A Hip Take on a Timeless R&B Classic: “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'”

innercity-whatchagonnadowithmylovin

As I travel deeper and deeper into the heart of my fanfiction for NaNoWriMo, it’s time to take a breather. During the endless marathons of typing away at plot changes and character developments, I have been listening to a ton of music on my music player, on video sites like Youtube, and from a couple of blogs. This post is inspired by one of my favorite blogs on WordPress, Mixed Tape Masterpiece. It’s a really neat site that features songs and radio snippets that were recorded on cassette about twenty years ago before the age of high-speed internet and iTunes. Please check it out if you have a chance!

At the beginning of the 1990s, it seemed like music was changing constantly.  New genres were added to Billboard’s Top 40 charts as previous established ones expanded their definitions. One group that dared to challenge musical genres in 1989 and helped throw “Detroit House” and “Detroit Techno” into the public’s eye was Inner City.

Inner City formed around the Detroit area in 1987 by accident. Kevin Saunderson, credited as a co-founder of techno and a member of the group Bellevue Three, was composing music with James Pennington one day at Pennington’s studio. One of the successes from this jam session was the creation of Inner City’s iconic “Big Fun“, which Saunderson described it as a song with “a chord, sampled, one note, spread through the keyboards and replayed, mixed down with a pad and a few other sounds”.[1] The duo continued to work on the song over the weeks, adding percussion done by Terry ‘Housemaster’ Baldwin and a keyboard solo by Art Forest. However, the song was missing something momentous.

James Pennington suggested Chicago-native Paris Grey to be the tune’s lead singer. Saunderson sent the track to Paris, who had the task to write the vocal melody and lyrics for song. She completed the job in one month and sang the finishing product to the producers, who fell in love with her voice and the song even more. That was when Inner City was born.

Over the span of the band’s initial run, they added two more members (including Saunderson’s wife Anne), released five albums, and a handful of singles. Their debut album, “Paradise” (renamed “Big Fun” in the United States), was a hit in UK where it reached number three on the charts. As Inner City rode on their moderate success, singer Paris Grey wanted to take a step back to raise her daughter around the mid-90s. The group took a pause after the release of “Do Me Right” in 1996, enabling Paris to take a break and Saunderson to go on to do more projects.

However, the group never really broke up as they gotten back together many times since their hiatus. They released two singles in 1999 and 2000. And another two in 2011 and 2014 with an updated techno sound.

As I continue to type countless words for my novel, I cannot stop listening to the Kevin McCord Club Mix of Inner City’s 1989 single ‘Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'”. A cover of the 1979 Stephanie Mills’ song, Inner City updated it by adding jazz, a hint of R&B, and 80s’ house. The song captures anyone’s attention at the beginning when Paris starts off by singing the title with a blaring saxophone bit following it. I absolutely love how this horn instrument is used throughout the song, especially at the 6:08 mark. This particular instrument helps to paint a jazzy scenario with the disco-styled piano solos thanks to the Roland TR-909 (listen for an imperfect authentic cadence at around the 4:50 mark), the bluesy percussion beats, and the tone of the background vocals. But, listeners are reminded that this is still a (then) modern-day house and R&B song thanks to the funky bass synthesizer that serves as the backbone of the song.

Speaking of vocals, can we take a minute to talk about how amazing Paris Grey vocals are. Saunderson was right in a recent interview about how Grey’s vocals are “their own instrument”.  Her voice is warm, deep, and rich as she brings out each low note with a slight hold. She ends each line with style that embodies the texture of velvet, rich and silky, that leaves the listeners wanting more.  It doesn’t end at the chorus as she continues to sing in a soulful tone.

The Kevin McCord Club Mix of  “Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin'” is a tasteful mix of past and current musical genres. The tune is a spectacular blend of disco, R&B, soul, blues, jazz, and others. Anyone who is a fan of any type of musical genre will enjoy this musical gem.

If you enjoy to take things slow, you should listen to the original version. I find it too slow for my taste but still amazing.


References

[1] Saunderson, Kevin. “Kevin Saunderson, Inner City and the inside Story of ‘Big Fun’.” FACT Magazine Music News New Music. FACT Magazine, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 7 Nov. 2015. (http://www.factmag.com/2014/09/02/kevin-saunderson-inner-city-and-the-inside-story-of-big-fun/)

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