Six Great R&B Love Songs That You Might Hear On The Radio Sometime Today

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Over the weekend a lot of my Facebook friends reposted a CNN piece called "Where Is The Love In R&B?" that served as a sort of lengthy "get off my lawn with your sex and hedonism" diatribe; while it's undoubtedly true that commercial radio is more crass today than it was back in the era of WPIX playing nothing but love songs, the piece was not without its many issues, from citing that awfully flawed study about the narcissism in popular music that was floating around earlier this year to blaming the rise of the laptop musician for the nosedive in songs the writer saw as romantic. (Not to mention that it took Miguel's ode to getting off "Quickie" to task while failing to notice that his screwed-down fidelity pledged had actually performed better on the airplay-based R&B chart—by topping it.) What better day than today, which marks the release of Robin Thicke's super-uxorious, quite fantastic Love After War, to rebut the claims about R&B being a complete wasteland? Six tracks from this year that made the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts and that will melt even the coldest heart (take it from someone who knows!) below.

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Four Excellent New Christmas Songs That Are Guaranteed To Be Drummer Boy Challenge-Safe

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This is the sixth year that the Killers have put out a Christmas song. Man, I feel old.
This week in the Voice I discussed The Little Drummer Boy Challenge, a sort of Frogger pitting your ears against "Christmas creep." The rules are simple: If you haven't heard "The Little Drummer Boy" in any form—including Justin Bieber's recent, Busta Rhymes-assisted update of the song—since midnight struck on Black Friday, you're in. Once you hear those rum-pa-pum-pums, though, you're out. It's a pretty maddening challenge, and Bieber's entrance into the holiday-album arena (which is only his second studio full-length!) only makes it more difficult. But there are plenty of other new holiday tunes that avoid the manger of "Drummer Boy" entirely. Four standouts below.

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Radio Hits One: Playing Armchair A&R With The Singles From 2011's Biggest And Best Albums

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The two big formats that have long ruled over popular music are the single and the album. They have a great duality between them: the song and the collection; the sliver and the whole; the appetizer and the main course. Albums are the full-length format long considered pop music's ultimate artistic medium, while the hit single is the galvanizing force that sells albums while blaring from millions of radios, televisions, YouTube windows and cell phones. I've long been fascinated by a slightly more ephemeral concept that exists somewhere in between: the singles campaign for an album. The way an artist or label chooses which songs are released to radio to promote an album, and the sequence in which they're released, often forms a kind of narrative just as much as the running order of the album itself.

Of course, that narrative is often largely about how successful those songs are as singles, and they are often chosen and judged purely by their charting potential. But at its best, a singles campaign is as much an art form as it is a marketing tool. There are formulas and clichés—lead with the stylistic curveball and follow it with the surefire hit; start with an uptempo first single, then bring out the ballad second; and, of course, throw songs at the wall for the fourth and fifth singles if the artist has the profile and the promotional budget to go that far.

Just as sports fans often play Monday morning quarterback, analyzing how their home team did in the big game and how they would've made better choices, music fans are prone to imagining a more ideal world, one in which their favorite albums had better production and their cult favorites were worldwide superstars. For me, that often means speculating on and critiquing which songs were released as singles from an album.

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Lloyd's "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)" Video Might Be Cleaned Up, But There's Still A Pussy In There

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Lloyd's "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)" originally landed earlier this summer, and in its initial form it was a thrillingly ribald breakup anthem, with Lloyd wailing about how his lover's "pussy done changed" once things started to sour between the two of them. Of course, such profligate usage of slang for the female anatomy wouldn't fly on the radio, so steps had to be taken to make it safe for wider consumption; the censored version of the track swaps in "lovin'" for the naughty word, and while the R&B smoothie wasn't too crazy about the alteration, the song still works quite well, thanks to his bravura performance and the earwormy, "96 Tears"-ganking organ riff. Today a video for the FCC-friendly version of the track dropped, and perhaps as a nod to both the excised lyric and the ice-coldness of guest-verse-dropper Andre 3000, it has a somewhat unexpected cameo by a cat. I don't want to spoil the rest of it, so just watch below.

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Q&A: Lloyd On Defying Genre, Warming Up, And One-Minute Periods Of Swearing Amnesty

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John Ricard
Yesterday the Atlanta-born singer Lloyd released his fourth album King Of Hearts, a collection that explores love and lust, giddiness and heartbreak, and other opposing sides of the romantic coin—the first track you hear on the album is the expletive-filled summer jam "Dedication To My Ex," a bitter send-off to a cheating lover that has assists from André 3000 and Lloyd's frequent collaborator Lil Wayne. The rest of King veers back and forth between the poles of romance as well; the buoyant love song "Cupid" and the the sinuous club jam "Bang!!!" may seem like odd bedfellows in theory, but the album, executive produced by Polow Da Don, coheres nicely, with Lloyd's octave-leaping voice tying the whole thing together.

I spoke with Lloyd at the Interscope offices yesterday; King Of Hearts played in the background while we chatted about "Dedication To My Ex," touring, and the concept of duality, among other things.

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Lloyd's "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)" Is Gleeful, Profane, And Completely Great

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Next week King of Hearts, the new album by Atlanta R&B crooner Lloyd, comes out after what seems like a really really long time since he provided the hook to the near-chart-topper "BedRock." (Early 2010 wasn't that long ago in real terms, I know.) Last night "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)" made its way online, and oh boy, is it a doozy. The Polow da Don-produced track is backed by a loop that sounds if not based off then heavily inspired by Duffy's "Mercy," if that track was an ode to, uh, the nostalgia-worthy genitalia of the addressed lover. There's "narration" by frequent Lloyd foil Lil Wayne; there's also a fantastic, withering verse by Andre 3000—the second to appear this month! (And don't forget his outstanding contribution to the remix of Ke$ha's "Sleazy" earlier this year, either.) And Lloyd turns in a fiery performance, unleashing his spectacular pipes in such a way that really sells just how sexually pent-up he is over all this. Anyway, if there's any justice, this song will rule the summer. Listen below. (And if you're in an office, for God's sake, put on headphones first.)


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Live: Rick Ross Lives Out His Dreams At Summer Jam

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Hot 97 Summer Jam
New Meadowlands Stadium
Sunday, June 5

Better than: Sitting at home and moping like 50 Cent.

Rick Ross closed out Summer Jam.

Just so there's no revisionist history here, let's remember how incredible that statement is. Three years ago, Ross was the punching bag of hip-hop, the laughingstock of the streets. After recording countless verses that fetishized Tony Montana fantasies, someone pinched him—Ross' cartoonish thought bubble vanished into thin air, and he was rudely snapped back to reality. He wasn't a druglord superhero; he was William Roberts, a grown man playing dress-up, a former correctional officer who wanted to be a rapper so badly that he rewrote his personal history. Two years ago, he wasn't being played on New York radio.

And here, onstage at Giants Stadium, was Rick Ross—his chest puffed out, his black-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt open wide but still somehow stretching tight—cheered on by fifty thousand strong. They welcomed his street anthem, "B.M.F.," chanting a chorus and cadence that, in various incarnations, has blasted out of car windows on 125th ever since it came out last summer: "I think I'm Big Meech, Larry Hoover." Rick Ross can make up a lot of things, but even he couldn't make this up.

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Five Songs That Could Rule This Summer (And One That You'll Probably Listen To A Lot Anyway)

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This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, the season where people--despite their best efforts--engage in communal listening thanks to power of radios blaring through cracked-open windows, propped bodega doors, and other points of entry that are cracked just wide enough to let in something resembling a breeze. The unofficial establishment of a Jam Of The Summer has been something of a fun pre-season ritual for pop watchers, who love prognosticating on matters regarding mass musical-consumption tastes. After the jump, five songs that have the bass-shaking power to be heard all over New York City this summer--and song that'll probably get played quite a few times thanks to its seasonally appropriate theme.

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Lloyd's "Private Dancer" Is Sultry, Freaky, And Fantastic

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Yeah, sorry, Gaga, but I think "Private Dancer," a wispy, Jim Jonsin-produced track from Lloyd's can't-get-here-too-soon King Of Hearts, wins the Sultriest Late-Night Jam To Leak In The Past 24 Hours Award right now. Lloyd's falsetto + the tapped-out keyboard line on the verses + the woozy synth bit underneath the chorus = I need to use the outro as an opportunity to fan myself. Listen below. Happy Year Of The Lover, everyone!



Lil Wayne's Tour To Get A Silky Smooth Assist From Lloyd

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What with Nicki Minaj having gone and signed herself away to Britney Spears' tour this summer, Lil Wayne needed some new opening acts for the next leg of his I Am Still Music Tour. Enter--along with Keri Hilson, Rick Ross, and, uh, the Far East Movement--Lloyd, the sweet-voiced Atlanta crooner who, as it happens, has a new album called King of Hearts coming out next month (barring any more delays; this thing's been in the works for far too long) and who has actually had the Weezy assist on two of his best tracks to date.

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