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, Jeff and I (along two new team members, fellow Popdose editor/Popblerd podcast co-host Michael Parr, along with badass co-conspirator Dr. Z) are back to talk all things Flyte Tyme.
Janet Jackson & Luther Vandross feat. BBD & Ralph Tresvant: “The Best Things In Life Are Free” | from the Mo’ Money soundtrack, 1992 (#1 R&B/#10 pop)
Produced by Jam & Lewis | Written by Jam & Lewis, Michael Bivins & Ron DeVoe (buy the remixed version on Amazon)
Dr. Z: I hadn’t forgotten about this song, but I’d certainly forgotten about Mo’ Money.
Jeff Giles: I’m not sure I ever knew BBD and Ralph Tresvant were part of the mix in here.*
MJ: BBD does the rap in the middle. Tresvant has ONE line. Might be the least work anyone has ever done for a song credit.
Also–why didn’t they just credit New Edition since 80% of the group is on the song? They couldn’t have just gotten Johnny Gill to do one riff?
JG: Especially since he shows up elsewhere on the soundtrack! They could have just flown in a few syllables from “Let’s Just Run Away” and called it a day.
Z: Their role is pretty ancillary. But that’s probably the way it should be when you’ve got Janet and Luther out front.I certainly forgot how fast the beat is on this track.
Michael Parr: It’s like, “how much more ’90s could this be?” and the answer is none. None more ’90s.
JG: I’d forgotten how stacked this record was. For a minute, Jam & Lewis looked like they could rule the world with Perspective. They even gave Lisa Keith a hit!
MJ: I forgot about that Lisa Keith song. She deserved that, though…she was their secret weapon for a decade.
JG: She was indeed — I just realized that’s her on the hook for “Ice Cream Dream,” MC Lyte’s hit from this soundtrack.
I guess there’s nothing terribly special about this song in terms of its lyrics or arrangement, but it gets a lot of mileage out of Janet and Luther — they made a pretty sweet team here. This also marks the end of Bubbly Janet on the radio until…what, “Because of Love”? “Whoops Now”?
MJ: I’ve held on to both the Mo’ Money & Boomerang soundtracks. Two solid documents of ’90s R&B.
MP: While I’d rank Boomerang way above Mo’ Money, I have to give props to both for igniting the trend of the ’90s R&B-heavy soundtrack.
Z: Thinking of this in terms of Janet’s career, the track fell right in between Rhythm Nation and janet. (which would hit shelves the following year). Interestingly enough, it does sound like a hybrid of the styles on each of those albums. It’s still got a new jack beat, some of those industrial flourishes that were present on Rhythm Nation (and Pandemonium, for that matter), yet in terms of her performance, it’s in the more smoothed out style that dominated much of janet. and subsequent work. Also, Wikipedia notes that this was included on Design of a Decade which is WRONG.
(…later…) Well I’ll be damned, it is on the ‘International edition,’ along with a single edit of “Whoops Now.”
MJ: Interestingly–neither Janet nor Luther appears in the video.
JG: They should have Guttenberged it!
*worth mentioning: the mid-song rap was removed from some versions of the song.