A few years ago, I had a blog on Vox.com where I wrote often about the impact of New Jack Swing on the musical landscape of my life. When I was twelve, I honestly thought that when I was an adult (20 years old or thereabouts), my romantic life would mirror a New Jack song. I thought I’d meet a guy who would say things like, “You need a man with sensitivity, a man like me, someone who will hold you tight,” or a guy who would say, “Don’t leave me all alone sitting here by the phone, my heart is broken, believe me.” The New Jack guys were always pleading, romantic, and in some cases super hot (hello Al B.!).
If music were classified like movies, New Jack Swing would be action and romance rolled into one (what would that genre be called–rom-action?). Every scene would be lively, pounding, and feature at least one woman shaking her hips and her head “No no no.” Of course, the male lead would sing, “You’ve got me waiting, anticipating, I want your love.” In New Jack, the drums don’t stop; the beat never stops; the begging never stops; “Don’t be cruel, cause I would never be that cruel to you.” The words often used to describe the style are “original,” “insistent,” and “swinging,” as in jazzy; it’s also non-stop entertainment, incredibly sweet, heartfelt and funny. Yes that’s right, dance your pain away. I love you New Jack!… even though, you misled me, and my romantic life, if there has even been such a thing, has been less New Jack swing and more Old Jill shuffle.
New Jack songs are often about love and relationships, usually failed love, and relationships gone horribly wrong; but, there’s no way you can listen to a New Jack song and not dance, smile, and sing along. No way. It makes you happy; their hopes for second chances become yours. Test yourself: play Tony Toni Tone’s “Feels Good,” Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative,” Al B. Sure’s “Off on Your Own,” or Heavy D’s “Somebody for Me,” and try to sit in your seat without moving. Try not to tap your feet. Try not to get up and move. Try to be sad. It’s impossible. Impossible!
I woke up this morning to learn that one of the pioneers of the New Jack genre, Heavy D, has died at an extremely young 44. It’s amazing how the death of a stranger can be felt so deeply. It’s crazy how you feel when people you grew up listening to, people who you feel you know, pass away; they have died and so has a bit of your youth, your childhood, the romantic ideals they instilled. Heavy D, as you said, and I throw right back at you, “I’ve got nuttin’ but love for ya baby.”
*BONUS (Classic Hev & the Don Dada):