1986, Music

Word Up! (1986) by Cameo

Like so much other music released in 1986, this sounds extremely “modern” or, perhaps more appropriately to us 21st century folks, “contemporary.” It’s aggressively of its era, which is a good thing for some people I suppose, though obviously not for me.

It’s lean, funky soul (or even soulful funk rock), with what sounds to me like fairly clear evidence of a hip hop influence to the music and production. I don’t know how much hip hop had diffused yet but some tracks here have some very sparse sections when it is just singing, drums, bass and a keyboard. Maybe that came from somewhere else but it feels like it came from early hip hop. (Well from funk via early hip hop.)

The music is quite funky for the ’80s. The leanness helps, of course. There is also a tiny bit of a rock influence (likely rock via P Funk) that surprised me given it’s 1986 and I’m not sure how much funk rock was a thing yet.

The songs aren’t super catchy outside of the hits, though I suppose most people don’t listen to music like this for the melodies. Nor do they listen to it for the lyrics – as is typical for R&B the lyrics often feel like an afterthought.

As I noted at the start, the production is very, very dated. This is definitely on the short-list of the most “1986” albums made in 1986. If you put this on at a party, and nobody knew Cameo, someone would undoubtedly successfully guess what year this came out within a year or two. It screams mid ’80s nearly as much as a Phil Collins album. Better production – less tied to its time – would have definitely helped me enjoy it more. I suspect with better production I might have actually liked it.

So it’s fine. It’s certainly better than smooth soul, if nothing else.


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