Sunday 25 November 2012

Whatever Happened To RnB? - Jamelia

Remember when ‘Scandalous’ ruled the UK charts and Ms Dynamite was a new exciting artist? In this weekly feature, I’m going to take a look back at some of the best RnB artists of yesteryear, sharing their signature videos and underrated hits, as well as looking at what they’re up to nowadays.

Previous posts have focussed on Cassie, Ciara, Missy Elliott, Brandy, Monica, TLC, Mya, John Legend and Amerie. Today, it’s the Brits turn!

Hey Jamelia!

Jamelia has enjoyed popularity in a number of fields, including modelling and TV presenting, but she is of course most well known for her successful singing career. Signed at just 15, Jamelia has become one of the most acclaimed British RnB artists of the past decade, with a Q award, four Mobo awards and nine Brit nominations to her name. Let’s take a look back at how her career started.  

In early 2000, Jamelia released her debut single ‘So High’. The track featured a rapper called Rossitta Lynch (no, me neither) but it didn’t chart and was subsequently not included on any of Jamelia’s studio releases. The song isn’t too bad and while Jamelia would go on to create much better music later in her career, this early work shows how great her voice was from the start.

On a different label, Jamelia released her debut album ‘Drama’ later that year.

‘Drama’ didn’t have a huge impact on the charts but the lead single ‘Money’ was a big hit. Featuring US rapper Beenie Man, the video had Jamelia and her dancers dressed in extravagant period clothes and gained her a Mobo award for ‘Best Video’. I remember first hearing this song and being instantly hooked. Check it out here.

Follow-up single ‘Call Me’ didn't perform as well, only reaching #11 on the UK charts, but it’s a great mid-tempo number that showed off another side to Jamelia.

After ‘Drama’ failed to sell significant numbers, that could have been the end of Jamelia’s career but her work up to that point was acknowledged the following year with three Brit nominations; Best British Newcomer, Best British Video and Best British Female.

Jamelia returned in 2002 with her second studio album ‘Thank You’.

Lead single ‘Bout’ featured another US star, this time the female rapper Rah Digga. I loved the stronger hip-hop vibe that Jamelia returned with but it seems that the British public didn’t agree, with few people buying the song. Here’s the video. It’s a bit low budget but it’s worth a watch.

Just when I thought that Jamelia might have faded into obscurity, she followed up ‘Bout’ with the poppier single ‘Superstar’, which became a huge smash for her. This is easily one of Jamelia’s best songs and it’s easy to see why. With a ridiculously catchy chorus and a video featuring THOSE legs, Jamelia became an artist to watch.

With the success of signature hit ‘Superstar’, Jamelia re-released ‘Thank You’ and it became the biggest selling album of her career. Title track ‘Thank You’ continued the success of the album with its inspirational message and sold bucket-loads worldwide. It could have been a cheesy ballad but Jamelia transforms ‘Thank You’ into an uplifting stylish pop song.

One of the new songs included on the re-release was fourth single ‘See It In A Boys Eyes’, which was co-written by Coldplay’s Chris Martin and eventually won a Q Award for Best Single. I absolutely love this song with its unusual tone that has an almost indie feel to it. This is definitely one of my favourite Jamelia songs and the video is great too, featuring the star training with an army unit years before Katy Perry shot the ‘Part Of Me’ promo.

The next single was also included on the soundtrack to ‘Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason’ but don’t let that put you off. Jamelia’s version of the 1988 hit ‘Stop’ (originally sung by Sam Brown), is a great power ballad that shows off the range in her voice and sure it’s a little bit over the top but it’s still impressive nonetheless.

‘Stop’ was released in the UK as a double A side with the track ‘DJ’. The video is not her best but I love the song as it saw a return to Jamelia’s RnB roots and I wish it had been promoted more by the label.

There were lots of other great tracks on ‘Thank You’ which could have been released as singles, but my highlights were ‘Taxi’, ‘Dirty Dirty’ and ‘B.I.T.C.H.’. Each of these songs show a darker edge to Jamelia than the singles would have you believe and they're perhaps more representative of her as an artist. She even raps on a couple of them! Now I know what you’re thinking but she sounds much better at it than other RnB artists such as Brandy and Mary J Blige who have also had a go with less success. Here’s ‘Dirty Dirty’,

‘I know you’re probably expecting a ballad but I can throw a rhyme around like I’m tossing a salad!’

After the success of her second album, Jamelia performed a cover of Linkin Park’s single ‘Numb’ for the BBC’s Live Lounge. This for me, is one of the best Live Lounge covers I’ve ever heard. Nothing about it should work but Jamelia’s voice just sounds incredible on the track, full of raw emotion and the last 40 seconds genuinely give me chills. Amazing.

Jamelia released her third studio album ‘Walk With Me’ in 2006, which saw the singer return with a more experimental pop sound.

Lead single ‘Something About You’ was well received critically but didn't prove to be as successful as previous hits ‘Superstar’ and ‘Thank You’. Personally though, I think that it is easily one of Jamelia’s best singles and deserves more recognition than it received from the music buying public. Perhaps it’s unwise to lead an album release with a mid-tempo track but when the song is this good, it shouldn’t matter. Watch ‘Something About You’ here if you need a reminder of how beautiful and sweet the song is.

Second single ‘Beware Of The Dog’ shows Jamelia on sassier form, with rock-style production and a sample from Depeche Mode’s classic ‘Personal Jesus’. I do like this one but I feel that there were better songs on the album that she could have released. Watch the Ray Kay directed black and white promo here.

The final single from ‘Walk With Me’ includes another classic sample, this time from the song ‘Golden Brown’, which was originally sung by The Stranglers. When I heard that Jamelia was going to use this sample, I wasn’t sure if it would work but ‘No More’ is a fantastic song that shows off the emotion in her voice. Unfortunately though, ‘No More’ didn’t even reach the top 40 and became one of Jamelia’s lowest selling singles to date.

While ‘Walk With Me’ lacks the cohesion of Jamelia’s previous album, there are still a number of great songs that can be found  on this collection, including ‘La La Love’, which is just a simple yet beautiful track about being happy in love.

Another highlight for me from the album is the track ‘Go’. This powerful song chronicles the end of a relationship, when the person has just had enough and can no longer carry on as before. Jamelia’s voice is just stunning on this song, as you can hear on this live performance of the track from a T4 special.

After disputes with her label, Jamelia released a greatest hits collection called ‘Superstar – The Hits’. The album had no new songs or even a single to promote its release and so it became Jamelia’s lowest charting release to date.

After the lacklustre sales of her recent albums, Jamelia left her label and began to pursue other interests. In 2007, Jamelia co-hosted the Mobo Awards with rapper Shaggy and later that year, Jamelia performed a cover of the classic Outkast song ‘Hey Ya’ on the ITV show ‘Saturday Night Divas’, bringing her usual high energy to the performance.

In the years since ‘Walk With Me’ was released, Jamelia has taken part in a number of modelling and TV projects, including the BBC Preston Passion show, where she sung a cover of ‘You’ve Got The Love’. The clip that I have is pretty poor quality but its shows that Jamelia’s voice still sounds amazing!

Jamelia has recently announced that she will be a coach on the Irish version of ‘The Voice’, which will hopefully provide the singer with a platform for her comeback. She is currently working on a new album in the studio, tentatively titled ‘Rebel, which should see the light of day at some point in 2013. A demo of the song ‘Loving Me’ has been leaked to mixed reactions but I’m still excited to hear some new material from the superstar as she’s been away from the music scene for far too long!

What’s your favourite Jamelia song? And are you excited at the prospect of a comeback? Remember to comment, share and like below. And come back next Sunday for another edition of 'Whatever Happened to RnB?' Thanks!


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