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6 Reasons New Generations Must Listen to Nina Simone

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Nina Simone

Source: Wikipedia

1.  During the Civil Rights Movement, she wrote songs that expressed the anger, grief, and hope of black people.

My personal favorites are To Be Young, Gifted and Black and Revolution (Parts 1 and 2). To Be Young Gifted and Black was an anthem of the civil rights movement, but I consider it a personal anthem for myself now. Revolution is a fantastic musical representation of the defiance and chaos going on at the time.

2. “Four Women” is a song that black women of all shades and ages can connect to either personally or emotionally.

When I first heard this song, I was entranced by Simone’s voice and the raw lyrics. The song plays out like a stage performance, with Simone singing different parts. By the end of the song, Simone’s voice had me stunned.

3.  She was an eclectic artist that was hard to pin down.

She sang the blues and gospel, fused jazz and pop with classical, and even had one song with reggae influences. One of the first Nina Simone songs that I enjoyed was “Love Me or Leave Me“. Her piano playing was a pleasant surprise, especially when she switched from jazz to classical and then back. Another favorite of mine is “Little Girl Blue“.  I love Janis Joplin’s version, but Simone’s version is beautiful and soothing.


4.  She had great live performances where she improvised on piano and looked like a queen.

“I Love You Porgy”- Live 1960

“Mississippi Goddam”- Live 1965

“Work Song”- Live 1966

“Ain’t Got No… I Got Life Life”- Live 1969

5.  She has influenced rap, pop, and R&B musicians such as Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Talib Kweli,  and Lauryn Hill.

6.  She was a hardworking, outspoken, talented, and resilient spirit.

Very recently, I finished reading Simone’s autobiography I Put A Spell on You.  It is a tale of how she endured racism, physical and emotional abuse, alienation, and bi-polar disorder (which she wasn’t diagnosed for until after the events of the book). She endured all this and made music that moved people and inspired them to action. For that, she is amazing.







Live Performance Spotlight: “Geechy Joe” by Cab Calloway

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I haven’t done many live performance music video spotlights this year, so I will pick it up again now. As I mentioned during Black Music Month in May,  jazz musician Cab Calloway has become one of my favorite black musicians of the past. He was a charismatic performer with a big voice, smooth dance moves, and amazing scatting skills. Not to mention, a cool enough intellect to create his own slang dictionary known as The Hepster’s Dictionary.

This performance is my number one favorite Cab Calloway performance. Taken from my favorite blues and jazz film Stormy Weather, it is one of Cab Calloway’s most famous appearances. The moment he walks out on stage in his zoot suit, you know you are in for a treat.  Showcasing his vocal range, dance moves, and powerful stage presence, this is an iconic performance that everyone should watch.




Written by Serena Zola

August 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Why Janet Jackson Should Be Remembered as A True Musician

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Source: Wikipedia

When the Superbowl was approaching earlier this year, some of the media took it upon themselves to remember Janet Jackson’s notorious 2004 half-time show wardrobe malfunction. Since then, this incident as well as Janet’s last three albums (Damita Jo, 20 Y.O., and  Disclipine)  seems to have made Janet’s sexuality more memorable than anything else.  However, there are many reasons that Janet should be remembered as a true musician.

1. She has paved the way for many musicians of today.

Janet’s “Pleasure Principle” music video inspired R&B singer Cassie’s “Me & U” music video.

Janet’s chair dance from the music video for “Miss You Much” influenced Britney Spears’ “Stronger” music video.

Janet’s music videos for “Love Will Never Do Without You” and “That’s The Way Love Goes” influenced Ciara’s “Body Party” music video.

 The angry feeling evoked in Janet’s song “Black Cat” can be heard in Christina Aguilera’s song “Fighter“.

2.  Her 1997 album The Velvet Rope showed that you can be sexy, socially conscious, and emotionally vulnerable as a woman.

Rope Burn” is a sexy song that involves sadomasochism.

Free X-One” is a song that supports those who are gay and bi-sexual.

What About” is a explicit, angry song that discusses being physically abused in a relationship.

Special” is a hopeful song that Janet channeled her depression into.

3. Collectively, her songs have an innovative and eclectic sound.

Rhythm Nation” from the album Rhythm Nation 1814- combines new jack swing with funk.

Funky Big Band” from the album Janet- combines jazz with hip-hop beats.

Velvet Rope” from the album The Velvet Rope– combines violin with dance beats.

Trust A Try‘ from the album All For You- combines orchestra, hip-hop beats, and rock.

4. She has been and is an amazing live performer with an electrifying stage presence and an angelic voice.

Janet live at the Grammy’s in 1987– “What Have You Done For Me Lately” and “Nasty”

Janet live at the MTV VMA’s in 1993– “That’s The Way Love Goes” and “If”

Janet live at The Velvet Rope Tour in 1997–  “Let’s Wait a While” and “Again”

Janet live in 1997/98 (Velvet Rope era)– “I Get Lonely”

Janet live at MTV Icon in 2001– “All For You”

Bonus: She has shown that sometimes alternate versions of songs are just as good or better than the original.

Black Cat (Guitar Mix)– this song features Vernon Reid of the band Living Colour on guitar.

Together Again (Deeper Mix)– a slower R&B version of the song.











Live Performance Spotlight: “Can’t Rely on You” (Acoustic) by Paloma Faith

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In case you haven’t heard of Paloma Faith, she is a soulful singer from the UK who is going to release her third album ‘A Perfect Contradiction’ on March 10th. The song “Can’t Rely On You” will be featured on the new album. For more on her past work, check out this Paloma Faith Buzzfeed post I made last month using my real name.

One of the things I love about this performance is that it is in an actual kitchen! With pots, pans, and no audience! When I saw the link, I thought the performance was going to be on a cooking show. I also love how Faith’s pianist comes on-screen and creates funky beats with a saucepan and wooden spoon.

In addition, the performance is classy (as usual) and low-key. The matching plaid everyone is wearing is so cool and the kitchen setting makes the performance more intimate with viewers.

Lastly, the energy is awesome. You can see and hear it in Faith’s voice and backing band.  The little dancing that they are doing makes you want to get up and join them!

Written by Serena Zola

February 17, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Live Performance Spotlight: Pink “Glitter in The Air” 2010 Grammys

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Welcome to a new category I’ve created called LPMV Spotlights! This category will highlight live performances and music videos from the past and present in various music genres. For this category’s first post, I’m spotlighting Pink’s performance of “Glitter in the Air” from the 2010 Grammy awards.

Before I go any further, I want to ask that those who have already seen this performance to not spoil what happens in the comments. This also applies to people viewing the performance for the first time. I want everyone who hasn’t seen this performance to be just as surprised and awed as the people in the audience were.

As a huge Pink fan, this is my favorite performance of hers. She proves she has talent and artistry by doing something beautiful and moving. Not to mention, she puts certain singers to shame by singing live while doing what she does in this performance.

For skeptics, here are a couple of facts that prove Pink is singing live (as she always does). When she sings the lyrics, “Have you ever fed a lover with just your hand?” at the start of the performance, she smiles. You can hear that smile in her voice at the word “hand.” Another thing is that unlike in the studio version, the acoustic guitar is more prominent in this performance. The guitar notes you hear while no one is singing for a few moments are not on the studio version.

Written by Serena Zola

August 22, 2013 at 8:10 PM

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