If there were a show on UPN to catalog the recent trend in the world of R&B, it would be called the Making of an R&B Princess. Several different musical camps are pushing their nomination to the throne with Murder Inc.‘s Ashanti, Dr. Dre’s Truth Hurts, and Missy and Timbaland’s Tweet, making it hard for the average listener to discern one common voice from the next. Notice the use of the word princess. At least someone is smart enough not to have them compete against the reigning queen of hip-hop/soul, Mary J. Blige.
But the recipe doesn’t seem that hard: take an attractive woman, let her sing about love over a catchy beat, have her seductively dressed in a video and bam—you have an R&B princess. Where talent fits in the recipe, I am unsure, but these days it isn’t talent that makes an R&B singer popular.
So it is only fitting that the weirdly hypnotic production duo, Missy and Timbaland use their keen sense of what sells to manufacture a charming, long-legged songbird, Tweet. As much as people hate to it admit it, including myself sometimes, Missy and Timbaland have mastered the art of the catchy beat.
Next they followed the logical steps of introducing Tweet to the world on Missy’s “Take Away”. At this time, the audience is supposed to wonder who is that mystery girl singing and playing the harp in the video? Before our curiosity makes us restless, they drop the bomb. Oops, Tweet’s first single is a grown folks song exploring the things women do, “oh my” when our shirts go over our head and our skirts drop to our feet. Not only were the lyrics necessarily seductive, giving women a sweet sense of power, they were coupled with one of the craziest beats from the dangerous duo since Missy’s “Get Ur Freak On”.
Tweet’s second single, “Call Me” uses the same appetizing formula as “Oops”, making it an unequivocal club hit. This makes the competition for R&B Princess stiff, with Ashanti in the lead. But Tweet is in a close second thanks to her commercial deal with Sprint (I am still wondering how Missy and Timbo worked that out).
Surprisingly though, Southern Hummingbird is not Missy and Timbaland’s playground. This is a good thing because as appealing as Oops is, one can not create an entire album from it (i.e. Timbaland and Magoo’s failed attempt). Tweet instead blends smooth, sensual, break-out-the-candles grooves that scintillate the senses. “Beautiful”, “Heaven”, and “Complain” possess the power to conjure reminiscent loves and future passions. Even more attractive, in “Best Friend”, Tweet sings a sexy duet with Bilal whose high falsetto actually works.
Then there is “Smoking Cigarettes”, that if you can get past the borderline cheesy lyrics, is a creative, but honest look at waiting around for love. “Drunk”, I had to save for last, because it left me speechless. The first time I heard it, I thought it was another sexual lubricant, with its sluggish and enigmatic vibe, only to listen more intently and hear a story of alcoholism. Whoa, didn’t expect that. Then again I didn’t expect her to enlist other producers besides the dangerous duo. But who doesn’t like surprises?
Point being, different music serves different purposes. Southern Hummingbird is best serve with wine, that special someone, and candles. It goes down better if you concentrate more on her charming voice and the tracks, rather what she is actually saying.
However, in the bigger scheme of things, the race for R&B princess, whether Tweet wins or loses, she can at least be pleased that she ran an honest and well-rounded race.
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// Notes from the Road
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