Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Zhané – So Badd (Motown/Illtown)

Lost but not least! Zhané – So Badd (Motown/Illtown)

Question: what makes a piece of music timeless? Its lyrics? Its arrangements? Most likely both I would say in addition to the time gone since it first appeared. And as for the latest concern, I suppose a 19 years time is quite enough to make onself an opinion, huh?

Well, that’s pretty much what we got on ‘So Badd’. A theme about the mysteries of love and the hesitations that such a feeling engenders. Two singers who made the proof back then as to how they could outstandingly do their job. A sober approach in terms of arrangements sounding like at the crossroad between Brit-Soul and Neo-Soul, with production work courtesy of Darren Lighty and Kay Gee. Not to mention its concept borrowing elements inherited from the smooth ‘Mellow, Medllow Right On’ by the likes of Lowrell.
In other words, ‘So Badd’ had everything to become a classic, if not a hit. Meaning this track would have pretty well deserved a release as a single…

Motown obviously decided otherwise at the time. They ended up passing on it. Accordingly due to the relatively poor reception of the album and the two singles they released from it. Its title track and the Ashford & Simpson penned ‘Request Line’. This sadly resulted in the two ladies parting ways, after a couple of extra collabs with Alias LJ and Naughty By Nature. So badd at the end, isn’t it?

Overview
Renée Neufville and Jean Norris first met while attending Philadelphia’s Temple University where they used to sing together at talent shows back in the early 90’s. Not an entity as such, they used to collaborate on each other’s song. They first recorded together in 1991 at the initiative of DJ Jazzy Jeff. This resulted in a cover version of Anita Ward‘s ‘Ring My Bell’ one can find on DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s 1992 ‘Homebase’ album.

They reached their peak in the charts 2 years later with the memorable ‘Hey Mr DJ’ produced by Naughty By Nature. A cut based on a sample of Michael Wycoff‘s ‘Looking Up To You’. This getting them to sign a recording deal with Motown.

Their 1994 debut-album – ‘Pronounced Jah-Nay’- got them twice in the top 40 successively with ‘Groove Thang’ and ‘Sending My Love’. They eventually scored a 4th Top 40 hit with their cover version of Evelyn Champagne King‘s ‘Shame’. A track taken from the ‘A Low Down Dirty Shame’ OST.

Zhané kept on surfing on the hype while collaborating with De La Soul and Busta Rhymes in 1996. They released their follow-up album – ‘Saturday Night’ – the year after. It featured ‘Request Line’ which would be their last Top 40 hit and ‘So Badd’ although it never saw the light as a single.
Disappointed by the lack of reaction, they got released from their contract with Motown and eventually followed with a couple of extra collaborations before disbanding…

Jean Norris married Jazz drummer Marcus Baylor. She released the solo album, ‘Testimony: My Life’ in 2011, then a contemporary Christmas album entitled ‘Light Up The World’ the same year. The then become Jean Baylor eventually ventured into House territories 2 years after. Teamin’ up with Chicago vet producer Maurice Joshua on ‘Light Up The World’. She then joined Brandon Williams for ‘Stronger’, from his 2014 ‘XII’ album. A ballad which Reel People Music eventually licensed at the time with remix courtesy of Paris Cesvette. But also Jack 2 Jazz Records with remixing work by the likes of LooweeR 3 years later.
Last but not least, she along with Marcus Baylor, came up as The Baylor Project by the beginning of 2017. Meanwhile delivering the’ The Journey’ album on indie label Be A Light.

Renée Neufville hosted an early live Internet series called ’88 Soul’. There, she welcomed guests such as Jill Scott, Carl Thomas and Joe to name but a few. She contributed to albums and videos by the likes of India.Arie, and Will Downing. But also Aaliyah, Leela James and Heather Headley among others.
She then became involved as a keyboardist/vocalist in the Roy Hargrove’s funky jazz unit, RH Factor and figured prominently on the 2006 released ‘Distractions’ album.

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