In this new series of articles, I’ll be focusing on my all time favorite era of R&B music: The New Jack Swing Era. In chronological order, I will review the greatest and most essential albums of this era. We begin by critiquing the album that launched this era: Keith Sweat’s “Make it Last Forever.”
During the mid 1980’s, a then teenage producer Teddy Riley helped produce two of the greatest hip hop songs of all time: Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick’s “The Show,” and Kool Moe Dee’s “Go See the Doctor.” This led to Keith Sweat seeking out his fellow Harlem peer Riley. The two of them in turn coproduced and wrote the album that in turn began the New Jack Swing Era. Released on November 24, 1987, “Make it Last Forever,” was the first album that was a mixture of funk, hip hop, jazz and gospel sounds all on one album. All these sounds were the formula for New Jack Swing Music. Teddy Riley would become The Godfather of New Jack Swing. Riley and Sweat created a masterpiece. It was an album that I would play over and over again. Back then, when the album debuted, I was 19 years old. New Jack Swing music was the quintessential soundtrack of my early adulthood. Similar to my parents who were my age during the Motown era, New Jack Swing music spoke to what was going on in my life and urban America. “Make it Last Forever,” would be the first album that identified with my life during 1987 and 1988.
The first single of the album, “I Want Her,” is reminiscent of the great funk songs of the 1970’s. It’s a song about a man wanting a woman he’s incredibly physically attracted to. At the time the song was released, September of 1987, I was living in New Orleans and trying to date a 20 year old pre-law student. This song helped capture my feelings for her completely. We eventually began a relationship. The next single, the title track of the album, would be our song, “Make it Last Forever.”
“I Want Her,” was an incredible debut for Sweat, as it went to number five on the Billboard pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. It was the biggest hit of Sweat’s debut album. The title song, however, was, in my opinion, the single greatest song ever recorded by Sweat. The song, a duet by Sweat and Jacci McGhee, is a sweet, sultry ballad where two people profess their undeniable love for each other. My girlfriend and I at the time made this our song. While she drove me to work in her car, we would play this song over and over. “Let me tell you how much I love you. Let me tell you that I really need you. Baby, baby, baby, I will make it all right. No one but you, baby can make me feel. The way you make me, make me, make me feel. I’m so glad you’re mine!” What incredible lyrics. Unfortunately, by the fall of 1988, her and I had broken up. However, whenever I hear this song, nothing but beautiful memories come to my mind. Today, she’s happily married and a district judge in New Orleans. She admitted to me a few years ago that I’m the first thing that comes to her mind whenever she hears this song. “Make it Last Forever,” would peak at number two on the R&B charts.
The third single off the album, “Something Just Ain’t Right,” is a song detailing a man who’s instincts tell him that his woman is cheating on him. In the fall of 1988, I started dating a 17 year old New Orleans high school student. Instantly, we hit it off. However, in early 1989, she began avoiding me. This song perfectly captured what I was feeling about our relationship, that something was obviously not right. Finally, in February of 89, she admitted to me she was seeing someone else and dumped me. I was devastated, and one of the songs on the album, a remake of The Dramatics classic “In the Rain,” exemplified my hurt at the time. The song expresses how a man has to go outside in the rain to hide his tears from crying after his heart has been broken. “Something Just Ain’t Right,” wound peak at number three on the R&B charts.
“Make it Last Forever,” is that rare album in which every song is great. Eight tracks. Eight great songs. The tracks “Right and a Wrong Way,” “Tell Me it’s Me You Want,” and “How Deep is Your Love,” are indicative of the begging and crooning style Sweat is famous for. The final track on the album, “Don’t Stop Your Love,” is a combination of Sweat’s begging style and funk. The album would go on to sell almost four million copies and was the biggest R&B album of 1988. Sweat would go on to have several more excellent albums throughout the era. Riley would become not only The Godfather of this era, but the premier producer as well.
MAKE IT LAST FOREVER
1. Something Just Ain’t Right
2. Right And A Wrong Way
3. Tell Me It’s Me You Want
4. I Want Her
5. Make It Last Forever
6. In The Rain
7. How Deep Is Your Love
8. Don’t Stop Your Love
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