Friday, February 19th, 2010

Angie Stone – I Ain’t Hearin’ U

Old-school nu-soul girl keeps banging on…


Alfred Soto: When Billboard crowned her the Great Black Hope or something ten years ago, I thought they were already bored with Macy Gray. I’ve heard maybe ten minutes of her music, not counting this track. Here’s my official apology. Thanks to a frisky beat evoking early nineties Mariah Carey, Stone knows when to push and when to ride. Not particularly distinguished, but worth a few listens.

Matt Cibula: Not the single greatest thing of all time ever, but we celebrate because a) it’s the first Angie Stone single that really SOUNDS like an Angie Stone single, and b) it’s fun as hell and will sound great if it ever makes it on the radio.

Martin Kavka: The resurrected Stax label has been releasing new albums for almost three years now, and it doesn’t seem to be going well. All of the personality of Angie Stone’s voice, which could almost compete with Betty Wright on the weakly written single “Baby,” has been thoroughly drained. I can’t possibly figure out why, unless Stax suits believe that R&B by numbers, with the backing vox mixed way too far to the front, will sell more copies. By the end of the song, all I’m left with is the urge to listen to Carla Thomas.

Doug Robertson: All the colours are there, but not one of them is being used to any dramatic effect. It’s basically a rainbow viewed through cataracts.

Michaelangelo Matos: The tightly curled guitar figures and handclaps on the two, the light and quick vocals and effervescent feel of the whole thing: who could resist it? Sure it’s a throwback, and some of our more benighted futurists deeply suspect that kind of thing, but the goods are the goods. I understand why, though: are you hearing the sound or are you hearing the song? In this case I think it’s both: the hooks are immediate but keep deepening for me, and the speediness buoys Stone, whose ad-libs over the last minute of choruses work beautifully in part because she’s happy to let the song do the bulk of the work.

Anthony Easton: One of my favourite ways of delineating heart break is the denial. The important line in the chorus is repeated so often that it reaches Freudian levels of sublimation. Angie, darling, he is sneakin’ around, you gotta admit that to yourself.

Martin Skidmore: A trad funky backing (it could almost be from when she made her start in the ’70s) is fine with me, and she sings it with skill and style, but it feels like a neverending verse waiting on a chorus, and for most of it I felt like I was listening to (admittedly very good) backing vocals while the singer emoted a bit over the top.

John Seroff: Quick show of hands: who among us would have recognized this as 2010 Angie without reading the wrapper? Not me; this doesn’t sound half a track removed from “Everyday” or “Green Grass Vapors”. Pretty much all of Unexpected, her second release on the venerable Stax label, puts the lie to the title; every song is just what I’m expecting. Bear in mind, I’m the last to complain about Angie getting trapped in the 1999 amber; Stone’s old soul/nusoul schtick never got tired by me. Twenty more years of songs like this please.

8 Responses to “Angie Stone – I Ain’t Hearin’ U”

  1. Didn’t get to blurbing of this, but I was going to make heavy mention of the fact she was in The Sequence.

  2. Wait! She’s Angie B? I’ve got a picture a friend of mine took of her and Spoonie Gee onstage in 1980, presumably doing “Monster Jam.”

  3. Yup, that’s her. If you can scan and post that picture, that would be appreciated.

  4. I don’t have scanning capacity, unfortunately, so I’d have to do it at a friend’s; also, I should probably get permission of the photographer first, which might take a while since I haven’t seen her since my New York days.

  5. Wow, I have two Sequence 12-inches on my shelf (“Funky Sound [Tear The Roof Off The Sucker]” from 1980 and “Simon Says” from 1981), and I never made the connection either. In the middle picture on the cover of Greatest Rap Hits (Sugarhill 1981), I’m assuming Angie’s the short Sequence girl on the right, dressed in blue (Blondie clearly being the blond one in the middle, dressed in yellow)?

    Anyway, here’s what Wiki says:

    Angie Stone (born Angela Laverne Brown on December 18, 1961) …In the early 1980s, Stone (then known as Angie B.) was a member of The Sequence, a female hip hop/funk trio. They had a hit in 1980 with “Funk You Up”, which reached number fifteen on the U.S. Top Black Singles chart, and a minor hit with “Monster Jam” featuring rapper Spoonie Gee. She then worked with Mantronix….

    Even MORE amazing, maybe:

    Her daughter Diamond (born 1984) is from her marriage to Rodney Stone (also known as Lil’ Rodney C!, from the hip hop group Funky Four Plus One).

    Now, of course, I’m wondering whether I should have been paying attention to her solo career more. She’s always sounded okay to me, never really made me care about her okay-ness. (This song was no exception — Seemed fine but didn’t inspire me to have much of an opinion, one way or the other.) But maybe I’m missing something. Has she ever referenced her old school rap past in her solo work as a soul singer? Now I’m curious.

    Wondering if this also makes her the graduate of rap’s class of 1980 to wind up with the longest and most successful career in music? Or am I forgetting somebody?

    Also wondering if there’s ever been a compilation album collecting Sequence’s singles (they couldn’t have had more than a half-dozen, right?), but I can look that up.

  6. A-ha! Looks like Sugarhill put out a Sequence album in 1981; I’ve never seen it. (Doesn’t have “Monster Jam” or “Funk You Up” on it, though; apparently they recorded at least eight sides, including the one with Spoonie Gee):

    Seems similar to the mysterious six-song Treacherous Three Whip It LP I’ve got from 1983, but apparently that one only came out in France.

  7. Xgau CG review. (Okay, so probably not as obscure as the Treacherous Three LP. Now I’m wondering whether maybe I did see it once upon a time, way back when, I just decided not to get it):

    The Sequence [Sugarhill, 1981]
    In which the la-dees cover P-Funk, recite the Big Mac formula, and advise knocked-up fans to keep doing that body rock after the daddy gets gone–in short, rap wisdom, down-to-earth but not what you’d call an alternative (Medicaid abortions, anyone?). And I probably wouldn’t complain if Sugarhill’s studio gang gave them as good as they give the boys. B-

  8. Has she ever referenced her old school rap past in her solo work as a soul singer?

    She did a reworked version of “Funk You Up” with Erykah Badu and a couple others.