“Cold Blooded” was a humongous R&B hit, spending over a month at the #1 spot on the soul singles charts. It also represented maybe the last time anything Rick James did could ever be considered cutting edge. The King of Punk Funk simplified his sound on this track, relying on a percolating drum machine pattern much leaner than the full-band sound he’d explored just a year before on Throwin’ Down, and to amazing effect two years earlier on the multi-platinum Street Songs LP.
Rick’s music underwent a bit of an adjustment to the times, especially because his rival Prince’s level of success had lapped his by this point. Shortly before “Cold Blooded” hit stores, Prince scored his first two top ten pop singles and was enjoying blanket exposure on MTV. Rick had not enjoyed a major pop hit by this point (and never would–only two of his songs would even scrape the pop top 20), and was also loudly expressed what he felt were MTV’s racist playlist policies. That probably didn’t help him out later in his career. And, strangely, there was no video for “Cold Blooded”, perhaps a testament to Motown head Berry Gordy’s notoriously tight purse strings. Or maybe the label just used their entire budget on Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” clip.
I have to mention that Rick even underwent a sartorial adjustment for “Cold Blooded’, ditching his Masai warrior braids for a Jheri curl…wig? I remember hearing that it was a wig when I was younger, but I can’t verify this.
One thing that didn’t adjust? Rick’s typically lascivious lyrics. “Cold Blooded” was written about Exorcist actress Linda Blair, who Rick was dating and most likely having cocaine-fueled kinky sex with, too. Even if you weren’t aware of Rick’s many, many creepy episodes, you’d think that “Cold Blooded” came from the pen of a guy you might not want to be stuck in a room alone with if you were a pretty girl.
“Cold Blooded” must use the word “dictionary” more times than any song to hit the charts in the ‘80s (or ever), and it’s fairly obvious that he’s using that word as a thinly veiled sexual reference. It’s barely a single entendre! Hell, I knew what Rick was talking about when “Cold Blooded” originally came out. And I was six then.