Five Lesser-Known Soul Men Worth Your Attention

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You're right to believe Frank Ocean was robbed by Mumford & Sons for Album of the Year at the Grammys Sunday. But nevertheless, last year was a good one for r&b, one that saw different facets of the genre take center stage. By extension, Frank Ocean is now a household name. And though Kelly Clarkson might not have been familiar with him, lots more people know the name Miguel than when the LA-based crooner dropped his Kaleidoscope Dream in October.

It got us to thinking about some other r&b artists we've been listening to for years that never crossed over into the limelight. Here now, five lesser-known soul men you should lend your ear to.

See also: Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Miguel: Who Will Be the Token Black Guy on Year-End Best of Lists?

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Meet Marnie Stern's dog, Fig, and Discover the World According to Frank Ocean Tweets

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Marnie Stern. This week, you can meet her dog, Fig.
Hunker down with our favorite music stories of the week while Nemo blows through. Best of luck to youuuuuuuuus.

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Defend Your Ballot: Eric Sundermann, Pazz and Jop 2012 Contributor

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You can't really know where you're headed unless you know where you've been. For that reason, we're taking a look back at Pazz & Jop 2012 to drill down into the ballots of contributors and voters who participated. Maybe amongst the rubble we'll find clues about lies ahead for music lovers in 2013. Here, Village Voice Editorial Arts Assistant Eric Sundermann defends his ballot.

See Also:
- Frank Ocean's Sea Change


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Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Miguel: Who Will Be the Token Black Guy on Year-End Best of Lists?

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There's an intense race going on right now. A race not a lot of you may know about. A race that even the people involved may not know they're a part of. But it's a race, and it's happening: the race to see which r & b singer will end up on most critics' top-ten lists at the end of the year.

It's a big deal. Because, usually, at the end of the year, r & b is all but excluded on year-end lists. Which is what makes this year so exciting. Three artists are on the lips and minds and fingertips of critics, all of whom have a shot at Top Ten album honors just before the planet explodes like the Mayans predicted.

Those three artists: Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, and Miguel.

See Also:
- Live: Miguel Takes Control At Joe's Pub
- Live: Bon Iver and Frank Ocean Are Trying to Break Your Heart


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The Ten Best Concerts in New York This Weekend, 9/21/12

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Frank Ocean goes on at 11:45 p.m. Friday on Stage 1 at Pier 36.
In no particular order, here are ten can't-miss shows in New York this weekend. For the Voice's full rundown of New York concerts, hit up villagevoice.com/concerts.

See Also:
- All Tomorrow's Parties Preview: Founder Barry Hogan on the Festival's Move to New York City
- Fear of a Talibam! Planet
- Three Reasons Why Old Records Are Bigger Than Ever


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Live-Blogging The 2012 Video Music Awards: We Are Never Ever Ever Gonna Use Tonight As A Bellwether

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How much Swiftian shock will we see tonight?
Has the live-blog been obliterated by Twitter? Let's find out on MTV's biggest night of the year, the Video Music Awards, which this year will feature Taylor Swift (in business casual on the double-decker red carpet right now), Frank Ocean, Rihanna, and Green Day, among others, as well as honors to various clips designed to big-up the biggest pop tracks of the year.

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What's So Funny About A Little Bump N' Grind? R. Kelly, Frank Ocean, And The "Right" Kind Of R&B

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R. Kelly.
In case you haven't yet gotten your fill, over the past couple of years, of artists beating Aaliyah samples into a flavorless pulp, not to worry—Yeasayer frontman Chris Keating has got your back. In a Rolling Stone interview published this week, Keating recalls being struck by watching high school classmates dancing to "Are You That Somebody," despite not being into "mainstream music" at the time; he then cites Aaliyah as a major influence on Yeasayer's new record, Fragrant World. Who am I to say—perhaps Aaliyah and the Supafriends truly did resonate with Keating all these years, although it did take until his band's third album for this influence to supposedly manifest itself. Or perhaps, what with a certain Canadian rapper engaging in obsessive melodic fan-fiction, Aaliyah's name is just on peoples' lips at the moment. Or perhaps Keating and his bandmates got the memo that, hey, R&B isn't totally embarrassing anymore—or at least, a specific type of it.

Which brings us to Frank Ocean. Apparently Yeasayer and Ocean were both at the Wythe Hotel on the day of the interview, which led to a receptionist mixup, which led to Keating being asked his thoughts on Ocean. His reply: "I think he is a good new face for the R&B world right now, to kind of usher out—no pun intended—some of these folks. Because, let's get real, R. Kelly is a terrible person. I like R. Kelly and how crazy he is, but he's a terrible piece of shit, a horrible person, really bad all around. Let's get rid of him. Let's gay it up a little [in R&B]." It seems that in between his initial Aaliyah encounter (which would have been just after the release of One in a Million) and his band's music being influenced by her, Keating neglected to Google and find out that Kelly wrote and produced the vast majority of her debut Age Ain't Nothing but a Number.

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100 & Single: The R&B/Hip-Hop Factor In The Music Business's Endless Slump

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Usher's Looking 4 Myself, Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, and Chris Brown's wingdinged-out Fortune.
Here are a few recent data points from chart bible Billboard and data provider Nielsen Soundscan as we move into the second half of 2012:

• In its midyear music-industry report card, Soundscan reports a return to the dismal album sales climate; year-to-date disc sales are off 3.2% from the same period in 2011. Last year saw the first annual rise in sales in nearly a decade, with albums eking out a 1.4% gain in 2011 over 2010. In the first six months of 2012, only one album sold more than a million copies, and it didn't come out this year: Adele's 21. Among the Top Five best-sellers for the year so far are a pair of stalwart acts from the 1980s: Lionel Richie, who on Tuskegee reupholstered his old hits as country songs and wound up with the year's second-best seller to date (912,000 copies); and Whitney Houston, who passed away in February, fueling sales for her 2000 disc The Greatest Hits which is now the year's fourth-best seller (818,000 copies).

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Underwhelmed and Overstimulated, Part Nine: Working For The Weeknd

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Drake and the Weeknd... enjoying themselves?
‚ÄčSound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Fellow roundtablers,

As we turn down the home stretch, I have to say this has all been awesome, and I'm a little sad that we'll soon have to wrap this up. That being said, I'm going to take advantage of that fact that neither Maura, Katherine, nor Tom will be able to respond to anything I say and talk a little about the Weeknd. In the words of Abel Tesfaye, you'll wanna be high for this.


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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part Seven: The Sorrows (And Fantastic Sound System) Of Young Drake

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Shhh... He's thinking.
Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Look, it's what I've been dreading talking about all year! Anyway. For the past hour, Maura, I've tried to think of one—only one—perfect antidote track, or line even, by a woman to the pickup whines by Drake and those who'd love to be him. I haven't even come close. Nicki Minaj has little interest in this, which is absolutely her right but rules out the most obvious candidate. A few Rihanna shame-changers, like "Watch 'N' Learn"'s "don't ask me if you were the first to sleep here/ 'cause if he did, you wouldn't even be here," might work, but they're lost amid album filler, raunch and career churn. Laura Marling's "Sophia" would work if it had any genre relation whatsoever and if the point of the song wasn't "how and with whom I've moved on is none of your business"—the only safe response when being candid as a female writer almost automatically means people call you oversharing (imagine if Drake was a woman), but no good for countering. And more plausible answer songs like "212" have reaches, as Eric said, currently confined to music blogs and whatever came of Banks' day out with Kanye. JoJo's "Marvin's Room" remake doesn't even pinprick Drake's original hit if you go by audience—even discounting the implications of wanting a white pop singer like JoJo to dethrone a black R&B singer like Drake, which shouldn't be discounted.

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