A few weeks back I was reading WWTDD with the Tonight Show in the background.
A few weeks back I was reading someone make fun of Kirsten Dunst and was too lazy to change the channel to Letterman.
Call it fate, call it serendipity, call it a bunch of nothing, but that night's musical guest disturbed my sleep. Raphael Saadiq--whom I'm ashamed to admit I'd never heard before--performed "100 Yard Dash," the best throwback R&B I've heard since throwback was possible. It's not often you discover a truly exciting artist on a talk show--much less Leno--but it's not without precedent.
The song itself is Stax's strut with Motown's polish, half brawn and half finesse, all brass and velvet. Even the lyric echoes that dichotomy, juggling the singer's love of an unattainable woman (a Motown theme) and the belief that he'll attain her (a Stax one). The horns are present (Stax) but not a guiding force (Motown), just another vibrant part of the arrangement that tells the story. Everything, from the indispensable bass-line to the double-time clap-break (that appropriately sounds like applause) is authentic, vibrant, and fun.
So here, a little YouTube treat for you on a Tuesday...See what you think!
Raphael Saadiq, "100 Yard Dash"
And a bonus! Two more talk show performances that helped cement my fandom:
My Morning Jacket, "One Big Holiday" --on Conan several years back
Or, as Conan calls them, "My MORN-ing Jacket." This was my second introduction to My Morning Jacket and it remains one of the best TV performances I've ever seen. I remember sitting in my dormroom and feeling shellshocked and breathless, like I was in on a huge secret and wanted to tell everyone I knew.
Cory Branan, "Miss Ferguson" --on Letterman, spring of 2003
I'd owned his debut album, The Hell You Say, for a few months when he made his network debut. As staggering for its honesty as its fearlessness, this performance is everything a singer/songwriter's show isn't supposed to be: raw, swaggering, kinetic, and exuberant. I remember the girl upstairs remarking afterward, "he looked so nervous." Well, yeah...listen to the song. He's asking a girl out and about to have a coronary...how's he supposed to look?
Good and limber,