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Volume 68, Issue 11, Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Arts & Entertainment

R&B's Musiq amplifies H-Town's Arena Theatre

By Keenan Singleton 
The Daily Cougar

With albums titled Aijuswanaseing and Juslisten, it's obvious as a child that r&b singer Musiq's ears weren't exactly hooked on phonics. Instead, his headphones were hooked on the sounds of Stevie Wonder, George Clinton and John Coltrane. And by the raucous reception he received Sunday night at the Arena Theatre, the audience appreciated his lack of literacy.

What Musiq can read is what a predominately black female audience wants. The element makes Musiq smarter than the average r&b singer, as does his lack of dependence on his voice. His performance is light on the vocal fluctuations that have become all the rage (see Christina Aguilera), and heavy on strong, diaphragm-backed lyrics. 

His set was about as fancy a McDonald's cheeseburger and fries: maroon leather couch; small wooden coffee table and a turntable for his disc jockey. The Arena's intimate rotating stage wouldn't allow for much more. 

The Arena was not sold out, but when Musiq jogged out to the stage, it was standing room only.

His current single, "Halfcrazy," from his recent release, Juslisten made the crowd do more than the song's name suggests.

He performed hits from his double-platinum-selling album, Aijuswanaseing, including "Girl Next Door," "Mary Go Round" and "Love," which he dedicated to a middle-aged couple that fell in love all over again as Musiq sang to them.

He closed the night with the aforementioned "Just Friends (Sunny)." In fact, Musiq committed a cardinal sin in the religion of r&b music. He actually wanted to be "just friends" on his first and biggest hit to date, "Just Friends (Sunny)." Not exactly the route Al Green would have taken, but look where he is now.

Musiq could have found a spot on stage and clutched it like Linus with his blanket. Instead, he danced and pleaded. During his cover of The Ohio Players' "Funkin'," he broke the coffee table and gave the audience a mini-shock before regrouping and confirming that he was OK.

Musiq connected with the women as well as Oprah would, but unlike the fluctuating daytime talk-show host, he included the men. The guys could stand and sing along without having to look over their shoulders for mutual male acceptance. 

The night began with a 45-minute set from comedian Pierre (How to Be a Player). He loosened up the crowd quicker than two Long Island teas and a shot of tequila. The new r&b duo AAries, had a three-song set that reminded me a lot of the food at Luby's cafeteria, meaning they still needed some seasoning. They performed two original tracks before ripping off a Minnie Ripperton song that at times sounded more like Minnie Mouse. 

The Detroit-based rap trio, Slum Village, was debuting new material, not to mention a new member, the lyrically proficient Elzhi. He strengthens the two original members, T3 and Baatin, though Baatin is more animated than an episode of Voltron. The members used their native tongues to convey their message: party with a positive purpose.

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