India.Arie:Brandy The Best R&B Singer This Generation
Article from VH1:
India.Arie knows a thing or two about expectations. Take the hippie chick image -- sarongs and kinky 'fro - and the verbose album titles like Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship and it's tempting to put her into that somewhat musty "neo-soul" pigeonhole. The fact is she's a super-sharp writer and vocalist whose acoustic tunes put her closer to Tracy Chapman than Erykah Badu. The ATL native recently sang "I am not my hair," and she's right to bust those stereotypes. Turns out some of her favorite songs defy expectations, too. Read why she adores John Mayer and will always give it up for Brandy.
John Mayer "Who Did You Think I Was"
I love this song. He sings great, he plays great. But I also identify with it, because he says, "Am I the one who sings the sad songs? Am I the one who turns the ladies on?" Like he's confronting his public image and trying to make people understand he's a lot more than that ... I identify with that. He's my favorite in the last five years.
Kirk Franklin "Imagine Me"
I write songs, and they'll [speak to me with] laser-point accuracy because I wrote them. But for somebody else to write a song that speaks to me like that is rare. What I really love about it is the way it makes me feel like I can triumph over anything. It makes me think of triumph over tragedy; something new coming from dark experience; that's what that song makes me feel. I love it, I love it, I love it.
Lizz Wright "Trouble"
I love Lizz Wright's songs. But more than anything I love her voice. This song, once again, is about what it means to make it through something that you thought you might not make it through. When you're triumphant there's just a double feeling of joy because you didn't think that you were ever going to be at that place. Her voice is so rich and, um, "old." She's in her twenties, but when she sings you hear a person whose ancestors sang.
Ne-Yo "So Sick"
I could see why people who have a certain perception of me as an artist would be like, "Why is she talking about this song?" But as a songwriter and a person who loves music and who loves singing, I love this song. When I hear him sing I hear a person who's between a boy and a man, like, right in the middle, who's talking about an emotional concept and it's always beautiful to me when men are emotional in music, because they often try, but they don't often get it. Like, they don't actually reach that place where you feel like they're being emotional. I think Ne-Yo gets really close.
Brandy "He Is"
She's one of my favorite female vocalists in the R&B/soul genre. It's just my opinion, but I think she's the best one. This song talks about somebody finding love after a long time of searching. Talking about Ne-Yo made me think of Brandy, because Brandy is one of the few people -- women, especially -- in modern music whose voice has changed, and when it changed she was even better. Anyway, I like this song because I study love and I study relationships and I study people and how we interact.
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Lalah Hathaway "Outrun the Sky"
It talks about a person reaching for their dreams, but it's also one of the first times I've heard her sing about her father (singer Donny Hathaway). I always wondered about Lalah and why she didn't sing her father's songs. I imagine it's just too emotional for her, though I don't know that to be the case. This is a perfect blend of folk and jazz. When I hear music, I don't think, "Oh, it's neo-soul" or use all the little boxes that they want to put people in: "Yeah, she has dreadlocks so she's neo-soul." I just hear a person who sings great, singing a great song.
Eric Benet "Man Enough to Cry"
We all know that he was married (to actress Halle Berry), so when you hear it, you hear this person putting his heart on the line. It's funny: I love astrology, and I love to study people. Eric Benet's a Libra, and I'm a Libra. We want everything to be beautiful, harmonious, smooth and tranquil, and when something comes along that ruffles all that, it's traumatic. So when I hear Eric Benet sing this song, there's a line where he says, "There's no more words I'm holding back that I won't say'"- and I know what's it like to have something in your heart but you won't say it because you don't want to ruffle the situation. You hear women say stuff like that all the time in songs. But to hear a man be that emotional ... it just hits me.
Beady Belle "Closer"
This is a Norwegian band and the song is off the album called Closer. Vocalists are my main thing, even more than lyricists. Her voice is warm and beautiful and unique. They're like an ambient-jazz/dance band, but they have full songs with verses and chorus; that's what made me want to listen to it. She's got a soft voice and because, I think, English is her second language, her diction is perfect. So when she sings, it's like she's singing it right in your ear.
Bill Withers "Use Me"
Talk about somebody being really simple and making it unique. When he sings, "I know, I know, I know, I know, I know ..." That's such a great idea. It's so simple, [yet] very, very clever. For a person to be brave enough just to say, "This is how it goes." And he repeats it many more times than you think he would.
Gaelle "Fade Away"
She's a friend. Her album's called Transient. And she samples, I think it's Men at Work's "Overkill" in the chorus. This song is very much about the healing process after suffering a broken heart. It's a great song and the production is great and her vocals are great.