Alright, folks, listen up, because I’ve got a cutting-edge pop music opinion for you all to devour and regurgitate elsewhere: Ariana Grande is awesome. She only has real two singles to her name: “The Way,” catchy and vibrant but with a bearable-if-you-sorta-just-ignore-him set of verses from Mac Miller, and “Baby I,” not completely new but still unreservedly awesome, the type of song so good it gets you pumped for an album by the girl from…Nickelodeon’s Victorious? Whatever: this thing sounds like Mariah Carey cosplaying as Sonic the Hedgehog, with mile-a-minute percussion, luxurious synths, and an astounding display of vocal agility from Ms. Grande herself, who may yet turn out to be the first new pop star worth the hype in quite a while.
Some background, if you’ll forgive me. In the early 1990s, a group of friends from Louisville, Kentucky, went to a Jodeci concert in their hometown. After apparently coercing a security guard into letting them backstage, the group met with Donald DeGrate, Jr., also known as DeVante Swing, the de facto leader of Jodeci. They came specifically to Swing to promote their R&B trio, A Touch of Class, probably hoping that he would like what he heard at least enough to pass their name on to one of his connections, if not take them under his own wing. It worked, and after coming off the tour for Jodeci’s hugely popular sophomore album, 1993’s Diary of a Mad Band (which peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 and would go on to sell two million copies), Swing contacted Jawaan Peacock, a.k.a. “Smokey,” a member of A Touch of Class, who had since restructured his group into a trio with Benjamin “Digital Black” Bush, another original member of the group, and Stephen “Static Major” Garrett, a high school friend with whom Smokey had reconnected at the University of Louisville.
Some time around 1994, Swing decided Playa, as they were now called, were worth his time, and he promptly signed them to his Swing Mob label—a subsidiary of Elektra Records in the U.S.–which placed them in the company of such heavy hitters as Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, and Timbaland. Swing Mob collapsed in 1995, but Playa were able to successfully jump ship to…
Okay, so is it just me or is R&B getting, like, too good lately? 2011 saw The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Drake and others, but those were the “cool” artists who were primed, in a way, to release some deliciously trendy beats and hooks with the latest producer close behind them. But look at 2012: Miguel, always a fantastic singer but never a captivating artist, had both the catchiest single and corresponding album in “Adorn” and Kaleidoscope Dream, respectively. Then there’s Jeremih, the dude who wrote, uh, “Birthday Sex”–he showed up with his Late Nights mixtape, a mainstay in the car-playlist rotation for those lucky enough to have sought it out on Datpiff.
Now we have Ciara, of all people, releasing the jam of at least the first quarter of the year. I don’t even really know who Ciara is–I had to YouTube “1, 2 Step” to remember its melody–but this has to be the last straw. Produced by Mike Will Made It (who also took the reins on Jeremih’s similarly awesome “773 Love”), “Body Party” is so convincingly sexy and catchy and lush that I’m pretty sure all R&B artists are forming a cabal and want to demobilize me with an onslaught of jams or something like that (also: that new Justin Timberlake album). It’s a conspiracy, guys. But what a sexy conspiracy it is.
Listen to it here: