Top 5 Songs from Elle Varner’s Debut Album ‘Perfectly Imperfect’

Elle Varner Perfectly Imperfect

Elle Varner Perfectly Imperfect
As she came in the game with a beat and bounce (word to Azealia Banks), the Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter Elle Varner proved she had star power with the J. Cole-assisted “Only Wanna Give It To You,” the quirky and catchy “Refill,” and the luscious “I Don’t Care.”

Whether it was her jazzy vocals, relatable storytelling, or overall cool-girl-from-around-the-way persona, Varner successfully pulled us in and unveiled her magic to us on her debut album, aptly titled Perfectly Imperfect.

In celebration of the album’s 5th anniversary, we’ve selected a handful of her best songs from her RCA Records debut. Here are our Top 5 songs:

“Leaf”

Ms. Varner is every woman and it’s all in her on this slow-burning deep cut. Varner lets her lover know what she can do, be and accomplish as his woman on this Oak & Pop-produced record. “So when you go into a storm/I will be there, protect you/I will the shoot the wave down/I’ll come around, surround you / With a light I’ve never shown/I will be there lighter than a leaf in your pocket/I’ll be the air,” she sings. What makes this a standout is that it’s (arguably) the smoothest record on the album, which is due to the funky bass and stunning tenderness in her voice. This would’ve been a nice pick for the fourth and final single, as the song is as breezy as a cool, autumn night.

“Not Tonight”

If Brandy’s “Have You Ever” had a twin, it would definitely be this album cut from Perfectly Imperfect. On the Pop & Oak and Jimmy Varner produced track, Elle describes her feelings of undying love to her true love, which is unfortunately unbeknownst to him. “Maybe, maybe in another life/I could be the girl who walks up to the guy/And tells him, tells him how she feels inside/But not tonight, tonight,” she sings. Although Elle’s pen game is always on point, it definitely shows here through the vividness and honesty in the verses. Pair that with a beautiful, Prince-esque electric guitar and Elle’s finest vocal showing, and we definitely have a winner.

“Refill”

Who knew a hip-hop bass line, staccato drum machine, and a fiddle’s riff on a continuous loop could make for one of the best R&B songs of this decade? Elle, in all of her “giggling” and “fumbling” glory, effortlessly tells the story of where all love first begins: the initial attraction. “Wishin’ and hopin’ that I don’t blow it/I’m nervous as hell/I don’t wanna show it/And right now I don’t even know what I’m saying,” she sings. Outside of its uniquely genius sound (crafted by R&B hitmakers Andrew “Pop” Wansel and DJ Camper), it stands as the perfect follow-up to her lead single “Only Wanna Give It To You.” This record showcased a sexier side of her artistry, but, at the song’s core, remained her best quality: her knack for storytelling.

“I Don’t Care”

Led by a beautiful sample of Kool & The Gang’s “Little Children,” Elle tells the story of love in its purest form. “Clearly I’m gone and I’m going/Into the deep end/Far over my head/It’s so unfair/I’m gone and its showing/All over my skin/Everyone knows gone and it shows/But I don’t care,” she sings. The song’s sound is lush and sonically pleasing, but why it makes this list is how the story of the song is told in its music video, which is filled with beautiful images of same-sex and interracial relationships juxtaposed with the hatred experienced by both groups, bringing this groovy house party jam to life.

“Damn Good Friends”

Driven by an acoustic guitar, Elle is willing and ready to leave the friend zone on the album’s penultimate track. “Two puzzles/Identical with the same piece/Missing from both never complete/Never achieving our true perfection/So why go scour the Earth for missed piece/Maybe the piece is in our kiss/Maybe the answers in my direction,” she sings. Written and produced solely by her and her father, Jimmy Varner, this track could almost serve as a back story for its preceding track “Welcome Home,” which was also written and produced by the Varners. The lyrical game is always Elle’s to play, but it’s the way she wields her voice with the perfect mix of romanticism, admiration, and frustration that makes this one a shining star on an already bright album.

What’s are some of your favorites from Perfectly Imperfect? Do you agree with our list? What song(s) did we miss? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Top 5 Tracks from Rihanna’s ‘Unapologetic’ Album

Rihanna Unapologetic album

Rihanna has been, is, and will always be a hit maker; There’s a reason why she has fourteen No. 1 singles spanning all the way back to her second album (and just for the record, her debut single “Pon de Replay” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.) Coming off her Talk That Talk album in 2011, which featured international hits “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been,” it was time for Rihanna to take it up another notch when it came to her next album. Working with fresh blood in producers Mike-Will-Made-IT and Labyrinth while enlisting pop mainstays David Guetta and Stargate, the result was Unapologetic: an eclectic mix of EDM, trap, dance, R&B, and pop songs that scaled the musical and lyrical landscape. If this album was an avatar, it’d be “The Last Genre-Bender.”

Unapologetic marked two things: Rihanna’s first artistically complete album and first No. 1 album. While Rated R and Talk That Talk had some “woah” moments, this album found Rihanna elevating her musical core to new heights. She’s still Bad Gal RiRi, but with more wisdom, more vocal strength, and with a newfound sense of artistic confidence. It’s no wonder why it won a Grammy award for “Best Urban Contemporary Album.”

Here at Rated R&B, we’ve compiled what we consider as the best tracks from Rihanna’s seventh studio album. Check out the list below:

“Loveeeeeee Song” (feat. Future)

Future always shines when paired with female artists, but his “Loveeeeeee Song” collaboration with Rihanna might be his best duet to date. The Luney Tunez-produced cut finds the two artists flirting with idea commitment, but being temporarily satisfied with the current arrangement of keeping things purely physical. “I don’t wanna give you the wrong impression / I need love and affection / And I hope I’m not sounding too desperate / I need love and affection,” they sing. On this album full of hard-hitting choruses and club-ready bass drops, this smooth late-night thumper stands out in the best way. Rihanna’s verses and Future’s bridge eventually explodes into a lush, beautifully crafted final chorus between the two of them. If you think “Kiss it Better” is Rihanna’s best bedroom banger, then “Loveeeeeee Song” definitely gives it a run for its money.

“Get It Over With”

While the album spotlights an array of emotional lows and insecurities, there’s a silver lining thanks to this instrument-laden track. Written by Ms. Fenty, Brian Kennedy, and the ever-talented James Fauntleroy, “Get It Over With” is the ballad of broken dreams, but also a song of hope. “It’s dark in the day / I’ll say now don’t complain / Look up the sun is just a cloud away / You’re so afraid to cry / But your heart be feeling dry / It’s time to change,” Rihanna sings in the first verse. Fauntleroy is a master of stacking vocals, so it’s no surprise that we find Rihanna’s background vocals more than on point here. Paired with snaps and solemn violins, this song is the perfect mixture of resilience, strength, and sadness, which is why it makes this list.

“What Now”

Rihanna has mastered the art of emoting over the years, and “What Now” is just one flash of brilliance in her extensive discography. Co-written by fellow Bajan Livvi Franc and British producers Nathan Cassells and Parker Ighile, the song explores the dissatisfaction one feels when they’ve settled, whether that be in love, career, or life in general. “Whatever it is/It feels like it’s laughing at me through the glass of a two-sided mirror/Whatever it is/It’s just laughing at me/And I just wanna scream,” she sings. The lyrics cut just as deep as its smashing chorus, but what really elevates this song is its climax where Rihanna repeats the cadence “I don’t know where to go/I don’t know what to feel/I don’t know how to cry/I don’t know, oh-oh, why!” The winding guitar, raw emotion, and pounding bass culminates into one of the best musical moments on the album.

“Nobody’s Business” (feat. Chris Brown)

Although this collaboration didn’t make as much of a splash as their “Birthday Cake” remix, Chris Brown and Rihanna still shocked fans by linking up on this groovy duet. Co-written by Rihanna and long-time collaborator The-Dream, the song finds the ex-lovers proclaiming their love for each other, and telling off nay-sayers in the process. “You’ll always be mine / Sing it to the world / You’ll always be my boy / I’ll always be your girl / Ain’t nobody’s business / Ain’t nobody’s business / Ain’t nobody’s business / But mine and my baby,” they sing. It’s no surprise that this track contains an interpolation from “The Way You Make Me Feel,” because this euro-dance joint feels like a new-age Michael Jackson record. Breezy and Rih trade parts effortlessly; their natural chemistry is apparent. Even five years later, this song feels fresh, yet timeless, which is why it lands on this list.

“Stay” (feat. Mikky Ekko)

There’s always something special about an artist’s voice over a grand piano, which is more than clear on this tender ballad. Written largely in part by featured artist Mikky Ekko, “Stay” is almost like the continuation of “Loveeeeeee Song,” except with more feelings and time invested. “Not really sure how to feel about it / Something in the way you move / Makes me feel like I can’t live without you / And it takes me all the way / I want you to stay,” Rihanna sings. Even though the song is obviously brilliant, the reason it makes this list is because of Rihanna’s vocal showing. While her voice holds the same type of raw emotion as “What Now,” Rih wields it quite differently, drawing the audience in and pulling away with each sharp breath, vocal crack and sustained note. This all lends itself to the push-and-pull of the actual relationship that the song speaks of, which really speaks to her growth artistically and dedication to the edgier, tougher vision for Unapologetic. Major props go to Kuk Harrell, who is the vocal engineer and producer on this song as well as the entire album.

Stream Unapologetic on Spotify below.

What’s your favorite song on Unapologetic? Let us know in the comment section below!

Jessie J Releases Empowering New Single ‘Queen’

Jessie J Queen R.O.S.E

Jessie J is being more honest and transparent than ever, and she continues this notion with her new single “Queen.”

On the DJ Camper-produced track, Jessie J charges other women to love their true selves in this day and age of the fake and phony.

“I’m tired of seeing it / I’m tired of feeling this / The world says beauty is changing / Fuck that it’s fake expectation, of the real shit / Let’s get naked / Start meditating, feel elevated and say / I love my body, I love my skin /I am a goddess, I am a queen,” she sings.

Although Jessie J says that this is her first official single, this is her fourth release this year, and third from her upcoming album R.O.S.E.: “Real Deal” was released in August, while R.O.S.E. cuts “Think About That” and “Not My Ex” were released in September and October, respectively.

In the R.O.S.E. acronym, “Queen” represent the letter “S,” which stands for sex. The song was written by the 29-year-old singer, and whiles the vocals were produced by the well-accomplished Kuk Harrell.

Stream “Queen” on Spotify below.

Top 4 Deep Cuts from Brandy’s ‘Two Eleven’ Album

 

The “Vocal Bible” nickname has been bestowed upon Brandy for her vocal acrobatics and inexplicable natural ability to sing. However, Brandy Norwood is much more than her voice. In fact, her most redeeming quality is her nuanced storytelling as an artist. Every album that has been graced with those hypnotic eyes of hers has been complete from top to bottom, both vocally and thematically.

While some may argue that Never Say Never and Full Moon are artistic perfection, Two Eleven is too, but with a twist. The beauty of Two Eleven is the multi-edge edge sword of sound that it wields. The album is noticeably handled by hip-hop producers, but thanks to its host of R&B writers, the songs on the album are able to catch the spirit of the R&B genre today — a whole five years ahead of schedule.

If you take a listen to “Hardly Breathing,” do you not hear shades of Dawn Richard? Or maybe if you paid close enough attention to the vocal layering on “Wish Your Love Away,” you would hear the same on Tamar’s latest album. You can even compare “Put It Down” to K. Michelle’s “Either Way.” Aside from boasting the same feature, the candor and aggression in the lyrical content is almost uncanny. This album is for the Sabrina Claudio’s just as much as it is for the Sevyn Streeter’s and even the reaches the artistic bubble of a more established artist like Tamia. In short, Two Eleven, as a whole, is THAT album.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best deep cuts from the five-year-old body of work. Check  it out:

“Paint This House”

Brandy’s smoky vocals take center stage, backed by her airy background vocals and hauntingly pulsing production from Rico Love, Eric Goudy III and Pierre Moody. On the song, Brandy is in the mood for love-making and some “room redecorating” with her new lover. “And I want these stairs, those walls/Kitchen counters, and those chairs/To remind you of how good it feels/And all of these floors and ceilings/And every hallway, yeah/Not and inch will go untouched/Let’s paint this house with our love,” she sings. With lyrics so obviously sexual, Ms. Norwood brings her signature tender tone to song, creating a sensual jam for any bedroom-thumping situation.

“Slower”

Following a similar narrative as “Paint This House,” Brandy decides to take control this time when it comes to the moment of love-making and passion. “My baby got a lot to learn/Come here let mama bring you up to speed/A couple of changes/A couple of things I want to go over/Couple of hours is all I need/So let’s get it started,” she sings. The genius house production from Dave Taylor both compliments and juxtaposes Brandy’s vocals and lyrics extremely well.

“Without You”

Brandy’s voice takes full flight on this apologetic anthem. “Boy somewhere along the line I lost my way/And I made you pay for the mistakes he made/And I’m sorry baby, cause it shouldn’t be that way/Oh Boy, I really need you, I need you in my life/Cause oh boy I’m nothing, oh no I’m nothing without you,” she sings. Seeing the grave error in bringing baggage from the past into a current relationship, Brandy showcases her vocal power and grit to win her man back. And although we’d love just a piano behind her, the kick-snare and cymbal give this almost-but-not-quite-a-single the touch of bounce that it needs.

“Wish Your Love Away”

Brandy is trying to get over the one that should have been the one on this somber ballad. “I wish that there was no more sleepless nights for me/You can look inside my heart and see/How I’m feelin, baby/Or maybe you just don’t give a damn/Could I be foolish to give a damn, baby?/’Cause I’m to the point where I wish/Boy, I wish that I didn’t love you,” she sings. The track is just so sonically vivid-imagine rain softly falling on your windowpane as this song plays in the background-that it didn’t even need her vocals to be impactful. But, that’s not to say that her vocals aren’t appreciated, especially at the end of the song where the music fades out to just her immaculate vocal layering. Brandy’s resonance both in voice and artistry is perfectly encapsulated by this tune, and hints at how this album will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

What’s your favorite song from “Two Eleven?” Let us know in the comment section below.