Today’s POP Rescue from obscurity is the 1991 debut album C.M.B by American four-piece band Color Me Badd. Is this album a work of art, or just a big scrawly mess? Read on…
The album opens with hit debut single I Wanna Sex You Up, probably the only Color Me Badd track that you can remember, but then it was a huge #1 UK hit when it hit the charts in May 1991. This song stood out from the rest of the charts when it was released in the UK, and that along with the boys’ breathy sexy promises and the inclusion of ‘sex’ in the song title made this track a sure-fire hit. Musically it’s quite a simple song, allowing the vocals to really shine here – and to their credit, their vocals worth together really well.
This is followed up by second single, All 4 Love, which has a really nice vintage sound to it – with the occasional funky saxophone section. Again, this song stood out amongst the other tracks in the chart at the time, and it rightly gave them a #5 UK hit, even if there’s plenty of similarities vocally with the previous song.
Next up is Heartbreaker which stood as the group’s fourth single. By this time though, the magic had gone, and their presence in the charts had dwindled – with the track stalling at #58. This track is sample heavy, but somewhat unremarkable – far less catchy, and with low register vocals that make the lyrics harder to hear. It’s also joined by a rap, which takes the track off into a different direction, and kind of gives it another weaker point.
The vocal harmonies are out in full force now for third single I Adore Mi Amor. Whilst this is full-on American boy-band heartfelt ballad cliche, it actually works quite well. Once again it gives the group a chance to show off those vocal harmonies, and also seems to give each member a time to shine individually.
Finger clicks and an admission of ‘just how special you are to me‘ introduce next song Groove My Mind. This is a mid-tempo number, with a simple beat and nice sounding wandering bass synth. This track would have served better as the fourth single instead of Heartbreaker, and sounds like it’s something that wouldn’t be lost on an early Bobby Brown or Michael Jackson album.
A somewhat pointless I Wanna Sex You Up (Reprise) follows this, presumably reminding you of the sexy times that you might get if you listen all the way to the end of the album. They really want you, and I had a good chuckle at the Tinder-esque profile photos and bios in the sleeve.
Roll The Dice is up next, and once again I’m reminded of Bobby Brown’s hit My Prerogative – this is a good thing. The track has a funky bass line and a fast beat, interspersed with some synth stab, and holds together really well. It should have been a single.
This is followed by Slow Motion, a track that saw release in the US and Canada where it was a moderate hit. At times, it sounds a little George Michael-esque vocally, and at times it musically reminds me of Deee-Lite’s hit What Is Love? It’s a nice enough song, but it doesn’t have anywhere to go, and feels a little too long.
A stripped down track follows this – Thinkin’ Back. This really allows the guys to show off those warm vocal harmonies with little interruption – a simple melody sits over a bass. Eventually its joined by a percussive beat, and some synths. This song builds up its layers slowly, giving a really nice full sound as the song leads towards its end with a held note. This is a real treat.
The I Adore Mi Amor (Interlude) is up next, again somewhat serving no purpose other than to remind you that these lads still love you and they’ll be done in a few minutes.
Titular and penultimate track Color Me Badd follows this, and this is another sample-heavy track set over a plodding beat. There’s plenty of DJ vinyl scratches and carries a melody that follows Play That Funky Music, but with different lyrics – mostly just samples of the song’s name. There’s plenty of name checks here, even ‘Spiderman’s in the house‘, presumably making some spare cash in between film franchises. The track doesn’t go far, but it’s an okay filler.
The funky sounds of Your Da One I Onena Love (that’s onena as in ‘wanna’, right?) come bursting in as the final track. Despite ‘this jam is going out to all you ladies out there‘ I continued to listen – I hope they didn’t mind. There’s some funky saxophone sounds here over a fast beat as the song switches from vocal harmonies in the chorus and higher register verses. This had me bouncing along in my seat and it’s quite a catchy track.
Over all, I was pleasantly surprised by this album – expecting it to be loaded with boring boy band vocal harmony ballads – and hoping to use a derogatory ‘color me shit/color me grey’ pun in my review. However, I close my review disappointed in that respect only, as there’s plenty of musical variations here that keep it interesting, up-beat, fun, and it clearly sounded exceptionally fresh when it was released 26 years ago. I can hear echoes of Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson and more throughout, and I can see how their career probably influenced artists like Justin Timberlake. I think the album rightly deserved its #3 UK chart position, and wonder what might have become if they’d had a few stronger singles in the UK.
Right, I better close the curtains and leave you to it….
Where are Color Me Badd now?
After their initial success, the group’s UK chart appearances dwindled after their second single, with their final UK-charting track being Choose less than a year after their huge number one. This stalled at #65 in the charts – clearly suggesting that UK record-buying public did exactly that – they chose something else, and waved them goodbye.
Returning to the US, the group fared better, managing to chart intermittently moderate hit singles up until 1998.
The guys, each now on the verge of turning 50 years old, have reunited at least twice – two members in 2010, and then again in 2016, and currently tour the USA with other 90s artists including Vanilla Ice and Salt ‘n’ Pepa to perform 90’s music shows.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE RATING: 4 / 5
- 1991 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK POSITION: #3, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.