Monday, November 13, 2006

Song review: "I can't tell you why"

Everyone who knows me, including the three of you who might read this post, understand the importance to me of mid-90s R&B. I already feel nostalgic for that period from roughly 93-98, the heyday of acts like Blackstreet, Joe, Monica, R. Kelly, Brandy, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Aaliyah, and all the rest. Hearing the sounds of New Jack Swing brings back evocative memories of high school, my old Volvo, the confidence and confusion of adolescence. I loved it. Just in writing these last couple of sentences I have added more names to the roster of singers I listed three sentences ago - the list just won't stop.

I've been thinking about this particular musical era frequently. I found an iTunes playlist of 90s R&B that literally made me ache. The memories were overwhelming. Throughout my twenties, though, before the advent of the internet, two songs haunted me well past the end of their days on the radio: Aaliyah's "At your best" and Brownstone's "I can't tell you why." Both were remakes of older songs, both were slow but very distinctive and representative of a certain time and place. Aaliyah had quite a career until her tragic death in the summer of 2001, but Brownstone kind of fell off the map soon after this track. But I've been singing these two ditties in the shower for a decade, honest to God, and they both strike some great notes of love and melancholy and devotion.

Well, I caught up with "At your best" a couple years ago, and it was nearly as good as I remembered. And although I searched for it sporadically on iTunes and other filesharing sites, I never came across "I can't tell you why" - until tonight. I stumbled across it on YouTube and I was thrilled to hear it - I honestly haven't heard it since before the turn of the millennium. The damnedest part is that I remembered all of it - the words, the ad libs, the background vocals. The video is a little cheesy, definitly reflective of an urban aesthetic well past its expiration date, but there's still something magical (can I say magical? Yeah, roll with it) about the song. I am very thankful to have rediscovered it once again. Anyways, here it is, for your enjoyment.

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