Grace Jones

Slave to the Rhythm

Composed by Simon Darlow / Trevor Horn / Stephen Lipson / Bruce Woolley

Song Review by

The single "Slave to the Rhythm" and the attendant album of the same name are the culmination of Trevor Horn's modular production style of 1983-1985, in which the producer/songwriter would create dizzying variations of a piece of music by juxtaposing several different musical elements in different combinations. (See the Art of Noise's first two albums and the seemingly endless array of remixes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" and "Two Tribes" singles for other examples.) The album cover, an iconic shot of an open-mouthed Jones with both her hair and mouth extended by repeating small samples of the original photo, is a perfect illustration of the album as a whole, which is basically an epic version of the song "Slave to the Rhythm" spread over two sides, with remixes and reworked versions of the basic musical idea interspersed with spoken word interludes and interview segments. The song in its most complete form was originally released as a single, in a version that's not repeated on the album, just to further complicate matters. (The single mix is available in various places, including Horn's career-spanning compilation Produced By Trevor Horn, and most of its component parts can be heard on the album's final track, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Grace Jones.") It's all rather fascinating in a theoretical sense, but the fundamental problem is that the song "Slave to the Rhythm" itself isn't actually terribly good. Written by Horn, former Buggles bandmates Bruce Woolley and Simon Darlow, and engineer Steve Lipson -- an awful lot of names for such a slight song -- "Slave to the Rhythm" is built around a catchy, memorable chorus that merges the lushness of pre-disco Philly soul, a go-go backbeat, and chilly European synth textures. The rest of the song doesn't measure up to the promise of the chorus, basically consisting of endless rhythm vamps over which shards of Fairlight samples and Jones' disinterested vocals meander. The album is worth hearing, once, for fans of either Jones or Horn, and the single isn't entirely disposable thanks to that impressive chorus, but overall, one has to wonder why Trevor Horn spent so much time and money on this project.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Slave to the Rhythm 1985 Island 6:35
Private Life: The Compass Point Sessions 1998 Island 8:18