Sunday 30 December 2012

Whatever Happened To RnB? - Tweet

Remember when Aaliyah ruled the charts and Toni Braxton was still relevant? 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 John Legend, Amerie, Jamelia, Christmas RnB classics and Macy Gray. Today, it’s Tweet's turn!

Hey Tweet!

Poor Tweet. Social networking may have nabbed her stage name but I still love her. What is it about all these underrated RnB artists that I love so much?

Tweet made a big impact on the music scene back in 2002 with her controversial debut single but the singer had been working on material long before that. A friendship with the Swing Mob Collective back in the 90s proved fruitful a few years later when members Timbaland and Missy Elliott enlisted Tweet to provide backing vocals for a number of their hits. Tweet's smooth rich voice perfectly complimented Timbaland's production style at the time but if you listen to the tracks she's on, it becomes clear that Tweet was always destined for far more than just working in the background, as you can actually hear her far more clearly on the songs than you would most backing singers. An appearance in Missy's video for Aaliyah tribute 'Take Away' in 2001 created buzz around the upcoming RnB star.

"I just wanna be the perfect match. You don't even have to ask."

Tweet's debut studio album 'Southern Hummingbird' was released soon after in 2002 to critical acclaim. Her unique voice combined with an extraordinary songwriting talent set Tweet apart from her poppier contemporaries who wouldn't have known the first thing about playing their own instruments. This is not what first caught the public's attention however. 

Lead single 'Oops (Oh My) features a seriously raunchy Missy Elliott rap and a bouncing hypnotic beat from Timbaland but what makes the song so memorable is its lyrical content. Releasing a track about the joys of masturbation would be a risky move for a major player so for Tweet to record this as her very first single took some balls, but it paid off. Tweet's seductive voice and slinky dance moves created an unforgettable first single that proved to be far more than just a gimmick. Just watch out for Missy getting a bit too hot under the collar!

"Ummm I was eyeing my thighs butter pecan brown."

Follow up single 'Call Me' was another slice of slinky RnB that featured a seductive Timbaland beat and Tweet's sexy vocal but the song didn't perform as well as its predecessor. I absolutely loved it though and in many ways, I actually prefer 'Call Me' to 'Oops'. 

"I'll be sure to meet you with no panties on. We can slip and slide, we can take a ride."

Third single 'Smoking Cigarettes' became a radio single that ultimately never received the video treatment, which is such a shame because the song shows off a whole other side to the singer. Tweet co-wrote every track on the album and while she's fantastic at doing the sexy RnB thing, many of her tracks were actually stripped down acoustic affairs that allowed the artist to play her guitar while singing about actual issues and not just sexy dancing like many other artists from the time. 'Smoking Cigarettes' is a great example of this and was a particular highlight for both fans and critics upon the album's release. 

"Nervous and trembling, smoking cigarettes at night."

While Tweet only ended up releasing three singles from 'Southern Hummingbird', the album track 'Boogie 2nite' caused quite a stir on the radio and was originally intended to be a promotional release. Many UK music fans might also recognise the song from a cover by pop duo Booty Luv who took the track and added a heavier club beat. Tweet's original is far more impressive however, with a cool retro vibe that shows yet another side to the singers talent. It's just so annoying that someone else had a hit with this song when Tweet actually wrote it and performed it first! Stupid label!

"Stay here if you want to, say what you want, but I gots to party, I needs me a party."

If I had to choose one favourite track off 'Southern Hummingbird', it would have to be 'Motel'. While the song has a similar acoustic vibe to 'Smoking Cigarettes', the lyrics and vocal are far more heartfelt and you can really feel the pain in Tweet's voice as she sings about her lover's infidelity. I'm glad this wasn't a single in some ways as its such a personal track for fans of the album but I would have loved more people to have heard this song. Tweet was overlooked by the public far too quickly and with the right promotion, this song could have perhaps changed their minds.

"Go to hell baby. Cause I know I saw you go into a motel." 

'Sexual Healing (Oops pt 2)' closed the album with another sexual RnB number that featured female rapper Ms Jade. While the track would not have worked as a single, I love its raunchy vibe and it works great as a sequel to Tweet's debut song. What I love about Tweet is that she can perform all this sexy material without ever coming across as vulgar or crass. Not sure if I can say the same thing about Ms Jade though ha! If you're a fan of 'Oops (Oh My)' then check out this track now. My favourite bit has to be the record skipping breakdown near the end. Classic Timbaland. Just don't click below if you're easily offended by sexual lyrics.

"Taught my heart, ooooh, to reduce its giving, ooooh."

After the success of her debut album, Tweet began to work with a range of other artists, often in collaboration with her mentor Missy Elliott. One of my favourites from around this time is Trina's single 'No Panties' which was released to promote her album 'Diamond Princess' and features Tweet on the choruses and backing vocals. The track was written and produced by Missy Elliott and its vibe slots in well with Tweet's previous single releases off 'Southern Hummingbird'. Watch out for the explicit lyrical content though!

"Hey playa what's the word? Watch these hips, don't you like these curves?"

Around this time, Tweet also collaborated with Missy Elliott on a remix for Madonna's single 'American Life'. Many detractors criticised Madonna for this song, particularly when she starts rapping about driving a mini cooper but I quite like the remix, which features a great Missy rap and some chilled out vocals from Tweet. The song is still as ridiculous as ever but click below to hear an interesting version. Just watch out for yet more swearing!

"Missy and Madonna boy, ain't nothing better, hotter than fat b****es dancing in a sweater."

In 2003, Tweet made a brief foray into acting with a small role in the Jessica Alba star vehicle 'Honey', which also featured Missy Elliott due to the strong hip-hop vibe of the film. Tweet plays herself and her main part in the film shows her filming a music video for a song called 'Hypnotic', which she never actually released in the real world. I love it though and I think it could have been a banging single but for some reason, it was never even included on the soundtrack! Here's a clip of Tweet performing the song in the film.

"You got the right moves, I can only imagine what you might do."

Tweet did record another song for the soundtrack however, titled 'Thugman'. The track features Missy Elliott rapping while doing her usual grunting and shout outs in the background. 'Thugman' is an ok song but I think 'Hypnotic' would have been a much better contribution to the 'Honey' soundtrack. Make up your own mind by clicking below.

"But loving me is my baby's job occupation."

Around this time, an unreleased Aaliyah track was leaked which features Missy Elliott and Tweet on backing vocals, titled 'Where Could He Be?'. I'm a massive Aaliyah fan and was really excited to discover this song a few years later. Admittedly, Tweet can't be heard much on the track until near the end but I thought it was still worth sharing. If you're a fan of Aaliyah as well then you can hear some more underrated releases by her just here.  

"Let me walk the streets through snow and sleet until I find my baby."

2005 saw the release of Tweet's second studio release titled 'It's Me Again'. While the album didn't enjoy as much success as her debut, I actually think this is a far stronger collection of songs as a whole, despite it not having a lead single as strong as 'Oops'.

'Turn Da Lights Off' is still a great song however and features some charming old school production from Missy Elliott. The track saw Tweet move away from her somewhat sexualised debut in favour of a more souful vibe that suits her voice well. Unfortunately, 'Turn Da Lights Off' was not the huge smash that Tweet was hoping for and the track ended up being the only proper single from the album that would receive a music promo. More on that later.

"You gotta put the needle back on the record (turn da lights off)"

The rest of the album was mostly written by Tweet herself and featured very little production from Missy Elliott and Timbaland, unlike the previous album, which gave this release a different, more organic vibe. 'Cab Ride' is a great example of this and is easily one of my favourite tracks off 'It's Me Again'. The song features a sample of the theme tune to the TV show 'Taxi' which shouldn't work but is actually quite sweet and suits the chilled out vibe of the song well.

"Taxi, take me to his home. I wanna give him all of me because I'm alone."
'It's Me Again' wasn't all slow jams and acoustic guitar plucking however, as album track 'Sports, Sex and Food' proves. Tweet shows off her sass on this uptempo number which teaches women how to grab themselves a man by knowing all the rules to football and cooking a good meal. It sounds silly but Tweet does a great job with the track, using humorous lyrics to hook the listener in. 'Sports, Sex and Food' shoudl definitely have been a single.   

"If you wanna know the way I'll show ya. Gather round girls listen closer."

The end of the album takes another break from the slower jams with the Missy produced track 'We Don't Need No Water', which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me lyrically but I love Tweet's attitude on the song. I would have liked to have heard more songs like this peppered throughout the album to mix things up more. And wouldn't this have made a great single? No one sings a club smash like Tweet!

"Go ahead and do your damn thing, damn thing and let your body move."

Just as it seems like the album has ended, Tweet sneaks a little bonus track on the end called 'When I Need A Man', which was actually the theme song from the TV show 'Kojak' which starred Ving Rhames. A promo was released for the track but it feels like it was only done as a tie-in for the show, rather than being a proper video made to promote Tweet's album. The song is great though and shows off Tweet's vocals really well. Check it out.

"Who loves you baby? Well, I guess I must admit, it's me."

In 2008, Tweet joined other RnB soul artists such as Bilal and Dwele to sing with the Dresden Soul Symphony, covering a number of classic soul hits backed by classical instruments. Tweet sounds phenomenal on their version of the brilliant song 'Midnight Train To Georgia', which was originally sung by Gladys Knight and the Pips. 

After Tweet saw sales decline for her second album 'It's Me Again' amidst problems with her label, the soul singer struggled to get her next project off the ground. Numerous songs have leaked online since 2008, when Tweet first announced that she was working on her third album, titled 'Love Tweet'.

A collaboration with rapper T.I. called 'My Dear' was rumoured to be the first single release from the album but four years have passed since this was first announced. Nonetheless, 'My Dear' is a beautiful mid-tempo track about the struggle to end a relationship when you know its no good, despite still being in love with the person. This would have been SUCH a good single!

'Do this over and over but no more shorty, this time it's for sure."

Another song called 'Anymore' leaked around the same time and while this mid-tempo number doesn't grab you as quickly as 'My Dear', it's a grower and is definitely worth a listen.

"It's like I don't know you anymore."

The last song leaked from the 'Love, Tweet' sessions that I wanted to share with you is called 'Love Again'. It's a lovely chilled out number which reminds fans just how soft and tender Tweet's voice can be. This would sound great on a new album. Come on Tweet! Sort it out!

"There's something in my heart that's telling me to take a chance."

In 2012, Tweet began posting some songs online in anticipation of her new album FINALLY being released soon. A highlight from these sessions is a cover of Aretha Franklin's classic 'Day Dreaming'. I think it was very brave of Tweet to tackle a song by the Queen of Soul but she does a great job here, showing off the unique tone of her voice and its gentle, sweet vibe. I love it.

"Hey baby let's get away. Let's go some place huh?"

All of this reminiscing has left me craving a new Tweet album yet like so many other RnB artists at the moment, the project is still yet to see the light of the day. When 'Love, Tweet' is finally released however, I for one will be at the front of the queue for a copy as I cannot get enough of that incredible voice. 

Could Tweet be one of the most underrated RnB artists of all time? What's your favourite single release and do you have a cherished album track that should have received the video treatment? Let me know what you think by commenting, liking and sharing below. And remember to come back next Sunday for another edition of Whatever Happened To RnB?

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