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Evan Nabavian has been known to New Jack Swing from time to time.
Bruno Mars laid it on pretty thick with “Finesse.” I’m a sucker for 90’s throwbacks, but “Finesse” felt like an excuse to do an In Living Color-style video, which is admirable, except it had the hackneyed feel of a 90’s theme party. It wasn’t as shameless as the typical ‘ten things you totally remember from the ’90’s,’ but it was a bit much.
Amber Mark’s new single is a lot better. It taps the same nostalgia vein and hits the same aesthetic switches but with more feeling. Her neighborhood crush catches her eye and, just like that, the skies clear and euphoria blankets New York. She doesn’t pine like a schoolgirl, by the way. She just tells him to pull up. DRAM plays the Grand Puba to Amber Mark’s MJB. The verses swing and the hook soars and all worldly anxieties evaporate as we return to a golden age that you couldn’t appreciate at the time if you were born in the late 80’s.
(Krauthammer in 97: “I recently told an assembly at my son’s high school that they were living through a time so blessed they would tell their grandchildren about it. They looked at me uncomprehendingly. First, because they have known little else but good times. And second, because it is hard for anyone to apprehend the sheer felicity of one’s own time until it is gone.”)
She nails the look — Zack Morris phone, leopard-lined Starter jacket, and a high-waisted bikini straight out of the “Rump Shaker” video. It starts to feel like an exercise in cliches depending on how fondly you remember MTV Jams and Nintendo 64. But I’d like to think it works even if you aren’t an 80’s baby, just as the Ohio Players and Lyn Collins are cool even if you discovered them through Snoop Dogg.
Other venerable efforts in the 90’s R&B throwback tradition:
- Angel Taylor is a gospel singer who made the last 90s R&B homage you’ll ever need in between communions.
- Bridget Kelly used some major label money to get Kendrick Lamar on a single where they saluted the 90s over the “Synthetic Substitution” break.
- CJ Hilton did the same thing with Nas, but he gets extra points for flipping Galt Macdermot.
- Jazmine Sullivan takes you back by sampling The Firm, which is almost as cool as the time Faith Evans and Carl Thomas did it.