We often don’t realize that we are hearing the future when its first encountered. In the case of Philadelphia born Shareese Renée Ballard or Res, the kind of R&B meets pop meets alt rock and dance of her debut would not be a common ting for at least another decade.
It wouldn’t be fair to call Res a one hit wonder, but it’s puzzling that so much talent would go unanswered or be followed up in the grind of quick album releases. Her first album, 2001’s How I Do, helped expose a growing crop of black artist who were influenced by not only R&B, but alternative rock styles as well.
For Res, you can’t help but wonder if part of the reason her critically acclaimed album was held back may have been due to its utter diversity and genre swapping cleverness. The age of MTV had made exposed mainstream white audiences to r&b and blacks to rock, but the love was still not being shared on radio, even as late as 2001. While pop styles could intermix on mainstream radio, those who dare mix indie rock elements and the avant-garde like Meshell Ndegeocello were at risk of being ignored for not fitting in. After all, black artists were supposed to make us dance with simple mindless grooves – or so we were taught by record companies and radio execs.
While radio programmers may have seemed confused, newer media outlets like VH1 understood the power of music that crossed boundaries. The dance community understood also, perhaps more than anyone. While the single Golden Boys got heavy video exposure, it only had resonance in clubs and very likely gay underground ones at first.
The witty lyrics painted a vivid picture of the life of a hustler man-whore trying to go straight. Just the material to connect with underground audiences in the spirit of Frankie Goes to Hollywood or early Soft Cell. The next single, They-Say Vision had reaped the seeds Golden Boys had planted. It became a breakout hit, with a 1# spot on the Billboard dance chart. They-Say Vision also climbed into the top 200 and settled at 37, making Res a favorite in the new iTunes online record store. The fourth and final single Sittin’ Back would flop, which was unfortunate. Res would not be heard from in any significant way immediately after How I Do’s four singles ran their course.
Things would not improve on a big scale for Res over the next 10 years or so. She released herself from her record contract after her label MCA was swallowed up by Geffen. She had started the process of releasing a second album called Black Girls Rock, that would remain still born until 2009. The occasional soundtrack song would keep Res busy, but her official second full album follow-up would not arrive until 2014.