AFTER 4-YEAR DROUGHT, EVEN BIEBER, MILEY READY TO SLOW JAM
It was a rough few years for the Slow Jam. And for a Slow Jam DJ like me. It seemed like from about 2008-2012, the “Slow Jam” was dead.
Well let me back up. The “Slow Jam” will never be dead. Heatwave “Always and Forever,” Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Aaliyah, Keith Sweat, R Kelly, Al B. Sure!, etc: That music is timeless and will never fade. But I mean the new stuff. “Curent” Slow Jams in the Top 40 format had all but dried up over the last few years, making room for a new cycle of “dance” and up-tempo EDM songs. Even artists like Usher and Ne-Yo were abandoning their Slow Jam and R&B roots to make dance songs. Say it ain’t so!
From a professional level, this made it tough on Sunday Night Slow Jams. Although the core of my show is really those 90’s Slow Jams (mentioned above), I always like to infuse at least a few current songs into each hour. During this Slow Jams “drought,” I simply didn’t have the music to do this. Did it hurt the quality of the show? Not at all–people truly listen to my show for the classics. But Program Directors whom I approach every week and ask to carry my show–they are often concerned about “era,” and want the program to feature a good amount of hits from today. Right or wrong, it’s their radio stations, so I must work with them to address their needs and goals. So going three or four years without many new Slow Jams…it was a challenge.
2012 was hopeful. Here comes massive Slow Jam hits like The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games,” Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” and even Usher drops “Climax.” And I crowned Miguel the Slow Jams champ of 2013. Was the Slow Jam actually back? But it was a false alarm. While these songs were good–and climbed their way to the top of the charts–the title wave of Slow Jams that I thought was sure to follow, just simply wasn’t there.
And just when I has given up hope…2013 brought an onslaught of mega Slow Jams, and as I write this blog, they keep surfacing.
I thank Rihanna and Def Jam for dropping “Stay” in early 2013. While it was a pretty “pop” heavy sounding record, it was a smash, and kept the door open for others to come in right after.
2013 was shaping up to be big year for the Slow Jam. Some of the biggest and most memorable of the year were: Trey Songz’ “Dive In,” Bruno Mars’ “Gorilla,” Walé’s “Bad,” Jay Sean’s “Mars,” Labrinth’s “Beaneath Your Beautiful” and Ciara’s “Body Party.” There were many more.
And in the fourth quarter of 2013, it was a Slow Jams jackpot. For the first time in over five years, I actually have too many good Slow Jams and not enough space!
Let’s start with John Legend. Kudos to John and Sony Music for putting out and promoting on of the year’s biggest Slow Jams smashes! What started exclusively in Sunday Night Slow Jams, “All of Me,” can now be heard across Top 40/Rhythm stations across America in regular rotation, signifying without a doubt that the “Return of The Slow Jam” is real.
Speaking of “real,” you know Slow Jams are back when even Miley Cyrus drops a love song. “Real and True” by Future featuring Miley and Mr. Hudson is just starting to heat up, but looks very promising. Hard to imagine Miley Cyrus on Sunday Night Slow Jams, but stranger things have happened (Tim McGraw with Nelly, for example!)
Lupe Fiasco teamed up with Ed Sheeran for the hit “Old School Love,” which, although a little more up-tempo than the standard Slow Jam, has Sunday Night Slow Jams written all over it. The song is like nothing else, and describes exactly what Slow Jams are about…that Old School Love. Perfect.
How can you not believe that Slow Jams are back when rappers like Drake are even releasing songs where they are singing through the entire track…no rapping! “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” being another example of the softer side of music making a comeback. The song went #1 and continues to dominate the airwaves.
One of the year’s hottest Slow Jams is a duet featuring Ariana Grande and Nathan Sykes. “Almost is Never Enough” was not an official single, but quickly became a Sunday Night Slow Jams favorite and garnered great reaction from Slow Jams fans instantly.
A new artist on the scene, SoMo, brings us Slow Jams heat with his debut single called “Ride” on Republic Records. There’s a big buzz on this dude and the song just makes the ladies go nuts. I’m looking forward to hearing more from SoMo.
The world’s biggest pop superstars even broke out some Slow Jams this quarter, including Rihanna’s “What Now.” Even Justin Bieber wanted in on the Slow Jam action. “Heartbreaker” is reminiscent of a classic early 90’s Slow Jam, with an infectious hook and sexy production.
Finally, meet Angelique Sabrina. A teenager from the Bahamas, not only is she an amazing musician, but an extremely bright and charismatic young lady. I had the opportunity to sit with her earlier this year, have lunch with her and her family, and talk music. Her story is incredible, as is her music. She has great up-tempo heaters like “Stop Sign” and “Pull Up,” but I fell in love with the Slow Jam “Fairy Tale.” You can’t describe the song–but it is pure magic. Just listen to it. I must have listened to it 200 times so far, yet every time I push play, it still feels like the first time.
So yup. Slow Jam lovers rejoice. The Slow Jam is back. And hopefully here to stay for a while. Music flows in cycles. And we were overdue for another Slow Jams movement. While I am not convinced that these 2013 ballads have the timeless staying power of our 90s staples like “Come and Talk To Me” or “Let’s Chill,” I am just glad that Slow Jams are starting to make their way back in to the mainstream. And you better believe one thing–“current” ballads or not–we’ll always have the classics. And Sunday Night Slow Jams is here to stay.