“Been So Long” by Anita Baker (1986)

Anita Baker’s Rapture album wasn’t something I was particularly interested in initially. I was 10, and there was barely an ounce of tempo on the whole thing. I didn’t dislike the album at all (and that’s a good thing, because I was living in suburban Detroit and Anita was a local gal, so songs from the LP were played on the radio ad nauseam,) but as a pre-teen bundle of energy, I was more inclined towards more danceable songs.

As with a lot of less aggressive music, I began to appreciate it more as I developed through my teens and early twenties. Rapture wasn’t just a chill album, it was a classy album. The jazzy sensibility of Anita’s voice had a lot to do with the “classing up”, but seeing that I came of age in the early ‘90s when R&B lyrics became increasingly direct, it was good to hear an album that was sensual and teasing as opposed to basically getting an invitation to sit on someone’s face.

“Been So Long” closes Side 1 of Rapture, and it’s the most sensual song on the album. The best word I can use to describe it is “dusky”. The groove is more bass-heavy than anything Anita’s recorded since, and her heavy-lidded vocal insinuates a night of good lovin’ without actually saying it…there’s a sly “come hither”ness to it. Anita knows what she wants, for sure: “I won’t be neglected/And I won’t be denied” is the line that opens the song. Much like another artist that broke through in 1986, Anita was taking Control.

I’m not a jazz aficionado by any stretch of the imagination: I like an appreciate the genre. I know who Ella and Sarah and Billie are and I can (usually) pick their voices out (Billie is easy, the others not so much.) I love that Anita pays tribute to that style of singing by scatting during the last minute or so of “Been So Long.” Actually, that brings to mind the fact that the first time I heard a Billie Holiday song, Anita was singing it. Paying tribute to the pioneering vocalist on the 1987 Grammys, Anita delivered a rendition of “God Bless The Child”. Taking it full circle, I wasn’t really feeling it when I watched initially (again, I was 10), but appreciated her rendition (and the song itself) appreciably more as I aged.

NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…

“Bedda At Home” by Jill Scott (2004): Jill has just spotted the kind of guy who makes her pull dollar bills out of her pocketbook. Maybe she’s in a strip club? Who knows? Either way, she observes and then remembers that she’s got a better guy at home. Her ecstatic shouts and whoops offer persuasive proof that whatever’s keeping the home fires burning is, indeed, worth passing up on Mr. Goodbar.

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