Tuesday, May 4, 2021

"Da'Butt" by E.U.

Song#:  3483
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  71
Peak:  35
Weeks:  12
Genre: R&B, Funk, Go-Go, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  When writer/director Spike Lee was developing his second film, the musical-comedy School Daze, he wanted a specific song created for a party scene. Lee had recently become familiar with go-go music, an offshoot of funk that was popular around the metro Washington D.C. area. In particular, he like a band called E.U. (aka Experience Unlimited). Lee wanted a go-go style party/dance tune written for the movie and he came up with the title "Da'Butt." Out of the blue, Lee called up composer/producer/musician Marcus Miller and asked him to write a danced-based song called "Da'Butt." Miller accepted the challenge and began to work on the song with Mark Stevens, the brother of Chaka Khan. Lee ended up liking the demo of the song and brought Miller and E.U. to New York to record the track. Lee wanted a party vibe on the track, so he also brought along some of the actors from School Daze. E.U. worked on giving the song a go-go feel, which also included shout outs, a staple of the genre. Lee was thrilled with the final results and declared it a hit. For the scene that featured the song, Lee had E.U. appear as the party band. The film and the song were released February of '88. The tune first caught on at R&B and it would eventually reach #1. It then crossed over to the Pop chart where it would break into the Top 40. It also got to #23 at Dance. Out of nowhere, E.U. found themselves in the national spotlight with a major hit. The soundtrack album would get to #14 R&B/#81 Pop. Lee's film would also do fairly well at the box office. The song would also earn the band a Grammy nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  The thing that I remember about this song was that certain, say, older folks and conservatives were upset by it because their unhip ears heard the lyrics as "do it in the butt" and they thought it was all about anal sex. Among those were the owners of the skating rink where I used to DJ. I wasn't allowed to play the song. Even after explaining what it really was, they still didn't want a song about shaking your butt played during regular sessions with kids around. I think I got to play it at the adult sessions (18+ only), but they were still not keen on it. How can this song be interpreted as anything but pure fun. The party vibe combined with hooks galore made the song a blast. Add to that the butt-shaking dance move and it became a party song for the ages.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) E.U., known earlier in their career as Experience Unlimited, first formed in 1974 in Washington, D.C. Initially they leaned towards a funk-rock sound, but then gravitated to go-go music, a style that was popular in the region. Chuck Brown would be the genre's most popular artist (later known as the Godfather of Go-Go) and he brought the style to the masses with the 1978 #1 R&B/#34 Pop hit "Bustin' Loose." A year prior to that single, Experience Unlimited released their first album titled Free Yourself on the local indie label Black Fire. It didn't do much to push their career further, but the band kept on playing and continued to be popular in the region. The band had personnel changes over the years, but bandleader Gregory "Sugar Bear" Elliot remained a constant. They recorded a few songs along the way including, oddly, a track called "Rock Yuh Butt." They might have just remained a popular fixture on the local Washington go-go scene, but then Spike Lee came calling and their career took an unexpected detour.  2) Just a few days prior to the writing of this post, "Da'Butt" experienced a sort of revival. At the 2021 Academy Awards ceremony, supporting actress nominee Glenn Close took part in a little trivia bit during the show. She was asked to identify a song and state whether it won an Oscar, was nominated, or was not nominated. The song was "Da'Butt" and Close ID'd it, stated a few facts about it, and said it was never nominated, which was correct. Her answer surprised the audience, but then she floored everyone when after the trivia host asked if she could actually do the dance, the 74-year-old got up and performed Da'Butt. It turned into one of the biggest highlights of the telecast. The question then later came, was it all a setup? Slightly. Close had been tipped off that she would be asked about the song "Da'Butt," but nothing was scripted or rehearsed. Unbeknownst to the producers, Close prepared by researching the song. So while it was expected that she would know the answer to the trivia question, her knowledge-based response came as a surprise. Then the real shock came when in an unscripted moment she was asked about the dance and she got up and did it. Reactions to the bit from Spike Lee, Marcus Miller, and Sugar Bear were all positive and appreciative. Close didn't win the Oscar that night, but she created a buzz-worthy moment that nearly overshadowed all the winners.


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