Speaking of Thomas, a useful review of Debarge’s 20th Century Masters/The Millenium Collection. I’ve never particularly warmed to Debarge, to whom so many of my favorite critics surrender without a fight, but “All This Love” and “Time Will Reveal” hold up as well as any early eighties R&B (“A Dream” was the wtf-revelatory cut for me, actually). “You Wear It Well” shakes like the kid brother of Kool & the Gang’s “Misled.”I like “Who’s Holding Donna Now” and “Who’s Johnny?” more than he does, though. Of course, there’s “Rhythm of the Night,” which, as Thomas points out, skips to a robo-calypso beat first heard on the Pointer Sister’s “Automatic,” but so what? I love “Automatic.” If you can get your hands on the “dance remix” (found on the collection named above), do so; the producers scrub much of the original’s tackiness from the mix (the excellent bridge now omits the terrible synthesizer blasts punctuating the verses) and give Eldra Debarge more room to shake his blues right away.

Speaking of the Short Circuit theme song: more R&B producers listened to Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche ’85 than I’d expected. Eldra’s light, frisky tenor cuts corners around the Fairlight fizz, synth-horn blasts, and ricocheting drum programs as deftly as Green Gartside’s did on tracks like “Absolute” and “Perfect Way.” If we remember that Gartside contributed “Love of a Lifetime” to Chaka Khan’s Destiny in 1986 — and that the late Arif Mardin’s ear for R&B trends remained impeccable — the cross-pollination isn’t so far-fetched.

At the request of one of my more obnoxious friends, a few words on George Lamond’s great single “Bad of the Heart.” 1989 and 1990 were curious years for freestyle: Stevie B, Sweet Sensation, Sa-Fire, and Timmy T scored their first Top 40 hits, at least four years after the genre supposedly peaked artistically. This is harder, slower, and, yeah, faster than any freestyle, most notably in the first forty seconds, in which the earnest crooning of the title surrenders to deafening turntable scratching and a backbeat Hank Shocklee might have concocted. It’s the most abrupt, thrilling moment in freestyle — maybe the first hit since Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” whose sonic innovations buttressed the longing of the vocalist. Because Lamond’s high, wan, uncertain voice is so exposed, I’m tempted to cite “Bad of the Heart” as a terrific example of the tricks freestyle played on critics: the genre presented weaknesses in pitch and tone as signifiers of humanity. But the obsession, pain, and recrimination to which Lamond and other submitted found their match in the beats, like horrible, honest admissions in diaries photocopied and circulated to friends.

Growing up in Miami, I heard this and other retreads constantly on Power 96, so Top 40 validation seemed irrelevant (Gloria Estefan, then at the peak of her chart success, dulled the victory too). Anyway, the name of my favorite freestyle hit of all wasn’t even spoken by Casey Kasem. Neither was the love that dare not speak its name: when Lamond and Noel conveyed sentiments more at home coming from young women, with the same emotional abandonment, I wonder if they’re being as honest as their lyrics and vocals suggest — which is why I’m grateful to the Pet Shop Boys, who scored their last significant American chart hit with a Lewis Martinee (Expose) production, for exposing the subtext.

Since Sony Records won’t allow me to embed the YouTube clip of “Bad of the Heart,” here’s the link.

A couple of quick reviews:

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand. For three albums now, these Scottish nancy boys who put the sex in “metrosexual” have let their zippy songcraft run aground after the fifth or sixth song, only to (barely) recover in the final third. A cad who snaps guitar picks convincing women he’s a sensitive guy, Alex Kapranos is the frontman, but not the star (despite the authorship of a gastronomic tour that, like Kingsley Amis’ tomes on drinking, illuminate the writers’ attitude towards pleasure rather than provide an education); on “Bite Hard” and “Twilight Omens,” it’s Nick McCarthy’s buzzing synths and Paul Thomson’s backbeat that provide the spritz without which ostensible concept albums about nights on the town would turn flat. They’ve never made a great album, and at this rate probably won’t; but a string of decent to excellent ones in this shrinking global economy testifying to a belief in hedonism — and that stop for mornings-after with your sweetie under the blanket– is as compelling a myth as universal health care.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I gagged at the title: figured any band with a name like this has a hear too pure for me to endure. I don’t care much for the legacies of Ride and My Bloody Valentine either. Emo verities like claiming your love is fucking right sound better through fuzz and tinky keyboards I haven’t heard since The Cure’s Wish, and attempts at lapidary songwriting like “The Tenure Itch” augur an abandonment of emography which will probably get them laid more than boo-hoo stuff like “Stay Alive.”

For the record, my Oscar picks:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

For the record, my Oscar picks:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona