Our first Jheri Curl Friday of 2014 takes us right to the end of the decade, by which time jheri curls had mostly given way to high-top fades or, at least, slightly less greasy hairdos. Unless you were on the West Coast, in which case Care Free Curl was still doing strong business.
If you watched the most recent season of TVOne’s acclaimed documentary series, UnSung, you probably saw the episode featuring New York-based freestyle/R&B trio Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam. They had a great deal of success in the latter half of the ’80s with hits like “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” “All Cried Out” and the #1 pop smashes “Head To Toe” and “Lost In Emotion.” While the two members of Cult Jam (Mike Hughes and Alex “Spanador” Mosley) were talented musicians, let’s be real. Lisa Lisa was by far the main attraction. She had a distinctive voice, some serious Puerto Rican flavor, and that body was bangin’. She was one of the spearheads of the whole Latin freestyle movement, which gave us ’90s hits like Corina’s “Temptation,” Lisette Melendez’s “Together Forever,” and the careers of the Cover Girls, Sweet Sensation, and Stevie B, to name a few.
1989’s “Little Jackie Wants To Be A Star” was, like all other Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam hits from this era, written and produced by Full Force. You can also hear them on background vocals. The Brooklyn-based production team/band-no stranger to Jheri Curl juice themselves, put the trio together and got them signed. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam obtained a much higher level of success than Full Force did, which must’ve caused some consternation. At any rate, expectations were high for “Little Jackie,” and ultimately, the song didn’t deliver. With an interesting mix of acoustic and synthesized sounds, it didn’t really resonate with the R&B crowd (which was new-jack crazy by that point) and it was too slow to get the dance crowd moving. Despite an intriguing and serious lyrical message, “Little Jackie” was only a moderate chart performer, peaking at #29 on the Hot 100. This doomed the parent album, Straight To The Sky, to only moderate success. I still think it’s still a pretty hot joint, though, and, for what it’s worth, it wound up inspiring one-hit ’90s wonder Imani Copolla to name her 21st century side project Little Jackie. That album gained some critical acclaim a few years ago for its very New York-centric mix of styles.
Would be interesting to see one of today’s pop starlets put a spin on this track…