Were all-star jams a phenomenon that peaked in the Eighties?
Of course, there was We Are The World and Do They Know It’s Christmas, but the songs were never catchy to me. I just grew up loving the all-star jams on Video Soul, like Self Destruction (LOL at Kool Moe Dee’s stunna shades) and We’re All In the Same Gang — which, by the way, is an awesome song. I missed that bass line, and I need to download that STAT. When’s the last time you heard Michel’le sing that hook? And what the heck happened to Michel’le anyway? Nicety was the jam back in the day! (So funny to see Dr. Dre and Eazy-E up in that video).
There’s just something cool about seeing a bunch of celebrities and musicians come together to collaborate on a project. But I can’t think of any truly outstanding all-star jams in recent years.
There was that wack cover of What’s Going On, I guess. (Britney + Ja Rule + N’Sync = an insult to Marvin Gaye’s vision). That very slick Johnny Cash video for God’s Gonna Cut You Down also comes immediately to mind, but doesn’t count because Johnny Cash is the only singer. But that video’s got more star power than any other I can think of. And that’s just a flat-out great Johnny Cash song. (surprise, I’m a Johnny Cash fan! I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, too. Ain’t nothing wrong with a little classic country music).
But a late night watching VH1 Soul reminded me of an all-star collaboration I had all but forgotten about. Freedom was originally featured on the soundtrack for the movie Panther in 1995. The group includes a veritable black female who’s who of Nineties music industry players: Mary J. Blige, Monica, Meshell Ndegeocello, Zhane, TLC, SWV, Aaliyah, Brownstone, Vanessa Williams, Salt N Pepa, En Vogue, Queen Latifah, Joi, Xscape, and a room full of talented sistas, some of whom I don’t even recognize.
I watch this video and I’m all like, wait, was that Karyn White? Who is that? Des’ree? Whatever happened to Patra? It’s kind of amazing to think of how much life has changed for the participants of that video. Some have become A list stars, some have faded into obscurity. Some are struggling to stay relevant, some are doing reality television, some are very sadly no longer with us.
Still, while watching it I love the feeling of empowerment that I get from this video. Imagine the vibe in the room, everyone pumping fists in the air and remembering the struggles of our ancestors. That’s a beautiful thing, and makes a great throwback jam with an inspiring message.
Enjoy, bellas! Happy Friday!