Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Narada Michael Walden - I Shoulda Loved Ya (1980/ No. 8/ 9 weeks/ Atlantic)


You should always start with your strongest move.

There's the most almightily seductive Bernard-Edwards-from-Chic-style bassline snaking around you from nowhere. To help the listener make sense of it, we get handclaps! This is in the first five seconds.

If he keeps that up, this is going to be fantastic!

Fifteen seconds in, the pattern is complicated by the introduction of a saxophone and some choppy rhythm guitar.

Oh yes - Good! We're in safe hands here!

The vocals come in with the chorus first, sung not by Narada, but by some female voices;

I shoulda loved ya!
I shoulda loved ya!
Ooh, when I touched ya...
I shoulda loved ya!

(Note how the brass responds to each "should loved ya!" with a taunting echo; "Baba!baba! Waaah-wah-wah-waaagh!")

Aha, I know what this is about. Its a lost opportunities song. Still, as he's singing to her now in a dancing situation, perhaps his mistakes might be rectified? This music is so fantastic and full of possibility, that it sounds like the best second chance you could ever imagine coming
your way.

Except it isn't quite like that. What you don't really realise when you first listen to it, as you're so busy dancing and being beguiled, is that its actually a horribly honest song of male self-castigation. He really has messed this up for good, and it was the best thing he might have known;

A seduction grabbed my hand...
Ooh, my body screamed, but my heart just didn't -
Life between the sheets is fine -
If all you want to make this time -
But if you want to make it last -
Ooh, you'll lose control if - you -
Drive too fast.

I shoulda loved ya!

The further you get into the record, the greater the anguish that you realise the singer is feeling;

Going down for the count
Now I'm in, but you are out
My memories are my obsession
Beggin' for attention! ooh yeah...

(suddenly, unexpectedly, falsetto)

Apprehending all my criminal NEED!
That stole your heart, then left ya to bleed!
Those days are over, baby, yes, I swear...
Just say the word and I'll be there?

In the break towards the end of the single, Narada throws some new effects in, a plinkyplink piano solo which is then deposed by a supatwinkling magic piano organ solo. They sound fantastic, but also contain a reflective melancholy within them.

By this stage, the listener stops imagining that Narada is singing to the lovely lost lady at the disco, and realises that he's having the conversation with her in his own head, while he sits at home on his own with a George Benson album on the turntable, a bottle of wine, and his head in his hands.

The last time that we hear the chorus, Narada is ad-libbing in response to the chorus of backing girls, pleading his lost case;

I shoulda loved ya! (Ooh! My babybabybabybabybabe...)
I shoulda loved ya! (Said I-I shoulda looooved yew)
I shoulda loved ya! (Oh yeh, oh yeh...)
I shoulda loved ya! (falsetto again - I shoulda loved ya)

And yet and yet... The music is so splendid and attractive, that the single never quite brings the listener down. Like the persistence of hope itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment