Justine Skye, Let’s Talk ‘Ultraviolet’: A Career Conversation

I’ve been following Justine Skye for a while. Not as far back as her Tumblr days, but around the time her Tyga-assisted cut “Collide” began to pick up some steam.

Over the past three years since, Skye has produced a couple of solid records, had some impressive sponsorships and endorsements, and even landed a record deal with Roc Nation. Minor successes aside, there’s been a common note when I’ve mentioned her name in conversation: “She’s not memorable.” And that criticism is more than valid. As someone who has kept up with her work, I even have trouble remembering most of the tracks from her three EPs (although, admittedly, I’d rather not remember her 8 Ounces EP.) Skye’s musical issues ultimately boil down to two things: artistry and execution.

We all know that every successful recording artist isn’t original, or even necessarily talented. However, those type of artists know their market, work within the limits of their artistry, and execute accordingly. The reason why it’s been hard for this Brooklyn beauty to pop is because we, as consumers, don’t know what sport she’s playing nor the arena she’s playing in.

On the artistic side of things, Skye has always struggled to nail her “sound.” Her singing voice is quite generic — which isn’t a dig, nor a hindrance necessarily — but her lyrics are also somewhat lackluster, as well as her ad-libs. Nothing truly stands out, and because Skye’s artistry hasn’t developed, her music sways with the trends of the and sounds of the time. I expressed these concerns in a series of tweets back in 2016 — which ultimately got me blocked on my old Twitter account by Ms. Skye, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Justine Skye Tweet 3Let’s talk execution. Skye released “U Don’t Know” featuring Nigerian singer WizKid in September 2016, with the accompanying video released the following month. Then, a little over a month after the video release, she releases her 8 Ounces EP without “U Don’t Know.” Yet, in 2018, she included the mid-tempo track on her album, and this time without the WizKid feature.

Poor execution.

Sometimes the first single doesn’t work, so that’s okay. She tried again in July with “Back for More” featuring Jeremih. Despite the seven month stretch between singles, the song was an appropriate, summer jam. Unfortunately, even with the feature, the song didn’t get past a few adds at urban radio. The video was released in early August, and then it was silence again from Team Skye.

Poor execution.

Skye then releases third single “Don’t Think About It” on December 1. A week later, she announced the release of her debut album with another single — the PARTYNEXTDOOR-penned “Goodlove” and the video for “Don’t Think About It.” By the time the album dropped, she released another single (“Heaven”), which totaled a five tracks from a 10-track album.

Even with all of these musical misfires, I decided to give the album a listen. After listening to the 33-minute project, I was left generally underwhelmed. Although short albums aren’t common, they can definitely work with a strong thematic direction (see: Lalah Hathaway’s honestly. and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.)

Ultraviolet suffers from a combination of issues, but ultimately the music just fails to hit. I must say, though, that “Goodlove” and “You Got Me” have been on repeat, and guess who penned both of these tracks? PARTYNEXTDOOR. On a 10-track album, if the two standouts are written by the same person, I think that’s worth noting. Hit-Boy’s production on “Lil’ Boy” was also a bright spot for me on this otherwise mid-tempo album.

I don’t have anything against Justine Skye or her music, even. She’s given us jams like “Never Leave,” “I’m Yours” and “Messin’ w/You.” However, if she wants a serious shot at chart success, she’s going to need to find her artistic voice and learn how to properly execute when it comes to the visuals, singles, and the art of timing.

Ultraviolet has left me with more questions than answers, but the biggest question of all is still, “Who is Justine Skye?”

Follow Nathan on Twitter @TheGreatIsNate.

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Exclusive: Justine Skye Sheds Lights on ‘Ultraviolet’

Justine Skye has spent the last few years developing her sound and is now ready to take over. In January, the Brooklyn native finally released her long-awaited debut album, Ultraviolet. The album follows Skye’s three EPs Everyday Living (2013), Emotionally Unavailable (2015) and 8 Ounces (2016).

The process of creating Ultraviolet wasn’t that smooth. Skye ran into some creative roadblocks, which resulted in her completely scrapping the project and going back to the drawing board. “I wanted to make sure it was perfect,” she explains to Rated R&B. “I wanted to make sure it was true to who I am and that I could tell the story.”

The album includes production by Hit-Boy, Austin Powerz, Frank Dukes, Fred Ball and Jeff Shum; guest features include Jeremih (“Back for More”) and Wizkid (“U Don’t Know”).

Despite all the pressure that comes with an artist releasing his or her first album, Skye tries not to let it get the best of her.

“It’s not about all of the opinions and what everyone else is thinking, saying, telling me what I should do,” she says. “It’s really about how I feel and what I’m happy with. It’s really not about how many records you sell. It’s about how many people you reach and how many people actually feeling what you’re saying.”

Rated R&B caught up with Skye at her Ultraviolet Tour stop in Washington, D.C. In our interview, she talks about her debut album Ultraviolet, her evolution as an artist, her role in the upcoming film Green Dolphin and living stress-free. She even reveals a dish that has her “Back for More” and something “U Don’t Know” about her.

Watch the full interview below.

10 Underrated Songs by Keyshia Cole

In February, we launched our new monthly feature, Underrated, with R&B legend Toni Braxton and her notable album gems as our primary focus. This time around, we are putting the spotlight on singer-songwriter Keyshia Cole, who is now a certified R&B vet.

The Oakland, Calif. native introduced herself to listeners in 2004 with her expressive voice and relatable narrative on the troubling tales of love and life. Now, seven albums into her decade-long career, the Grammy-nominated artist has a discography that has a few celebrated hits but an abundance of material that hasn’t gotten its rightful respect.

Take a look at our list of Cole’s 10 most slept-on records. We even share a love lesson or two about some of these records. (Sidenote: This list of songs does not include material from her Point of No Return album or her latest album 11:11 Reset, which she plans to repackage with three new songs.)

1. “Love, I Thought You Had My Back” from the album The Way It Is (2005)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Randolph Murph, Ralph Eskridge, Clarence Johnson Jr, Frederick Taylor (Writers); Ron Fair and Toxic (Producers)

For an artist who sings directly from their soul, being pitch perfect doesn’t normally matter. Keyshia Cole proved this on fan-favorite and one of her best post-breakup anthems “Love, Thought You Had My Back.”

Sampling “Love Jones” by Brighter Side of Darkness, Keyshia finds herself interrogating love for not holding up its end of the bargain after her latest love-affair blew up in flames.

Now that the relationship has ended, Keyshia offers a word of advice to listeners who still believe in a happily-ever-afters. “You gotta know your focus in life / And if love is your focus /Then man pay attention,” she says.

2. “We Could Be” from the album The Way It Is (2005)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Errol “Poppi” McCalla Jr. (Writers); Errol “Poppi” McCalla Jr., Ron Flair (Producers)

Have you ever wanted to take a friendship to the next level with someone? Keyshia found herself sharing those same feelings on this silky track off her debut album.

Over a slow-burning instrumental, and singing with unfledged vocals, Keyshia pictures a perfect life with a friend she wants to pursue a deeper connection with.

“If you’d be cool with me / You’ll see, that I’m all you need and all that you dream / And never would leave, you’ll be by my side forever / Swear to God we’ll grow old together, then reality would be you and me,” she sings.

3. “Fallin Out” from the album Just Like You (2007)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Soulshock, K. Karlin, Tammie L. Harris (Writers); Soulshock and Karlin (Producers)

After sharing the spotlight with some of hip-hop’s OG’s (Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Too $hort) on the first two tracks of Just Like You, Keyshia takes on “Fallin’ Out” by herself and unleashes a bottle of emotions on the way things used to be with her lover.

Starting off with dramatic strings, and a sizzling sound effect, the R&B veteran dwindles out of love with a man who isn’t who she first fell in love with. “I remember when, I’d be with my friends / You checked on me and made time to call / But how things have changed? — now I don’t hear from you at all,” she sings.

Many critics have deeded Keyshia Cole’s Just Like You album a daughter to Mary J Blige’s personal My Life album. This opinion holds some weight as “Fallin’ Out” slightly mirrors Rose Royce’s “I’m Goin’ Down,” which was made popular in the ‘90s by Blige. Keyshia’s song, however, takes a far deeper lyrical approach than Blige’s bluesy rendition.

4. “Give Me More” from the album Just Like You (2007)

Credits: Keyshia Cole and Scott Storch (Writers); Scott Storch (Producer)

Come through, drums! With producer Scott Storch still blazing, Keyshia called on him to bring the bass and co-pen this mid-tempo banger.

On the retro track, Keyshia thought she found someone special, but she was sadly mistaken when he started playing games with her heart. After experiencing a breakup, she requires a little “more” from her next man.

“Give Me More” allows Storch to put his musicianship on display as he lets loose with an electric guitar towards the end of the track.

5. “Erotic” from the album A Different Me (2008)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Ron Fair, Theron Feemster (Writers); “THE-RON” Feemster (Additional Production by Ron Fair) (Producer)

Following the multiple Grammy nominations for her Just Like You album, Keyshia decided to make a drastic artistic shift, leaning more towards a universal sound for her follow-up, A Different Me.

Backed by an eerie sci-fi production, “Erotic” begins with a weird message from an unidentified life form. Don’t press skip though. Keyshia owns her experimental journey, as she shifts vocally like a five-speed sports car in-between the lanes of the futuristic beat.

6. “This is Us” from the album A Different Me (2008)

Credits: E. Bogart, V. Horn, J.T. Miller (Writers); Ron Fair and Jason T. Miller (Producers)

If there was one record from Keyshia’s A Different Me album that had the ability to reach a more mainstream audience, it was her country-inspired song, “This is Us.”

Supported by an acoustic guitar, a timid drum pattern and sugary analogies on an imperfectly perfect relationship, Keyshia showcased that she was able to tap into new genres of music and sound outstanding.

Allegedly, “This is Us” was expected to be released as the fourth and final single from A Different Me. Keyshia’s pregnancy probably played a huge factor in the failure to move forward with “Us” as a single.

7. “Tired of Doing Me” featuring Tank from the album Calling All Hearts (2010)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, F. Taylor, M. Quaham, D. Babbs (Tank), J. Franklin, R. Newt, J. Valentine, K. Stephens; Toxic**, Ron Fair, N8**, and Song Dynasty (Producers)

Keyshia is never afraid to share an R&B moment with artists she admires. She invites Tank to help her explain the emptiness of being alone after realizing the value of finding that special person.

In separate verses, the R&B General recounts his life as a bachelor while Keysh explains why she was hesitant about falling in love again. The two singers find a happy medium on the bridge, accepting that “doing me ain’t working no more.”

8. “What You Do To Me” from the album Calling All Hearts (2010)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Chink Santana (Writers); Chink Santana (Producer)

Caught up in the rapture of love with then-husband Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, Keyshia tried her luck at making some “grown-folk” music. She succeeded with this intimately composed ballad.

On the sensual track, Keyshia paints the ultimate love scene in her head about how her man makes her temperature rise. “I can feel you kissing me, oh so softly / Making love baby, I can feel your heartbeat / Baby, don’t stop,” she passionately sings.

She is vocally excellent on this song, using the right breathing techniques to set the mood just right for love-making. This record is perfect to play for an anniversary or a just an “I love you” moment for your significant other.

9. “Who’s Gonna Hold Me Down” from the album Woman to Woman (2012)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Kuk Harrell, Guordan Banks, Jessyca Wilson, Isaacs Hayes (Writers); BINK! Humble Monsta (Producer)

“Shaft!” is the immediate phrase that comes to mind when the funky instrumental starts off the track. Keyshia does Isaac Hayes’ “Shafts Theme” justice with this four-minute conversational tune on recouping after the dust settles from an unsuccessful romance.

On the BINK!-produced track, Keyshia uses her speaking voice to informally elaborate on the painful accuracies of how we repeatedly let our lovers hurt us but always managing to find it in our hearts to give them one more chance. Most times we convince ourselves we need them when we actually are better off without them. “When I’m with you, my heart skips a beat / Oh, I want you back I need you bad / But I gotta get over you, “ she sings.

Thankfully, she gathers feelings towards the end of the deluxe edition record, leaving us with a final realization. “Guess you gotta let that go / If it ain’t yours, it ain’t yours / You gotta let it go / I now it’s hard but you can do better,” she preaches.

10. “Next Move” from the album Woman to Woman (2012)

Credits: Keyshia Cole, Kuk Harrell, Guordan Banks, Jessyca Wilson (Writers); BINK! Humble Monsta (Producer)

After a lukewarm response for her Calling All Hearts album, Keyshia came strong with Woman to Woman. Her hard work shows on this slow-paced ballad featuring background vocals from Robin Thicke.

Being in a relationship without a title two things: mixed feelings and heartbreak. To limit confusion, simply making the “next move” and asking the hard but seriously needed questions, “Are we going to be monogamous or should we just see other people?”

If we don’t have this conversation early on, we’ll probably end up like Keyshia does on the second verse. “I hate the fact, we never set the rules / So I can’t even trip when you want to act brand new / But I still get mad when you walk out the room / But the truth is: I’m not the only one loving you,” she painfully remembers.

HONORABLE MENTION

“Same Thing (Interlude)” from the album Just Like You

Credits: Keyshia Cole, T. Rey and C. Brown (Writers); T Rey and C. Broan (Producers)

Serving as a transition between songs “Heaven Sent” and “Got to Get My Heart Back,” this nearly two-minute tease makes us want to fight Keyshia. While she pours out her emotions about the redundant behavior of her two-timing ex, she indirectly plays with ours. This interlude deserved more. We wanted more.

Did we get this list right? Let us know in the comment section.

Follow Antwane @9thwonderofPR

4 Reasons We Love Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston Birthday

There will never be another singer like Whitney Houston; she’s incomparable, she’s an icon, and she is the standard. On the sixth anniversary of her unfortunate passing, here at Rated R&B we’ve created a shortlist of reasons why we love the vocal legend herself. Check it out below:

Her Powerful Voice

How do you describe the indescribable? Whitney’s voice is the purest to have ever graced human ear. On top of her outstanding natural ability, her technique, precision, and control make her “The Voice.” Just like rapper Biggie Smalls has never had a bad verse, Whitney has never hit a bad note. There is a multitude of examples, but at Super Bowl XXV in 1991, she gave what is regarded as the best rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to have ever been done. It is here, without all of the vocal thrills and frills, that you can truly grasp how marvelous her voice was.

The Way Other Artists Loved and Respected Her

If you ask any female singer that came out in the last 25 years who some of their inspirations are, you can bet Whitney’s name will come out of their mouth. For most singers, especially black women, Whitney was a role model. She was a black girl from New Jersey whose passion was sharing her musical gift to the world and having fun while doing so. In the first clip below, Monica explains Whitney’s personal impact on her life (this part of the interview begins around 1:42.) Even after her death, Whitney continues to inspire and empower the women that have come after her in the music industry. In the second clip below, you can find one of the greatest tributes ever performed, courtesy of gospel powerhouse Yolanda Adams, who ends the video with a resounding “We love you, Nip.”

Her Stage Presence

Whitney’s personality was both charming and endearing, as we’ve all seen in her interviews, famous and infamous alike. That natural charm carries over into her live performances, as she literally comes alive in song. In interviews, she was always well-spoken, clear, and concise. When it comes time to sing, she let her hair down and had a great time with her audience — no matter the occasion. In the clip below, Whitney performs a 16-minute set of her greatest hits at the “Arista Records 25th Anniversary Celebration,” full of life, laughter, and love.

Her Artistic Versatility

Whitney is one of the best-selling female artists of all time, and one of the biggest icons the world will ever see. What often gets left out of her lengthy list of accomplishments is her artistic risks and versatility. Speaking on her discography alone, she has recorded music that spans all of its genres. Whether she delivers a pop cut like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” the Raphael Saddiq and Q-Tip-produced jam “Fine,” a universal duet with Enrique Iglesias (“Could I Have This Kiss Forever”), or a powerhouse ballad like “The Greatest Love of All,” Whitney was the jack of all trades. Not only did she master it, she believed in her ability, and she succeeded beyond measure.That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as her artistry made its way into film beginning with 1992’s box office smash hit The Bodyguard.

Below is one of her scenes from the cult classic Waiting to Exhale. Pay attention to her body language, the way she emotes in her voiceover, all the way down to the flickers of disapproval in her eyes. Whitney was, and will always be a class act.

https://youtu.be/0OaFQQaQGRM

What is your favorite Whitney moment? Share with us in the comment section below!

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