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Ruben Studdard - Unconditional love

Ruben StuddardRuben Studdard has made a 360 turn to how the world got to know him on his way to winning the 2003 Idols title.

The velvet Teddy Bear has gone back to covering great music in a plausible way with his velvet voice. In the process, he has made a romantic and 'heartfelt' album that has become of the music industry's best.

"Unconditional love" opens with the classy and fulfilling "The nearness of you". The groovy album opener carries the impassioned theme of the project in the most sterling way.

The album features evergreens such as Teddy Pendegrass'"Close the door" re-interpreted in the most unselfish way possible. It's one of those remakes that don't miss a step, is a tribute to the original and is vibrantly elevated to newer heights.

Lalah Hathaway accompanies him to make a classic of a classic on Marvin Gaye's "If this world were mine". The duet is so mellow it creates passionate and lovely moments. It is remarkable and it is oh! so beautiful.

"Love, look what you have done to me" (Boz Scaggs) is immerses one's soul in moving vocal abilities accompanied by imposing music. "I can't make you love me" (Bonnie Raitt) might be the title of the song, but it doesn't take much to love the resonant, irrefutable and powerful David Foster produced song.

Ruben also does Paul McCartney's "My love" with such gusto it has to be stupendous and just as groovy. You will feel so safe and loved as he lets loose on the compelling "Unconditional".

The hit maker (David Foster) once again helps him compose an irresistible number that was "Meant to be". Captivating and rhythmically moving, "Meant" is warm, impeccable and just perfect.

He musically re-introduces himself with the responsive "Hello Again". He is on a vibey mode and takes you on a journey, as he gives off JR Bailey/Donny Hathaway's "Love, love, love" both vocally and musically.

Sung with conviction, "They long to be (close to you)" (The Carpenters) lives on the epic sphere and impresses with its thumping bass line, marvellous strings and falsetto notes. Stevie Wonder kills it with dazzling harmonica towards the end of the song.

"Unconditional love" is just a remind of how soul music should sound like.By Mandla Motau

Pharell Williams - GIRL

GIRLIts been Happy times since the slick and praiseworthy Pharell Williams landed with the faultless and appetizing "GIRL".

He of oversized brown hats, the Neptunes star has become one of the most wanted voices after he made a turn on the award winning "Get Lucky" with Daft Punk, and excited on Robin Thicke's "Blurred lines". Moreover, the world has been hit with a fulfilling bug, as Pharell's "Happy" has summited music charts around the world with his "Despicable me 2" soundtrack feature, which also appears on his new album, "GIRL".

"Marilyn Monroe" opens the album in a classical way with a strings feature that rolls into an exhilarating bang and an unstoppable beat that demands your ear. As the track dictates "...we're attracted to, so let's all dance and elevate each other", let loose and be one with the driven track.

The funky "Brand you", featuring Justin Timberlake, leaves you feeling good inside. This is an exciting falsetto duel for these two stars, who have managed to create a relentless product. Then there is the vibrant "Gust of wind" - a fiery animal featuring Daft Punk. It is mesmerising, it's beautiful and definitely headed to evergreen territory.

Carrying those "Get lucky" elements to another level, "Hunter", is a stupendous and guitar riff marvel. That melody is hypnotic and arresting, as it powers right through your emotions. This is power – musical power.

"Gush" is a remarkable fire-power. It's one of tracks that make you feel that music is meant to paint pictures and leaves you elevated.

Ms Twerk herself Miley Cyrus features on the driven "Come get it bae". Pharell manages to carry the spirit of yester-year and hit hard with the funk feel.

"Lost Queen" is a laid-back and bouncy track that will get you humming along in high spirits. Close your eyes and let it guide you to this imaginable "planet" of pleasure. Yeah, sweet dreams are made of this.

Join him and 'experience the out of space' on the hidden track "Freq" kicking off on a tranquillity space of ocean waves. The warm and inspirational track invites you to "...go inwards, to experience the out of space'. This is passionate and really made of love.

"Know who you are" is a torchy woman power duet done remarkably well with the vocally enticing Alicia Keys. It carries such emotion that makes you believe in oneself again and it's a conversation between two souls immersed in something wonderful created for the fairer species.

To every woman: "I want every woman to make a pledge with me," leads Alicia on the chorus. Say your name, I pledge to live life on that edge, I want you to know I see the power is in me..." continues the powerful chorus on "Know who you are".

Rightfully so, the album closes off with the heartfelt and bold "It Girl" – 'my inspiration, my compass spinning baby'. Join in and celebrate the "It Girl" to this musically perky and noteworthy creation.

"GIRL" is worth its weight in gold. By Mandla Motau

...12 years a slave

12 years"12 Years a slave" is a poignant movie that captured the soul of the world, and once again brought to the fore the brutality of slavery.

The soundtrack that carries 'music from and inspired by the movie...' is just as moving. Some of the music contained here was used by slaves to survive and be able to carry themselves to an uncertain next day.

The album opens up with Tim Fain's "Devil's Dream", that recaptures the spirit of who was a respected violinist. The violin theme (also played by the lead actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in the movie) carries on in the soundtrack and is more like a calming effect to the heavy music that was deep down South.

John Legend, who is also the album's Executive Producer, follows that up with the touching rendition of "Roll Jordan Roll". The heart rending song is filled with such emotion, it will tear you apart. Legend also delivers the powerful "Move" with Fink, which carries the gospel elements that were used by slaves to stay strong through all the pain that was inflicted on them.

Alicia Keys does her thing on the piano as she directs the driven "Queen on the field (Patsey's song)". This is a musically and vocally strong song that can go no wrong and helps one forget their pain, and at the same time captivate the heart and have its way with the emotions. "....born to cry, born to die, born to nothing' goes the expressive song, continuing '...born to scream, not to dream, meant to dream, not to scream..." it says poetically, before it takes you on an emancipation journey with its piano solo.

Hans Zimmer also lends a legendary hand with his epic classical filler "Washington" and delicate "Solomon". The latter takes you to Cloud 9, as it your soul with its intensity and sincerity that brings about peace within.

Gary Clark Jr. does a piercing "Freight train" that is full of pain. An escapism song, it will tear you apart as Gary sings "....please don't tell what train I am on, they will know where about I'm gone'.
It is all blues as Gary does an affectionate "(In the evening) When the sun goes down" that bemoans and cries for a lover who has left with 'someone else'. Love how the heavy song builds up with its guitar power and then mellows down, only to propel itself into this captivating animal.

Laura Mvula (meaning rain in Nguni) contributes "Little girl blue", a gently and immersing cut of note that feels like it's been rained on with love. "oh, the rain drops that fall on little girl blue" she passionately lays it on the piano sprinkled jazz number.

"Driva man" by Alabama Shakes is a swing proponent that has a hitting sound that carries on throughout the song. Chris Cornel feat. Joy Williams unlock "Misery chain" with their powerful voices and are able to unlock suppression and elevate the emotions.

Topsy Chaman leads Chiwetel Ejiofor and the cast in clapping along to "Roll Jordan roll". Somehow, this song that is in the flick makes one feel that they can overcome and rule over over any pain thrown your way.

The album ends with a relevant question: "What does this freedom mean (to a free man)". Inspired by the music, I have a feeling some might feel a new sense of responsibility and the need to respect and treat the next person with kindness and love, even though they have personally gone through bondage.

You have to own this album; it could just be what you need to understand where we come from and value life as we know it today. By Mandla Motau

T's Touch of Soul

Touch of SoulKaya FM's Thabo "T-Bose" Mokwele of Kaya FM takes you on a soul journey to classics valley that touches inner places in a special way.

The compilation, "T's Touch of Soul", is a beautiful 15-tracker that will leave you reminiscing of the old times and confirm the fact that you can't put a sell-by date on a soul classic. 15 tracks all in all, it will remind you of good times and create even better times that you should relax to.

"Touch of soul" opens with Champaign's mellow and smooth "Try again'. The sing-along track oozes class and can't go wrong with mending the heart and is the ideal "forgive me" type of soundtrack.

"I wonder who she's seeing now" by The Temptations is one of those tracks that one plays when they have woken up to the fact that they have lost something special. "One of these nights" is that makes dreams seem close and leave one believing that their love dreams will come true.

Get your groove on and be comforted by The Crusaders' "Soul Shadows" when the better partner is gone. Barney James blows & rolls with a passionate and gentle piece "I'll always love you" that heals the heart.

Toto is on the ride with the lovely "Lea", one of those marvellous tracks that can only be a definition that is love. Climie Fischer's "Rise to the occasion" is a jam that elevates the spirits without fail and leaves one believing once again.

Don't deny it if you find yourself bouncing to this as O'Bryan hits you with the wonderful "Still water (love)". Let Shirley Brown guide you in style and in a healing way once you have made that difficult decision that "I ve got to go on without you".

Mava Hicks makes the pain of losing a lover bearable with "One good reason". James "D-Train" Williams brings it passionately on "Oh how I love you (Girl)". Led by some the pulsating bass line, James' wish for everyone to "feel like this" is carried with charisma by the passionate cut.

Eugene Wilde does it in a magical and irresistible way as he invites you to "Gotta get home with you". "Big Bad world" seem not so bad once Patti Austin sprinkles her kinda feel to the mix.

The colourful Boy George adds a lot of colour to the album with the emboldening "I specialise in loneliness". That guitar has a way with the heart and fixes things deep inside on the laid-back reggae tinged track.

Once T-Bose is done with you, thanks to this selection, you will be ready to "Fly Away/Walking in the sunshine" with the enticing and hard-hitting Laid Back. By Mandla Motau

Beyoncé

beyonce-new-albumFrom time to time an artist drops a super-hit that doesn't keep radio, TV and dance floors hours and has the same effect all the time.

"Drunk in love" from Beyoncé latest album is one such track that leaves you elated beyond control, and demand that you self-intoxicate again and again for that fulfilling result. It's one of those defining tracks that has left a mark on the music scene and continues to excite.

This chart-topping collaboration can only come from an interestingly distinct set, making its own rules and creating something unique as you go through it. Her exciting black package is a musically varied CD/DVD combo with 14 audio tracks and 17 videos.

She has followed that up with her latest single "XO". The track makes you feel like you are in space and lost in its vibrant and energetic power, as you gravitate towards a lover. Sing along as required to this unstoppable track and let it emancipate you.

The set, which also chronicles different parts of the star's life, lands with the self-contained and honest "Pretty hurts", which explodes into an uncontainable explosion. Delivered with such precision, it's pretty and it pierces at the same time – the price most ladies pay to look pretty.

DVD: The educational and vital music video of the song showcases ladies going through so called necessary steps to fit in a contest. And when Harvey Keitel asks Beyoncé what her aspiration is in life, she hesitates and it then dawns on her that she wants to be happy. That's when the penny drops and she destroys all her trophies that came with various contests that have taken their toll on her.

"Haunted" has a hypnotic approach with a percussive drive, and throws around various sounds from drum & bass to broken beats and lands itself as a fiery and eclectic animal that can't be defined. Get taken to a new sphere by the mellow "Rocket", a pleasing and pacifying product that takes you on a pleasing path. ...'rock, steady, rock, hard...' as you take the desired break on this masterpiece and then hit the space again.

DVD: The marvellously shot "Ghost /Haunted" video drives the point home about many of us 'working 9-5 to stay alive'. The "Haunted" part is an eerie story about the things that could haunting each of us either way.

The currently in-demand Pharell Williams helps her create a driven and funky animal that will "Blow" you away. The clap-to-this kinda track sees Timbaland adding his hand to the track, blowing it right up. As if that's not enough, Hype Williams directs the monster video to the stars creation.

DVD: The skating under disco lights vid is just remarkable. The setting, twerking, lighting and everything about it just makes it special. Check out Blue Ivy's mom shaking her bum. Ooh, she is the bomb. It's all about beauty, beauty showing and sexiness in style on the exquisite "Yoncé/Partition", "Angel". And she flaunts her (oh! so amazing body) on "Rocket".

"Angel" is the kind of special product created above and musically elevating. Bounce to the genre bending "Partition", a Timbaland, Justin Timberlake and Queen B creation of note. The piano accompanied "Heaven" is a vocally strong treat that leaves marks and turns you upside down inside, and then closes off in a prayer.

Frank Ocean then assists on the empowering "Superpower". Love the way Frank comes in and the 'yes we can' gospel tinged vocals, on the epic destined song, as it hits the 'can't break us down' climax parts. This track makes you believe.

DVD: The powerful crowd a prowl video showcases Beyonce accompanied by her Destiny's Child sisters Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, Pharell Williams, Luke james and a fearless group that comes face to face with the police.

"We say to girls you can have ambition but not too much," says Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie on the powerful "Flawless". "..you should aim to be successful, but not too successful", otherwise you will threaten the man," she continues on the track, "...but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same,' she asks. 'We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are' continues the driven track that then defines 'feminist..' and is more of an equality pledge and call for all to stand for girl power and what's right.

DVD: "Flawless" kicks off with a video of a young Beyoncé in a singing contest with girl group Girl's Time, which featured Kelly as well. The no holds barred and statement making video is more rebellious, energetic and fired up than its audio only track. "Don't get it twisted,it is my sh*t," sings Beyoncé, "Bow down b***s."

Mom then features daughter Blue Ivy on the assuring "Blue", with the video shot in Brazil's Favelas. Love how the track builds up and hits a fulfilling climax with daughter.

She adds the "Grown woman" video on the already loaded set. The video showcases B's videos from when she was young and her doing kwassa to twerking the real African way. By Mandla Motau

Toni Braxton & Babyface - Love, marriage & divorce

Toni BabyWhat do you get when you mix "Love, marriage & divorce"?

According to a script written by Toni Braxton & Babyface you get a chart topping album reminiscent of the LaFace days. Such is the passionate story that has resulted in the two, who worked on many of Toni Braxton's classics including "Breath again" and "Unbreak my heart", teaming up again.

Having gone through such stages in life, the two have decided to take the art-imitating-life experiences to create something indelible. And to showcase their intentions for the album, they are responsible for the deeply moving, emotive, and piercing charts summiting hit "Hurt you". It's one of those ecstatic singles that you will find impossible to get over.

The album kicks off with a "Roller coaster" as honest and, both sad and beautiful at the same time. 'Today I got so mad at you, it's like I couldn't control myself' begins the song that takes you on a journey filled with emotion and captivates the soul. The song that set the mood of the album leaves you confused about how exactly to feel about it, albeit admitting that the music and the delivery just takes over.

And when Toni goes 'baby' on "Sweat", you sort of feel the intensity that's about to hit you. Musically heightening, the stupendous track opens up wounds and heals you with its impact. Vocally strong and moving, it's one of those tracks that lovers fight and make peace to – 'sweat it out'.

Babyface doesn't set a foot wrong with the music and his falsetto lines on "Where did we go wrong". Toni just gets on the track and makes it colourful, while taking it to that elite duets paradise. This one doesn't go wrong at all.

"I hope that you're ok" recreates and reminds one when R&B was still the genre to which kids were made and created memories that would last forever. Babyface rides alone on this track that would be a perfect soundtrack to be dumped to.

Toni makes her "I wish" all the hurtful things to a lover who has left you. It's one of those things that girls or boys only disclose to their friends when thing go wrong. Toni says "I'd rather be broke" in one of those puissant reality check tracks when a partner realises that their love is not for sale and are not willing to put up with the heart breaking experiences anymore.

"Take it back" is a passionate plea for the glory days and yearning for happy days again. Get lost in the music and let it dictate what the singers ask for. It is lovely and just the perfect peace offering. "Reunited" is a re-unification anthem in the making for those who have got back again and wonder why they broke up in the first place.

The beat gets faster as the "Heart attack" hits. Babyface ups the tempo on this funky track and lets loose on this cut that sort of clears the mind and one sees clearly again. Let the beat guide you on this one.

Of course this story ends with "The D word", albeit on a wonderful musical plateau. Although this is the parting shot, it has such emotion and really gets one entangled and even more confused about their decision. Should U leave or should you stay?

Such are some of these stories where the heart is involved, but hey there is nothing confusing about the music and delivery. This is what happens when life happens and the resultant is this case is beautiful music.

"Love" is one of those rare remarkable albums where you press play and only get up to press repeat when it ends, and go all over it again and again with pleasure. By Mandla Motau

Nokwazi - Ilambu

NokwaziIlambuWhen BOP's "Wamuhle" hit the market with its beauty, people all over found themselves singing along to the undeniably magnificent voice of Nokwazi.

Fast forward to now, the enigmatic singer, who is also part Thandiswa's band, is moving at an unstoppable speed with "Imoto". The beautiful single, featuring Uhuru, sees the star at a driven output level and moving up the charts.

Both these hits are available on Nokwazi's bright release "Ilambu". A mixture of maskandi, Afro-soul and dance elements, the album introduces a marvellous mixture worth getting lost into. Boasting producers by names such as Oskido, Uhuru, Mbuso Khoza, Veli Mthimkhulu, the album also features an amazing list of artists such as Dr Malinga, Oskido, Jahseed, Uhuru and more.

"Ilambu" opens with the powerful ancestral praise "Intro (Embo)" and followed by the emphatic maskandi statement making delicacy "Vala Ngci". Both tracks are done by Mbuso and have that vibrant and elevating ethnicity vibe worth its worth in Gold.

Dr Malinga assists on the magical "Menzi Wezinto" and propels "Together forever" to sky high satisfactory heights. Oskido, and Uhuru's Themba Sekowe & Sihle Dlaisa effectively intensify "Insimbi" resulting in a solid and spirited track.

Bongo Maffin's Jahseed rips it apart as he accompanies Nokwazi on the loaded "Sistas". Oskido and AB Crazy also appear on the track that introduces something magnificent.

As if that's not "Sistaz" enough, Busiwa (the voice on Zinhle's "My name is" and "Ngoku") makes a turn with a fired up poetic citation that creates a highly vibrant "Phakade". The two kill it on the track, proving the power of Kalawa Chickitas.

"Ntaba", the polished, melodious and mellow love track about a missed love, fills one up with promise and reminds of the late great Busi Mhlongo. She is on a groovy mode on "Ngabe uyangizwa" that leaves one with no choice, but to feel it and be captivated by its beauty. The lead guitar, thumping bass-line and baritone backing vocals on the track that dreams are made off helps the track take you to cloud nine and fulfil the soul.

The potpourri of African sounds just adds something mesmerising to "Vuma". It's about being ok with just being yourself and ignore haters. 'Vuma Nhiziyo' and enjoy the guitar solo along the way.

Nokwazi closes off the set with the heartfelt "Sibongile (Prayer)". I can see the lit musical light shining through. By Mandla Motau

Andile Ses'khona - Elam ithongo reloaded

andile seskhonaIs Afro-pop as we knew it during the hey days of Mafikizolo, Malaika and Ntando in the last decade dead?

Largely ignored on the airwaves, Andile Ses'khona attempts to answer this question with the "Elam ithongo Reloaded" album. His release sees him adding lots of Afro-soul to his music and maybe that's where he should have fully taken the album.

Although the album kicks off with the usual sound on "Ndizohlala Ndikuthanda", the singer moves it up a notch on the unforgettable and lovely "Sokukhumbula" with scintillating background vocals. A gem worth your ear, this track is all about hope, and hope it is that it builds, and leaves you with.

"Ndizbon' izolo" might be a reminder of what mattered to you about the person you are involved with. It's about that awkward moment when it hits you just how much you love her, just as you are about to lose her.

He delivers a heartfelt track in "Ngab'usandazi na"? Passionate and mellow the cut embodies that feeling one has when they have lost someone. ...and the stupendous "Nguwe lo" is a perfect appreciation present to a lover who just gives and means the world. A great track to revisit from time to time as a reminder to what you have.

Kicking off with a "Vulindlela" reminding intro, the title track, a Freddie Gwala namaDamara treading beat, calls for one to remember their ancestors. On the song he asks why everything is not going ok in his life and then answers that it's his ancestor who is responsible for that.

"Thath'isigqibo" manages to get one moving to that old Afro-pop sound & driving bassline. Don't think that the rap elements by Vuyani Mancoko work for the song though. "Ubayilungi" has that step beat that is loved at wedding, so move to it as the DJ adds it on his repertoire. Here we go, to the left, 1,2,3 ....and to the right.

Interestingly, Vuyani is just at home on the sorrowful and groovy "Mini nobusuku". The song's chorus might just be the trick to get yourself on an angry partner's good books again.

The acoustic "Ungabomthemba" is a vocal test that Andile passes with flying colours. He kills the song as he is accompanied by a piano and gets his point trust driven home. Wow, this is beautiful.

The album closes off with the dance tune "Ulwimi" that will see you hit the dance floor without being requested to. Great attempt Andile. By Mandla Motau

Guess who is back

Marshall MathersEminem is the only solo act who has two albums that have gone Diamond (10 million or more copies sold) on the elite 21 member list in the world's major music zone, the United States.

He returns to the music scene with the "Marshall Mathers LP2", which has already moved more than 2 million copies in just over a month. Led by the chart topping first single "The Monster", assisted by Madam Hooks herself Rihanna, the album is mostly produced by Eminem, with some help from the legendary Rick Rubin (Def Jam Records' co-founder and album executive producer with Dr Dre), Alex da Kid, Frequency, Streetrunner, Luis Resto and a few other guys.

Eminem makes his entry known on the LP with the powerful and flawless "Bad guy". "Legacy", featuring Polina, is a "Stan" reloaded type of track and sees Em starting off on a slowed down delivery and then picking up pace and getting punchy towards the end.

He hits harder on the poignant and poetic "Headlights". 'I guess we are who we are/who we are headlights shinin' in the dark night I drive on/maybe we took this too far" rocks the eerie chorus.

"***hole" is a relentless cut that sees the star on an unstoppable delivery and mixes it up with a crazy beat. He takes it back and rolls with some retro beats, scratches and old school feel on "Berzerk". '.. this party looks wack/let's take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch' goes the track.

He hits it old school again on "Brainless", as he spits hot ones bar after bar with the loaded track. Yep, nobody tells it like Em, and he tells it like he sees it as he "walks around like a space cadet, place your bets/who's likely to become a serial killer..."

He comes out calling names and the no holds barred "Evil twin" that sees him calling "I wish someone 'd finally admit me to a mental hospital with Britney/oh, LMFAO, no way Jo/se Baez couldn't beat this rap O.J.," . Early on in the song he rhymes 'I coulda changed the world, if it wasn't for this verse, so satanic K-Mart chains panic 'cause they can't spin back the curse words.

'Rap God" sees him losing it and hitting hard on the relentless cut. Em blows his top on the track: "I was signed to Aftermath, after the fact/how could I not blow? All I do is drop F' bombs, feel my wrath of attack..." goes the track which gays might find offensive.

"Stronger than I was" hits at a lover who left. He adds a bit of reggae on the high "So far". Love the cutting lead guitar on the track. Kendrik Lamar appears on the heated "Love game", featuring a sample of the Wayne Fontana & The Mindbender's classic "Game of love".

'Rhyme or Reason" reminds of "Slim Shady" with a funk beat and a relentless delivery on the stop-go (or that flow). And then he lays it rough and leaves no prisoners on the hard rock n roll layered beat "***hole", featuring Skylar Grey.

He is back indeed. By Mandla Motau