Saturday, February 15, 2014

BACK IN THE DAY: Zhané Says "Hey, Mr. D.J."

It's been a second since we talked oldies, right? Rather limiting my "Back In The Days" to ten years prior, I've decided to expand this scope considerably in light of how high the nostalgia meters are hitting for me at the moment.

So...what we're gonna do right now is go back...

The year was 1994 -- twenty years ago. It was a time when females were rising blue chips in the R&B and Hip Hop game dominated by men. Queen Latifah called for "U.N.I.T.Y." TLC had already changed the game a few years prior with "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg" and "What About Your Friends" and in November, they would drop CrazySexyCool. And a duo group blending hip hop beats with sophisticated soul and a splash of the dance sound popular in the early 90's would unveil their underrated debut album on February 15th -- Pronounced Jay-Nay. They were called Zhané.

The duo, made up of young vocalists and college friends Jean Norris and Renee Neufville, formed after supplying vocals together to a DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince revisioning of Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" -- the largely forgotten follow-up single to their 90's smash "Summertime". What resulted was their first single, "Hey, Mr. D.J.", released in mid-1993 (largely built around a sample of Michael Wycoff's "Looking Up To You") -- an 90's smash that peaked just outside the Top 5 in the Hot 100. It has a laid-back disco (oxymoron?) feel that is utterly irresistible...

The released several singles following "Hey, Mr. D.J.", but none would match its success. Shame, because Pronounced Jay-Nay is full of sultry, chilly R&B that is so sadly absent in today's mainstream. My favorite is "Vibe", which solidly walks the line between fiercer hip hop (the production itself feels like it could have lent itself to a 2Pac jam) and thicker harmonies -- like it wouldn't be too far out of place on an Xscape album. More than a few of the songs on the album were co-written and produced by Naughty By Nature (yeah, you know me! -- DJ Kay Gee was one of Zhané's main producers). The album went on to sell over a million copies in the US.

A few years later, "Hey, Mr. D.J." would be revived by an unlikely source when the Spice Girls lifted it for their album cut "Something Kinda Funny", off their debut album, Spice. Girl Talk would also reference the song in 2003's "Cleveland, Shake". 

The group released two albums before disbanding (the second was called Saturday Night was released in 1997).

BONUS! Here's more throwbacks to jams tellin' the DJ to play that song (on and on and on and on)...

ANGIE STONE - "Hey Mr. DJ" (2009)
A fun vibey album cut from Angie's 2009 effort Unexpected.

BACKSTREET BOYS - "Hey Mr. DJ (Keep Playin' This Song)" (1997)
Dirty and a little dangerous for a boy band in its original incarnation but then again, this was the late 90's and there was no question how influenced BSB was by 90's R&B (much more so than my faves in *NSYNC and I have no qualms admitting to that). This sounds like it is a relic from 1994 (and it very well might have been -- much of their debut recordings were from 1995-1996 studio sessions) and AJ McLean owns his sexual lyric delivery.

ROBBIE WILLIAMS - "Rock DJ" (2000)
Robbie's all up in his unabashed element. We basically remember it from the video -- remember when he literally ripped his skin off and was throwing muscle at people? We legit don't make videos like this anymore.

JENNIFER LOPEZ - "Play" (2001)
One of J.Lo's lesser remembered hits from her early 00's hey-day when I was back in high school. The song is so pristine, it's not surprising its a Swedish production (especially given its time period of popularity). It was co-written by Anders Bagge (98 Degrees' "Because of You", Janet's "All Nite (Don't Stop)", Jessica Simpson's "Irresistible", a million others) and Christina Milian, who supplies backing vocal and makes me think it might have been a demo for herself before being passed to Lopez.

JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS - "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" (1982)
Quintessential...even if the DJ is your friend putting a dime (WUT) in the jukebox.

1 comment:

Lilly said...

i don't see a certain Taryn song on here - shame shame, Mel :P

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