Sunday, August 16, 2009

IN PRAISE OF JANE CHILD

Timing is everything. And for Jane Child, her 1990 No. 2 hit, "Don't Wanna Fall In Love," a thrilling slice of blue-eyed new jack swing, had perfect timing. New jack swing, the hip hop-R&B-electropop blend of which Teddy Riley was the prime architect, was all the rage in pop and R&B, thanks to Bobby Brown, Babyface, Keith Sweat and their hit-making contemporaries, and Jane's this-is-not-a love song fit in perfectly.

Unfortunately, everything else about her, from the long cornrows swinging past her butt and the nose ring connected to an earring by a long chain to her edgy dance-pop sound, didn't. In a nutshell, she was ahead of her time. She failed to score a follow-up hit, and her brilliant 1993 follow-up, Here Not There, hastened her slide back into obscurity.

Too bad. I'm one of the 78,000 people worldwide who actually shelled out money for Here Not There, and I've always felt that the world slept on a near-perfect album and a major talent. In that sense, Jane reminds me of Linda Perry, another multi-hyphenate who scored exactly one big hit ("What's Up," as a member of Four Non Blondes), released a perfect and perfectly overlooked solo record (1996's In Flight) and dropped off the face of the earth before being reincarnated in the early 00's as one of the most sought-after songwriters and producers in the biz.

Like Linda, Jane writes, produces, sings, plays instruments, and does them all quite well. Now that the likes of Lady GaGa and Katy Perry have made pop music once again safe for girls with a little bit of an edge, if Jane were just coming out today, she'd probably be a huge star with more than one hit to her name. Despite a few dated keyboard flourishes here and there, much of her music, particularly Here Not There, sounds like it could have been recorded in the late '00s. In fact, I think Britney should record a cover of "I've Got News For You" from Jane's self-titled debut pronto.

Listen



Which makes me wonder, how will the latest hits of GaGa and Perry and Beyonce sound in 2029? Still relevant, or like fossils from days long gone by. Time will tell. For now, check out the video for Here Not There's shoulda-been-a-huge-hit-single "Do Whatcha Do." The song is pure genius.

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