by j. brotherlove
Wow, 2006 was a wack year for R&B and Hip Hop. Just take a look at the Grammy nominations. Janet? Pharell? That’s part of the reason why it’s nearly February and I haven’t compiled my usual list of most and least favorite music of 2006.
While black artists gave us schizophrenic booty tracks (Beyoncé) and light pop over hip hop beats (Cassie), melanin-challenged artists were on the comeup, often trumping the brothers and sisters.
I thought it would be interesting to list my favorite white artists of 2006 who delivered soulful tunes. Without taking the “soul” label too seriously, all of these artists deserve more exposure on urban radio. Of course, that would require programmers to pull their head out of hip hop’s ass.
- Amy Winehouse — Back To Black
The funny thing about me choosing Amy Winehouse as my favorite on this list is that as of last month, I hadn’t heard her music. It could be the freshness that pushed her to the top. Or it could be Amy’s smokin’ vocals on tracks “Rehab” and “Tears Dry On Their Own”.
- Christina Aguilera — Back To Basics
Creatively and musically, Christina is miles ahead of her popular peers. However, that didn’t exactly translate into sales (luckily, sales sucked for everyone). She belts her ass off on “Back In The Day” and “On Our Way” even if you don’t care.
- Lewis Taylor — Stoned
Lewis Taylor’s Stoned is a bit of a fluke as portions were released in 2005 on separate discs. But most people didn’t discover it until 2006. If you’ve never heard of Lewis Taylor that’s a shame. He retired from music in 2006. “Ghosts” and “Lovelight” are some of the last songs he recorded.
- Natalie Williams — Secret Garden
You may have to look twice at Natalie Williams. I did. I certainly didn’t expect songs like “This Girl” and “Psychedlic Love” to come out of her mouth. The entire disc is a joy. Imagine a sweeter Joss Stone with elements of Erykah Badu and Aaliyah.
- Robin Thicke — The Evolution Of Robin Thicke
Robin Thicke was the slow burn of 2006. And he melt hearts all along the way. This white poster boy of r&b love songs made an impact with his falsetto on “Teach U A Lesson” and fun “I Wanna Love You Girl”. I’m not as hyped about him as many others. But it’s good stuff.
- Clara Hill — AlI Can Provide
Clara Hill returned with another collection of post modern dance music. Her airy vocals float over a blend of soul and electronica to carve a niche of her own. Nobody makes songs like “Just Let Me Know” and “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love” like Clara. Nobody.
- Fergie — The Dutchess
Fergie hit a slam dunk with “London Bridge” but critics and the public gave her hell on her solo CD. A shame really because the former Wild Orchid singer and member of Black Eyed Peas created a fun record in my opinion. What’s not to like about “Glamorous” and “All That I Got (The Make Up Song)”? Loosen up.
- Justin Timberlake — FutureSex/LoveSounds
How can I say this without getting hate mail… FutureSex/LoveSounds is a good record. Not great; good. But I understand how mainstream fans and critics were blown away by Timberland’s interpretation of Prince pop like “Sexy Ladies” and “Pose”. There’s nothing else like on the radio (which isn’t the same as saying there’s nothing else like it).
- Alice Russell — Under The Munka Moon, Vol. 2
This reworking of Vol. 1 from 2005 is mildly satisfying. But mild for Alice is still better than a lot of artists’ best. “Dont You Worry” and “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This” are proof they need to do their homework.
- Nelly Furtado — Loose
Nelly Furtado rode a big wave on “Promiscuous Girl”. Pairing with Timberland pushed her through to urban radio, mobile phones and commercials. Overall, the CD is uneven. However, combining her world-tinged pop with hip hop beats made “Wait For You” and “Showtime” standout.
- Teena Marie — Sapphire
Teena is the original white soul sister. She has over 10 albums and they’re all classic or musically progressive. Well, except for Sapphire. Somehow, Teena managed to record an astoundingly mediocre collection of forgettable tunes. But she’s entitled to one slipup.
I made two playlists in case you don’t know what you’re missing. Links are active while supplies last (special shout out to Chris who reminded me that I haven’t written about music in awhile).
“While black artists gave us schizophrenic booty tracks (Beyoncé) and light pop over hip hop beats (Cassie), melanin-challenged artists were on the comeup, often trumping the brothers and sisters.”
I’ve said as much recently, on and offline. I was really impressed with Nelly, Justin and Thicke. I enjoyed Christina too, although she didn’t make my list. Not because her CD isn’t good, but she came out during a time when, although I advocated for her, I was consumed with everything else like Cassie, Bey and Janet. (The weather was warm, and during those months, my music-listening habits tend to fall along those lines.) I’ve recently gotten back into “Back” ‘cause the chick has really dope arrangements on there, and not just the Primo ones.
Thicke is genius. There’s a dearth of male soul crooners of color, and the saddest (or funniest) part is, the ones currently thriving are singing for little-ass girls.
I’m surprised that, with all the hip-hop I’ve recently caught you listening to, Dilla’s “The Shining” didn’t make your list. *Care Bear stare*
Let me clarify, this is a list of “my favorite white artists of 2006 who delivered soulful tunes”.
I don’t normally segment my music in this way. But I thought it was interesting that most of the good r&b/soul stuff was not coming from black artists.
I’m still working on my overall favorite CDs of 2006. Yeah, I know. I suck.
I’m a dork for skipping over that entire paragraph. NO WONDER ALL THESE ARTIST ARE WHITE!
I kid, I kid…
Loving this, j. Some of those folks I already liked, but people like Amy Winehouse are great surprises! Thanks for this.
Check out James Morrison, a blue-eyed soul singer reminiscent of Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and early Stevie.
You’ve got a point here. I hadn’t really thought about it this way. When I’m not listening to On the Jungle Floor (I’m in the minority of folks who love OTJF as much if not more than his first album) or Tennessee Slim is the Bomb, I’m playing Stoned, The Evolution of Robin Thicke (especially the duet with Faith), and Winehouse’s first cd, Frank.
And I didn’t know that Alice Russell had a Volume Two of Under The Munka Moon! *races to DustyGrooves.com*
Didi, I agree about OTJF. I sort of low-balled it due to the obvious influences. But the truth is, I listen to it more than his debut.
Tennessee Slim Is The Bomb is also one of my Top 10 of 2006. But you probably knew that already.
Okay. I trust your opinion so I will give these guys and others a chance. Thanks for expanding my music choices beyond their limited horizons.
i think the most progressive black artist of 2006 who was overlooked as usual was meshell ndegeocello her ep the article 3 was the most intresting and diverse sound of soul music created in 2006