Monday, September 24, 2012

'More Than Just a Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Pretty Face': A review of "Conflict" by Shelly G

Look who's back. I can write a hundred (or four hundred) of these things and write maybe a few dozen about the same individual and probably never tire of doing even more and more. Some people, in my opinion, just warrant that amount of attention and, through our time, I have made it abundantly clear that I have not the slightest of difficulties in chanting it out every chance that I get when someone has impressed me greatly for whatever the reason (which makes me a really, really good fan!). On top of that, even better for me is when someone in particular isn't necessarily a 'household name' and may still be very much in the process of building their fan base. This, of course, presents me with a selfish opportunity when, a few years on, they've destroyed everything, everywhere and I can essentially sit back and say, "I told you so. I told ALL OF YOU!". Very mature. I know. Naturally, you can look at the history of these pages and see that I have that most interesting type of fascination of artists such as Stevy Mahy, Sara Lugo (it's Sara Lugo!), Toussaint, Messenjah Selah and others who musically (and visually in Mahy's case) (DAMN!) have absolutely dazzled me and while they may not be the most well known of artists, yet, they're amongst the most popular for me and very much so amongst the most talented as well. Someone else who I don't get the opportunity to talk about as much as I'd like to in terms of the current sense - although I go out of my way to do so, and will continue to - is the sweetness that comes within the human body of the magnificent Shelly G (that sounds so dirty). Shelly, like we mentioned in regards to Sahra Indio not long ago, has been somewhat of a 'project' listen for me. She's always been someone who had something about her which kind of made it difficult to categorize and characterize, because you ALWAYS get the impression that her work, whatever it is, is not only still in progress and process, but it's probably been closer to the start for her than the end. Much closer! I still feel that way, actually, despite having already had a very interesting career and I REALLY look forward to what she does next each and every time. 

Like now. Up until a few years ago, to my knowledge at least, the vast majority of Shelly G's work came via a Dyamix Music, but in recent times she's hooked up with what has been, by far, the most visible and active label in her native Guyana, Vizion Sounds Records (not to be mistaken with the completely similarly named Sound V.I.Zion imprint from out of St. Croix - biggup Ras Batch). With them - BOOM! She's been more and more active these days and the former Guyanese Soca Monarch (does anyone know who won GT Monarch in the last two years??? Anyone at all?)  (biggup Bones Man!) (wasn't it Bones Man who took OECS Monarch stage and slowly, but surely turned into a stripper???) (WHAT!) (I digress) has also branched out the nature of her music and has gone from being this really colourful and sultry Soca artist to being an incredibly versatile and adapting artist, capable of almost anything. As I said, she's also been more prolific and, in doing so, has released a handful of albums in a very short time, all of which cover a variety of different styles, from Soca to Reggae (which is the historical specialty of Vizion Sounds) to Pop and everywhere in between (little Chutney in there as well). Oh and… yeah. Shelly G is VERY attractive so her being more visible is also a VERY good thing.
"Socadisiac" & "Just A Text" [2010]
Good days are upon us. Now, Vizion Sounds once again taps into the most unique talent that is Shelly G and pulls from it another album, "Conflict". It's a very interesting title for the album and while there isn't a title track, my most overactive of brains definitely steers it in a direction of my own because there're so many different styles and vibes which go into this album. Somewhere in my mind, as I believe I've said in the past, I'm STILL waiting for Shelly G to just COMPLETELY lose her mind on a record, and I think she may deliver on that one day (she's still young), but hearing her do such a wide variety of music and having ALL of it be so obviously and completely within her skillset is just so impressive and so satisfying for me - having so loudly sung her praises over the last few years. Shelly has been someone who I've also thought has had a great aspiration to become more of a mainstream act as well and things like that happen in ways which're, ultimately somewhat ridiculous, but listening to her now, I think that she's everything that she's ever been and more and while there isn't a GREAT emphasis on Soca music on "Conflict", one gets the impression that had the label and Shelly chosen to mix in more of the 'jump up' it would have proven to be similarly successful as well in its quality. She's in her prime to my ears, for if she gets even a little better, well then we may have to start reconsidering the issue of not being "necessarily a household name" (she is in my house! Dammit!). The album, I THINK, is her fourth or fifth. It is, almost surely, her third compiled set for Vizion Sounds as it follows "Socadisiac" (which is a really good name for a Shelly G album, in retrospect) and "Just A Text", both of which reached on the same day back in early 2011. The "Conflict" album is kind of 'expansion pack' of the latter in more ways than one, which can be a good thing, because "Just A Text" was pretty good and the only significant critique one could have with it was that it was… basically an EP  at just eight tunes. Checking in at FIFTEEN pieces, that's no such a concern for "Conflict" which, despite its lack of insanity is probably the finest album/obese EP that Shelly G has ever done. Let's do it!
'Let Me Love You Remix' featuring Glen Washington digital single [now available]
Along with this album, Vizion Sounds Records has also released a "Special" version of the project (which is actually called "Conflict Special" DUH!), which features originals and various mixes of tracks here. You can also probably call that "Just A Text Vol. 2". As for the first (and likely only) edition of Shelly G's "Conflict", it gets going in a most familiar of ways in the form of her previous sizable hit, the cool 'Mr. Right'. Shelly just has a very interesting way of infusing a great deal amount of sexiness in her music. I look at other artist (Sara Lugo being one of them) and we talk about just how they're able to place their PERSONALITY in a track and it's all apparent here for Shelly across this GORGEOUS riddim for the big opener and one of the album's best. Next, things take a bit of an unusual turn in the form of the R&B-fied 'Let Me Love You'. The tune itself is pretty decent with Shelly G adopting a sort of Macy Gray-ish tone of singing. However, most noteworthy of this song is the fact that there is a remix of it, which just happens to feature the currently flaming Glen Washington. It is also currently available and a bit better than the original and a very nice move on the parts of Shelly G (also sounds dirty) and Vizion Sounds, respectively. And wrapping up the opening Batch of songs here is the similarly vibed 'In Love' which features singer Rudy and might be the biggest track of the opening fifth (if it isn't, it's not very far from 'Mr. Right'). Again, we have a heavy love song, a duet in this case, featured across one LOVELY one-drop. I'm not going to say that this tune is decidedly and clearly a GREAT one, but it's really going to be difficult for me to hear how it isn't very, very good at least, for what it is. 

As I said, the "Conflict" album is one which really builds on the tunes set on the "Just A Text" release. Because of that (and because I just listen well), there're more than a couple of recognizable moments throughout this record. Certainly the most familiar of them all is 'Just A Text', the song. I liked this song from the first time I heard it and I don't know exactly how popular it was, but for me it stands a GLARING example of, again, Shelly just being Shelly on a tune and I've even had the honour of talking to her, herself about it as well. So biggup Shelly G until it hurts.

'Just A Text'

There's also 'Rastaman' (also talked to her about this song), which is very interesting in regards to the "Just A Text" set. That release contained an instrumental of this tune, almost like a preview and surely this took a bit too long to come through, but you now get the full version which is a sweet, SWEET tune.

"I need the Rastaman in my life
He should be here to spend quality time
When I get him, gonna make him mine
Can you tell me where can I find?

What do you like?
Ital stew, bring di callaloo
Baby I'd change my dish for you
I'd even go to the mountain top -
Weh di meditation don't stop
With the sweet vibration, inspiration
Baby me and you: The perfect combination
I won't do like other girls do -
Cause you know frustration"

It's another sexy song and one which comes from a bit of an original perspective as more times you'll hear a tune from a male saying the same thing. Turn it around and make it a woman and becomes something entirely different and a real winner in this case. there're also 'Freaky Freaky' and 'Never Never' (wonder why I lumped those two together), both of which came through on "Just A Text" (and I think that 'Freaky Freaky' is much older). Neither are amongst my favourites on the album, although neither are bad tunes either, with the latter coming out on top to my opinion. There's also 'Love Me', which I do like, despite the fact that it's somewhat gimmicky.

"L-O-V-E me
T-O-U-C-H me
K-I-S-S me"

You get the point, but it's a better tune than that and its golden riddim sounds like something directly out of Don Corleon's catalog - it's fantastic and the tune on top of it is one of the best on "Conflict".

Still, easily the most recognizable moment here is also is best, 'Your Love', which features Shelly G alongside Jamaican Reggae star, Jah Cure. This tune jumped up back in 2010 originally I believe and while I don't think that it was ever REALLY afforded the spotlight it deserved, it still managed to do a considerable total of damage and made a big impact on many ears - including mine and hopefully yours when you check it out. It's such a beautiful and vibrant tune and hopefully appearing here gives it another run. 

As for the material which is new [to me] on "Conflict", there're a few standouts still. Check a tune like 'Stay With Me' which has more than a little BITE to its sound, eschewing the more typical direction a love song, which is what it is, goes in normally. 'Checking Him Out', for its part, is absolutely delightful and it's the better part of the already quite infectious 'He's Making Me Hot'. There is just a TINGE of Soca on the second of those and it really sounds like something you'd expect to hear from Ce'Cile, which is a compliment at this point because Ce'Cile is wicked. Two more combinations are featured on "Conflict" with Vizion Sounds staples Fojo and Alabama joining in on 'No Games' and 'Bye Bye', respectively. The latter is the star of those (I like how I can just keep grouping these tunes together like this for the review, it's made it go very quickly) (biggup Achis) (or Archis or Archie, whatever you people still call me after all this fucking time!) with Fojo sounding like a lost member of the Morgans on the excellent track. Lastly, the album's closer 'Officer' is not only new to my ears, but a very new direction for Shelly G as well as she ends things with something of a social commentary. I told you - she can do it all.

"Mr. officer please, nuh lock mi up 
Mi de yah hustle, hustling deh pon di block
Mi seh please, nuh lock mi up
A hustle, man ah hustle, man fi make a buck
Mi seh please, nuh lock mi up
Come level wid me
Come mek wi sort this out
A mi seh please
Officer please

Yea mi dun school
Mi get my degree, but mi caan get a job
I was in di music industry, didn't know much about it
So di vipers dem used mi
They thought this was the end of mi
But mi mother treat mi well so mi nah waan become no thief 
Mi no waan pick no fare, mi no waan get hooked pon cocaine
It's a honest life mi ah try lead - hustle
So officer, mi ah beg your pardon 

Yeah mi mother is a Christian 
Mi fadda die fifteen years ago
I watch mi mother suffer for years trying to mind four kids
Two jobs she had, mi watch she cry everyday
Nobody neva help and every night I pray -
That when I'm old I could put a smile pon she face
It's a honest life mi ah try lead
Many nights mi seh mi deh pon mi knees
Cause mi waan fi give mi mother everything that she need
Officer please!
Nuh lock mi up"

Everything about this one is a star tune and something different from the artist. It features her delivering differently - basically deejaying and talking at times - and it really shows a serious progression of skills in my opinion and it's also something I hope she revisits in the future. 
The fun I could have with you. . .
Overall, this is Shelly G's best compiled piece of work to date, but I have not the slightest doubt that she'll soon top it. She's undergone such a nice transformation in her career and while the lasting visual image in my mind is of Shelly wining at Monarch (because it was awesome in every way), I don't even see her as that anymore. "Conflict" is a VERY far cry from that and the fact that someone who could make this could also deliver a Soca Monarch crown, taking it all in, is SPECTACULAR - it’s an amazing trait to have in a single human being. So while I don't know if/when mainstream success will come to Shelly G and I don't know even if/when she'll become that 'household name' in Soca/Reggae circles, in my mind and wherever we end up writing, she'll always be someone who I most look forward to discussing. Why? Check out her new album, "Conflict", and you'll know. Well done. 

Rated: 4.25/5
Vizion Sounds Records

Review #389

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