The music industry is of course littered with the broken remains of talented individuals and collectives who never quite found their niche in the record-buying public’s consciousness, or indeed wallet. In fact, scrub that. There are many talented individuals and collectives who were failed by the no-brain short-sighted so-called record industry (R.I.P circa 2005) who were afraid to invest greedy share-holder money in true talent and diversity, instead preferring a formulaic approach to manufactured hype, manufactured sales, and manufactured music. The record industry has traditionally been corrupt, greedy, heartless and exploitative. This we know.
Thankfully one of the democratizing effects of the internet is the revolution in direct to consumer goods, and this is particularly beneficial for musicians. Of course it means that there is an awful lot of dross about, but it means that the route to recognition is no longer dependent on half-arsed A&R, promotion budgets (or lack of them), and genre-enforcing restrictive radio or video play. The times they are a-changin’, albeit in directions we are not yet fully aware of. Anyway, that slightly irate preamble is just that, a preamble, but does serve to explain in part why the talented but under-appreciated Philly songstress Res is also just that, i.e. supremely talented but still amazingly under-valued. Don’t get us wrong, Res has a sizeable following, and rightly so, but just that she is one of these incredibly talented artists who seems to have been bruised by the vagaries of the so called music industry. But at least she remains unbowed and I sstill producing knockout music.
On release of her quite extraordinarily diverse and accomplished debut, 2002’s “How I Do”, Res’ star seemed destined to shine bright. A great voice, insightful and intelligent lyrics, great production, a range of styles all executed with finesse and aplomb, a hip-hop sensibility underlying the whole package. And yet it just didn’t fully happen, her diversity and mastery of different approaches to her musical interests, seemingly allowing her to fall between stools. Radios wouldn’t play her as pop, she was too urban for mainstream rock, not urban enough for hip-hop or R’n’B channels. Music stores didn’t know where to shelve her album, while her label just seemed to want to shelve the follow-up album point blank. And this is a real shame because it truly was an accomplished album, and in a more enlightened age may have been heralded as something of a watershed for female artists. Not everyone’s cup of tea by any means, and eclecticism does not always equal brilliance, not by a long stretch, but the album did include some real highlights, and more than a few flashes of brilliance.
And one of these is one of our favourite songs of all time (and we know a lot of songs!). “Golden Boys” is one of those tunes that just sounds like a classic from the very first time you hear it. Res’ smooth Philly tones wreck shop all over the skittering, jazz-sensitive beat. The groove is incredibly infectious, and has a simply gorgeous laid-back feel, with a chorus that drips in down-tempo honey. The percussion is slightly on the off-beat, and the jarring effect only serves to focus attention to the confidence in the delivery and indeed the intelligent subject matter of the lyricism. Res’ lyrics are insightful and in parts scathing, clearly a lady who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, or at all. It could easily be the case that it is about fake industry types, a critique of the posing endemic in the rap and other music games (though we hear otherwise, but that is a different story). And the rest of the album flits refreshingly between jazz styles, smooth soul, bumping rock, and sassy R’n’B, with clever surprises thrown in as well, from the telephone keypad melody of “The Hustler”, the Cure sampling and quite brilliant “Let Love”, and the straight up hip-hop of the Nas featuring “Ice King”.
All in all it is an accomplished piece, and the fact that it largely failed to live up to its promise in terms of commercial return cannot really be laid at the artist’s own front door. Indeed recent internet releases from Res through her MySpace page, or her one-woman sound factory at theoneres.com, show that for this hip-hop-soul-rocker, the record industry’s loss is the music lover’s gain. As she may have said herself to the industry types who let her down “But then there’re girls like me who sit appalled by what we’ve seen, we know the truth about you”. Couldn’t say it better myself. And the best may still be yet to come, a golden age of res perhaps.