Esprit Rock

She has won eight Grammys

She has won eight Grammys, seven Soul Train Music Awards, and four American Music Awards. She has five platinum albums and one gold album. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 BET Awards. She has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and won International Artist of the Year. She is the artist my parents danced to on their wedding day. Who is this musician you may ask? She..is no other than one of the most highly regarded singers of any soulful romantic ballad ever made, Anita Baker. Baker quickly soared from a soul singer who honored the traditional soul lounge aura to an arena filling lounge singer creating passion and love songs throughout the “quiet storm” era of contemporary R&B in the 1980s and 1990s. Talented with a soft, contralto tone, she affected R&B music and took it by storm, as well as jazz, gospel, and customary pop. Her music has an unmistakable sophistication which underscores the theme of her mellow sounding music. Baker’s moving, romanticized music lyrics made her a standout amongst the most prevalent sentimental vocalists of her time, such as Sade or Luther Vandross.
Anita Baker released her debut album “Rapture” in 1986, with a top Billboard hit, “Sweet Love,”. The album went multi-platinum and remained on a constant pivot on most of the “quiet storm” radio playlists. Later to follow in the same footsteps came the delicate songs “Caught up in the Rapture” and “Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year).” After releasing all this music and remaining on the top 10 billboards, she followed up in the fall of 1988 with the No. 1 album hit, Giving You the Best That I Got. Baker’s light-hearted but passionate vocal ability manifested a pleasant sound that incorporated the sounds of contemporary soul and opened her talents up to an assortment of fans that later concluded the decision of a full worldwide tour with musical talent, Luther Vandross.
In 1990, Baker released her album Compositions, in which she was more engaged and involved with the production and songwriting process. With the new found freedom and flexibility given from Elektra records to her to produce the music she desired, she began incorporating more jazz components. “Compositions” propelled the singles “Talk to Me”, “Soul Inspiration” and “Fairytales”, and overall, and sold over a million copies. In an interview in October of 1988, Anita Baker stated “Every consumer other than the 10 to 21-year-old demographic has been left out. There’s a whole group of people out there that are starving. And if you have a whole group of consumers standing there with money in their hands asking you to give them something to buy, it behooves you to give them something to buy.” Realizing that the younger demographic of music listeners are putting their money into rappers, R&B singers, and the up & coming sing/rap groups, Anita Baker understood that her music appeals to a range of older and contemporary jazz listeners relying on the consistent appeal of the quiet storm singer.
Anita Baker represents artists, particularly singers, who are known for scrutinizing the vintage afro-soul, jazz and funk music for inventive inspiration. ”I definitely identify with the term retro-nuevo,” Baker stated in an interview prior to her Saturday and Sunday sold-out shows in Radio City Hall Music. ”My first influence was Mahalia Jackson, and I still hold her dear, but my No. 1 idol is Sarah Vaughan. Since no one is going to be around forever, it would be a shame if, in the next decade, the accomplishments of the great jazz singers were forgotten. Although I wouldn’t presume to try to carry the torch, I will help hold it up.’ (Baker). Similar to Sarah Vaughan, Anita Baker is a contralto and has developed a high soprano head tone that extends her vocal range to a minimum of 3 octaves. At her New York City concert debut in June at the JVC festival, it had been the rich, low octave of the singer’s voice that brought many people to their feet in adornment. Anita Baker is a prime example of bending the laws of music and distributing art within music using heart-warming phrases that are jazz in their yearning for the soul-healing, feverish emotional feeling.
Regarded as one of the most powerful songs on the Compositions album, Anita Baker’s “Fairy Tales,” is a song in which a lady recounts her mother telling her fairy tales when she was a kid, such as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, before she goes to bed and applying those stories to real life and romance once she is a woman searching for love. It also explains the realization of Anita as she finds that the experiences she has as an adult are much different than those tales told to her as a child: “she never said that we would curse, cry, scream, and laugh.” Baker sings, “The story ends as stories do, reality steps into view—no longer living life in paradise or fairy tales.”. The music starting at 2:58, is where you start to see the elevated intensity as she rushes forth as she sings, “You never came to save me, you let me stand alone” ending at 3:08, where the production of the piano and horn crescendos higher and higher in direct relation with her voice to push forth a powerful feeling. She embraced a blend of technological enhancement of music and “real instruments” where you can hear a lot of this towards the end of “Fairytales” in her album Compositions. The contrast between her music and the day to day jack swing music was the completely high-tech approach of many ’80s and ’90s “quiet storm” R&B artists, such as Sade whose music began to fall under the category of “soft rock”. But on Compositions, producer Michael J. Powell leaned closer to a ’70s era approach to R&B. He began by recording Baker’s vocals live in the studio, employing a live band rhythm section, and avoiding percussions, drum machines and drum pads altogether. The only thing that remained consistent is the relatable story she told in every song. Anita Baker made it clear that she would always reject the normality of hip-hop/rap, funk, and other ’80s and ’90s black music styles to replicate her own accepted, creative genre of music.
Anita Baker’s music redefined the meaning of classy, refined and the imaginative culture of a romantic soul. She was one of the most prominent quiet storm singers of the 1980s and 1990s and brought a realness and simplicity to the word “love”. Gifted with a strong, supple alto tone, Ms. Baker was influenced not only by R&B, but jazz, gospel, and traditional pop, which gave her music a distinct sounding vibe and adult sophistication. Her versatility defined soul’s quiet storm and in return received strong success with multi-platinum albums and awards. The effect Baker had on the world with every note she sang makes her one of the most popular romantic singers of her time.

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