Last month was all about my mid-year refresh. This month, it’s all about celebration and reflection. As I mentioned in my last post, August is my birthday month. Like many of you, I’m sure, reflection and celebration are part of your birthday month. So today, on my 34th birthday, I want to celebrate my love for music by reflecting on and sharing the 5 albums that helped shape my life.
1. Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack, Various Artists (’95)
I remember listening to this cassette tape for the first time around 11 or 12 years old. My parents had this huge stereo in their room with a CD player, tape deck, and AM/FM radio. Every Saturday morning, my mom would play either R&B or smooth jazz music, or a combination of the two, and the music would blare from the speakers. I remember sitting on my parent’s bedroom floor one morning, thumbing through their collection, and putting this soundtrack in the tape deck. From the first song, Exhale (Shoop Shoop), I was hooked.
This soundtrack introduced me to some of the most notable 90’s female R&B voices like Chante Moore, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, and of course, Whitney Houston. So, not only does this album hold nostalgic memories, but it also serves as one of the first albums that initiated my love for 90’s R&B.
2. Body Language, Boney James (’99)
The first concert I ever attended was a Boney James show. I’ll never forget how excited and “grown-up” I felt. My parents had tickets and because they couldn’t find a babysitter, I ended up being the third wheel that night. I sat in between my parents and absorbed the smooth saxophone sounds of Boney James’ album, Body Language. I’m pretty sure that was the night smooth jazz became one of my favorite genres of music to listen to. The way Boney played was magical and entertaining.
Looking back, I’m thankful that my parents exposed me to jazz at a young age. My uncle was an avid saxophone player and my grandfather played jazz music constantly. So, it’s no surprise that Boney James captured my heart the way he did. Some of my favorite songs off the album are Into the Blue, the title track, Body Language, and I’ll Always Love You, featuring Shai.
3. Mama’s Gun, Erykah Badu (’00)
This album solidified my love for Neo Soul music. Although introduced in the 1980s, Neo Soul was at its height in the early 2000s and Erykah Badu was one of the leading artists in this genre. I remember being intrigued by her light, airy, crystal clear mezzo-soprano voice. I was also taken aback by this album’s array of musical elements.
Mama’s Gun is one of Badu’s most cohesive and organically laid out albums. The song Didn’t Cha Know flows into the next song, My Life, like a waterfall. This happens throughout the album and its genius. These effortless transitions make the album so easy to listen to. As a music lover, I appreciated that in 2000 and I still do in 2020. If I can listen to an album with no skips, to me, that’s an incredible body of work. Mama’s Gun is just that.
4. Full Moon, Brandy (’02)
Brandy has been my favorite singer ever since I can remember. Even as a young girl, I knew her voice was different, but in a good way. When I reached my teen years, I truly fell in love with her voice and appreciated her range, vocals, and sheer talent.
I was 16 when this album came out and it was basically the soundtrack of my life at the time. From Can We to What About Us? to All In Me to the title track, Full Moon, this album helped me navigate my way through my teenage love life. For that, I will be forever grateful. Listening to the album at 34, I can relate to the songs even more. Full Moon is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
5. Fight of My Life, Kirk Franklin (’07)
2007 was one of my most difficult years. My grandfather passed away at the top of the year and his death hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so lost, so numb, and so heartbroken for so long. It was tough to find someone to lean on because all of us, especially my immediate family, were in so much pain. Thankfully, music, particularly this album, helped me trudge my way through the grieving process.
Even to this day, when life gets a little heavy and I find myself getting tired and weary, I can play this album and find solace. Some of my go-to songs are Hide Me, How it Used to Be, Jesus, Declaration (This Is It!), and Help Me. These songs remind me that despite the troubles I face in this life, I can always find comfort, strength, and peace in God.
Music has a fascinating way of making you feel just about every emotion. It also has the power to heal, connect, and uplift. These albums have blessed and enriched my life in many ways, and I am eternally grateful.