We always aim to give you a mix of everything here at EST 1997: nostalgia, new releases, and our obsessions/discoveries. Every song we get stuck on may not warrant a piece, or we just may not have the time to get it together as we’d like. This month, we’re exploring a way to share some of this music with you, and plan to continue this each month. Plus, we want to give you a bigger window into the songs that make each of us tick. Introducing… our Monthly Staff Picks for March 2017.
First up is Mary J. Blige’s “Love Yourself,” featuring Kanye West. I can’t remember the last song by Mary that I was THIS into. Unfortunately, it comes as a result of her relationship turmoil. It’s got a tough hip-hop edge, soulful vocals, and lyrics that hit home. The addition of Kanye West on the track is one of the most appropriate uses of a featured artist in recent memory. I don’t know Mary’s intentions for putting ‘Ye on it. However, it’s surely a message he needed to hear, considering all that has gone down recently.
At face value, Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” is everything but humble. It is a petty bop full of braggadocio laid expertly over the perfect beat. “Humble” goes hard in the car and will make you feel yourself, for sure. Staying on the not-so-humble petty train, DJ Khaled “worked [his] whole life for” his new Beyoncé and Jay-Z production, “Shining“ …and it is such a jam. Beyoncé rides that beat expertly, sliding through syllables, delivering bars to rival her husband. “Shining” is fun as hell to bop to with your petty cap on tight. Plus, it flows well paired with Lamar’s “Humble.”
On the nostalgic side of things, I’ve been in my feelings thanks to two of our nostalgic posts from the last week. First, I fell in love with Ashanti’s “Over” all over again, ever since our post about the 15th anniversary of her debut album. I was reminded of how much I loved this song back in my middle school days. It’s such a sassy jam that’ll put you right in your feels, especially if you’ve ever felt like Ashanti did in this song (don’t ask me why my very single 12 year old self liked it so much in 2002, though).
Similarly, following my post on the 10th anniversary of the B’Day Anthology and Deluxe Edition, I’ve been spinning B’Day a lot as well. If I could, I’d put the whole album on this list. Instead, I opted for an underrated cut by Beyoncé, “If,” because it’s one of her most impassioned studio vocals (which, again, put me in my feels).Beyoncé’s strong suit is delivering a fierce, electrified vocal when showcasing pain or pleasure. But rarely has Beyoncé made me feel her vulnerability and pure sadness as well as she did on “If.”
I already wrote about Tinashe’s “Flame” and am still in love with the direction she’s taking her music. Computer Games’ “Every Single Night” is amazing. First off, it’s Darren Criss. But the song conjures up some serious nostalgia to 80’s pop meeting somewhere between Gloria Estefan and DeBarge. So catchy.
Me listening to Aretha Franklin is like me breathing: It happens almost without thought, and on a daily basis. While I was building our Aretha Franklin: Deep Cuts playlist for her birthday, I was digging. I’ve always had an affinity for her 1973 cover of West Side Story’s “Somewhere”, but this time I got more stuck than usual. Her vocal (this was recorded at the height of Aretha vocally), her piano solo, it’s mesmerizing. Plus, it’s co-produced by Quincy Jones.
I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but somehow I never heard LaBelle’s “Isn’t It A Shame” until this month. I got on a Patti kick after she announced her new album (dropping on my birthday, no big deal). When I put this on, I was FLOORED by that descending melody, and immediate went to see who’d sampled it. This led me to Monica. I worked New Life, but never had a deluxe edition of it. Monica’s “Catch Me” had me stuck. The LaBelle sample use is impeccable.
That leads me to the final addition, Betty Who’s “Some Kinda Wonderful”. Coincidently, “Some Kinda Wonderful” and Monica’s “Catch Me” were produced by production duo Pop and Oak. Betty’s song is some serious pop ear candy, giving off a Ke$ha vibe in the best way possible.
For me this month has been all about Depeche Mode: the release of their new album, Spirit, has led me to rediscover some of their older songs. I’m definitely loving the politically charged first single from this new record,“Where’s the Revolution?”. I’ve listened to the radio a lot more in this period, so Jamiroquai have been a staple of my car rides. Their new single “Cloud 9” has that perfect funky attitude.
Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” is another song I’ve been hearing a lot and I’ve learned to appreciate over the past 2 weeks, especially because of the music video. And then there’s Mariah’s latest bop “I Don’t” of course and Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” which recalls that Mariah/Jermaine Dupri sound.
My first track is one I CANNOT stop listening to. In “Humble” Kendrick uses his word play to touch on some subjects that have left some listeners agitated, and others gagging. Against the backdrop of a savage beat, the lyrics praise natural beauty while simultaneously downing the manufactured kind. While some people don’t like that, I can’t deny how much I enjoy the song.
“Shining” is a track that flew under a lot of people’s radars. This DJ Khaled track, assisted by Bey and Jay, is an absolute bop. Never in a million years did I think I’d hear Beyoncé on a song laced with Miami bounce music. I’m so glad we did though. It’s a departure from the lyrically conscious work we’ve heard as of late. This is downright fun. Jay’s verse, in which he speaks about the impending birth of the twins, is really just icing on top. Kudos to Khaled for making it happen.
A few weeks ago, I was stumbling around on YouTube when I found a live version of J. Cole’s smash hit, “Apparently”. This song has always been on repeat for me, since it’s debut in 2014. Cole’s reverence for his mother has always been something that I found relatable, and as I’ve matured since it’s release, I have been able to enjoy it all the more. In regard to this particular video, taken from his HBO Forest Hills Drive concert film, the musicianship of his backing band, and his DJ all gel together nicely, and Cole’s ability to show the same passion he had on wax, live, is a treat to see.
TALK ABOUT AN OLDIE BUT GOODIE. BET’s film gave them a new generation of fans, but I loved New Edition since I was a youngin’. Written and produced by the patron saints of R&B, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, “Can You Stand The Rain” is one of my favorite songs ever. Johnny Gill’s vocals are absolutely perfect, and Ralph Tresvent and Ricky Bell accent the song with a sensitivity (no pun intended) that makes it truly one of a kind. The lyrics literally make me a little emotional every time I hear them. Knowing now how the song came into fruition, makes the words all the better.
Listen to our staff picks below: