[midlife 150] #140: neneh cherry “manchild”

April 3, 2010

#140 Manchild by Neneh Cherry (taken from Raw Like Sushi, 1989)

Cherry appeared as if from nowhere to become UK R&B’s hottest star at the end of the 1980s. Both her sound, a more urban take on the trip hop beats that were to dominate the first half of the 1990s, and assertive lyrical style were a breath of fresh air in a chart dominated by plastic pop and what would now be called dad-rock (plus ça change).

While Buffalo Stance rightly takes its place as the stand-out club hit of the album, it’s Manchild (which also charted top 5 in the UK) that has endured, matured even, in the 20 years or so since its release. Co-written by Massive Attack‘s Robert Del Naja (3D), it tells the story of a self-pitying, introspective, fantasist – a man(child) yet to face up to the imperfection and disappointment of real life. Or that’s how it seems to me.

The lush orchestration and kind of ‘circular’ chord progression, as well as the opaque lyrics, give the song a uniquely unsettling atmosphere – one you can trace through to Blue Lines (Massive Attack’s debut album, released three years later) and beyond.

This review is part of close to 94 ‘s [midlife 150] series, which counts down favourite music 1970-2009.

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