“Don’t Stop The Music” (Yarbrough & Peoples, 1980)/”Don’t Stop The Music” (Rihanna, 2007)

Two very different songs from two generations (although the latter song reaches back to the sounds of the generation that made the former song a hit) with one thing in common: if you play them loudly, your ass will start wiggling.

You may think Yarbrough & Peoples were a one-hit wonder, but they had a handful of top 10 R&B hits. Hell, they even had another Number One with ”Don’t Waste Your Time”, a song which was quite aptly titled.

“Don’t Stop The Music” is the only song from their catalog worth a damn (trust me, I listened to most of their best-of compilation recently), and the sheer jam-i-tude of it makes it absolutely puzzling that they were unable to successfully follow it up. I guess everyone catches lightning in a bottle once. Awesome build-up in the intro? Check. Sultry vocals? Check. Itchy synthesized groove? Check. Chipmunk-y sound effects? Well, no one asked for that, but it’s cool too. If I was roller-skating age at the beginning of 1981, I’d have been killing ‘em at the skating rink to this one. Hell, if I was more confident in my skating skills now, I’d seek a rink out and get down to those damn chipmunk vocals.

Bonus note: I’m pretty sure “Don’t Stop The Music” was the first video I ever saw on BET. Video Soul was a brand new thing when I went to visit my mom and stepdad in Michigan in the summer of 1981, and this clip is the only one I can distinctly remember.

Bad Gyal RihRih is well-known for the Grace Jones-ian combo of sexuality and menace she brings to many of her songs, but “Don’t Stop The Music” is pure, innocent joy. Well, relatively innocent, anyway. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that “Don’t Stop The Music” employs the “ma ma se ma ma sa ma ma coo sa” chant from Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” (itself swiped from Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa”. Dibango pursued legal action for both songs; getting a settlement in the case of the former song).

 

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