“Head To Toe” was the first single from Spanish Fly, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s second album. It’s sunny melodic pop with a street edge. The writing and production team of Full Force (who pretty much did everything except sing lead vocals on all of LL&CJ’s hits) must have been listening to a ton of Motown around the time “Head To Toe” was recorded, because there are elements of the song that are very reminiscent of that Detroit label’s glory years in the ’60s. For one, the melody is strikingly similar to that of The Supremes’ hit “Back In My Arms Again”. The lyrics appear to be inspired by the witty wordplay of Smokey Robinson (“his kiss is credit in the bank of love/I never leave home without it”), and a key line in the song’s bridge is-literally-“you can’t hurry love”. Lisa’s girlish vocals call to mind a young Diana Ross as well.
If I remember correctly (and I’m pretty sure I remember this fact from Billboard’s Book Of #1 R&B Hits), “Head To Toe” was conceived after Full Force member Paul Anthony’s girlfriend exclaimed the chorus phrase (“ooh baby I think I love you from head to toe”) while checking her man out. Unlike most stories about the conception of songs, I don’t think this is an apocryphal story just because the Full Force dudes were clearly very into physical fitness. Those Negroes were swole.
The combination of classic references (especially considering how rampant Motown nostalgia ran in the mid ’80s) with a contemporary sheen was a winner. “Head To Toe” topped the pop and R&B charts, and led to a couple of American Music Award nominations in early 1988. Lisa and her Cult Jam posse sang “Head To Toe” at the ceremony, and you can watch the performance below. Um, without being crass, is it safe to say that the star of that performance was not Lisa’s golden throat but…something (actually two things) much lower? I was 11 when this aired, and even as someone who is mostly in dudes, even I couldn’t help but being blown away by Lisa’s gigantic cans.