Sexy, Sexy, Sexy

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Albert Flores

"Sexy, Sexy, Sexy" is a 1973 song written and recorded by James Brown, for the film Slaughter's Big Rip-Off. The song appeared on the film's soundtrack and was released as a single in 1973. The song, and wider album, emerged from an era which saw the rise of Blaxploitation films. Such films represented the struggle of African Americans against poverty and crime under a white-dominated society. While Sexy, Sexy, Sexy was received well by contemporary and modern audiences alike, it received negative reviews from critics. Brown used the same backing track and chord progression from his 1966 hit Money Won't Change You when composing the song, which prompted such a poor critical response. Despite Brown's Plagiarism of his earlier work, Sexy, Sexy, Sexy showcased the typical funk hallmarks of his more popular work. The song performed strongly on three separate Billboard charts as well as the Cashbox chart. It appeared in three separate releases under music label Polydor Records and reissued in 2020.

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Background

In the early 1970s the United States saw the rise of ethnic Blaxploitation films focussed on the contemporary experience and oppression of African Americans. The films pioneered the use of original funk and soul soundtrack albums composed specifically for the films by prolific African American artists of the era. +more By using famous black composers of the 1960s and 1970s, the films showcased the musical and cinematic capabilities of African American creators. The soundtracks utilised defining conventions of soul, blues and funk music to encapsulate both the spirit as well as the struggle of African American communities against overbearing white authorities. Examples of such soundtracks and artists include Curtis Mayfield's Super Fly (soundtrack), Isaac Hayes in Shaft , and Earth, Wind & Fire for Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. James Brown was approached to author the soundtracks for two blaxploitation films. The first being Black Caesar a 1973 remake of the 1931 film Little Caesar, revamped to represent the current African American experience. The film introduced Brown to his first experience in writing musical material in the form of a cinematic score. Brown wrote ten songs and performed on all tracks for the album, with assistance from Charles Bobbit and Fred Wesley.

Brown's second effort at score composure was in 1973 when he wrote the soundtrack for Slaughter's Big Rip-Off. The film was the sequel to the 1972 film, Slaughter. +more Both films focus on the titular character of Slaughter, a Vietnam veteran who struggles against the organised crime of Los Angeles. Hall of Fame footballer, Jim Brown, plays Slaughter in both films of the franchise. James Brown wrote and performed on all of the album's thirteen songs. It is from this album, Sexy, Sexy, Sexy was released as a single.

Critical Reception

Upon its release, the album and song received poor critical response. The song's reception was contrary to the typically favourable reviews received by blaxploitation film soundtracks by other soul artists. +more Unlike Slaughter's Big Rip-Off, both Hayes' Shaft and Mayfield's Superfly were considered as breakthrough original film compositions. In a highly critical piece on Brown's work, AllMusic reviewer Jason Elias labelled the single as a "shocker". He rated the wider album two-and-a-half stars out of five, emphasising its mediocrity. Elias argued that Sexy, Sexy, Sexy proved Brown would never be recognised as a soundtrack innovator. He largely criticised the song for using the exact backing track, chord progression and vocal line of his earlier hit Money Won't Change You, which was released seven years prior in 1966. However, Elias does concede that the re-packaging of Brown's older hit single does work well in the context of the film.

Likewise, in a lukewarm review of Brown's work, Robert Christgau rated the album as a C. He criticised the album as being a "medium sized rip-off of a movie score. +more" Similar to Elias, Christgau believed that Brown's venture into cinematic authorship had been rather underwhelming. However, the review does highlight Sexy Sexy Sexy as a single worth hearing from the otherwise mediocre album.

By contrast, the modern consensus on audience reviews presents a more favourable response to the song and wider album. Over eighty public reviews on the website AllMusic gave the song an average of four out of five stars. +more The reviews labelled the song as "vintage" James Brown, citing the upbeat energetic tone of the single as positive elements. Furthermore, the website RateYourMusic calculated an average score of 3. 54 stars out of five, an average totalled from one hundred and seventy reviews. Again, many reviewers responded positively to the song showcasing the typical hallmarks of a James Brown funk hit.

Composition

Sexy, Sexy, Sexy is essentially an identical reconstruction of Brown's earlier 1966 hit single, Money Won't Change you. Both songs have the exact same chord progression and backing track, however the latter song has a slightly quicker tempo, more aggressive vocals and new lyrics written for Slaughter's Big Rip-Off. +more Sexy, Sex, Sexy is not the only song James Brown reworked from his earlier catalogue. The soundtrack's "Happy for the Poor" is a Latin-styled version of his earlier 1971 Gimme Some More, written during his time in The J. B. 's. Likewise, the soundtrack also included his earlier composition of Brother Rapp. The song closely follows typical conventions of the funk and soul genres. A hallmark of funk music is a strong rhythmic section, which creates a dance, party-like vibe. Brown follows this archetype by utilising an upbeat, erratic beat created by percussion and brass instruments. Likewise, by emphasising the downbeat Brown establishes a strong groove. The use of a groove was pioneered by Brown in the mid-1960s, and helped define the wider genre of funk in the proceeding decade.

A second important convention of funk, utilised by the song, are powerful, intensive and provocative vocals. Sexy Sexy Sexy is largely centred on Brown's trademark charismatic vocals. +more Common in funk songs is the use of primal vocal noises such as yelling, shouting or screaming. Brown's song begins with a single, sustained full body note created by a controlled scream. Proceeding the scream, the song breaks into the driving repetitive vocal lines. Throughout the song, Brown continually grunts and moans, imitating sexual noises and sounds. While the song has no definable chorus it involves many instances where Brown repeatedly sings "sexy" to establish a common theme and hook.

The songs also incorporates brass, woodwind instruments and a Hammond organ to help create the song's melody.

Lyrics and Interpretation

While, in terms of instrumentation and rhythm, Sexy, Sexy, Sexy is almost entirely identical to Brown's earlier hit Money Won't Change You, the lyrics were rewritten to fit the context of the film. As with the instrumentation, the lyrics reflect the conventions of Funk music, which Brown himself pioneered. +more The song was written to emphasise the sexual characterisation of the film's key female figure, Marcia, Slaughter's girlfriend. Brown wrote the lyrics to sexualise Marcia, in accordance with the film's portrayal of female characters as hyper-sexual beings. While the song has no chorus, it constantly repeats the word "sexy" when describing the feminine subject matter. Likewise, Brown continues to cast Marcia in a sexual light by stating that Slaughter does "not turn off the lights to watch her dress. " Hence, the song's lyrics reflect the hypersexualised nature of James Brown's wider catalogue and funk songs of the era.

Another key feature of the song's lyrics is the use of bestial imagery to metaphorically describe the sex drive of both the male and female characters. Again, the use of animal imagery to represent the sexual nature of the subject matter is a typical aspect of the funk genre. +more Brown refers to the female mouth as "chicken lips". Likewise, he contrasts the full-bodied figure of Marcia's frame to a "bone". Likewise, he compares a dog burying a bone, "because he doesn't want it", to a male sexual partner preferring women with "giant hips". Both descriptions serve to hyperbolically describe both the sexual preferences of the main characters, and their attractive features.

Finally, the song uses terms and vernacular familiar to the African American experience. Again, the use of black colloquialisms is a typical hallmark of 1960s funk music. +more Brown refers to the female subject as "sister", a common term of familiarity amongst black women.

Chart performance

As Sexy, Sexy, Sexy was released as a single it performed strongly on the mainstream charts of the United States. The Billboard charts tabulate the popularity of songs and albums in a weekly publication. +more The charts are ranked in accordance with sales, streams, or airplay of the song. As Brown's single was released in the 1970s, the charts only made reference to radio airplay and sales. Sexy, Sexy, Sexy peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's R&B chart for multiple weeks. The song also performed strongly on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart. The chart ranks the top one hundred listened to songs on a weekly basis. Unlike the R&B chart, it draws from all genres. Sexy Sexy Sexy peaked at number 50 and stayed on the charts for a total of 8 weeks. The final Billboard chart Brown's hit appeared on was the Soul Singles Chart. On the 25th of August Sexy, Sexy, Sexy reached number six on the chart. The song also performed on the Cashbox chart. Cashbox was a music magazine published from 1942 to 1996. During this period the magazine published a chart, typically dominated by pop records. On this chart, Sexy, Sexy, Sexy peaked at number 46 and maintained its position on the charts for a total of 7 weeks. THe only other song on the album soundtrack to perform well on the mainstream charts was Brown's previously released single Brother Rapp. The song reached number 2 on Billboard's R&B chart and number 32 on the same magazine's Pop Charts.

Releases and Vinyl Covers

Sexy, Sexy, Sexy was released as both part of the soundtrack for Slaughter's Big Rip-Off and also as a single in 1973. Both forms were distributed under the German-British record label Polydor Records, who had signed James Brown during the early stages of his career. +more The soundtrack was released on a 12 inch vinyl manufactured for a full-length album. The original album cover followed a poster like design. It depicted James Brown in gangster attire, wearing a trench coat, fedora hat and carrying a machine-gun. Furthermore, images from the film were included in the bottom right quarter of the cover. These included artwork of Jim Brown, Marcia and other film related imagery. Finally, at the top of the vinyl sleeve appears red text labelling James Brown the Godfather of Soul, a popular nickname he was well-known by. The single was released as a 7 inch vinyl. The artwork for the single differed to that of the wider album cover. While Brown was again depicted wearing the gangster attire, the film imagery was omitted. Furthermore, here Brown's gun is firing and Sexy, Sexy, Sexy is described as Slaughter's theme. The single was also released under Polydor with two separate covers in Belgium and France. The France version included a close up of Brown with green text. While the Belgium single was released in the Discotheque Special Series and depicted bright fluorescent pink text. Both were released on 7 inch 45 RPM vinyl. On 24 July 2020, the soundtrack was remastered and released under Republic Records, a label owned by Universal Music Group (UMG). The reissue is available at in the United Kingdom at a price of 10 pounds, or 13. 50 US dollars.

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