Category: Pop

Throwback: Happy 61st Birthday, Branford Marsalis!

JOVM celebrates Branford Marsalis’ 61st birthday.

Throwback: Happy 52nd Birthday, Mariah Carey!

The first two weeks of Spring and of the astrological sign Aries is rather auspicious for music — Aretha Frarnkin, Diana Ross, Elton John, Damon Albarn, Lee “Scratch” Perry are all among an incredibly talented and legendary array of artists who were born between March 21-March, 31. Of course, we can’t forget Mariah Carey, who turns 52 today.

Carey is the voice of a ridiculous amount of smash hit songs — many which I know deep in your soul you love, and will happily sing along to in the shower or while doing karaoke. Personally, I’ve always adored her cover of The Jackson 5’s “I’ll be There.” So, to that end, Happy birthday, Mariah. May there be many, many more!

Throwback: Happy 88th Birthday Quincy Jones!

This weekend has proven to be a rather auspicious weekend for music and music history: Yesterday Roy Haynes celebrated his 96th birthday and the equally legendary Quincy Jones celebrates his 88th birthday today. Much like Haynes, Jones has worked with a who’s who of music. including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and a lengthy list of others.

Of course, Jones has been behind some of the best-selling, most memorable and beloved songs of the past 60 years — including some very obvious ones. So it should be unsurprising that he is one of the most decorated producers, composers and arrangers of the past 60 years. But instead of the regular choices, I went with some earlier and more jazz-based work of Jones’ including some live footage shot in 1960 with his big band.

Happy birthday Quincy! Thank you for so much great music!

Throwback: Black History Month: Whitney Houston

Today is February 19, 2021. It’s the 19th day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

It’s not necessary for me to delve into much background for this post — because it’s Whitney Houston. But I’ll say this: Whitney had one of the greatest voices in pop music, ever. It’s a shame that she’s not here with us right now. But that voice will live on forever.


Sarah Walk is a rising Minneapolis-born singer/songwriter and keyboardist who currently splits her time between Los Angeles and London. Walk’s full-length debut, 2017’s Steve Brown-produced Little Black Book found the Minneapolis-born singer/songwriter and keyboardist crafting piano-based ballads.

Last year’s Leo Abrahams-produced sophomore album, Another Me was a radical change in sonic direction for the Minneapolis-born singer/songwriter and keyboardist with the album’s material finding Walk going towards shimmering and contemplative synth pop centered around percussive arrangements and soaring melodies. Another Me was inspired by a period of immense challenge and transformation, and thematically, the album touched upon marginalization, survival, death, misogyny, vulnerability, reclamation of oneself, learning how to be bold and take up space and the unique challenges of being a queer woman.

The Minneapolis-born singer/songwriter and keyboardist follows up the release of Another Me with a slow-burning and spectral cover of Prince‘s “Nothing Compares 2 U” centered around atmospheric synths, twinkling keys, brief and subtle bursts of strummed guitar, Walk’s achingly tender vocals and supple and soulful bass lines. Featuring guest spots from Abe Rounds and the acclaimed singer/songwriter and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, Walk’s cover deconstructs the song’s melody but in doing so, pulls out the song’s bitter loneliness, yearning, confusion but imbuing the proceedings with a complete detail and inability to move forward.

Walk has wanted to cover Prince for some time — partially because she’s a Minneapolis native; but also because Rounds and Ndegeocello played at the Purple One’s Paisley Park studio in the past. “Truthfully, it had been a really long time since I heard ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,’” Walk says in press notes,” and I thought that may work in my favour — I didn’t want to get too inside the other versions that already existed because I wanted to make sure I approached it my own way. 
 
“I recorded the main wurly piano part first and sort of just improvised that ending build up – I liked the idea of repeating the title over and over, almost trance-like, with these ominous chords and angry guitar sounds building up behind it. I kept seeing this visual of me singing that repetitive lyric on stage, almost trying to convince myself I was okay… while the curtain opened up behind me without me knowing it, exposing all of the memories and anger and heartbreak I was really feeling but not able to accept or admit yet.”
 
“Sometimes I think Prince would want everyone to play his music and sometimes I think he’d want it to never be played again, but I knew Sarah was the kind of spirit who would make it her own and she does,” Meshell Ndgeocello adds.

Throwback: Black History Month: Aretha Franklin

February 10 is the tenth day Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past month, I’ve been proudly featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards further understanding of the Black experience. Of course, I hope that throughout this month you’ll remember — and appreciate the following:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

Tonight I thought it would be best to write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. You can Google any pertinent biographical information but I have a story about ‘retha that I’ve mentioned on several occasions: I landed in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport early in the morning one mid-January Sunday. After going through customs and retrieving my suitcase — a suitcase that I had gratefully borrowed from a girlfriend — I took the commuter train into Amsterdam Centraal Station to discover that I had a couple of hours before anything was open.

A smiling, blonde waitress waved me in a few minutes before they were about to open. They had an oldies radio station on the air, playing familiar and beloved hits from a variety of decades. Within about two hours of being in Amsterdam, I was reminded of how ubiquitous Black music and culture are, and how important the Queen of Soul is when this radio station started playing ‘retha — and the waitress happily sung along in slightly accented English. Now, whenever I hear ‘retha, I think of that Dutch waitress singing along.

Throwback: Black History Month: The Supremes/R.I.P. Mary Wilson

Today is the ninth day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few days of this month, you’d see that I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience.

Through the month — and throughout the year, I hope that you’ll come to understand and appreciate the following:

Black culture is American culture
Black music is American music.
Black history is American history.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
You can’t love black art and black artists without loving black people.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

I was awakened to see an alert from CNN that read “Mary Wilson, co-founder of The Supremes dead at 76.” I knew then that a tribute post to Wilson — and the legendary Supremes would be necessary.

The Supremes were one of the best selling, most popular acts of their day. They were also among a handful of Black acts that saw widespread mainstream success: They were not only Ed Sullivan Show mainstays, they were on practically every single variety show and entertainment show in the country — and they knocked off The Beatles from the top spot of the charts, eventually dominating the charts with hit after hit after hit after hit.

Throwback: Black History Month: Janet Jackson

Today is the third day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few days of this month, you’d see that I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience.

Through the month — and throughout the year, I hope that you’ll come to understand and appreciate the following:

Black culture is American culture
Black music is American music.
Black history is American history.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
You can’t love black art and black artists without loving black people.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the release of one of the best pop albums of the 80s, Janet Jackson’s Control, a brash, self-assured declaration of independence — and a defiant feminist anthem. Thematically and lyrically, Rhythm Nation 1814 is still relevant and necessary 25+ years since its release. Plus, she released an incredible string of chart-topping pop songs.