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Thread: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

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    Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Joss Stone to debut 'Introducing' album in U.S.
    Hopes are high for the new CD but it comes amid cloud of criticism, skepticism.


    By Ann Powers, Times Staff Writer


    Joss Stone sometimes has trouble standing tough onstage. The reason she gets wobbly? Stage fright. The 19-year-old singer and songwriter, whose third album, "Introducing Joss Stone," makes its American chart debut on Wednesday, learned a few years ago that the best way to avoid a crowd's scrutiny is to avert your gaze.

    "I close my eyes a lot," Stone said recently as she unwound after taping a promotional appearance at a Burbank soundstage. "I don't want to know that everybody is staring at me, and judging me, whether they like my clothes or the color of my hair. So I go into another place. When I open my eyes, that's when I start giggling and everything, when I realize, 'Oh no, everybody's looking at me.' "

    Stone's nerves have been afflicting her lately, and for good reason. "Introducing" hits the American charts with panache, as it's expected to debut at or near the top of the chart, with a record-company projection of first-week sales in the neighborhood of 100,000 copies. Yet it has been dogged by mixed reviews and growing skepticism about her integrity. The album, which debuted in her native England at No. 12, along with a plummeting first single, is a painful disappointment in light of the Devon-born artist's insistence that her two previous, multi-platinum efforts did not reflect her vision and that this her first real artistic statement.

    Add a slagging from Fleet Street after she behaved nervously at the Brit Awards, online fuss over her new pink coif and alleged marijuana use, and cheap gossip about her relationships with male collaborators, and Stone is facing a savage spring. Success in the U.S. may be her revenge, but one thing is sure: The days of simple amazement at Stone's monumental chops are gone, replaced by the challenges of adulthood.

    Are the criticisms of Stone fair? In both conversation and performance, Stone comes off as a big talent still discovering herself but getting sick of doing so in public. She's a hot-button girl, but it's more than just her youth and gender that set people spinning: The flap over "Introducing" brings up issues of race, authenticity and artistic license that have been debated since the dawn of pop.

    Stone, whose birth name is Joscelyn Stoker, grew up in a privileged household — her father is a highly successful importer of dried fruit — listening to soul music. "Somebody told my mum that you get your pitch within the first three years of your life," she said. "She says that I got mine from Anita Baker, because she was playing her a lot." After school, Joss would put on Dusty Springfield's "Greatest Hits" and cook dinner for her family as the original blue-eyed soul singer's voice wafted through the kitchen. Factor in her brother's penchant for old-school hip-hop, dad's Jam fandom and her granny's fondness for Led Zeppelin, and it adds up to a smorgasbord of takes on black music, from both sides of the racial divide.

    Unlike many artists who absorb these sources and then take time to make them into something new, Stone became a star in her mid-teens. She won an "American Idol"-style TV talent contest at 14 by singing Donna Summer's "On the Radio" and soon signed with an American manager who brought her to Miami, where she recorded her debut under the guidance of soul singer Betty Wright. Stone's big voice and gift for channeling her sources gained her instant notice, and soon she found herself learning at the feet of the very people whose recordings had shaped her childhood reveries.

    "I learn from Lamont Dozier, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle," she said, name-checking one great songwriter and two essential divas from soul's greatest era. "I sit around and soak up whatever they want to give me. I've had long conversations with them. My mom told me when I was young: Just be like a sponge. And that's what I'm trying to be."

    The problem is, a sponge isn't an artist, especially as defined by Anglo-American pop culture, which values individualism over the upholding of tradition. The "gifted student" approach that Stone took on her first two albums — which have sold 914,000 and 1.2 million copies in the U.S., respectively — is now a weight around her neck. "Introducing," produced by veteran R&B auteur Raphael Saadiq, is Stone's attempt to break free of the vintage aura of her earlier work, which she feels was too uniform.

    "When you listen to the [new] album, you're going to have to decide what you call it, because I don't know," she said. " 'Less Is More' is a reggae joint. 'Tell Me' has the Bob Marley thing too. 'Music' is more hip-hop, and 'Arms of My Baby' is actually a salsa-ish track."

    Saadiq's approach, which he's been refining since his mid-1980s debut with the band Tony! Toni! Ton–!, is retro-futuristic: He blends classic references (punchy horns, bubbly bass, sassy backing singers) with up-to-the-minute studio techniques to create a sound that is modern but not trendy. Enlisting like-minded (if somewhat predictable) souls like Lauryn Hill and Common as guests, Saadiq has created an environment well-suited to a young singer trying to find herself within a daunting tradition.

    "I think we both have a love for authentic real music," Saadiq said by e-mail about the collaboration. "That does not mean just a live band jamming; it means that through those live musicians you create a song…. The song, the players' dedication to the song — not the drum roll or guitar lick — each player playing a role actually makes it a record. We both hear that."

    If there's one fault on "Introducing," it's that Stone's comfort level with that tradition remains too high. Throughout the album, she sings in a voice she learned from those soul albums; the lilt of coastal England never surfaces. Crafting a new self from beloved popular cultural sources, Stone is very much of her generation; it's her sincerity, her refusal to see that identity as artificial, that singles her out.

    For years, she's fielded questions about her right to sing in a black style, and on that subject, she's beyond irritated. "That's a very childish way to look at things," she huffed in response to the assertion that white artists have sometimes stolen from black artists. "I don't want to make any money from my records. It's really not about stealing…. This is soul music, we're technically calling this soul music. OK? So they're saying, 'You're not black, you're not American, so how do you expect me to believe that you have a soul?' It's just ridiculous."

    This view was once fairly common among white musicians steeped in black culture. "As a kid, I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black," the late bandleader Johnny Otis once said. Dusty Springfield, Stone's idol, described her own transformation in terms the younger singer would understand: At 16, she looked in the mirror and said to herself, "Be miserable or become someone else." So she did.

    For Saadiq, Stone's affinity for black music is simply part of the pop tradition. He sees her as operating in the tradition of legendary acts such as Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. "I can't answer why others might come down hard on Joss," he said, "except that they might be short of a history lesson."

    This kind of fluidity isn't so easily claimed now, since the civil rights movement and identity politics have laid bare the realities of white privilege. Stone, however, isn't much engaged in such intellectual debates. Most of the musicians she's worked with have been black, and her great love — the source of the more painful breakup songs on "Introducing" — was Beau Dozier, the son of Philly soul icon Lamont.

    Stone's refusal to analyze the racial leap her music makes is connected to her view that singing is about feeling more than thought. "It hurts," said Stone, when asked what she's learned about singing in the last few years of performing. "The kind of singing I do, I'm feeling it so much; if I were actually paying attention I could probably not hurt myself. My vocal coach is like, 'Joss, you just have to control yourself.' But that's not something I could do."

    This view, heavy on intuition and unfiltered passion, runs counter to the highly savvy, stylized approach of many young pop artists, including Stone's rivals, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. It's bound to invite scorn and even offend some people. For better or worse, Stone doesn't care. She sounds more like a heavy-metal rocker than a postmodern pop star when she talks about why she sings. "I've a funny thing with pain, I guess," she said. "I like to pierce myself a lot, and get tattoos. Sometimes I feel real numb, you know? So that's how I shake myself up and break myself up. Sometimes you've got to get to the point where you're on your knees for people to hear you. I don't know why, I can't really calm it down."





    ann.powers@latimes.com

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    Joss Stone




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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Considering that in the UK you only need to sell less than 100,000 copies to top the chart, only making it to #12 is piss poor.

    And the reason she got a slagging off after The Brits and the audience has turned on her was because of this posh Devon middle class girl suddenly swaggering on stage and addressing the audience with a cringeworthy gangsta rapper Americanized drawl and expressions "yeah y'all... how y'all feelin... what up to Robbie Williams, im really feelin what hes goin through....." What the f#ck???!

    Laughable. And everybody says her new albums sh#t. Should have stuck with enjoyable blue eyed soul like 'Diggin On Me'.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    The corporate boards have voted and decreed Joss Stone is going to be a star. The American pop music audience, which will buy anything that is used to sell enough Coke and computers and life insurance and new cars, will do what it is damn well told to do and buy her. "Success," albeit as a primped, preened and pre-digested pop star, is assured.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    LOL.

    Well Stone will become the first to be a flop in her own country of the UK yet become a star in the States who havent taken to many of our more talented offerings.

    Joss Stone... good for the odd pleasurable single here and there, but nothing more. Cant see many wanting a whole album of an immature teenager who cant decide if shes a poss middle class english woman or a american ghetto hippy hybrid.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Quote Originally Posted by Overhand_Right
    LOL.

    Well Stone will become the first to be a flop in her own country of the UK yet become a star in the States who havent taken to many of our more talented offerings.

    Joss Stone... good for the odd pleasurable single here and there, but nothing more. Cant see many wanting a whole album of an immature teenager who cant decide if shes a poss middle class english woman or a american ghetto hippy hybrid.
    Hey, watch the GHETTO word. because let me tell you, it's nice here in the ghetto!

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Anyone who likes can slag off on Joss Stone for her comments on-stage. But I have her "Soul Sessions" CD, which I received a few years ago as a benefit for contributing to a public radio station here in Seattle. I had never heard of Stone--but I thought (and still think) that the CD is outstanding. She has a great voice and strong phrasing.

    Have there been better vocalists? Well, yes. Is she better than a large percentage of those singing these days? I think so. And, of course, she may actually improve as the years go by.

    Anyone who wants to complain about her singing African-American music should also criticize any non-European who dares sing opera or play classical music. I mean, really: What a lot of gall it takes for some kid from the ghetto to think that he can actually offer an authentic interpretation of one of Wagner's heroes or heroines! And since when do these ghetto kids play violin? They should stick with the music and instruments of their milieu.

    (And, yes, those last comments are ironic.)
    Last edited by Dan Gunter; 03-27-2007 at 11:45 AM. Reason: Correct typo.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Joss Stone has obviously been directed and 'told' what to do by those that have signed her. She undoubhtedly has some cool parents and a good understanding of Rock & Blues, but "Hey," those that paid her way will also 'mainstream' her and because of her young age try to get her to pull in more of her own age group, potentionally ruining her...maybe in a couple of years and especially when her 'star' stops rising she will realise where she belongs...

    P.S. Gor (or anyone else with this insight), What is the Best ROCK station I can listen to online, you know good Classic Rock, the least commercialised and watered down, that I can 'tune' into from Britain here and put on my favorites...maybe put up the link for me.

    Thanks Jim.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Try WRLL-AM ("1690- AM REAL Oldies"). I'm listening to it now ("MIdnight Confessions," the Grass Roots). PeteLeo.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim glen
    P.S. Gor (or anyone else with this insight), What is the Best ROCK station I can listen to online, you know good Classic Rock, the least commercialised and watered down, that I can 'tune' into from Britain here and put on my favorites...maybe put up the link for me.

    Thanks Jim.
    I enjoy the commercial-free "Deep Tracks" on XM Radio, which I get with my satellite TV subscription. I mentioned it earlier here.

    It costs US$8.00 a month otherwise (and comes with a bunch of other stations).
    Last edited by BoxofDaylight; 03-28-2007 at 12:26 AM.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    I saw her on David Letterman last week and thought she was just great.
    Karl

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    www.fox951.com is good, and you can access HD radio stations across the USA arranged by city and music library type from there.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    I could not possibly imagine Stone bombing. A great-looking girl with a big soul-shouter voice that will appeal to the Motown generation and the Starbucks easy-listening crowd both will always have a niche, if not superstardom, particularly with top songwriters and producers. What she may not be is a great artist, but she will always work and sell.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    great stations gentlemen, thanks a lot...
    are there any that you can think of that are 'soley' devouted to TRUE Classic Rock including Soft Rock and absolutely No Heavy Metal or Commercialized Rock...note HARD ROCK & Heavy Metal (shite) are quite different animals...they the Animals were Hard Rock, no what I mean!

    Jim.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    The only good radio I've heard in years is satellite. My physical therapist plays XM in his office and today I heard "Skyway" by the Replacements, "Thirteen" by Big Star, "Spirits in the Night" by Springsteen and a host of other forgotten greats that would never reach the airwaves on a commercial station.

    I never thought I would hear myself say this, but satellite radio may be a good deal after all.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    I think many of you are being VERY unfair to Ms.Stone. She's just a kid for Christ sakes & she's just trying to figur eut her groove. her first cd recorded at 16 is fucking ASTONiSHING!

    One of the great retro-soul cd's I've heard in decades - & she's a blonde, 16 year old Brit chick!?

    I didn't particulaly like her 2nd cd & who know about the next one. But what is she now, 19? Give her a chance. As "Scribe said with that voice, those looks & a rather charming personality, I'm hooked.

    Maybe not this next cd but sooner rather than later she's going to find her "sound" & be a monster recording artist. Hell, along with Mick Jagger she's made one of the great sountracks of this decade for an unfortunately horrible remake of the classic film, Alfie.

    Her version of "Alfie" & her duet with Mick on "Lonely Christmas" are superb. & she did that soundtrack & her great first cd by the age of 17.

    Got a question for youse guys: Any of you accomplish anything as great as she has by the age of 17? Any of you accomplish anytthing by 17?

    Case closed.

    GorDoom

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Dude, I had cracked the $100/hr barrier at my McDonald's register multiple times by 17!

    Like I said, the talent is there. The only question is what kind of an artist she's going to be.

    And I don't think age is that big a factor. 17 in Entertainment industry years is like 40 in normal-people years. And I'm sure she's surrounded by a phalanx of older advisors.

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    But...

    Well i've never won the world heavyweight championship but i hope that doesn't preclude me from criticising Nikolay Valuev?

    Stone has a powerful singing voice. So do many others. She has a group of people around her who write songs for her and play instruments for her. Big round of applause.

    All im pointing out is that her last 2 albums have apparently been underwhelming and if any of you Americans were confused as to why the ridicule directed at her in the UK, it came from earlier in the year and her cringeworthy Brits "speech".

    That is all.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    By 17 I had made my rep as undisputed Sachem High School Maturbating Champion two years in a row.

    I lost the title only after someone swiped my Farrah fawcett poster.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Your successor to the crown may end up using a Joss poster...

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    remember Cheech Marin (Cheech & Chong), he came 1st & 3rd in such a contest... "that would be hard to beat!"

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike DeLisa
    By 17 I had made my rep as undisputed Sachem High School Maturbating Champion two years in a row.

    I lost the title only after someone swiped my Farrah fawcett poster.
    Don't tell me you actually had a panel of judges for the . . . performance. Was one of them Dalby Shirley? PeteLeo.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Quote Originally Posted by Overhand_Right
    Considering that in the UK you only need to sell less than 100,000 copies to top the chart, only making it to #12 is piss poor.

    And the reason she got a slagging off after The Brits and the audience has turned on her was because of this posh Devon middle class girl suddenly swaggering on stage and addressing the audience with a cringeworthy gangsta rapper Americanized drawl and expressions "yeah y'all... how y'all feelin... what up to Robbie Williams, im really feelin what hes goin through....." What the f#ck???!

    Laughable. And everybody says her new albums sh#t. Should have stuck with enjoyable blue eyed soul like 'Diggin On Me'.
    Christina Aguilera did the same thing during her "Stripped" stage . .talking in some faux-gangsta slang and accent that was just nauseating.

    Now she's all retro 30s and . . gues what . . .her speaking voice is back to being that of the Conn. middle class white girl that she is.

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeteLeo
    Don't tell me you actually had a panel of judges for the . . . performance. Was one of them Dalby Shirley? PeteLeo.
    Did you have open scoring?

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    Re: Will the real Joss Stone rise up?

    Quote Originally Posted by hagler04
    Christina Aguilera did the same thing during her "Stripped" stage . .talking in some faux-gangsta slang and accent that was just nauseating.

    Now she's all retro 30s and . . gues what . . .her speaking voice is back to being that of the Conn. middle class white girl that she is.
    I thought of something similar this past weekend about Mark Wahlberg, when I saw THE DEPARTED. I'll try to dig up a YouTube interview of him during his Marky Mark days.

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    Joss Stone not quite ready to sing the blues

    By Mikael Wood, Special to The Times

    Thanks to a headstrong new album that finally proves Joss Stone can do more than mimic African American women three times her age, 2007 was supposed to be the 20-year-old English soul singer's year. Unfortunately for Stone, nobody told Amy Winehouse, whose "Back to Black" has handily displaced "Introducing Joss Stone" as the U.K. R&B disc of the moment.

    Monday at the Greek Theatre -- headlining a solid triple bill that also included newcomer Ryan Shaw and Raphael Saadiq -- Stone demonstrated the differences between herself and Winehouse, and the result raised age-old questions about the role of hardship in the creation of great art.

    If you believe the tabloids (or perhaps your own eyes), Winehouse leads a life of romantic tumult and chemical dependence, which lends her tortured love songs a believability you don't often find in the sort of retro-formalist stuff that gets record nerds excited.

    In contrast, Stone appears happy, healthy and well-adjusted; at the Greek, she couldn't stop flashing her 1,000-watt smile. On "Introducing," Stone's youthful optimism fuels the up-tempo numbers, such as "Girl They Won't Believe It," a delirious glam-soul shuffle in which the singer describes "a world where the sun's even shining inside." She opened her 80-minute set Monday with that tune, riding her 10-piece band's deep-pile groove like a brand-new sports car.

    Yet when she changed gears to slower, darker material, Stone faltered. "Victim of a Foolish Heart," an old Bettye Swann song from Stone's 2003 debut, "The Soul Sessions," sounded soggy and listless, while "Bruised but Not Broken" was long on technique but short on feeling.

    As a performer, Stone has matured tremendously since she began playing shows a few years ago; no longer does she seem like an awkward teenager onstage. But she does come off as a young woman, one in the throes of the sexual discovery that pop was invented to soundtrack. Compared with Winehouse's old-soul tribulations, that might be a circumstance worth celebrating.

    In his 30-minute opening set, Shaw almost did enough celebrating to make up for Stone's missteps. "My message is love, love, love," the 26-year-old Georgia native announced. It was a claim backed up by his stripped-down, high-energy R&B, which sounded like it could've been transported to the Greek via time machine from 1963.

    Saadiq was in a good mood too, though he had more than vintage vibes on his mind. Like Prince, whose multitasking abilities Saadiq openly emulates, this writer-producer-performer (a former member of Tony! Toni! Toné! as well as Stone's producer) makes futuristic soul music that still seems old-school. The highlight of his set was a medley of hits he's written for other artists, including D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," which drew big cheers from the R&B-attuned audience. Is hardship a part of Saadiq's great art? Could be: "Some of these people never paid me," he said, reclaiming his songs as collateral.

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