Here's what Rāwiri is jamming to this month...
Saint Jhn & Sza - Just For Me
Cut from the soundtrack to the upcoming Space Jam sequel, Just For Me pairs SAINt JHN with the familiar dreamy vocals of SZA, but does this fresh team up result in a slam dunk?
Producer Pat Morrissey is best known for creating tracks for Hayley Kiyoko and Model Child and at first listen, Just For Me seems worlds away from the typical style of SAINt JHN. First impressions aside, this mid-tempo R&B groove glides effortlessly and with a relaxed energy that complements both John's and SZA's vocal performances.
"With the lows and the midnight highs/ the pills with the pain and the bad advice/ I swear I'm doing it one last time," they declare in the lead up to the song's hook.
Built in a similar vein to SZA's collaboration with Kendrick Lamar (2018's, Black Panther single, All The Stars), Just For Me, and its parent album, seem destined to live up to the hype created by the 1996 original film and soundtrack.
AWA - Would You Be
One of Aotearoa's most enduring voices, AWA rounded out NZ music month with his latest single, Would You Be.
At the time of release Awa declared "it's time to bring #TheFeelGood back", and here, this infectiously joyful up-tempo number will no doubt warm up New Zealand's upcoming winter nights.
Harkening back to Nesian's chart-dominating Elevator Musiq era while still offering plenty of freshness, AWA's familiar vocals run smoothly over the Polynesian-styled R&B groove.
"Would you be my girl, what do you say?" he asks earnestly, as if he didn't already the answer...
Jam & Lewis x Mariah Carey - Somewhat Loved (There You Go Breakin' My Heart)
For their upcoming debut album, super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have approached many of their smash hit collaborators in the hopes of recreating their magic for a new era. The pair helped Billboard's reigning diva Mariah Carey take her 15th #1 song back in 2000 with Thank God I Found You, but ever since their collaborations have been only on her album tracks. What's the deal in 2021, and has it been worth the wait?
"We stood there alone, in that silent corridor," Mimi purrs at the jump, while the piano keys find their rhythm. "Those unspoken words, conjure fixation, capturing me..." she continues, before the melody switches up in the pre-chorus and the tempo clicks into place.
By the time the choruses' refrain kicks in, Mariah's vocal is in full singalong territory and the beat seems to undulate in agreement behind her. Repeated listens reiterate the intensity of that hook, and truly, it sounds better after a handful of plays.
Somewhat Loved is an odd title for the song, barely decipherable at the back of each verse, while the overly long parenthesised component does most of the heavy lifting. Is this a problem? Well, only in so far that the creators seem unsure exactly of what this song wants to be, and the change up in tempo throughout the song's structure further hints at that.
Young music fans might find it a bit too old school to truly enjoy it, but for long-time listeners of 80s and 90s quiet storm R&B, who lived and loved through Jam & Lewis' production reign and Mimi's chart ascension, there's much to enjoy here.
R.A.E. ft. King Combs - Not Your Love (Remix)
The effervescence of R.A.E. is back again to put some throwback 90s chill on the upcoming British summer. Bringing in King Combs for a guest rap, the singer/songwriter/MC from South East London puts the remix treatment on Not Your Love, from her 2020 EP Listen Up.
King Combs is a legit choice of collabo partner, his dulcet drawl perfectly encapsulating the nostalgic hip-hop/R&B vibe of the track, while delivering some slick wordplay.
R.A.E.'s love of the golden era of music has long encouraged comparisons to TLC, and while evident on plenty of her other tracks, it's rarely as pronounced as here on Not Your Love. Her vocal stylings elicit a sweet mash-up of Chili and T-Boz in the Oooh... On the TLC Tip era, and while the remix is a solid complement, it's the original, where she also slams a Left Eye-ish rap verse with finesse, that best embodies the energy of the song's message.
Anthony Hamilton - You Made A Fool Of Me
Quiet and conscientious, Anthony Hamilton has been making big, bold, beautiful R&B since his independent debut album, XTC. His southern style was given bombastic sheen after signing with super-producer Jermaine Dupri's label So So Def in 2003, and from there, he rode a wave of both commercial and critical success with each album release.
You Made A Fool Of Me is a ballad steeped firmly in the type of neo soul-leaning blues that we've come to expect, and with Dupri and Manuel Seal along for co-production duties, we've got a lead single that stands tall among an already distinguished discography of R&B hits.
Taken from his upcoming collaboration album with JD, here Hamilton remarks on a cheating girlfriend with such crushing earnestness, its hard not to wince at every elongated melismatic run, sharing in his pain. "You chose to break my heart/ You were sleeping with another man/ And you had him all around our friends..."
They say that misery loves company. For those of you currently attending to heartbreak, I suggest you join in on Anthony Hamilton's new break up anthem.
Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris, Usher & Snoop Dogg - Peaches Remix
Not content with collaborating with two of the biggest voices of R&B's new school, Justin Bieber's latest remix sees him trawling through his back catalogue, bringing in the best of his past collaborators in a move that should have millennials humming along happily.
Luda's southern drawl aptly opens up proceedings, the ATL-based rapper repping for the title fruit of Georgia. Next up, Usher runs a series of slick harmonies over the verses and chorus, and finally Snoop Dogg, perhaps not surprising, extols the value of California weed.
Commendably, Bieber himself takes a back seat on this version, content to allow some of the early 2000s biggest music superstars the spotlight, and for those of us fuelled on the beats from that time, it's as compelling a listen as you'd ever hope to find from JB.
Check out all of this month's tracks on the RāViewz Spotify playlist!