Personification of the polished, post-disco sound of 1980s R&B
|By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)|
Whether you're into the most rugged boom bap or the cleanest orchestral sound, at some point, you learn to value the ability to add a level of polish to your beats. One thing that all of my beats share, to some degree, is "sheen" or polish. No matter what base style of beatmaking that I'm working from or what overall sound that I'm going for, I always incorporate an element of polish. In fact, for me, giving my beats—even the most grungy, hard core joints—some sheen is an important component to my own style and sound. But this approach, subtle as it may perhaps be, is something that I developed from listening closely to early 1980s cuts like Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Love Come Down."
If it could be said that the musical arrangements of early 1970s soul, funk, or rhythm & blues were best characterized by raw, organic or wide open jam-session like sketches, then it might be best said that the arrangements of early 1980s R&B was characterized by slick, streamlined and heavily formulaic arrangements. Although I favor the music of the early 1970s over the early 1980s, I'm still able to appreciate the technology influenced slickness that the early 1980s R&B ushered in.
One of my favorite songs from early 1980s R&B was Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Love Come Down." Released in 1982 (the same year as Michael Jackson's Thriller), "Love Come Down" featured an arrangement scope that captured the nuance and possibilities of the newly minted synthesizers of the time. Furthermore, "Love Come Down," which utilizes a smashing electric snare on the "2" and a bouncing synth-bass,
personified the slick arrangement style that would go on to characterize the sound of 1980s R&B. But that's not all that "Love Comes Down" exemplifies.
Listen to "Love Come Down" (especially the drum sounds) and you will notice that the vibe of the arrangement is highly electric, with an assembly-line like formula quality to it, something akin to modern beatmaking structures. In fact, you could see why "Love Come Down's" arrangement could more easily be achieved with today's EMPIs (Electronic Music Production Instruments) than the rougher—warmer—sounding music scopes of the early 1970s. (Also, on King's song "I'm In Love," listen to the hand-claps layered over the smashing electric snare, another technique utilized in modern beatmaking.) Yet for all of the formulaic qualities that "Love Come Down" has, the song still manages to simmer with both warmth and polish, while it avoids sounding "too mechanical." That's a lesson that I think of every time I craft a new beat.
The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Evelyn "Champagne" King - "Love Come Down"
Evelyn "Champagne" King - "I'm In Love"