dirty martini

old music for new people

jack your body June 1, 2007


for the under 25s, new jack swing is a hazy childhood recollection. it’s a young will smith running on the spot as the fresh prince of bel air, dwayne wayne after a few too many alize’s at the campus club in a different world.
new jack swing was the natural progression from slick yet laidback jheri soul, thrown into the 90s by adopting faster beats for crowds getting used to the more hectic pace of the house and garage scene.
of all the retro revivals, its difficult to see the flat top, loud clashing hammer pants and two tone shirts making a comeback to the fashion world. although it would be a laugh to see desperately trendy 16 year olds looking so ridiculous in the pursuit of fashion. i would definitely invoke the ‘if you remember it the first time round…’ rule and leave the girls’ lycra minidress and bubble perm well alone.
the music however, was the most futuristic that r&b had sounded until timbaland turned the entire genre on its head in the late 90s. it was criticised at the time, like jheri soul, for being over-produced, and strangely, sounds about right listened to now. anyone who’s anyone tried their hand at the sound though, and there’s nothing that date’s a genre so effectively as joey lawrence, nkotb, debbie gibson and those damn turtles.
for the real deal, check for those reruns of house party, in living color and new jack city.
twelve hi top fade anthemsdownload here
al b sure – if i’m not your lover
fondly remembered, mostly for this track and the dreamy/bouncy late 80s track ‘night and day’. about to launch a radio show called ‘the secret garden’, full of slow jams and celebrity insights. sounds unintentionally hilarious, i can’t wait!
basic black – she’s mine
almost one-hit wonders, this is the remix club version. also check out ‘special kind of fool’, a popular ballad.
bel biv devoe – do me
now the new edition veterans were all grown up, and claimed their rightful place alongside bobby brown as new jack swing pioneers, with this, their second single after the hugely successful debut, ‘poison’.
father mclisa baby
popular track, in its remixed form, from the band known mostly for ’69’. yes that masterpiece of subtlety. father dropped the ‘mc‘, like hammer before him, and went on to duet with a young mary j blige.
guy – i wanna get with you
so many guy tracks, so little time. the band were established by the time this was released, having practucally invented new jack swing a few years earlier.
keisha jackson – mama told me
one of the few girls on the new jack scene, before swv, tlc and jade came along and were labelled as the new jill swing invasion. i actually wasn’t sure that keisha was a girl, until recently….oops! in fact i’m pretty sure i used to confuse her with tevin campbell.
mantronix and jade trini – don’t go messin‘ with my heart
hiphop and electro were kurtis mantroniks comfort zones but even he got in on the action in 1991. this track, more obviously than keisha‘s somewhat masculine effort, gave a much needed injection of girlieness to the proceedings.
mariah carey – someday remix
mariah was new to the scene in 1990 and whilst she was gaining a reputation for her soaring vocals and that whistle register, she already had one eye on the club scene and drafted in shep pettibone, 80s remixer extraordinaire.
ready for the world – yo that’s a lot of body
a brash yet bubbling bassline and jacking beats give way to vocals that creep and you can just imagine rotfw bogling next to you in the club…still, can’t imagine a njs set without it.
rythm syndicate – p.a.s.s.i.o.n
had two hits then disappeared. used to get regular play on mtv and like so many others before and since, labelled as ‘that group who sound a bit like prince‘.
samuelle – so you like what you see
originally part of club nouveaux, samuelle released one solo new jack album in 1990.
today – him or me
had actually been recording as ‘the gents’ during the 80s, but a chance meeting with new jack supremo teddy riley proved fortuitous after years of flops.
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just let your soul glo April 29, 2007

sometime in about 1984 surfaced a phenomenon that would last well into the late 80s – jheri curl soul.borne out of the post-disco movement, curl soul was a more electronic style that made use of damn near every new sound available. jheri curl soul identified itself in a number of ways –

  1. the hair, obviously. before eddie murphy and co satirised said hairdo in ‘coming to america‘, the jheri curl was big business. cue glistening curls and plenty of grease-stained sofas
  2. the bands often resembled an extended family photo – it was not uncommon for groups to have more than five members
  3. a glitzy name – bonus points for inclusion of the word ‘star’ or ‘band’ and for translating your name into fauxfrancais: atlantic starr, five star, midnight star, the sos band, the bb&q band, royalle delite, club nouveaux, intrique
  4. if you can’t convince your family to join in, or are a norman-no-mates, a duo is your best bet – rene and angela, aurra, ashford and simpson
  5. reflective and/or brightly coloured silk suiting must be standard issue, and don’t forget those shoulder pads. essential for the moody yet inviting, hands on hips pose favoured by many of said bands
  6. allude to yet more glamour and excitement in your lyrics. recommended themes are – gold and silver, notoriety, electricity, being the finest, a freak, turning someone on, having secret affairs, taking your clothes off
  7. sprinkle liberally with tinkly sounds, synths, squelchy basslines and hyperactive drum patterns

for all that, the music should have been shit. but it was amazing. yes it was manufactured, so what. it sounds positively organic next to the late 90s robo-pop of the backstreet boys and britney spears. nothing quite sums up the 80s and a sunny day as effectively as this glossy, aspirational music. nothing made me more desperate to grow up and go to a real club so i could pretend to be one of these perfect specimens.

but since i was ooh, a good 8 years from being able to slip into a club with fake id, i danced in front of the tv in my pixie boots and silver dress, hair piled high and as much makeup as i could get away with. i strutted and pointed and pouted, to my parent’s amusement.

ten jheri curl soul classicsdownload here

midnight star – midas touch
midnight star comprised nine members. the exact role of each is unclear, but they all sported the prerequisite curls and loud suit, so contributed in some small way to the band’s success. this ode to all things gold was their biggest uk hit, in 1986.


klymaxx – the men all pause
pioneering ‘curl soul. klymaxx were a six-piece girl band in the traditional sense – they all played an instrument. this track was from their 1984 album ‘ meeting in the ladies room’.


lillo thomas – sexy girl
textbook 1987 example of the genre. associate of kashif and paul laurence, lillo was an olympic calibre athlete before an accident in 1984 forced him to pursue an alternative career.


the sos band – no one’s gonna love you
exquisitely produced track that almost sums up the genre. lovely bells, swooshes and that bassline. if it sounds familiar, it was sampled by r&b singer maxwell for a remix of his first hit ‘ascension’ in 1996.

rene and angelai’ll be good
slightly scary example of the curl’n’suit combo who had several sizable hits in the mid-80s. this 1985 hit was later used to good effect by jay-z and foxy brown.

jermaine stewart – we don’t have to take our clothes off
song that we delighted in singing at brownies, because we thought it was rude. from the poppier end of jheri curl soul and in fact, jermaine had unnaturally straight hair. perhaps in protest? can’t have been any easier to maintain…


atlantic starr – silver shadow
active throughout the 80s, atlantic starr are best known for ballads ‘always’ and ‘secret lovers’. this track was only released in the uk, where it prospered on the back of the club scene ignited by loose ends et al.


kashif – i just gotta have you
a big part of the 80s soul scene, producer kashif‘s own releases aren’t as well known as his work for others, including disco queen evelyn champagne king, george benson and dionne warwick, amongst others.


mac band – roses are red
a good example of the simple but effective lyrics used in many jheri soul cuts. this track still gets played out today.


the jets – curiosity
this polynesian eight-piece family act first rose to fame in 1987 with the poppy ‘crush on you’ led by then 15 year old vocalist elizabeth. since their late 80s success, younger siblings have replaced those retiring, from a pool of seventeen candidates.