Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Let's Wait Awhile" - Like ... The Next Album?

An R&B smash about ... abstinence? Boy, back in 1987, things sure were different. People said hello to you at the corner grocery store. Elementary school students brought their teacher an apple on the first day of school. The president didn't talk about AIDS. It was a gentler, kinder world. And instead of singing about taking her panties off at the first possible opportunity, Janet Jackson sang about ... keeping her fly zipped for that special someone?
There's something I want to tell you
There's something I think that you should know
It's not that I shouldn't really love you
Let's take it slow

When we get to know each other
And we're both feeling much stronger
Then let's try to talk it over
Let's wait awhile longer

Let's wait awhile
Before it's too late
Let's wait awhile
Before we go too far
"Wait"? "Wait"?! This isn't the '80s pop music I know. Prince didn't sing about waiting. Madonna didn't sing about waiting. George Michael sure as shit didn't sing about waiting. Not even Billy Joel sang about waiting. Who the fuck sang about waiting? The English Beat?

Also, who knew Jam & Lewis were such die-hard fans of '70s soft rock poster boys America? Not only did they build 2001's "Someone to Call My Lover" around a sample of "Ventura Highway," but years earlier, they arguably lifted the opening of "Let's Wait Awhile" from "Daisy Jane." Indeed, it turns out that not only were Jam & Lewis masters of dance floor funk, but they also possessed an impressive gift for lush, slow jam balladry. "Let's Wait Awhile" is like a soft velvet blanket on my ears. It's so ... cozy. I think this is the sound Madonna was trying to achieve on her ballads, only with more, you know, warmth or something.

Once again, Jam & Lewis get a lot out of a little:
  • 0:01: Fake wind chimes and the world's gentlest keyboard melody
  • 0:11 Janet enters, single-tracked
  • 0:34: Imitation bass drum and imitation fingersnaps
  • 0:57 Janet's voice multiplies on the chorus, while some eerie, futuristic synths squirm in the background
I don't remember hearing "Let's Wait Awhile" much in 1987, nor immediately afterward. In fact, I heard it on the radio in college one night and couldn't quite place its year of origin. I thought it might have been a track from Rhythm Nation 1814, or even janet. I have to say that it has aged quite nicely, as has the classy black and white video, in which Janet comforts her disappointed boyfriend on a majestic Manhattan rooftop. Just when they seem to have come to terms with her decision, the door slams shut behind them. Looks like they might have to "wait" on that rooftop ... for "awhile"! Also, do you think I could have their apartment?

The magic truly blossoms at 4:00, after the (not entirely unnecessary) key change, when Janet suddenly transforms into a bouquet of floating flowers, crooning "da-dee-da-dee" from each stereo channel. It's like Minnie Riperton's "Loving You" ... except she's deliberately not loving you. "I promise ... I'll be worth the wait," she coos at 4:17. Oh I believe it.

And we wouldn't have to wait long. Three years, to be specific. The last (proper) track on Rhythm Nation 1814, "Someday Is Tonight," is where Janet finally goes all the way. Sample lyric:
You know I promised
I'd be worth the wait
Now the wait is over baby
Please don't hesitate
Boy you make me tremble
With your warm caress
I never knew I could feel this way
No more fantasizing
You'll ever have to do
Cause tonight baby
All your dreams come true
I want you so bad I can taste it
I'm yours if you want me
So what you're saying Janet, if I'm reading this right, is that you're done waiting? It's a little unclear to me. The thing is, we arguably didn't even have to wait the full three years! The last track on Control, "Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)," in addition to sounding like an early version of Al B. Sure's "Nite and Day," may not spell things out quite as explicitly, but based on the aural evidence before me, I'm not entirely sure that Janet was truly able to hold it in until 1989. Listen to the moans and whimpers in the final minute, including the breathy deployment of phrases in French (the language of love):
Je ne sais pas ou le temps s'est enfui
Il me plait d'etre là avec tu
I really don't know where all the time went
I really have to go
Oh I really have to go
Oh ... I really have to go
One more time?

Oh je t'aime mon cheri

OK, Janet, get a room. I mean, if you're not going all the way right there, you're definitely getting close enough for me.

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