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Last year, I joined Popdose‘s Jeff Giles and Robert Cass for a column called “‘Face Time,” in which we discussed essential (and some non-essential) cuts in the catalog of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of the ’80s and ’90s. ‘Face and his partner Antonio “L.A.” Reid were one of the big 3 production teams that ruled pop and R&B during that era. There was also Teddy Riley and his New Jack Swing camp, and perhaps most notably, Minneapolis’s James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Lewis. The former members of Prince offshoot band The Time turned out to be legends in their own right, composing and producing hits for a who’s-who of the music industry and proving to be as (if not more) influential than their purple-clad benefactor.

So in 2014, the three of us (and two new team members, fellow Popdose editor/Popblerd podcast co-host Michael Parr, along with badass co-conspirator Dr. Zack) are back to talk all things Flyte Tyme. YOUNT!!!

The S.O.S. Band-“Just Be Good To Me”

Written & Produced by Jam & Lewis-from The S.O.S. Band’s On The Rise (1983)

MJ: One of the jammiest jams of all the jams!!

RC: Which came first — “Just Be Good to Me” or Shannon’s “Let the Music Play”?

MP: As best as I can determine, “Just Be Good to Me” was released in July and “Let the Music Play” in September (of 1983.)

RC: Jam & Lewis win! I’m not trying to claim that “Let the Music Play” is a rip-off, though — the two songs just sound somewhat similar to me. “Let the Music Play” obviously has a faster tempo, making it more of a roller-skating jam, albeit not one named “Saturdays.”

MJ: Well, there’s never a bad reason to listen to _either_ song (or “A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays.”) They don’t sound alike to my ears, anyway.

JG: I guess they might be cousins. But not, like, Arkansas cousins — the arrangements and vocal melodies for both songs are moody in vaguely similar ways, but I don’t think I would have connected this to “Let the Music Play” if Robert hadn’t brought it up.

I like “Just Be Good to Me,” but I don’t think it (or any song with a drum program) needs to be nine minutes long. The drum machine takes a lot of the fun out of the slap bass for me.

MJ: I think the drum programming is the most innovative part of the song, actually. Jam & Lewis used this particular program to death and I still haven’t fallen out of love with it. (Come to think of it, I can’t remember a Jam/Lewis song off the top of my head that uses live drums.)

Which begs the question-assuming the S.O.S. Band had a drummer, what the hell did he (or she?) actually _do_?
Some things I love about this song:
The lyrics-I don’t know how common “I know you have a ton of other ladies, but I don’t care as long as you treat me well” was as a sentiment back then. Hell, it’s nowhere near common now.
The juxtaposition of the almost hip-hop drum pattern with the squealing guitar that fades in and out of the mix (a hallmark of early Jam & Lewis productions)
The fact that it took The S.O.S. Band out of one hit wonder-ville and turned them into a force to be reckoned with on the R&B charts for the next three years or so.
…and “Arkansas cousins?” Is that an inbreeding joke, Jeff?

JG: Inbreeding jokes are always funny!

I’m not saying there aren’t any interesting things about this song, just that I think it’s too much of a good thing. Sure, the production was innovative for its time, and the lyrics do offer an interesting twist on the “cheating dog gets his comeuppance” theme. But at nine minutes (ed. note: the album version is, indeed, nine minutes long) — or even six — I want more of a groove. Shit, after three minutes, I’m ready for that backing track to go somewhere or do something else, and it never does. I can see how it might be a lot of fun if you’re on the dance floor, but as a listening experience, I think it’s lacking.
Jam & Lewis’ fondness for drum machines raises an interesting side point. When we looked at Babyface’s early stuff, we talked about how he represented a swing point between the last generation of R&B bands that relied on live instrumentation and the coming wave of New Jack artists. Babyface certainly didn’t shy away from drum machines, but I think he tended to swing a little more — at least in the beginning, anyway.
I don’t know. This isn’t a bad song, I just think it deserved more.
MJ: Still a jam!
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