“If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it;” no sentence sums up my love for the slow jam more. Always there, always steady, the slow jam is music’s heartbeat, a source of life – it’s not called baby making music for nothing...
And so, without further ado, I present to you the top 5 slow jams of all time. Dim the lights (that bare bulb in your living room), pour out some wine (the dregs of last week’s Blossom Hill) and snuggle by the fire (radiator that leaks). As the Walrus of Love, the late Barry White, once purred, “There’s all kinds of music but baby, you know which one I choose…love making music.” So do I, Bazza, so do I.
5. I Want To Be Your Man –Roger Troutman
After finding success in RnB troupe Zapp, lead singer and owner of the least sexy moniker in music, Roger Troutman went solo to produce this sleazy slow jam. With a back catalogue of hits, including ode to fat-bottomed girls More Bounce to the Ounce, Troutman’s I Want To Be Your Man presses all the right RnB buttons. Originally deemed too fussy and melodically weak, the song was set to languish as a pure filler album track before the record label saw its schmoozing potential and released it as a single. From its twinkling opening, syncopated, squelchy beats and vo-coder verses, this is Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing on crack. Which I believe the singer was.
Number of times baby is used: 3
Number of times ooh/oh features: 1
Number of sex references: None – just one about marriage. Bless.
Least subtle line: “I wanna be your man, I wanna be your man, I wanna be your man, I wanna be your man” (repeat to fade)
4. Between the Sheets – The Isley Brothers
They saw me coming …the name alone meets the necessary criteria to satiate all my slow jam needs. A heady combination of sleaze and cheese, classic quiet storm crooners, the Isley Brothers, pack a soulful punch with this 80s jam. Pouring the innuendo on thick with 17 uses of baby uttered and 25 oohs gasped, subtlety and suggestion are all but abandoned here (fyi - a basic rule of the slow jam).
The track reaches its climax (when in Rome…) at three minutes 27 seconds with the dulcet demand, “Enough of this singing, let’s make love.” What follows is 20 seconds of heavy breathing while the synth goes mad… and then the chorus starts. So he got his then. Heavily sampled by every artist ever including Jay Z, 2pac, Whitney and Aaliyah, Between the Sheets does exactly what it says on the tin and for that its legacy will remain.
Number of times baby is used: 17
Number of times ooh/oh features: 25
Number of sex references: 17
Least subtle line: “I like the way you receive me, girl, I love the way you relieve me.”
3. That’s The Way Love Goes – Janet Jackson
This was not an easy decision - a true advocate of the slow jam movement, our Janet has a veritable trove of RnB afternoon delights. In the end, the lazy, laidback That’s The Way Love Goes made the cut. I’d like to say it was based on empirical evidence: produced by 80s icons Jam & Lewis, it won a Grammy for Best RnB song in 1994, sat at number 1 on the Billboard charts for eight weeks becoming Ms. Jackson’s biggest hit and sold three million copies worldwide. I’d like to say that. My reasoning for this is slightly more scant - while the aforementioned figures are impressive, it’s the track’s video that sucks me in, in all its dated glory. Set in a 1990s loft conversion (I’m sold), the video shows Janet sitting, sorry, ‘chilling’ with her auditioned ‘alternative’ friends, listening to her song. Here, she is breaking down the fourth wall - thank you GCSE English.
The song is declared as “slammin” by Jan’s mate, Tish, and promptly turned up, much to Janet’s delight. Serenading what appears to be that pineapple haired guy from Counting Crows , Janet makes love to the camera while everyone else wears trilbys and leather waistcoats/sits around topless/ look like nobs. Worth watching for the J-Lo cameo alone, who looks very pleased with herself and her choice of choker.
Number of times baby is used: 3
Number of times ooh/oh features: 13
Number of sex references: 10
Least subtle line: “Go deeper, baby deeper, you feel so good I’m gonna cry.”
2. Bump n’ Grind – R.Kelly
The Honey Badger (YouTube it) of RnB, R.Kelly’s Bump n’ Grind ticks every slow jam cliché and then some. R.Kelly’s strike rate is fairly 50/50 – for every massive hit, there is an almighty dud. For every ‘Ignition’, there’s a ‘Pregnant’, a song where our man repeats, “Lay your body down and get you pregnant,” while roping Tyrese in to wail “knock you up, pregnant, knock you up.” No, not today thank you.
However, when he gets it right, he always delivers - a track beyond parody, Bump n’ Grind simply stands as an example of an artist at the top of his game in every aspect. Written, produced and sung by the man himself, Bump n’ Grind is widely considered to be the best slow jam of all time. And why not? Predictably audacious, it’s combination of slick 90s production, R,Kelly’s relatively restrained lyrics (for him) and acrobatic vocals serve as explanation why this song will forever be heard in sticky floored clubs the world over.
Number of times baby is used: 4. Surprising.
Number of times ooh/oh features: None but allowances must be made. The vocal histrionics in the first five seconds are worth 50 oohs alone.
Number of sex references: 18
Least subtle line: “You need someone, someone like me to make love to you baby constantly.”
1. Red Light Special – TLC
And so I reveal the most lethal weapon in my slow jam armour. Written by RnB aficionado Babyface, (last seen selling his wares/soul on Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s), TLC’s ode to oral sex doesn’t so much titillate as scream the song’s theme in your face while slapping you repeatedly. You like that don’t you. Released as a single in 1995, TLC made three videos for it: sexy, sexier and sexiest. Obviously, I watched sexiest. Right. Where to start? I’ll just throw some stuff out there, see what sticks: toe-sucking, pimps, legs akimbo, guitarist taking knickers off. Your average Saturday night.
An R.Kelly song had evidently wrapped that day as TLC’s innuendo stock seems to be in short supply, inviting the listener to “take a good look at it, look at it now.” However, subtlety wasn’t really their strong point – I spent half the 90s wearing velour polo necks, Left Eye spent hers wearing a condom under her eye. Different strokes, I suppose.
Red Light Special’s 50s style doowop beat urges the track along complementing TLC’s low, husky vocals who sound like they’ve been up all night. Featuring two Prince-esque guitar solos, the final chorus is a slow jam lesson and we have just been schooled.
Number of times baby is used: 6
Number of times ooh/oh features: 0
Number of sex references: 30
Number of references to oral sex and, more specifically, their vagina: 18
Least subtle line: “I'll let you touch it if you'd like to go down.”