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Color Me Badd sex up the cringe-o-meter [May 4, 1991]
The song's good though
This week’s brand-new Number One: ‘I Want To Sex You Up’, Colour Me Badd
Ever see a video so 90s that it instantly teleports you back right into the middle of the first Gulf War? Well, if not, then prepare yourself. Here’s Color Me Badd serenading Shaneen Doherty on Beverly Hills 90210.
Color Me Badd were a self-described “hip-hop doo-wop” band that formed in mid-80s Oaklahoma. They have a pretty sweet origin story: they met in high school, worked hard to nail down their swoonsome harmonies, and then they started hustling relentlessly for a big break. One day, the story goes, the guys saw Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora heading to a cinema, so the guys followed them in and asked if they could sing.
“Just give use 60 seconds of your time,” said Bryan Abrams (the one with the terrible mustache.)
Jon said yes, and was so impressed that he invited them to open for the band the following night. So, Color Me Badd got their big break on stage in front of 20,000 Bon Jovi fans. Within two years, they had a record contract that resulted in two massive hits: ‘I Adore Mi Amore’ and the deathless ‘I Want To Sex You Up’.
I remember the latter song raising many blushes when it landed in 1991. There was a widespread sense of “can they say that? Can they play this on the radio before the watershed?” It certainly sounded naughty, although there’s something strangely chaste about the song, with its castrato la la la la las in the background. Plus, nobody actually understood what exactly it meant to sex someone up. And anyway, it was only a few months since Salt-N-Peppa had urged us to talk about sex.
But there was one big difference between Salt-N-Peppa and Color Me Badd: Salt-N-Peppa were good. By the time Color Me Badd landed in 1991, there was already something unbelievably cheesy about them. This cheesiness is perfectly encapsulated in the genius parody by Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg, ‘Dick In A Box’:
‘Dick In A Box’ works because it’s actually kind of a jam. And you know what? So is ‘I Want To Sex You Up’. You have to ignore a lot about the song in order to appreciate it. You have to ignore Bryan’s mustache, and that there’s one who looks like a George Michael impersonator. You have to ignore the terrible, controversy-baiting title. You have to ignore the excessive sexuality, which is meant to be seductive but often feels more like your drunk uncle trying to pull at a wedding.
Underneath all that, ‘I Want To Sex You Up’ is a pretty great piece of New Jack Swing. The harmonies are legitimately impressive, the groove is extremely catchy, and the samples are well-chosen. If you can turn off your cringe-o-meter for four minutes, it’s a great song.
Elsewhere in the Charts
Color Me Badd finally depose ‘It’s In His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)’ from the top spot. Cher drops to Number 2.
The only new entries in this week’s top ten are ‘Shocked’ by Kylie and a reissue of ‘Light My Fire’ to tie in with the new movie about The Doors, starring young Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.
Pet Shop Boys are back in the top 20 with ‘Jealousy’. Were they always in the top 20 in the 90s? I don’t remember a time when they weren’t.
Pixie hit their highest ever UK singles chart position with ‘Planet of Sound’ at 27. They weren’t really a singles chart band, but it’s nice of them to pop in.