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In Your Ear: Nick Austin


And now it's time for a feature we call "In Your Ear." That's where we hear from some of our favorite guests about the music that inspires them. This week we're mixing it up a little. We've reached out to music gurus from public radio stations around the country to find out what songs are topping their personal playlists. Today we'll hear from Detroit, Michigan, the home of the old school soul of Motown and member station WDET is giving R&B a new school spin.


NICK AUSTIN, BYLINE: I am Nick Austin, host of "New Soul Sunday" heard in Detroit where we merge soul, funk with hip-hop and electronica; old school and new school. And here are some of the tunes that really go to that mission.


AUSTIN: Saturday Nite by the Brand New Heavies, Mos Def, Samples "Got to Give it Up by Marvin Gaye," and in that way it kind of brings the old school of Detroit with Marvin Gaye, with the new school with production legend and Detroit icon J Dilla.


BRAND NEW HEAVIES: (Singing) Saturday Nite, Saturday Nite, we make it, make it better. Saturday Nite. We can all be free. Yeah. We can all...

AUSTIN: I love cruising around to that song. It makes me move.


HEAVIES: (Singing) We have to get our foot (unintelligible).

AUSTIN: Another song I'm listening to is Jazzanova's remix of Heavy's "Wonderlove." It's an ode to one of my favorite old school artists and someone everyone on my show loves, Minnie Ripperton. Now, you can't recreate the incomparable voice of Minnie Ripperton, of course, but the thing I love about Wonderlove is although it has the same tempo throughout the whole thing, it's like two different songs. You start off with the first segment, which is just a kind of a lament to a love that one used to have.

And listening to Minnie Ripperton while doing it. And then it stops.


AUSTIN: And the tempo kicks up.


AUSTIN: But it's really just the same tempo but it's groovy now and you get like a second bonus song in there all with Jazzanova's wonderful acid jazz, a new school production. It's a great tune and it's like two in one. You can't beat that.


AUSTIN: Another song I'm listening to is Janelle Monae's "Sincerely Jane" off of her first big release "The Metropolis: Suite #1 (The Chase)."


JANELLE MONAE: (Singing) These kids round killing each other. They lost their minds. They gone. They quittin', making babies, and can barely read some books. Some gone off to their fall, lord have mercy.

AUSTIN: It's a fantastic piece. My favorite part about it, however, is that even though it's soul singing similar to how Marvin Gaye got it down with "What's Going On," she's able to seamlessly interweave orchestral composition and some wonderful French horn licks for a magnificent piece that I think will be timeless.


MONAE: (Singing) Are we really living or just walking dead now? Are we walking dead now? Or dreaming of the hope of riding the wings of angels? The way we live. The way we die. What a tragedy, I'm so terrified. Daydreamers, please wake up. We can't sleep no more.

MARTIN: That was Nick Austin telling us what's playing in his ear. He's the host of New Soul Sunday on Detroit's WDET.


MONAE: (Singing) The truth hurts and so does yesterday. What good is love if it burns bright, explodes in flames?

MARTIN: Just ahead we continue our week-long series on aging and the end of life. We'll hear from three people who are or were caring for their elderly parents. It can be a time of deep connection and so stressful you think your head will explode. Like when former New York Times reporter Jane Gross had to move her mother to a nursing home and cover the events of 9/11.

JANE GROSS: I don't know whether I was right or wrong but it seemed to me that, you know, I was not going to be the one to walk off the job that day.

MARTIN: That conversation is coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.