I seem to have a strong attraction to the dance music which was popular in the late 80's and early 90's, specifically music that is laced with hip-hop and sprinkled with electro-pop. I am referring to albums that I have from that period by artists such as Soul II Soul, C&C Music Factory, Neneh Cherry, Deee-Lite, Madonna and EMF. They have an aura for me that is hard to define, but I seem to associate it with exciting, adventurous nightlife in the club dens. This 1993 album by Stereo MC's falls into this category. The hit title cut "Connected" leads the way, with cool, unemotional lead vocals (delivered with an irresistible British accent) and a generally laid-back vibe. Those qualities apply to most of the tracks. The beats come in a variety of manifestations. Some are similar to that in "Connected", and others are funkier ("Ground Level"), slightly slower ("Sketch"), or busier and more manic ("Creation"). There are 2 instrumental tracks: "All Night Long" and "Chicken Shake". They have background vocals but no lead. About half the tracks feature the club piano sound I like so much. "Everything" and "Creation" have some nice "cool jazz" flutes. "All Night Long" has a Middle Eastern flavor. And one little detail that delights me is the backup vocals in "Don't Let Up": they remind me of the backups on vintage tracks by The Supremes. This track also happens to be probably the "hardest" one in its sound.
The lyrics touch on some weighty subjects. I like these lines from "Connected": "Won't someone try open up your eyes/You must be blind if you can't see/The gaping hole called reality". In "Ground Level", youth and minorities are getting a bad deal: "We're sick of seein' poverty/We're sick of seein' misery...They'll use you as artillery/They want you in the military". "Everything" includes a shot at our materialistic society: "So check the hardline we all be carrying/Seems like the dollar bill we be marrying". The Establishment takes a hit in "Fade Away" ("Is this the way it's meant to be/Generation gap is all I see"), and in "Playing With Fire" ("It's a dog eat dog world/That's the truth/Especially to the youth/You're playing with fire/You'll end up on the funeral pyre/And now you've lost your soul"). These pointed lyrics dovetail nicely with my conviction that pop/rock music + social comment = compelling art. So, get connected!
By: Steven Haarala