particular labor during his lifetime. The year's best live performance had to be R. Kelly's "Step In The Name Of Love" on the Grammy Awards where Kelly proved himself to be a great dancer as well as a very good vocalist. It is not an easy task to do both at the same time the way Kelly did on that show. In my opinion the year's best album was Earth, Wind & Fire's Illumination. EWF has come back in a big way. This is their first CD release on a major label (RCA Victor) since Millenium on Warner/Reprise in the late 90s. It was good to hear Maurice White's voice again after his battle with the debilitating Parkinson's disease. Of course Philip Bailey continues to be the standout performer that he has always been on the jazzy "The Way You Move" which features solos by Kenny G. Musically 2005 may not be as memorable as other years but it did have its unforgettable moments.

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