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NEXT: Emotional Oranges Sing Tales Of Modern Love Behind Mysterious Blinds

The mysterious R&B duo's love songs are relatable as f**k, regardless of their anonymous citrus-colored glasses.

As of late, New York’s Brooklyn Steel has acted as a safe space for budding performers of the R&B flavor to bring live music to the fans. On a brisk fall evening, fans of Emotional Oranges follow stickers that act as breadcrumbs to the venue. It’s a perfect treat for them given the anonymous nature of the presumed duo. Singles like the flirtatious “Motion” and “Personal” not only offer reasons to slide to the dance floor but an ode to their ability to marry disco blends, instrumental productions, and 808s, resulting in a very special cocktail of modern R&B.

When members known as "A" and "V" take the stage in front of the sold-out crowd, they’re imaginative in every way. The venue turns into a mood ring of sorts as their silhouettes are met with lavender hues during “Built That Way,” blue for “Your Best Friend Is A Hater” and a somber red for “Corners of My Mind.” They may be a wonder, but the stories heard on the aforementioned tracks reflect the ins and outs of modern love. Ins being the adrenaline of meeting someone new in a two-star bar and the outs being the situationship that follows it. Fantasies of what love should be and reflections of what it could have been flooding the Emotional Oranges' debut project The Juice Vol. 1, giving listeners honest storytelling. It’s something producer/engineer “A” and female vocalist “V” pride themselves on.

“I think a lot of our music stems from real experience, not just other people’s stories, but our lives as well,” V says a few moons later in the VIBE office. Their most daring songs like “Hold You Back,” a back and forth about a woman falling for another girl while in relations with a guy came from a simple conversation between the two. “Hold You Back” as well as songs from their newly released follow-up, The Juice Vol. 2 aren’t built for the radio or a speakeasy, but for listeners who enjoy a bit of spritz in their R&B.

“It goes back to the expectations,” A says. “People get in the studio and it's a writer setup with another writer. The expectation is a song for the club, or a deep song or something for the “quintessential” album, but with us, there's none of that.”

Due to their anonymity, Emotional Oranges don’t worry about playing up their personality or staying in a sound bubble. Their mysterious allure comes with creative freedom. “I think it actually helps us do things faster,” V continues. “Vol. 2 was written in two weeks. A lot of the production takes 5, 6, 7 months, but in terms of ideation that process was super fast.”

The Juice Vol. 2 continues to toy with their style of intentional R&B; songs like “Don’t Be Lazy” jump right to the punch. “Let me lick and taste it,” the two sing with other tracks like “West Coast Love” pays homage to East Coast legends A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 jam, “Can I Kick It.” There’s also “Iconic,” that toys with the sounds of Miami’s 90s underground. Produced by Dante Jones of THEY., the track aligns with the Los Angeles-based duo's mission of keeping their music free-flowing.

A and V of Emotional Oranges came to be in 2017 but the group moved as a collective comprised of “normal people” in 2015. Those people included songwriters and producers, leading many to wonder just who made up the group. Speaking to Noisey earlier this year, EO shared how their debut single “Motion” doesn’t feature V, but another vocalist. "If you listen real carefully, on our first single ‘Motion,’ that’s our first singer. She's an A&R at a big label. The rest of the songs are our new singer," they said at the time. “We've all worked regular jobs. We're very regular people. And we came together for one unified vision. I tried a lot of things in my life that didn't work. I tried to put so many things together. It just came down to authenticity.” Some of the things that didn’t work were trying to bend towards a label's passive-aggressive suggestions.

“When you have labels telling you who you are as an artist, that doesn't work,” A says. “It might work for a song but not for the longevity of your career.” He also shared how artists should be mindful of the relationships they have with a label, a notion that might not be on the mind of a green artist. “It's not the idea of a label it’s the idea of someone telling you that you have to compromise your integrity in order to get to the next level, you have to eliminate that and eliminate the expectations of it to make money off of this tomorrow,” he says.“But for us, I think it's very liberating. We’re releasing music we love and not being given a deadline or told what to wear. To free yourself from all these things has been the most liberating for us.”

With their loyal and true fan base known as the “citrus squad,” Emotional Oranges got to experience just how deep their influence has been. Their fan merch with the simple words “emotional” across the right side of their tees and sweatshirts were later seen in the stores of Forever 21 without any credit. “I take it as a compliment,” V says. “They always copy what’s hot.”

Merch:

Forever 21:

They’re also one of the artists who provide a phone number for their fans. It’s not a way of funneling data for EO, but instead, a way for them to get to know their squad. “Even at the shows, they’ll come backstage and tell us their names. One time, there were four different couples in Toronto who bought meet and greet tickets twice," V recalls. "They spent $150 each twice in three months. They all said, ‘Do you remember us?’ and it’s like, ‘Of course!’ Moments like that have been great.”

“They’ll also tell their family members to come to shows,” V adds while asking A about a Texas-based fan who shared his love for EO with his twin sister from Durham. That curious person then became a fan, stretching the Emotional Oranges family a little further.

As their music continues to reach lovers of soul and today’s modern R&B, Emotional Oranges are holding on to the elements that actually matter. From storytelling, funky beats and universal perspectives, they have a gift of making it all work. “I think we haven't pigeon-holed ourselves, or put ourselves in a box,” V ironically says as she toys with an orange from our snack area. “I think we kind of live outside the box. We can really play, which I think is fun since where we go from here is up to us.”

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Here Are All The Hits Played During Ne-Yo And Johntà Austin's Epic R&B Battle

Over the weekend, music aficionados were gifted producer battles from the best in the business. In addition to The Dream and Sean "The Pen" Garrett's wild head to head, Ne-Yo and Johntà Austin's standoff was one for the books.

The gentlemen squared up on Instagram Live Sunday (March 29) after much fanfare. The rules were simple–Show up sober, play 2. 25 songs apiece, no unreleased music, the songs can be from any genre and the time limit would be up to 90 seconds for each song.

Soon, the battle kicked off with sentimental tracks like "Unfaithful" by Rihanna and "I Miss You" by the late Aaliyah. As spectators like Usher, Tyrese, 9th Wonder, Diddy, Tinashe, Snoh Aalegra, Eric Bellinger, Brian Michael-Cox and more entered the chat, the songs got bigger and better.

Rounds 3 and 4 saw the big guns come out. Austin played tracks from Aaliyah and Chris Brown with Ne-Yo playing his own songs and hits from Beyonce. "When all else fails, you got to bet on yourself" he hilariously said before playing his 2008 hit, "Miss Independent."

The final round left fans in a frenzy as Austin played Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" and Ne-Yo ending with "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce. The entire match was a delight as both men praised each other for their pen game.

Superproducers Swizz Beats and Timbaland helped kicked off the current trend last week when they gave fans part 2 of their 2018 match. We also got to see a match between Boi-1da and HitBoy over the weekend with an unleased track with Roddy Rich and Drake.

But Sunday's battle was all about R&B, specifically tracks from the aughts that are often sampled today. Most fans and spectators landed at a draw for the battle as it was just too hard to land on a winner.

See the full list of tracks dished out below.

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Round One

Johntà - "Get Gone" by Ideal (1999)

Ne-Yo- "That Girl" by Marques Houston (2003)

Johntà- "I Miss You" by Aaliyah (2002)

Ne-Yo- "Unfaithful" by Rihanna (2006)

Johntà- "Like That" by Mariah Carey, Fatman Scoop and Jermaine Dupri (2005)

Ne-Yo- "Knock You Down" by Keri Hilson featuring Ne-Yo (2009)

Johntà- "Don't" by Bryson Tiller (2014)

Ne-Yo- "She Got Her Own" by Jamie Foxx, Ne-Yo and Fabolous (2009)

Round Two

Johntà- "Stingy" by Ginuwine (2002)

Ne-Yo- "Own It" by Mack Wilds (2013)

Johntà- "Yo! (Excuse Me, Miss) by Chris Brown (2006)

Ne-Yo- "Stay" by Ne-Yo featuring Peedi Peedi (2006)

Johntà- "Don't Forget About Us" by Mariah Carey (2005)

Ne-Yo- "Spotlight" by Jennifer Hudson (2005)

Johntà- "Just Be A Man About It" by Toni Braxton (2000)

Ne-Yo- "Do You" by Ne-Yo (2007)

Round Three

Johntà- "Shortie Like Mine" by Bow Wow featuring Chris Brown and Johntà Austin (2006)

Ne-Yo- "Bust It Baby Pt. 2)" by Plies featuring Ne-Yo (2008)

Johntà- "Need A Girl" by Trey Songz (2009)

Ne-Yo- "Go On Girl" by Ne-Yo (2007)

Johntà- "Sweet Lady" by Tyrese (1998)

Ne-Yo- "Make Me Better" by Fabolous featuring Ne-Yo (2007)

Johntà- "Like You" by Bow Wow featuring Ciara (2005)

Ne-Yo- "Leave You Alone" Jeezy featuring Ne-Yo (2011)

Round Four

Johntà- "With You" by Chris Brown (2007)

Ne-Yo- "So Sick" by Ne-Yo (2005)

Johntà- "Shake It Off" by Mariah Carey (2005)

Ne-Yo- "Take A Bow" by Rihanna (2008)

Johntà- "Can't Help But Wait" (2007)

Ne-Yo- "Sexy Love" (2005)

Johntà- "I Don't Wanna" by Aaliyah (1999)

Ne-Yo- "Flaws and All" by Beyonce (2006)

Round Five

Johntà- "Come Over" by Aaliyah (2003)

Ne-Yo- "Miss Independent" (2008)

Johntà- "Poppin'" by Chris Brown (2007)

Ne-Yo- "Mirror" by Ne-Yo (2006)

Johntà- "Be Without You" by Mary J. Blige (2005)

Ne-Yo- "Let Me Love You" by Mario (2004)

Johntà- "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey (2004)

Ne-Yo- "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce (2006)

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Michael Jackson announces plans for Summer residency at the O2 Arena at a press conference held at the O2 Arena on March 5, 2009 in London, England.
Tim Whitby/Getty Images

Michael Jackson's Estate Donates $300,000 To Coronavirus Relief Efforts

Broadway Cares, Nevada’s Three Square Food Bank and MusiCares are receiving a big donation from the estate of Michael Jackson to help with those affected by the coronavirus. 

Rolling Stone reports each organization will receive $100,000. Comprised of entertainment and service workers, the donation will help with those who have been hit the hardest due to production and stores closing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The move to issue relief was also inspired by the passing of Manu Dibango, the legendary Afro-jazz saxophonist who died earlier this week from the virus in Paris.

Dibango's career started in the 1950s, and he worked with the likes of Fela Kuti, Robbie Shakespeare, and others, but he's perhaps most known for "Soul Makossa" – which along with being popular in its own right, was sampled by Michael Jackson on the Thriller hit "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin.'"

“This virus strikes at the heart of the communities we are close to,” John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the Estate of Michael Jackson, said in a statement. “We learned today that the legendary Manu Dibango passed away from the virus. Other performers and support staff in music and on Broadway are sick or have been left without work and are facing an uncertain future. And in Las Vegas, which has been so welcoming to Michael Jackson, the entire city has been shut down leaving thousands of workers and their families devastated and without an income.”

“MusiCares is very grateful for the outpouring of generosity we’ve seen from many in the music industry to grow the COVID-19 Relief Fund,” Steve Boom, MusiCares chair, said in a statement to the outlet. “The challenges that our industry is facing right now are enormous. It is contributions such as these that will help our community survive in this unprecedented time of tremendous need.”

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