The cinetrix owes Wesley Morris for explicating Lisa Lisa in the paper of record so soon after she subjected her lit students to Colson Whitehead's excellent celebration of 1980s trash culture, Sag Harbor. Look, kids! Relevance!
Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam was a trio manufactured and produced by the gym-rat R&B act Full Force and fronted by Lisa Velez, a spiky, compact 18-year-old from Hell’s Kitchen who could stretch her vocals to churchy stank. In 1985, the group had a couple of club hits with “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “Can You Feel the Beat” and a year later turned the slow-jam melodrama of “All Cried Out” into a Top 10 song. The next year the production somehow found extra thump and shifted to more melodic, Motown-style arrangements and really took off. In the summer of “La Bamba” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” Lisa Lisa’s “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion” hit No. 1. (They stood atop what was then Billboard’s black music chart, too.)
True, by the early 1990s, the group was virtually no more. But it happened. So did its early sound: slinky prehouse, bass-heavy, danceably percussive synth music that found a tributary to the Billboard Top 40. Key-wise, the music went down; the singing went up. Your head kept losing to your hips, heels and heinie.
Speaking of which, there are worse moves on a Monday morning of a short week than cuing up the accompanying Spotify playlist. I like the idea that Wesley is using his bully pulpit to make us mixtapes. Can't wait for the Aussie pop.