Music

Truth Hurts: Truthfully Speaking

J. Victoria Sanders

Truth Hurts

Truthfully Speaking

Label: Aftermath
US Release Date: 2002-06-25
UK Release Date: 2002-08-12
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Truthfully Speaking is appropriate listening for a energetic Saturday afternoon, it's fit for a spin in the car stereo and ripe for contemporary feminist musing. Much of what defines St. Louis native Shari Watson, better known as Truth Hurts, as an artist, stems from her forceful vocal styling. While The Dr. Dre-produced femme fatale evidently has the goods to be brutally honest between the thick beats and catchy hooks on this 14-track debut, what exactly she's telling the truth about remains elusive. Certainly, some of her personal mores are made clear -- she won't take your, um, nonsense and she's just looking to have a good time, but sometimes she just wants to be held.

That's her truth, and there's not much more to her than that.

"Next to Me" is an elegant song about love beyond the lure of sex. The music, produced by Focus . . ., is tender where Truth Hurts isn't. So, the sticky-sweet track evokes intimacy, but Truth still sounds annoyed. One of her strengths is that her vocal presence is always at the forefront of her material. But her weakness is that she lacks musical nuance. She has a powerhouse of a voice and surely her classical music training helped her hone the crisp tones of it, but each of her songs carries the weight of her attitude. There is really no variation in her voice when she is singing about tenderness versus tragedy, which might be one of the drawbacks of the sub-genre she's landed in.

Truth Hurts is the newest exponent of hip-hop tinged R&B, a musical purgatory that has no boundaries and reaches as far back as Mary J. Blige's 1992 debut, but has yet to be duplicated with the cohesive sassiness and sincerity of What's The 411?. "Grown" evokes some gritty authenticity: "I'm grown / I want to feel free to release if that's the way I'm feeling . . . / I wanna believe I can be who I am to me / If I feel disrespected, then that should be respected above restrictions or opinions," she asserts. She is a vulnerable version of the sex kitten and one-hit wonder Adina Howard with a much better voice but similar one-dimensional lyrics.

"I'm Not Really Lookin'" is the prerequisite party jam and it smacks of a girls-night-out-please-don't-ask-me-for-my-number sensibility. DJ Quik's production here, like on "Addictive", is radio-friendly and, by default, a quick aural fix. Both songs are among the highlights on the album, but then, the truth takes a bitter turn. "Queen of the Ghetto" is an embarrassing anthem featuring Cita (an animated character from Black Entertainment Television) glorifying all manner of raw feminine hustling. "Real" is a bit more respectable in that regard, but "Do Me" -- one of two ballads on the album, falls short. (Being a hardcore and ruthless chick doesn't tend to go over well in slow songs.)

The same is true for "The Truth" which sounds like something Beyonce of Destiny's Child would sing if she allowed herself to get pissed off enough to curse her man off on record. It's atypical of the my-man-did-me-wrong catalog in the sense that she's calling out men for being dishonest in relationships with a take no prisoners attitude. Somewhere between the sentiment and the weak contribution of R.Kelly -- who is, unfortunately, responsible for penning this tepid musical catastrophe and even adds a verse -- not much is believable about the song. Maybe the remix will be better.

The problem for Truth Hurts is that her no-nonsense, ghetto bitch persona has already been done and re-done several times. Her voice, while beautiful and capable of far more than the material on Truthfully Speaking can support, is smothered by trite concepts and weak lyrics. The sentiment is there, which is usually the part missing for other bland hip-hop R&B singers- - but what could make her distinctive is mired in a marketing package fit for a heifer and mundane topic matters.

When anyone offers you a painful dose of reality, either you can reasonably expect to glimpse a side of someone's personal truth which either lead to some sort of personal epiphany or it will make you shrug your shoulders and say "Hey, everyone has their version of the truth". Truthfully Speaking does the latter: it's a simple album filled with plenty of vocal potential but misses the mark with it's overall simplicity.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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