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Monday, April 28, 2008

"keep up the good love for Chaka..."

You got your Chaka Khan in my Scritti Politti!

Well, you got your Scritti Politti in my Chaka Khan!

Mmmm…hey! This is pretty good!

Chaka Khan was cooling off in 1986 after a major hot streak. Coming off a huge smash cover of Prince’s “I Feel For You”, she was back in the Top 40, but following such a big single ended up being a bit of a problem, as songs like “(Krush Groove) Can’t Stop the Street” and “Own the Night” struggled to even hit the Top 50. Even “Through the Fire,” a song that just about everyone knows now thanks to Kanye West’s sampling, peaked only at #60. Chaka needed a little boost back to the top.

Meanwhile, fey art-funksters Scritti Politti had finally broken thru the States the year prior with “Cupid & Psyche ’85,” an album that sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did twenty years (holy shit) ago. The technology and recording tricks that lead Scritti Green Gartside employed blew pop music wide open with this release, and homeboy does NOT get enough credit for that. “Perfect Way” hit #11 in the States and Scritti Politti were plotting their next move.

Why not write and produce Chaka Khan’s next single?


A bizarre collaboration that honestly sounds horrid on paper, but in practice works out quite nicely. I’m not quite sure who had this idea, Chaka, Scritti or their shared label at the time, Warner Brothers, but the results were inspired. Green pushed Chaka into a poppy, glossy, new wave-ish realm and Chaka pushed back with a stellar (as usual) vocal. Plus, you had Chaka referring to herself in the third person in the chorus which is always a slam dunk move. What could have been cringe-inducing came out sounding like a hit.

Only it wasn’t.

“Love of a Lifetime” did some considerable damage in the clubs, but petered out at a paltry #53 on the Hot 100. The rest of the accompanying album, “Destiny,” was produced by others, and the more rock sound of the remaining tracks shows this. There are portions of the album that make one think emulating Tina Turner’s comeback was the goal, and put next to the innovations of the single, the rest of the album lacks punch. A couple other singles from the disc hit the R&B charts, but after that, “Destiny” sank like a stone. It’s currently out of print in the States.

The video is a hoot and half, with Chaka obviously clueless of what the lyrics were, lipsynching like a drag queen at last call, clad in an indigo and cheetah print boot ensemble, surrounded by dancers clad in horrific spandex bike shorts, and is that Jan Hooks in the video?


Barring a sped-up sample on Kanye West’s “Through the Wire,” Chaka never returned to the Top 40.

”Love of a Lifetime” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Dance Singles Sales Chart, at #11 on the Dance Club Play Chart, #21 on the R&B Singles Chart and at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100.


posted by John, 3:41 PM