My name is MJ, and I am a huge El DeBarge fan.

Love AlwaysI’m a little mad at him, because he’s squandered years of opportunity due to addiction, but I can’t deny that his voice is one of the more wonderful things to have come down the pike in my lifetime. “I Like It,” “Time Will Reveal,” “Stay With Me”…you can’t deny those songs, and the fact that it takes a masterful vocalist to be able to carry them.

“Love Always” came from El’s first solo album, which was self-titled. It was co-written by Burt Bacharach, which would have met with a resounding shrug from me back in 1986 when I was 10, but listening now, I can totally hear it. El interprets the lyric with the utmost care and sensitivity. He doesn’t overmodulate, as most singers then and now would be wont to do. It’s the type of performance most wouldn’t give a second thought to, unless they were vocalists/musicians/huge music fans who are aware that this type of singing isn’t as simple as it may sound.

When this song was popular, I’d just entered the sixth grade. We had “music” class, which was just an excuse for a class of 25 kids to sing the popular hits of the day. “Love Always” was one of the songs that made it onto our teacher’s playlist. Of course, it’s a pretty song. Plus, it’s lyrically safe (unlike, say, Timex Social Club’s “Rumors” or Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” to name two other songs popular at the same time) and El was a favored Michigan son, and I was living in a Detroit suburb at the time. So, for all those reasons and more, “Love Always” retains a special place in my musical heart.

And sometimes, don’t you wish people still wrote letters?

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t post this. Where El DeBarge and George Clooney collide!! I wonder if George asked El for some pointers back in the day.

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