Sunday, 4 November 2012

Whatever Happened To RnB? - Mya

Remember when ‘Foolish’ ruled the charts and Mary J Blige still sang with some emotion? 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 and TLC. Today, the focus is on Mya, one of my favourite and most underrated RnB singers.

Hey Mya!

Mya was one of the more popular female RnB artists of the late 90s and early 2000s, due to both her smooth vocals and killer dance moves but she also had talent behind the scenes, writing and co-producing the majority of her output. However, after issues with her label, Mya's popularity began to decline in the mid 2000s and her presence in the music scene is now fairly limited. Mya has also had a somewhat successful acting career in films such as 'Cursed', 'Dirty Dancing 2' and 'Chicago'. More on that later.

Mya was signed at the tender age of 16, and released her first album in 1998.

This self-titled effort included production from hitmakers such as Missy Elliott and Babyface, spawning the lead single 'It's All About Me', which featured Sisqo back when he was with Dru Hill.

Loving the Asian backgrounds and bin bag clothes!

Around this time, Mya was also featured on one of the biggest hip-hop songs of 1998, collaborating with Pras and Ol' Dirty Bastard on 'Ghetto Superstar'. The grammy nominated anthem blew up huge and across the world, music fans were exposed to Mya's distinctive style and voice. Here's the classic video. 

And Halle Berry's in it too! What more could you ask for!?

That year also saw Mya release a single for the 'Rugrats' movie, 'Take Me There'. This collaboration with Blackstreet, Mase and Blinky Blink (!?) is not quite the classic that 'Ghetto Superstar' is but the song was still a hit and helped to consolidate Mya's presence on the RnB scene. Here's the brightly coloured video.

In 2000, Mya released yet another popular collaboration, this time with Beenie Man on the reggae flavoured track 'Girls Dem Sugar'. I fell in love with this Neptunes produced song on first hearing and with the crossover of reggae into mainstream hip-hop, it became a huge smash for both Mya and Benie Man internationally.


With all of these awesome collaborations, some may have wondered whether Mya could have a success with her solo follow up album but the platinum selling 'Fear of Flying' put any fears to rest, with the biggest single release of her career.

'Case of the Ex' was released in 2000 to huge commercial success and became Mya's signature hit worldwide. For me, it's just the perfect RnB track, with jittery hip-hop production from Tricky and attitude oozing out of Mya's every word. The video is also fantastic, finally showing off Mya's dance skills properly in a cool desert setting. This has to be up there with the best RnB tracks of the era, including 'No Scrubs' and 'Try Again', even if it's not as well known. Here's the video. I've watched it five times already just writing this post!

'And you told me that she turned trick when y'all broke up in '96'

It would be tough for anyone to follow up such a classic track but the second single, 'Free', was also a big hit for Mya. This uptempo number was co-written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and with a video that features numerous dance routines, comparisons to Ms Janet Jackson became inevitable. I wish more singers would perform like Mya and JJ still!

'So why procrastinate?' Loving the pigtails!

The release of single 'Best Of Me' is slightly confusing in that it was released first in some regions and last in other places but for me, it was the third and final single from 'Fear of Flying'. To confuse things further, there are also two version of the track; one features a Jadakiss rap and the other one has Jay-Z making a guest appearance. Out of the three singles, this is the least commercial release, with a chilled RnB vibe that showcases Mya's beautiful voice. Here's the Jadakiss version, which I prefer because I used to listen to it on repeat off the album.

While critics were mixed about 'Fear of Flying' as a whole, I fell in love with the album, despite it being slightly overlong. My two favourite album tracks both feature popular rappers of the time and it's hard to choose one to share here, so I'll post them both. It's my blog godammit! Ha anyways, here's 'Taking Me Over', featuring TLC member Left-Eye and 'The Lie Detector', a reunion with reggae star Beenie Man.

That song is just so much fun to listen to and always puts a smile on my face.

I love the concept behind Lie Detector' and while the lyrics are slightly daytime soapy, the drama of it just works for me!!!

2001 saw Mya's success continue to go from strength to strength, and with the release of smash hit 'Lady Marmalade, her career was at an all time high. The song became one of the biggest tracks of the year and alongside Pink, Lil Kim and Christina Aguilera, Mya won her first and only grammy to date for 'Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals'. I remember when I came home from school one day and first saw the video on MTV; I was just blown away by the Moulin Rouge style promo with all these amazing women together on one song. There are few live performances of this track due to the busy schedule of each star but the group came together for a special performance at the MTV Movie Awards. Mya opens the song with her sexy dancing in the first verse but they all do a great job here. Enjoy!

Mya featured in an another amazing performance that year, as part of a Janet Jackson tribute show, where she and other stars danced to some of Janet's classic songs. If anyone has ever doubted Mya's dancing ability then watch her move to 'Pleasure Principle', and then again in the group dance for 'Rhythm Nation' with Pink and Usher. Amazing.

In 2002, Mya bagged a role in her most successful film appearance to date, Chicago. The film went on to win numerous awards but my favourite part is the prison number 'Cell Block Tango', where Mya shows off her dangerous yet sexy side.

2003 was the year that Mya followed up 'Fear of Flying' with her third studio album, 'Moodring'.

'Moodring' received positive reviews and sold more in its first week of release than any of her other albums to date. Mya also wrote the vast majority of 'Moodring' and it featured a number of popular producers including Ron Fair, Timbaland and Rockwilder. This is one of my favourite Mya albums, despite it being slightly overlong at 16 tracks and she led its release with one of her best singles, 'My Love Is Like Wo..', which was co-written by Missy Elliott. I remember coming home from school and watching the MTV Making of the Video for this one and just loving it instantly.

'My ass is like wo!'

The song was another hit worldwide for Mya, despite the bizarre tap interlude, but I also loved the B-side, 'Little Too Much, Little Too Late', which showed a softer side to Mya, scorned by love.

Unfortunately, follow up single 'Fallen' did not perform as well, failing to set the charts alight and consequently, this became the final single release from 'Moodring'. Personally, I loved this mid-tempo song and thought that her sweet vocals fitted the track perfectly. Judge for yourself here.

How big is that bath?!

Had the label allowed Mya to release another single from 'Moodring', I think the Timbaland produced 'Step' would have been an obvious choice. Mya is always at her best when she's showing off her sass and this uptempo number is all about telling another girl to push off and stay away from her man. This would have been such a great single!!! See what you think.

After the lack of promotion that 'Moodring' received, Mya decided to leave Interscope Records but her fourth album 'Liberation' was plagued with budget cuts and numerous delays.

As a result of this, 'Liberation' was only released in Japan and just in download form. I remember checking the internet contantly around this time to see when the album would be released in the UK but ultimately, it never came. This is a shame as the two singles that Mya released from 'Liberation' were really promising, despite performing poorly on radio in America. First single 'Lock You Down' featured Lil Wayne on a fun dance track about keeping your man. I'm surprised this one didn't sell particularly well as Lil Wayne was huge at the time and it's a catchy little song.

Despite the poor performance of this track, Mya went on to release another promo for the album, this time for the smooth RnB jam 'Ridin', which is about trying to find your man after he's left.

'Ridin' was more successful than 'Lock You Down' but once again, Mya received a lack of promotion from her label, which must have been frustrating after she had been so successful just a few short years earlier.

Around this time, Mya recorded a song to support Lifetime's 13th annual Stop Breast Cancer For Life Campaign, titled 'My Bra'. The track isn't very well known but it's a nice reminder of how beautiful Mya's voice can be and it also has a great message, despite it's silly title.

At the end of 2008, Mya independently released her fifth studio album 'Sugar and Spice' exclusively in Japan, due to the success of 'Liberation' over there.

Mya was executive producer for this album, which only saw one single release titled 'Paradise'. It's a nice song but the video plays it a bit safe with a small budget and the track doesn't hit you instantly but her voice sounds as good as ever.

In 2009, Mya decided to release a mixtape titled 'Beauty and the Streets; Vol 1' to appeal once more to her US market.

Featuring heavier beats and numerous guest rappers such as Slim Thug and Chamillionnaire, the mixtape served as a stopgap for Mya between albums. To promote the release, Mya filmed a black and white video for the song 'Show Me Something'. It's an ok song but doesn't match up to the standard of her album releases. Here's the video. 

The most interesting track off this release for me is the song 'Ponytail', which features Nicki Minaj before she made her breakthrough onto the scene. God knows what the song is actually about but I like the chorus and it's interesting to hear a younger Minaj before she became more commercial.

Returning to her Japanese market, Mya released her sixth studio album 'K.I.S.S.' in 2011 and in December of that year, the album was also released digitally in the US, making this her first release there since 'Moodring'.

'K.I.S.S.' had some big name guests, including Sean Paul and Marques Houston but the album performed poorly in both Japan and the US, despite Mya releasing a number of singles. Here's the club banger 'Earthquake', featuring Trina on guest rap duty.

My other favourite single from 'K.IS.S.' is the song 'Running Back' featuring Iyaz, which shows Mya returning more to her RnB roots.

The problem with this album release though is that the quality of the songs is just not up to Mya's usual standard and I found the whole thing a bit lacking. It's not that the songs are terrible but they just don't stand up well when you listen to the rest of Mya's back catalogue. 

Mya is currently working on new material and has stated that she is open to working with a major label again if the situation presents itself. I personally think that would be the perfect thing for her career right now as she is still young and is extremely talented. Given the right backing, I could definitely see Mya back on the popular RnB scene once again.

If you have enjoyed looking back at Mya's biggest hits, as well as some of her most underrated work, let me know by commenting, liking and sharing below. And come back next Sunday for another edition of 'Whatever Happened To RnB?'. 


  1. i think Mya readly needs a major label because it seem's that her best work are not release. she'll work harder with a major label then indenpent.

    1. I completely agree, would love to see Mya with a major label again. Nothing she's released since Moodring matches up to that standard, which is such a shame because she's so good!!!

  2. Mya + Major Label Budget = Epic Comeback