It’s list time here again at the Bloglin. I like calling this list of ten long R&B the “Eight Minute Beauts,” even if a few clock in under eight minutes, while others exceed ten. Perhaps this has been happening more and more recently, or I have only begun to realize it. “Pyramids” was easily my favorite song of 2012 and the almost ten minute masterpiece made me quite curious about all of the other long songs that had been coming out recently. Erykah Badu is the Godmother of long, sexy tracks (and queen of neo-soul), with a handful of 10+ minute-long tracks off the tasteful Mama’s Gun and World Wide Underground. Neo-soul loves to break it down for you, ask D’Angelo. The list also features The-Dream, The Weeknd, Rihanna’s newest, and, most recently, Justin Timberlake’s eight minute “Mirrors”, which some people are referring to as transcendent (see: me). Here is a quick list of ten long tracks that you should dance on your bed to. I almost included The-Dream’s run of four songs on Love King (from “Nikki Pt. 2″ to “Turnt Out”), but I figured that was a stretch, despite being my favorite piece of music. Let the games begin. As always, these aren’t the best, just my favorite. As always, get familiar.
Frank Ocean – “Pyramids” (2012)
Album: channel ORANGE
Producers: Malay and Om’Mas Keith (of Sa-Ra)
Blurb: My favorite track from 2013, an almost ten minute epic that tells two stories. First, the snatching of Cleopatra, an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and how the narrator (the king) is chasing her thief down with cheetahs. Second, the story of Cleopatra the prostitute, and her attempted climb to the top of the pyramid, and how the narrator (a pimp) is lusting for her until she climbs too far and he is chasing her down with money. I could write a thesis on the meanings behind this track. Thanks to the great music video, I always picture a speeding motorcycle as the wavy bass and keyboard kickstarts the song’s epic journey of sex and love. Halfway through the track, with the breakdown and second story beginning, the song flying into an outer space bender, when Ocean proclaims so perfectly, “She’s working up the pyramid tonight” and the beat finds its way into the story, try not to dance.
Favorite Line: “We’ll run to the future, shining like diamonds in a rocky world,” or maybe, “Pimping in my convos, bubbles in my champagne, let it be some jazz playin’. Top floor, motel suite, twistin’ my cigars. Floor model TV with the VCR.”
Rihanna – “Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary” (2013)
Producers: The-Dream, Terius Nash, Radio Killa
Blurb: The opening of “Love Without Tragedy”, the first part to Rihanna’s seven minute reflector, feels like a hotel swimming pool. Diving in with no one around, clothing optional. Maybe reading a magazine, maybe painting your nails. Beginning with an old-fashioned story, one that Lana Del Rey might drive to, is a reminiscent love tale, one told in black and white and with some of Rihanna’s best vocals from her newest album, Unapologetic, a mess of an album where the highs are high and the lows are unlistenable. Luckily, “Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary” is a big high, thanks to The-Dream’s production. At around two minutes, the heartbreak memory transforms to a nighttime prayer (“Mother Mary”). “But I’m from the left side of an island, never thought this many people would even know my name.” As she gives her best gospel lines, she tells us, “I’m prepared to die in the moment,” and the production reaches heavenly levels.
Favorite Line: “Red liptick, rose petals, heartbreak, I was his Marilyn Monroe. Brown eyes, tuxedo, fast cars, James Dean on the low.”
Justin Timberlake – “Mirrors” (2013)
Album: The 20/20 Experience
Blurb: The newest track from Justin Timberlake, an eight minute love story that is more poppy than the first single off of The 20/20 Experience, “Suit + Tie”. No more Social Network and romantic comedies for JT. “Mirrors” gives us falsetto, crooning, heartfelt words thrown over Timbaland sound effects, mouth noises, groovy percussion, and orchestrated breakdowns. Timbaland/Timberlake, the duo we all know and love, are back and no one is mad about it. Maybe Britney. Eight minute song about Jessica Biel? Let’s hope so. Hopefully Clipse will reunite for another track with JT. Shout-out to Justified.
Favorite Line: “You are the inspiration for this precious song, and I just wanna see your face light up since you put me on.”
Erykah Badu – “Out My Mind, Just In Time” (2010)
Album: New Amerykah, Part Two: Return of the Ankh
Producers: Erykah Badu and Georgia Anne Muldrow
Blurb: Sure, I could have chosen “Green Eyes” or “I Want You”, but I’ve recently been grooving to the two New Amerykah albums. The ten minute track that finishes the second part of the duel albums, begins with, “I’m a recovering undercover over-lover, recovering from a love I can’t get over.” Erykah and a piano, what else do you need? This heartbroken love song is a fine finale to Return of the Anhk, a weird soul funk outer space journey that Big Boi reads to. The piano makes friends with a sad violin as Badu tells her past love that she would “chop and screw” her love for him. Eventually, producer Georgia Anne Muldrow (great solo work) brings in the orchestra, the drums and the bass. The best moment in the song is when the beat goes silent and Badu gets her a cappella on, seductively singing the title of the song, before the beat changes entirely into something darker, more profound, yet so subtle. What once was heartbreak is now a stronger Badu who is getting her groove back, moving on with her life. The song finishes with a piano and some alien sounds, perhaps hinting at a changing of the tide.
Favorite Line: “20 feet up out of ashes, I can rise. Just like birds and children, I can fly.”
Janelle Monae – “BaBopByeYa” (2010)
Album: The ArchAndroid
Producers: Nathaniel Irvin III, Roman GianArthur Irvin, Charles Joseph II, Janele Monae Robinson
Blurb: Janelle needed a long track to close out her conceptual opus, The Archandroid, a fantastic album we have yet to see a sequel to. “BaBopByeYa” sounds like L.A. Confidential, hand snaps and dark alley trumpets, top hats and suit vests. Very hush hush. You know the Coco Bongo club in the movie The Mask? This song sounds like the music that club supported, no Cameron Diaz. At five minutes, the film noir swag slips away and classical music comes to life, complete with Monae’s spoken word: “Your hair is a symphony, your lips a string quartet.” An eight minute roller coaster where the funk slips away and the end credits start to scroll, a track to play while you digest the flawless album you just blasted. Here’s to new material by Monae in 2013. No .fun, please.
Favorite Line: “Now somewhere time pursues us, as we love in technicolor, but I dwell in silence on your words which move me like none other.”
The-Dream – “Fancy” (2009)
Album: Love vs. Money
Producer: The-Dream, Christopher Stewart
Blurb: The shortest track on this list, but it deserves its acclaim just like the rest. Slow pianos and quiet lyrics like, “She’s the dream of a billion men” reflect through the speakers. Talks of a faraway female who is so damn elegant and classy that she can’t be reached. So unreachable, so, that Mr. Terius Nash sounds a little upset about it, as he shares wine with her in Paris and star-studded evenings in Monaco. Is the lack of love veiled in luxury and extravagance? A great storyteller, The-Dream’s “Fancy” is a perfect build-up to “Right Side of My Brain,” possibly Love vs. Money‘s strongest piece. After all, the beat for “Fancy” doesn’t come alive until only fifteen seconds remaining. “All we do is spend this money.” Fourplay is going to turn heads.
Favorite Line: “If she wanna make love on the edge of the world, I’ll buy it.”
Prince – “Purple Rain” (1984)
Album: Purple Rain
Blurb: We all know the song. “Purple Rain” has to be on the list when talking about longer love songs. Not the track that started it all, but definitely one that changed the game. Almost thirty years old, this track still sounds like something that could come out today and hump the charts. Picture The-Dream and Frank Ocean and Abel singing this together at a karaoke bar, slobbering drunk, with Rihanna dancing in slow motion for all to see. Be careful to play this too loud, because Prince will teleport into your room and snatch up your lover. At 5:30, when Prince starts screaming that falsetto beauty, everyone within listening distance becomes a little more alive (and pregnant). Discussing lengthy older tracks that bars throw on at 1:48 a.m., this blows away “Freebird” and “Hotel California”. I wonder how much that purple motorcycle is going for on eBay. Anyway, “I think you better close, and let me guide you to the purple rain.”
Favorite Line: Come on. “I only want to see you bathing in thae purple rain.”
The Weeknd – “Gone” (2011)
Producer: Don McKinney and Illangelo
Blurb: Thursday is my favorite mixtape of The Weeknd’s Trilogy, but that answer changes weekly. It is, in my opinion, the most damaged of the three albums, the most debauched. “Gone” begins with a very odd keyboard pattern, like an alarm clock in the future. The bass coming in feels like a knocking on your door. The faraway howls and mutters and sputters of Abel Tesfaye sound lost. The ambiance of “Gone” is put right in front of us, the ending to Thursday right around the corner. Still trying to stay awake, the mind riddled with drugs and club bathroom sessions, everything drenched with lean. To listen is to evoke emotion. “Gone” is not meant to be danced to, not advised for sing-a-long, but rather, one to sway and think, to lay in bed and dread the morning, to soundtrack a sad journal entry, to mold into a couch. That is, until halfway through the song, when the high-pitched auto-tune plays alone, jumping from one ear to the other, and a thumping bass makes its way within your soul, and you get your second wind, when you think you are sober but you can’t see straight, standing up sideways to stumble home with the sunrise, a lady in your arms, for one last wild ride before you pass out until Saturday.
Favorite Line: “But my lungs so muddy, I love the way it tastes. Drink it ’til I’m ugly, baby, fuck me while I’m faded.”
D’Angelo – “Playa Playa” (2000)
Producers: D’Angelo and Questlove
Blurb: One of the greatest R&B albums of all time, Voodoo is a neo-soul spectacle that changed the game. Questlove grooving with the percussion and hand snaps to the album opener, “Playa Playa” which starts like a James Brown jam session, evidence that the room is full, the stars are out, and the party is still going. The horns come right in, as they damn well should, and the ceiling starts to rumble. Primal sex making music. Prince has had infinite lap dances to this song, playa. The breakdown near the end grooves with the best, a funk experience that all must sway to at some point in their lives, when wine glasses need refilling and shirts are ready to be removed. Sources close to D’Angelo claim that his follow up to Voodoo is almost finished. Almost done, they tell us. Thirteen years in the waiting. Fingers crossed. Luckily, Voodoo has enough playback that no one seems to mind. Play on, playa.
Favorite Line: “We don’t plan to stop ’til you bounce off the wall.”
Drake – “Shut it Down” (2010)
Album: Thank Me Later
Producer: Noah “40″ Shebib
Blurb: It might worth criticizing that Drake is mediocre hip-hop and should not be on this list of R&B groovers. Well, as far as I can hear, Drake strays from the rapping and gets honest and lubby dubby with The-Dream, both of them trading singing responsibilities while 40 makes a big, spaced-out beat. At about five minutes, The-Dream lets his voice go through the scale, and the ladies eat it up. The second part of this song, the final two minutes, is Drake trying to get laid at the end of the night. What does a guy gotta do? Sing a slick hook like “You still the baddest girl around, they notice”? Precisely.
Favorite Line: “Ice cream conversations, they all want a scoop. You shut that motherfucker down.” (The-Dream)- neonpajamas