Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sound Bank: 11) Rhythm Nation

When you're a teenager EVERYTHING takes on a melodramatic air of BRUTAL IMPORTANCE. We're out of orange juice? OH, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE AGAINST ME? People don't see the real me, they just see this HUGE ZIT. My feelings cannot be adequately expressed IN LOWER CASE TYPE.

I was not immune to this intensity of emotion. When I broke up with my first girlfriend, I listened to Gloria Estefan's Anything For You every day for three months. We'd been together a fortnight.

But the album I really, really went batshit mental for was Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. I wasn't so fussed about the po-faced sermonising and social commentary ("Illiteracy? No!"). No, it was all about Janet's decree "Get the point? Good, let's dance."

By God, that album is funky. Rhythm Nation introduced me to the supple grooves of Sly & The Family Stone. I became a better, more versatile drummer through trying to replicate the industrial grind of State Of The World. Miss You Much, one of the album's record-breaking seven Top Five US singles, is a monument of pop futurism. The groove is so sparse, and the drums so monumentally huge that it literally forces your limbs to dance across the living room, one beat at a time.

And that's just Side A.

I know that album inside out. Every edit, every ad lib, every alternate take. 22 years later, I still find fresh new sounds buried deep in the mix. Radiohead have never recorded something so layered, so intricate.

OK, Janet's voice is flimsy. And I agree, they went a little overboard with the sampler on Alright. Yes, Livin' In A World (They Didn't Make) is so mawkishly sentimental about children that Janet's brother would have dismissed it as "a bit much".

But the brilliance of this album can be summed up in one brief moment of production genius. At the climax of Love Will Never Do (Without You) Janet holds a series of ascending notes, reaching higher and higher until, suddenly, you realise the noise has stopped being her voice and you're listening to Herb Alpert's muted brass trumpet. I've listened to it thousands of times, and I still can't hear the moment where the two soundwaves embrace and separate. It's my favourite part of any pop song ever.

Janet Jackson - Love Will Never Do (Without You)

(The trumpet bit starts at round 5'15")

Sound Bank is a series of blog posts I'm running in August while I'm on holiday. If you want to know more about it, there's an explanation on this page. Normal pop blog service will be resumed around 25th August

Labels: , , , ,

<< Home

Newer Posts ::: Older Posts

© 2014 Discopop Directory | Contact | Go to the homepage