Saturday, July 10, 2021

"Theme from S-Express" by S-Express

Song#:  3548
Date:  06/18/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  91
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Acid House

Pop Bits:  This British outfit was headed up by Mark Moore. Moore had been a popular DJ in various clubs in the 80s before branching out to record his own brand of dance/house music. He and fellow songwriter/producer Pascal Gabriel began assembling songs that while featuring a lot of samples also included various musicians and vocalists. Moore's project got the attention of the Mute offshoot label Rhythm King and by the spring of '88 a debut album titled Original Soundtrack was ready to go. Credited as by S'Express (pronouced Ess-Express and stylized also as S-Express or S'Xpress), this first single was issued out and it did big business in the UK making it all the way to #1. Two more singles would follow that would reach the Top 10. In turn, the album would get to #5. After the first single became a hit, a deal was struck for US distribution through Capitol Records. "Theme from S-Express" would quickly become a hit in clubs and would reach #1 on the US Dance chart. That action then led to the tune crossing over to the Pop chart. Unfortunately, it would only stay for a few short weeks. The same two follow-up singles in the UK were also Top 10 hits on the US Dance chart, but neither made the Pop chart. Despite the club hits, the album would fail to crack the US chart. A follow-up album, Intercourse, would be released in 1991, but it fared less well in both the UK and the US. After that, Moore and others involved in the project moved on.

ReduxReview:  House music isn't something I typically enjoy. I find it a bit repetitive with little in the way of melody. It may have a good hook or two, but after about three minutes I'm pretty much done. Sometimes a house track will come along that is well-written and could actually translate into other arrangements or styles, but for me a lot of it is just beats and samples and effects all mixed up into a club-style soup. This track really has no melody or chorus. It just has a hook that is repeated a lot and surrounded by samples, effects, and the chugging acid-style synth bass. In other words, there's not going to be an acoustic version of it anytime soon. That's not necessarily bad, but the thing is that the track not only has to get folks energized and dancing, it has to have some kind of ear worm that makes it stand out. Apparently in the UK and in the US clubs this song had all of that. Unfortunately, it wasn't what US pop listeners were wanting. House music was still a bit foreign to the masses and it was going to take something a little bit more melodic and catchy to break through. I don't mind this track and appreciate that it helped acid house music gain a larger audience, but it's nothing that stays in my head for long. I'd dance to it, but I wouldn't buy it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) House music was an electronic style of dance music that got started in underground clubs in Chicago in the early 80s. It is know for its "four-on-the-floor" structure where a bass emphasizes every beat of a 4/4 time signature. The tracks usually have a high BPM of around 120-130. Like most genres, there are offshoots and one stemming from house was acid house. It is often defined by the electronic squelch sound derived from the Roland TB-303 bass synth/sequencer. While the origin of the "acid" name is not fully clear, many attribute it to a 1987 single by the Chicago house group Phuture titled "Acid Tracks," which is considered the first example of acid house music. Mark Moore seemed to hook into acid house quickly and incorporated it into "Theme from S-Express."  2) This track contains many samples. Snippets from songs by artists like Stacey Q, Debbie Harry, Yazoo, Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, and Rose Royce are used in addition to other vocal/music samples from the likes of Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) and a haunted house album. This came at a time when sampling was becoming more popular and permissions/clearance was required in order to avoid lawsuits. However, when Capitol brought the S-Express recordings over to the US, it seems they may not have been interested in paying for the usage of all the samples (or there could have been clearance issues, but I'm guessing it was finances or not wanting to pay their competitors for rights). For this track in particular, it seems that deals were struck for the main samples that kept the song intact, but any extras that didn't necessarily contribute much were ditched. Therefore, six of the fourteen samples used in the track were removed. Despite the territorial issues, these days you can usually find original versions of a track on sites like YouTube.


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