Tuesday, March 14, 2023

"French Kiss" by Lil Louis

Song#:  4074
Date:  10/21/1989
Debut:  96
Peak:  50
Weeks:  13
Genre:  House, Dance

Pop Bits:  Lil Louis, aka Marvin Burns, made a name for himself as a popular Chicago house music DJ and producer. He would release a couple of indie singles in the late 80s that got him some further attention locally, but it would be this salacious track that would put him in a bigger spotlight. Lil Louis originally recorded the 10-minute tune as an instrumental. The driving jam featured repetitive keyboard motifs, which wasn't all that unusual for a house music track. However, what made it stand out was a mid section that featured a woman's voice moaning in a very sexual way as the beat slowed down to a halt. It would then pick up speed and return to its original tempo. This was something quite different as house music tunes did not vary their tempos. Lil Louis' sensual track quickly became a local hit and as interest in the song spread, Epic Record came knocking. A deal was struck for distribution, but it did come with a caveat. Epic wanted a vocal version (minus the "orgasm" part) as well to promote at pop radio. Lil Louis agreed and got Karlana Johnson to write lyrics for the tune. Then he brought on Shawn Christopher to prove the vocals. In addition to doing the full track with vocals, a tamer single mix was also done for pop radio. Released in the fall of '89, "French Kiss" caught on quickly in clubs and would eventually top the Dance chart. The week the song accomplished that feat, it would debut on the Pop chart. The less sexy single mix did fairly well stopping right at the halfway mark on the Pop chart. The success of the single led to Epic calling for a full album. From the Mind of Lil Louis, credited to Lil Louis & the World, would assembled and released. A second single, "I Called U," would be issued out but it would only get to #28 Dance. In turn, the album would not chart

ReduxReview:  I've never been much of a house music fan. I just find it repetitive and frankly, boring. I remember going to a few clubs where the DJ was playing house music and I remember thinking that everything sounded the same and blended together. In my mind I was like - its been 40 minutes, is he gonna change the song? But like other styles of music that I don't connect with, there are always some tracks that I like. I can put "French Kiss" on the list of ones I kinda like. I prefer the vocal version because it breaks up the monotony of the one-chord riff/beat. Plus the orgasmic mid section in the long version certainly provides some extra interest. It was an influential track and one that continued to help house music grow in popularity.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Despite Lil Louis' debut album not charting, Epic gave him another chance. A second album, Journey with the Lonely would be released in 1992. Two of its singles would get to #1 on the Dance chart. Neither would make the Pop chart. The album would fail to chart and that brought an end to Lil Louis' major label days.  2) The two singles from Lil Louis' second album featured lead vocals by Joi Cardwell. Born in NYC, Cardwell got her start in the music business as a backup singer. She also branched out to songwriting and in 1989 she collaborated with R&B star Kashif on a song that appeared on his 1989 self-titled album. That association got her a deal with Kashif's label Arista. She became a member of the girl group The Promise. Unfortunately, the group never got off the ground. It was then that Cardwell answered a Village Voice ad for a vocalist and got the job with Lil Louis. After fronting two #1 Dance singles, Cardwell eventually signed on with an indie dance label and kicked off a solo career. In '94, she got her first Dance chart hit with the #11 "Trouble." Then throughout the balance of the 90s, Cardwell would score a string of seven Top 10 Dance hits including two #1s. She would earn four more Dance Top 10s in the following decade. Although she was highly successful on the Dance chart, none of her singles crossed over to Pop and her albums would not chart.Cardwell would eventually set music aside and in 2019 open up the Jump for Joi Wellness Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.


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