100 Greatest Songs of the 1980’s #83 Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm

Released : 1985

There was always a danger that the Grace Jones brand – if such terminology had even been coined at this point in relation to a person – was likely to overpower both her music and her message; a former catwalk model for some of the most famous designers in the world, her rise to fame as a woman of colour in a male dominated, Caucasian world from humble beginnings in Jamaica was a story enough of it’s own.

It’s also probably true to say that the tropical funk of 1981’s Pull Up To Bumper is a better song, but Slave To The Rhythm, produced by Trevor Horn immediately after his work on Two Tribes with Frankie Goes To Hollywood, captures both the decade’s spirit of excess and the elevation of pop to art as well as any other of the era.

The rapid ascension of video as a medium was also part of it’s fascination; if the song was bone-dry, spacious funk with flourishes of vertiginous brass and pomp, the images that went with it were stylised like cuttings from the pages of Vogue, mocking high-fashion’s absurd insularity but in a strangely affectionate way. As for defining the slavery of the title the singer left the interpretation ambiguous, a human condition likely to last in perpetuity.

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