Sunday, December 31, 2017

"Can't Stop" by Rick James

Song#:  2271
Date:  03/30/1985
Debut:  75
Peak:  50
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After a nearly two-year break from recording, James returned with his eighth studio LP titled Glow. This first single was issued and it was well-received at R&B getting to #10 - his tenth Top 10 on that chart. The song would make an appearance on the Pop chart, but it stopped at the halfway point. Unfortunately, it would end up being James' final single to reach the Pop chart. The album would also get to #50 at Pop while reaching #7 R&B. It sold well, but in the end it failed to reach gold certification, which was his first to miss that mark since 1980. James would record three more albums in the decade (with the last one getting shelved at the time), yet each would result in diminishing returns. He would record one more album, 1997's Urban Rhapsody, before his death in 2004.

ReduxReview:  Although James always claimed that Prince ripped off his sound, I'd have to say that he was kind of returning the favor here. This song, especially the keyboard sound and guitar solo, sounded like a riff of what Prince had been doing with combining elements of R&B, rock, and synthpop. This is nothing like James' previous funk tunes and I have to say that it is a welcome change. Despite any comparisons to Prince, I like the song. James needed to refresh his stale sound and I think this worked. It's a shame it didn't do better at Pop. Is it excellent material? Nope. But it was certainly better than the bland funk he had been dishing out prior to this. Although I don't remember this song from back in the day, I do remember the follow-up title-track "Glow." At the time I was doing a singing telegram job and traveled around quite a bit. The company van just had an AM radio in it and there were very few stations available. The one that came in the best had an R&B format and I'd listen to it. They used to play "Glow" quite a bit and I remember thinking it was a pretty cool tune. It's a post-disco retro tune with a Prince feel. That single got to #5 at R&B, but failed to reach the Pop chart. The album is kind of an overlooked gem in James' catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After his next album The Flag performed poorly, James moved over to Warner Bros. for 1988's Wonderful. The album's first single, "Loosey's Rap" featuring Roxanne Shante, became a surprise #1 hit at R&B. It was his fourth and last #1 (and last Top 10) on that chart. While it caught on at R&B, it was a non-starter at Pop and didn't even get close to getting on that chart. Part of the reason for the lack of crossover support could be due to MTV not playing the video for the song. James had always been a long-time critic of the channel for not supporting black artists, but after Michael Jackson and Prince knocked down that door, it seemed that things were changing. However, MTV still had their standards and they deemed that James' video for "Loosey's Rap" was too sexual in nature to air. James balked and pointed out that sexual videos by Madonna and Cher were being played with no issues and speculated that race was the real issue. However, BET wouldn't show the video either (although it should be pointed out that MTV and BET were owned by the same company). Despite the lack of promotional support via the video, the song got to #1 at R&B. Yet in the age of MTV there is little doubt that the song would have done better at Pop had the video been in rotation on the channel. James' next album for Warner would end up getting shelved and soon he'd be dropped from the label, essentially ending his long-standing career.


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