Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BACK IN THE DAY: It's A 'Blaque Out'

2012 brings the revival of my Back in the Day columns, speaking about pop music material from ten years prior, so from here on out, our Year of Pop 2002. In January of 2002, I was still a Freshman in High School (waiting on bated breath for a fourth *NSYNC album that would never come). First up is a girl group I've mentioned once before in this column.

Blaque, a pop-meets-urban trio who saw some success in the late 90's with their Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes-assisted 1999 debut album Blaque, has always remained a question mark in my mind. The majority of this reasoning is becaue their debut record became more than a staple to me during this period.

Their sound and appeal was basically a younger version of TLC gone pop, trading the Fanmail era's space-suits for neon color blocking, bubble wrap and pacifiers (in fact, they even opened for the ladies during the Fanmail tour). Many tossed them off in favor of some of their contemporaries, the biggest being 3LW. Not I -- as Blaque was fully stacked to yours truly. Admittedly, I gathered interest at first due to a bemusing collaboration with *NSYNC's other frontman, but I stayed for other, more R&B-flavored cuts, like "808".

While the momentum rolled in the aftermath of the commercial success of Blaque, Lady Luck was apparently not on Blaque's side. The group recorded a darker followup record, eschewing the bubblegum for "blaque" skin-baring outfits, dubbed Blaque Out which included first single "Can't Get It Back" (which would later be re-recorded and released internationally by UK girl group Mis-Teeq), but Columbia Records wasn't feeling the vibe, shelving the record. The group was dropped. The album was eventually released in modified version in Japan in early 2002 (hence the inclusion in this 'BITD') and in America later (as in five years later) quietly via iTunes. My personal favorite was one of the record's more frenetic up tempos (and the album's namesake) -- the stop & go "Blaque Out".

April 2002 brought on the unexpected death of their mentor and biggest champion in Left Eye, but the group carried on, signing with Elecktra Records and Music World Entertainment (read: Matthew Knowles, Beyonce's poppa) and began recording a third record, Torch, which included bass-heavy, Darkchild-produced first single "I'm Good", which was used in the film Honey. Again, the album was shelved and the group was dropped.

After two shelved records, rapper Natina (often compared to Left Eye for her sound and style) left music entirely, while the group's two singers went on to solo contracts. However, the split didn't last long, and the group reformed in late 2004/early 2005, and began work on a fourth record, dubbed Private Show.

Now seven years later, confirmation of Blaque's status has been little to none. Natina still lists herself as a member of Blaque on her Twitter account, but her official website no longer functions. Shamari, one of the group's main singers, married Ronnie Devoe of Bell Biv Devoe/New Edition fame. Brandi also appears to be pursuing music, on a solo front, per her Twitter. While it appears that a Blaque reunion is not necessarily off the table, it clearly doesn't seem to be the primary focus for any of the ladies.

As mentioned, Blaque Out is now available for purchase on iTunes, or for your perusal on Spotify.

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