Friday, December 2, 2011

I Hope This Night Will Last Forever: 28 Years of "Ain't Nobody"

It's Friday afternoon so you'll forgive the utter triviality that is this entry and its lack of any real cinematic relevance. It's just that Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" (actually credited to Rufus & Chaka Khan) has popped up a few times this week and I'm not sure why. First I found myself rediscovering the 1984 dance flick Breakin' (or Breakdance: The Movie which brings about all sorts of other possibilities: Upholstery: The Movie and so on) to which "Ain't Nobody" is a key soundtrack song. Then I discovered Mary J Blige has covered the song on her latest album, My Life II... The Journey Continues, and then just earlier today somebody on Twitter noted that their one of their favourite songs of 2011 was yet another rendition of the famous track. I say whaaat?

Was all of this the world's cosmic way of making me assemble a bunch of different versions of the song and rank them accordingly? If it wasn't, then the world's cosmic way is faulty because that is exactly what I intend to do. It's a corker of a song though, don't you think? Perfectly acceptable choice of focus for one of my rare music-centric blog posts. It's funny though because everyone who subsequently covers the track barely has to do anything to turn it into a hit. They just have to sing it and make sure they keep that funky groove going. It's similar in that regard to The SOS Band's "Just Be Good To Me", an equally funked out 1980s R&B stormer of a tune that a deaf and dumb mime could somehow turn into a hit. It's that reason why the worst version I've ever heard was KT Tunstall's, which is basically rubbish and she should not sing anymore.

My favourite rendition is - to little surprise - the 2003 cover by Richard X vs Liberty X. X's masterpiece album, Richard X Presents His X Factor, was so radically ahead of its time that listening to it today is like some miraculous event that I can't believe is really happening. Before the likes of David Guetta and Mark Ronson did the same, Richard X was amassing large groups of pop makers and giving them bonza tracks to sing as if they'd entered a time machine in 1984 and landed in 2191. Amidst tracks with the Sugababes, Kelis, Tiga, Jarvis Cocker and Javine was this collaboration with British reality contestants Liberty X, which mixed the lyrics of Khan's "Ain't Nobody" with the groove of The Human League's "Being Boiled". It's rather brilliant, don't you think? Following on from that is Jaki Graham's cover very much in the dance style of 1994 (you absolutely must watch that video, dripping in 1990s hilarity!), then the Rufus and Chaka Khan original from 1983, The Course's dubsteppish version from 1997, Mary J Blige's recent cover, a George Micheal's live performance from Rock in Rio, Kelly Price's rendition for the soundtrack of Bringing Down the House (yes, that movie!), a Diana King cover tinged in dancehall reggae, a rather bombastic live at the Brits by the Bedingfield siblings, a bizarre song called "Go" by somebody called Delilah that samples the lyrics, KWS feat. Gwen Dickey (lead singer of disco outfit Rose Royce!) and their very straighforward 1994 rendition and then LL Cool J's rather uninspiring cover for the soundtrack of Beavis and Butthead Do America. Yeah, that one confuses me too.

It's amazing how many covers there are, how alike they all are, and yet how many times I can listen to the song over and over again without wearing out its welcome. And just for a giggle, at the end is the original scene from Breakin'! It's dorkiness knows no bounds. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Richard X vs Liberty X (2003) | Jaki Graham (1994)

Rufus & Chaka Khan (1983) | The Course (1997)

Mary J Blige (2011) | George Michael (1991)

Kelly Price (2003) | Diana King (1995)

Daniel & Natasha Bedingfield (2005) | Delilah (2011)

KWS feat. Gwen Dickey (1994) | LL Cool J (1996)