For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Second Listen Sunday: Whitney Houston, Just Whitney
In the fall of 2002, R&B music was a changing landscape. However, that didn’t stop The Prom Queen Of Soul, a.k.a., Mrs. Whitney Houston, from releasing her fifth album Just Whitney on December 10th, 2022. Just Whitney was Houston’s fifth studio album and the first after she renewed her contract with Arista for $100 million. She could have efficiently utilized the formula from her previous studio album, My Love Is Your Love, which incorporated R&B, hip hop, and reggae. In-demand producers like The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, and Mike City could’ve provided Mrs. Houston with some heat. Surprisingly, Whitney doesn’t chase trends and returns to what made her a star.
Just Whitney finds Houston taking a route that mixes R&B ballads, R&B mid-tempo numbers, and dance songs. In an interview before the album’s release, Houston said: “This album is about surviving, raising a family, being a wife or girlfriend, and all the challenges that go along with those things.
While Whitney was still a legend, the public talked more about her than her music. The album’s first single, “Whatchulookinat,” was produced by Houston’s then-husband Bobby Brown and co-written by Houston. The theme of the song found the singer attacking the media. While the remixes found some chart success, overall, the song is pretty much forgotten.
Houston fared better with the second single, “One of Those Days,” which featured the production skills of Kevin “She’kspere” Briggs. The mid-tempo R&B track samples The Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets.” Rather than being a sexy slow jam, the lyrics are about getting away from everyday stress. For the album’s third single, “Try It On My Own,” Houston linked up her go-to hitmaker Babyface.
At the time, the song was regarded by some critics as the best on the disc. A pop ballad, the song tells the story of overcoming doubts or fears in order for a person to get to the point in their life where they can “try it on their own” and reach that point in life. It’s classic Whitney and shows she still has the pipes.
Babyface and Rob Fusari oversaw the album’s final single, “Love That Man.” A joyful R&B Bop, the song will remind listeners of eighties soul with a simple bass line and uncomplicated production. It’s clear that Whitney was singing about her then-husband Bobby Brown, which is fine as we know the two had a different kind of love.
The remainder of the album is textbook Whitney, but it works. There’s a cover song (Kasey Cisyk’s “You Light Up My Life), a duet with Mr. Brown (“My Love”), and a fire album track from Missy Elliot (“Things You Say”). While Just Whitney doesn’t feature any classic songs or reach the chart success of her previous work, it’s by no means a bad album.
Final Grade: B
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
One of the most talented men in indie music, Eric Roberson, kicked off his 30th-anniversary tour last night in Pittsburgh, so for this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to revisit Mr. Roberson’s third album, The Vault 1.5, which hit record stores in 2003. As Erro fans know, Roberson initially hit the scene with the lovely ballad “The Moon” while studying at Howard University. Roberson’s first record deal didn’t go as planned, but not one to just lay down, Roberson continued to build a name for himself by writing for the likes of 112 and Will Smith. Additionally, Roberson collaborated with Jill Scott, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Cam’ron.