“Feel Up” by Grace Jones (1981)

The three albums on which Grace Jones teamed up with the Sly & Robbie-led Compass Point All-Stars are uniformly excellent. Those albums-Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing and Living My Life-take reggae, disco, pop, new wave, punk and hard rock and stick them in a blender together, resulting in something that’s as good as it is hard to categorize (FWIW, I have Grace Jones albums listed as “alternative” in my iTunes library.)

“Feel Up” is more of a groove than an actual song. The star of the show is a herky-jerky Afro-Caribbean inspired riddim. Jones doubles up on the percussion-adding a collection of moans, breaths and sighs throughout. The extended Larry Levan mix (which appears on the deluxe edition of Nightclubbing that came out overseas several years ago) adds a bit of context to the song, as Grace takes the role of an older woman seducing (or being seduced by? I can’t tell) a boy half her age. Grace’s vocals are brought up to the forefront in the remixed version, while they’re a bit buried on the original. The racy banter between Grace and the object of her gaze (leer?) is pretty hilarious if you can cut through their thick Jamaican patois.

I’ve got this book called Michael Jackson FAQ, which has a quote from an MJ associate stating that Michael was hugely influenced by “Feel Up”. Given the King of Pop’s penchant for percussive breathing and sighing, that theory doesn’t seem farfetched at all.

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