Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Ain't Nobody - Rufus & Chaka Khan

I love the idea of pop music, the mono no aware nature of the three minute single. Release one then move on to the next, production line style. While this can be a cynical and contemptible exercise, there is something beautiful in the transience. Nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect are the three central tenets of wabi sabi, the Japanese aesthetic of the acceptance of transience. Songs are memetic documents however and live on as paradigms, serving to provide templates for future songs.
From amongst threads of memory lies “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus & Chaka Khan. I fervently believe this song to be one of the most perfectly constructed pop songs recorded. From the opening synth bassline, to the lead line that comes in, to the phrasing of Khan’s vocal during the verse and the unadulterated bombast of the chorus. While it may have become a clarion call for drunken middle-aged ladies everywhere to forget their inhibitions and wail along to the chorus, it has artistry and power that has allowed it to transcend this savage image. There is something miraculous about the pop song’s ability to last; this song was written by keyboardist Hawk Wolinski and added as a bonus track on live album Stompin’ at the Savoy, but so very nearly became a part of Thriller due to Quincy Jones’ interest in the track. It could have become buried due to the argument over who should perform the song, left in the vaults for future compilers to release but the song prevailed and Wolinski gave the song to Khan rather than Michael Jackson.
It’s funny how you forget songs, how cultural baggage can obstruct enjoyment of the song, how various assumptions, concepts and values can impede a listener from truly recognising how great a song is. “Ain’t Nobody” is one of the best pop songs ever, and I don’t care who knows.

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