12 Jam & Lewis Tunes You Should Know

jimmy_jam_terry_lewis.jpgI find it a literal offense if you don't know who Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are. OK, I'm not that harsh, but if you consider yourself a R&B music enthusiast and you have no clue, I might have to lock you up for hurting my feelings. Crafting what is known famously as the Minneapolis Sound, Jam & Lewis began their careers in the Prince-formed band The Time, back in the early '80s. After falling out with Prince, the duo left the group and forged a successful production career that has since spanned to three decades and a bevy of artists since. Jam & Lewis are most well-known for producing and literally reforming the career of Janet Jackson, but there are some other key tracks that they have put their name on. What are they, you ask? Well, here's a list of 12 Jam & Lewis productions that I feel should give you an inside scope of their career as it's as varying as a salad bar.

1. Cheryl Lynn: "Encore"
There is a misconception that Cheryl Lynn is a one-hit-wonder, as her 1979 hit, "Got To Be Real" is frequently used in shampoo commercials and chick flick montages. This is false advertisement as Cheryl actually had another #1 hit (but technically on the R&B charts). The fabulous Jam & Lewis production of the 1983 track, "Encore" is the hit I'm speaking of. When Cheryl belts out that her man's love deserves an encore, she means it. The video is horrifically bad (see link above to be whisked to Hilarious Hills), but the song is funky to the hilt.

2. The S.O.S. Band: "Tell Me If You Still Care"
It's hard to pinpoint when Jam & Lewis's sound really skyrocketed into common musical knowledge. Some say Cherrelle, others are Janet all the way...for me it's The S.O.S. Band. The S.O.S. Band were a band that seemed to have been doomed to perform disco-funk romps after disco was officially deemed dead (see "Take Your Time (Do It Right)"). That was until Jam & Lewis transformed them into a sleek synthesized funk band with a handful of '80s soul classics. The brooding opening cut to the On The Rise album has been sampled by the likes off LL Cool J and even Mariah Carey. Still the original is one to treasure as it marks the time on how the soul ballad got a makeover.

3. Alexander O' Neal and Cherrelle: "Saturday Love"
Alexander O'Neal and Cherrelle were among Jam & Lewis's first clients and together they made for great duet partners. On 1986's "Saturday Love" the two gave one electrifying vocal about lusting in love on the weekend. This slow jam is '80s ballad gold. What I like about it is that it's not dripping with too much sap a la "Endless Love" and that you learn the days of the week as Cherrelle and Alex repeatedly recite them throughout the song.

4. New Edition: "Can You Stand The Rain"
With the exiting of Bobby Brown and the addition of Johnny Gill, New Edition went under a serious transformation in 1987. With the release of their classic N.E. Heartbreak album, New Edition had turned over a new page. They went from singing giddily about "Popcorn Love" to being manly MEN and wondering "If It Isn't Love." Jam & Lewis give the boys their first serious ballad and it's quite the debonair one. Perfect to croon along to in your hairbrush to. Wearing a fedora is optional.

5. Cherrelle: "I Didn't Mean To Turn You On"
Know me, and you know I dig hard on some Cherrelle. Her 1988 album, Affair is one of my top 10 favorite albums of all time (no joke) so I won't try to squeeze a song from that album on this list...but if there is one Jam & Lewis track that is the nougat center of Cherrelle's career it's this electro-charged dance number from 1984. Often imitated but any cover can never duplicate Cherrelle's spunky delivery of the ultimate put-down.

6. Boyz II Men: "On Bended Knee"
Boyz II Men outdid themselves with "On Bended Knee," and they had Jam & Lewis to help them out. Most like to gush over the sappy Babyface concoction "I'll Make Love To You," but I find the group's 1994 hit, "On Bended Knee" to be a bit more sincere and not as over the top. It's a nicely streamlined ballad that effectively shows off the quartet's vocal talents. And yes, it's great for being swoon worthy with your special someone.

7. The Human League: "Human"
This is an often overlooked look track by the British New Wave outfit The Human League and personally I love it. The group enlisted Jam & Lewis for their 1986 album, Crash, and nestled in it was the brooding reflective piece known as "Human." The duo didn't distract from the stark synth sounds the band were famous for and it made for quite a mix. New wave never sounded so soulful.

8. Janet Jackson: "Nasty"
Literally pick any Janet song between 1986-2001, and you've got classic Jam & Lewis right there. So I was hard pressed to pick one song from Miss Jackson's time with them that would fit this list. So don't get "nasty" with me for picking Jan's 1986 hit, "Nasty." I picked it mainly for three reasons: It features the famous line, "Miss Jackson, if you nasty," the beat literally bites you in the arse and Paula Abdul choreographed and made a cameo in the music video.

9. Alexander O'Neal: "Innocent"
All you need to know is that this song is 11 minutes of rub-it-in-your-face-eat-it-up-and-swallow-it synth funk. Jam & Lewis weren't playing around when they gave Alexander O'Neal one of his most vibrant and well-known tunes. Off of O'Neal's 1984 self-titled debut, the track is essential '80s funk and rocks you steady till next month.

10. Jordan Knight: "Give It To You"
Laugh all you want, but this song is a diamond and one of the greatest things Jordan Knight has ever done (well, aside from the New Kid's "Step By Step" dance moves). Written by Mr. Sexy Pants, Robin Thicke, and produced nicely by Jam & Lewis, this song has a warm spot in my heart for late '90s nostalgia. It's got everything a song at that time had, a skittish hip-hop meets pop beat, burbling synths, slight innuendo messages and a chorus that will remain lodged in your brain for days.

11. Usher: "U Remind Me"
Flashback to 2001 and Usher was just becoming grown and sexy. Note "just." After being a teen sensation with his 1997 My Way album, Usher took some major sexy pills and unleashed 8701 in 2001 and made females faint at the sound of his voice and by the drop of his pants. "U Remind Me" was the first single lifted from the album, and it was a welcoming return for him.

12. Crystal Waters: "Say...If You Feel Alright"
Obscure to the core, yes, but personally this is Crystal Waters best song. What it's not "100% Pure Love"? No, because it wasn't produced by Jam & Lewis, that's why! The song is featured on her low-selling, self-titled 1997 album, and it oddly was the theme song to the sports special, NBA At 50. Featuring a nicely threaded loop of Earth, Wind and Fire's hit "Septembro" this soulful strut is a perfect and tight mid-'90s party jam.

Originally posted at Adventures of An Audio Diva

[Photo: Corbis]

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21 Responses

  1. I ain't gonna even lie. I dug the hell outta "Give It To You". He and Darrin Henson of Darrin's Dance Grooves dancing their asses off in the video. LOL!

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    Good list and good topic !
    I would have swapped the Usher joint for "Can you help me" from the same album. "U remind me" had ghost producer written all over it, were "can u", has Jams unmistakable synth bass and piano. Jordan night was cool, but they went waaaaaay to "Timbaland" on that one. Could have easily swapped that out with Janets "Doesn't Really matter" equally Timbaland-ish but unmistakably Jam&Lewis. Glad to see "Human" on the list, excellent song they were in top form and brought that group back from the dead . Agree about "bended knee", easily superior to everything on the "II" album, with Babyface only coming close with "Water Runs Dry" and I'll give a nod to Tim& Bob's "Jam and Lewis light" sound on "Trying Times".

  3. I love ENCORE!!!!! I didn't know they produced that song!
    I know this was a hard list to come up with ..Because they have worked with the best!

  4. Know them all and very well, except for the Jordan Knight, Ursher, and Crystal Waters tracks. Hmmmm, let me turn on my downloading machine...

  5. Okay, this is the best blog post ever! I love Jimmy and Terry, they shaped R&B in the 80s like no other! I consider Alexander O'Neal one of the best male singers around and people look at me like I'm crazy. What was so cool about Flyte Tyme was that they took artists under their wing, got to know them, wrote songs for them and created their image. You can clearly see this in Janet Jackson, New Edition, and Cherrelle. They invested in their artists in a creative manner, and it wasn't about the money. I was upset when O'Neal left them to do his own thing...
    Jimmy and Terry also wrote Sunshine for O'Neal, which is very similar to Can You Stand the Rain. One of my all time favorite songs is Cherrelle's Everything I Miss at Home, another well crafted song. I can go on and on as you can see....
    BTW, I'm not laughing at you about Jordan Knight, Give It To You is a great song! LOVE IT! I enjoyed the remixes too!

  6. Kudos for this story. And the Jordan Knight cut was my jam.

  7. outstanding post!
    Jam & Lewis are still doing quality work, after all this time. not too many producers have that kind of longevity. there could be five or six more volumes of this post.
    my newest, most favorite J&L track is Deborah Cox's "Did You Ever Love Me." i could listen to that all day. gorgeous!

  8. That Human League was and will always be my jam.

  9. Without being an R&B boohoo 🙂 I hate Jam & Lewis. Never really been a big Prince fan. I don't know why, I just think they are a mistake. I suppose what I look for is the underdog and I just don't see Jam & Lewis as having any substance in there music other than the same old school beat, its a bit like Will Smith all over and over again from his back in the day rap music. But, there are far more talented individual producers in R&B music than this duo can lift a finger to the mixing desk at! 🙂

  10. Tell Me If You Still Care! I love that song to tiny indescribable pieces and being a huge Janet fan, it only makes sense that it, too was produced by the Flyte Tyme team. I can't believe there are NO Mary cuts on this list though, they produced some amazing stuff for her.

  11. you're right, Mr. Archie. for instance "The Love I Never Had" still stuns me at how good it is. Mary shined on that.

  12. Jam/Lewis/Jackson - the holy trinity back in the day!
    Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis worked with Human League? Get. Out. Next you tell me Rick James did a remix for Spandau Ballet. Didn't see that coming.
    Also, I am straight *ashamed* to learn JUST NOW that Cherelle did "IDMTUO" first, and Robert Palmer covered it. Man, the original has that awesome synth-funk that the cover lost.
    Even decades later, that Saturday love, will NEVER end. "Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sugar!"

  13. I so agree about Boyz II Men's Bended Knee - much better than I'll Make Love to You (which was good). I LOVE all of these songs. I should have known they were all from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. I've been huge fans since The Time! I would only add one song - Diamonds by Herb Albert.

  14. The tears I've cried aren't tears of pain...they're only to hide my guilt and shame...I figure you and I ask the same of you...while we were apart I was human too!!!!! What- they did HUMAN?! never knew that. I loved that song! I have to admit as I was reading the list I was impressed, but was thinking.."oh that makes sense" or "that sounds like them." But when I saw Human I did a double take. Go head Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis!...[Okay, it's time to get back to saving Janet's career, please.]

  15. great choices overall. I wish you guys would have included No more Drama my Mary J. Blidge. It's funny I've always enjoyed their work with other artists WAY more then anything they ever did with Janet. They always seems to experiment more with other but kept giving Janet that same dated sound execept on a few cuts here & there.

  16. What a great topic. I am a HUGE Jam/Lewis fan. I would add Thelma Houston's "You Used To Hold Me (so tight)" and Herb Alpert's "diamonds" to this list. I would also pick SOS Band's "Finest" over "tell me if you still care". I don't think any production of theirs gets more obscure than the album they produced for Pia Zadora, "when the lights go out". It's one of my prized possessions. I had the pleasure of meeting them once and they were impressed or embarrassed (you decide) that I knew about it. Rhonda Clark's "State of Attraction" was another R&B fave that received minimal airplay in the 80s. Finally, they produced the debut album of Lisa Keith; their house session singer. In the early days she sang background on all of their productions and she's the other voice on janet's "makin' love in the rain". Her album "walkin' in the sun" received no airplay, but "love for all seasons" was my jam. Finally, lets not forget "optimistic" by the Sounds of Blackness.

  17. This is an excellent post. I have always and still is a big fan of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they made the best slow jamzzz in the mid 80's, 90's. Back then I could always tell a Jam and Lewis slow jam when I heard the bell clap. Example..Alexander O'Neal, when the party over, Janet "Someday is tonight" NE can you stand the rain. Love'em and miss'em.

  18. how could i have missed this post? hmmm...kinda like the way you overlooked alexander o'neal's sunshine, fake, & what's missing. i know it's difficult to narrow flytetyme's catalog to 12 songs. Even when i call myself pruning a playlist that i've created in their honor, i can never get it down to just one janet track lol. glad to see that plenty people appreciate the production duo's sound & style as much as i do.

  19. No comment just a question. Does anybody have the remixed version of "Never Knew Love Like This" single by Cherelle feat/Alexander O'neal? Not the extended version but a remixed version? Thanks.

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    That's a nice list you have there. It covers most of their career. Now if I made a list, it would highlight all the funk they produced in the 80's-and that's it. Hit's like "High Hopes", "the Finest,No one's gonna love you" from S.O.S Band, songs from Cherrelle you didn't mention like "whose it gonna be", "new love", and "everything I miss at home." Alex's "What can I say to make U love me", and
    "What's Missing"....I got a long list of hits, and If I were to put a J/L CD together, It'll definitely highlight the funk, whether people are familiar with the songs or not.

  21. Recommendations :
    - Alexander O'Neal - What's Missing / You Were Meant To Be My Lady (Party Mix) (1985/Tabu)
    - Cherelle - I Didn't Mean To Turn You On (1984/Tabu)...the extended mix knox u owt !
    - Cheryl Lynn - Fedelity / It's Gonna Be Right (1985/CBS)
    - Klymaxx - Wild Girls / Man In My Life (1982/Solar)
    - Real To Reel - Can You Treat Me Like She Does (1983/Arista)
    - SOS Band - High Hopes (1982/Tabu)
    - Thelma Houston - Guess It Must Be Love / You Used To Hold Me So Tight (1984/MCA)...back then when it was just released, the reversed vocal intro of "You Used To..." was of it's time, imho
    Most of the tracks above were under the creative guidance of "The Secret" (Jam, Lewis and Monte Moir)
    Later in the 90's, Jimmy & Terry represented talented bands such as Lo-Key and Mint Condition on their Perspective recordlabel.
    A more recent production by J&L which caught my attention was "Already, Alright" by gospel-diva Yolanda Adams.