Monday, November 21, 2016

"She's Strange" by Cameo

Song#:  1857
Date:  04/07/1984
Debut:  80
Peak:  47
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  In the early 70s, musician Larry Blackmon formed the band East Coast, which featured future R&B star Gwen Guthrie. They issued one self-titled album in 1973 that disappeared quickly. Blackmon then moved on to form the New York City Players. With a total of ten members, the band quickly gained a solid following that led to a contract with Casablanca's Chocolate City label in 1976. Paired back to eight members, the band changed their name to Cameo (due to a conflict with the popular group Ohio Players) and issued a debut album in 1977. Their first three LPs all went Top 20 at R&B, but they were still looking for their first Top 10 single. That came when their fourth album spawned the R&B #3 hit "I Just Want to Be" in 1979. The album went gold as did their next four. Despite gathering five more R&B Top 10 hits, Cameo could not breakthrough on the Pop chart. That is until this title track single from their tenth album did the trick. The song would be their first to reach #1 at R&B and their first to finally crossover to the Pop chart. Although it would miss out on the Top 40, it did well enough to expand their audience. The album would also be their first to hit #1 at R&B and would be their sixth to go gold.

ReduxReview:  Like a lot of the horn-driven R&B/funk bands of the 70s, Cameo was trying to find its way in the new synth- and electro-funk sounds of the 80s. Add to that the increasing popularity of rap/hip hop and the old guard bands found themselves being left behind. Cameo was one of the bands that decided to start embracing the changes and began incorporating new sounds in their recordings. After trying a few new things with their 1982 LP Style, they finally hit on a successful formula with this song. They gathered a lot of the current musical fashions, pushed them all through a mysterious groove, and the result was this terrific jam. The bits of rap, new wave, funk, and synthpop worked well together and it deservedly hit the top of the R&B chart. It should have done a whole lot better at Pop, but that format was still trying to adapt to the changes in music and tasty morsels like this were still getting left behind.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  As time went on, the member count of Cameo fluctuated. When the band started out there were ten members. As they began recording, it slipped down to eight. They then settled into a nine member lineup for several albums before adding one more person for a couple LPs. By 1982, the band consisted of five members. This was reduced to four during the time period that the She's Strange album was recorded. Their follow-up album would further reduce the number to three, which would be the standard throughout the rest of their heydays.


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