Music plays a central part in everything Odario Williams does. This modern day Renaissance man is an actor, songwriter, producer, journalist, poet, and rapper, and is the current host of “Afterdark” on CBC Music. He’s put together an unconventional Valentine’s Day playlist full of classic bangers and underrated gems.
ETTA JAMES — “I’D RATHER GO BLIND” (1968) A perfect blues song to soundtrack a bruised heart. Etta would rather go blind than to see him walk away. Kills me every time. I love this tune. It’s too short in length and calls for a rewind every time.
D’ANGELO — “SEND IT ON” (2000) Voodoo is one of my favourite albums of all time. It’s a sexy record, and Send It On is the sexiest track on that record. D’angelo borrows from the greats (Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Prince) to give this track all the sauce it needs. Recorded straight to tape, the falsetto vocals and soft horns are a match made in soul heaven. Questlove on drums doesn’t hurt either.
DIONNE WARWICK — “YOU’RE GONNA NEED ME” (1973) The drums alone knock me off my feet… and the instrumentation has that “tell it like it is” vibe about it that’s raw gold. Dionne’s vocal delivery is simply dirty, with extra sass. She’s letting that brother know that he made a huge mistake leaving her. Such a badass funky song. I didn’t know sweet Dionne had it in her.
GEORGE MICHAEL — “KISSING A FOOL” (1987) This is one of the best jazz-pop songs ever written. It’s a lonely love song about coming to terms with false love. George came to realize, the entire time, he was the fool in that relationship. “I will wait for you, like I always do.” Apparently it was recorded in one take. This song solidified George Michael as a fantastic songwriter.
PRINCE — “ADORE” (1987) I always admired Prince’s sexy sinister approach to storytelling. He was the master of that “show & tell” kind of night. Every day was Valentine’s Day when Prince was in your presence. I’m convinced Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” was directly inspired by this song. And make sure you listen to the extended 6 minute version… you’ll hear Prince practically make love to his own song.
ERYKAH BADU — “GREEN EYES” (2000) I love this song. It’s so long (running at 10 minutes), but it ain’t long enough! It begins with a crackly ragtime jazz kind of intro, then morphs into a neo-soul classic. Green Eyes is full of insecurities and self doubt… the type of feels we all face when a loved one happily moves on to someone else. This song is the sweetest heartbreaker, broken down in three parts! Green Eyes is an honest and pure journey of theatrical poetry, jazz and soul.
SADE — “NOTHING CAN COME BETWEEN US” (1988) My playlists about love will always have Sade involved. Sade IS love. She flows like water and starts a fire at the same time. This song is one of many great Sade love songs, but it’s my favourite because you can groove to it. It borrows from Latin jazz, 80s boogie and British soul. I love the male backing vocals that compliment Sade’s sugar sweet vocals. It’s a jam… it’s about faith, it’s about trust.
JENNIFER LARA — “I AM IN LOVE” (1981) I tend to keep a few reggae tunes in my playlists because reggae is in my DNA. My father (a club DJ in the 80s & 90s) used to play a lot of dub reggae joints in the house as I was growing up. He’d play songs like this. Jennifer Lara’s version of Evelyn King’s R&B classic I’m In Love. This song is perfect for hot sticky summer nights that are just getting started.
MARVIN GAYE — “AFTER THE DANCE” (1976) “Dance with me, baby. I want you, you want me.” Marvin Gaye was at his sexiest during the recording of this album. This song takes place at a sweaty old dancehall (refer to the album cover), with minutes to spare before last-call. The congas aim straight at your hips, and Marvin’s vocally delivery is hot and memorable. This song is basically four and a half minutes of drug induced foreplay. Marvin was bold enough to release an instrumental version.
ERIC B & RAKIM — “WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND” (1991) At a time when rap songs were not allowed to be romantic, Rakim (one of the greatest emcees out the 80s) penned a perfect scenario of meeting his gorgeous soulmate one random day in Brooklyn. The wordplay is a vivid take on the art of persuasion and passion. The beat bumps, just the way a classic old-school rap record should. I love the sample Eric B used here, cutting up Midnight Star’s cool track Curious. It’s so dope.