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The old-school pleasures of Chrisette Michele

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Chrisette_lThese days, when new artists seemingly come a dime a dozen, I was pleasantly surprised to have stumbled across the MySpacepage of Island Def Jam artist Chrisette Michele,whose debut CD I Am drops June 19. (You may recognize her as the sultryvoice that helped Jay-Z cut his losses in his 2006 hit “Lost Ones.”)

And, oh, that voice!

Look, I like Rihanna and Beyonce just as much as the next listener, but she reminds me of the not-so-long ago time when my favorite R&B artists were just that — R&B artists. If iPods were around back then, mine would’ve been filled with the pure, unadulterated rhythm-and-bluesof performers like SWV, Monica (pre- After the Storm), and 702. These were women whose lyrics and vocal technique did not have to rely on an abundance of hype (sorry, Beyonce), killer dance moves(it’s true, Ciara), or stellar production masking lackluster vocals (but we still love you, Rihanna).

Listening to her old-school vocal stylings, It’s no surprise that,in addition to her collabo with Hov, Chrisette has already done a song with Nas. Or thatshe credits Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald as major influences. Orthat she toured with the soulful India Arie after the “I am Not My Hair” singerdiscovered her at The Village Underground. (And Making the Bandfans: ya’ll know that The Village Underground is “where the singas go tosaaang.” Oh, and PrettyAubrey goes there too.)

I’m sure many of you are thinking: Beyonce can too sing! and  Rihanna belts her little heartout on “Umbrella”! I agree that they can sing. They just don’t.It’s my theory that many oftoday’s pop stars suffer from what I call Keith Sweat Syndrome, whichtakes its name from that famed R&B singer who once madesome very good musicbefore somebody apparently told him that whining is sexy. (Itisn’t). Ironically, his birth name is Keith Crier. Another reason for thethrough-the-nose vocals?

But, I digress. I think Chrisette Michele offers a cure for KSS,which among the pop stars of today, is evident in their tendency tobreathe heavily into the mic, or to sing songs devoted to a skanky dress.

Am I on to something here PopWatchers? Is Chrisette Michele is bringing vocalsback?