“All Night Long” by The Mary Jane Girls (1983)

The person most responsible for the public perception of Rick James is Rick James.

Rick did much to promote himself as a coke-fueled hedonist (even after his coke-fueled hedonist days were over), and that image took away from the fact that he was an amazingly talented singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Case in point: “All Night Long” by his proteges The Mary Jane Girls, a song that only made it to Number 11 on Billboard’s R&B charts and didn’t chart pop at all, but contains one of the best-known basslines and choruses in ‘80s pop history. Ask Big Daddy Kane. Ask Mary J. Blige. Ask Groove Theory. Ask LL Cool J. You get the picture.

The key word here is sultry. Joanne McDuffie’s frank come-ons are flirty without being dirty. The groove is smooth and Danny LeMelle’s horns create a mood that’s less about sex and more about seduction. “All Night Long” is classy in a way that one wouldn’t expect from the guy who burnt women with crack pipes and created an image of himself as a cautionary tale of ‘80s excess.

NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…:

 “All My Life” by K-ci & Jojo (1997): When “All My Life” hit, Cedric and Joel Hailey were in the midst of something of an image overhaul. They’d been previously best known as 1/2 of vocal group Jodeci, whose songs were not so much romantic as they were excessively horndoggish. So “All My Life” was a left turn, and a beautiful one. It’s one of those wedding songs that never seems tired or trite. It rightfully sped to the top of the pop charts, something the brothers had only done once before (as guests on 2Pac’s “How Do U Want It?) and never did as members of Jodeci. Interesting fact if you look at the song credits, “All My Life” is damn near a JoJo solo song!

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