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Versus: Jully Black vs. Divine Brown


Jully Black. Divine Brown. Two exceptionally talented Toronto-based R&B/Soul music artists. Two solid and well received summer albums. But if I had to choose one over the other? Hmmmm...

Divine Brown
Divine Brown
Universal Music Canada

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I'll be honest, when I first heard Divine Brown's first single Old School Love, I wasn't impressed.

In trying to evoke that classic 70's soul sound, it comes across as trying too hard and a bit artificial. But fear not - most of the tracks on the self-titled album do hit the mark and tap into a rich vein of classic R&B/Soul.

Brown has been a longtime fixture in the Toronto nightclub scene and it definitely shows on this project - the lyrics and vocal arrangements are polished and on point.

Tracks like 'Without You', 'Something Bout You' and 'Warrior' prove that Torontonians can hold their own with those so-called divas south of the border.

Kudos also go out for her superlative cover of Joni Mitchell's 'Help Me'. Good stuff.

Jully Black
This is Me
Universal Music Canada

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The remarkably talented Jully Black bills herself as the quintessential everywoman. No argument here.

But a case can be made that the This Is Me is so long overdue (she's been trying to release an album for 10 years now) that it's practically early. No matter.

Toronto's own Black ensures that the album is well worth the wait. This is Me features an eclectic mix of soul, gospel, R&B, hip-hop and reggae. While there is a risk that casual listeners might not be ready for such musical gumbo, Black fearlessly pulls it off.

Speaking of reggae, the island-flavoured joint 'Sweat of Your Brow' has been in solid rotation on MuchMusic and mainstream radio. With stellar production that's both gritty and polished at the same time, tracks like 'Hurt U Bad', 'Calling You', and 'Free to Love You' show that Black has not only arrived, she's not leaving anytime soon.

Expect a flurry of Junos for this one.

Verdict:
At the risk of sounding corny, I'm tempted to say that the ultimate winner is anyone that loves Canadian urban music. But if I was forced to, I'd give Jully Black the slight edge.

At any rate, one hopes that with the success of these artists, record labels just might be willing to take a chance on the wealth of urban music talent that resides in our fair city. Support them both.


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