Layers of Cool: “Teardrops” by Womack & Womack

Let’s suppose that I had been born in 1962 as opposed to in 1992. Then, in 1987, I would have been about 25 years old. This 25 year old version of me would have then made his way to the room shown in the music video for “Teardrops” by Womack & Womack, which is one of the freshest settings I’ve seen. Linda Womack, daughter of Sam Cooke, has the style that so many people try to emulate these days—she’s got the denim jacket, the shades, the lightwash jeans, and the snarl when she sings. Cecil Womack, her husband and Bobby’s brother, sits down with a denim vest, equally cool sunglasses, ripped jeans, an open shirt, and a beard to pull the whole look together. The backup vocalists and musicians are a multiracial bunch, all dressed in similarly fashioned 80s attire. I would pay a lot of money to be part of that team. Seriously, when they leave the studio, they probably look very cool walking down the street together.

Moreover, this song is incredible. What we get here is something that feels musically timeless and hard to peg in a certain genre. It’s not just 80s pop, since it has such a soulful quality (and pedigree), but, then again, it’s clearly a dance track (especially if you get the 12″ extended version). The lyrics of the song are sad, as she sings about being reminded of an ex-lover, but the song isn’t tragic. It has the emotion needed to truly draw listeners in, but Linda doesn’t hang on her words, choosing not to dwell on the thoughts she expresses. In a sense, most pop songs are either about love or loss, and this is definitely a track about loss, but its groove offsets its gloom, making it profoundly easy to listen to over and over again. No element of the composition, apart from maybe the bass and drums at the beginning ever seem like too much—we have backup vocals when appropriate and subtle guitar and keyboard parts. Everything is balanced perfectly. None of the things that often annoy listeners are present on the track. There’s no guitar solo, no overly-dramatic singing, and no breakdown that changes the vibe of the song. Form beginning to end, the track is a charmer.

Also, this is my favorite type of music video, since it attempts to show how the song was created. Although there’s nothing that exciting in the video, we get to know the artists in their natural habitat, a recording studio. It’s not some contrived live concert setting where the original track is stil played, nor is it some ridiculous portrayal of the song’s themes in narrative form. It’s just Linda and Cecil, Womack & Womack being themselves and doing their thing. Now, let’s suppose that Linda and Cecil had a son, and that son was me. Then I would be a significantly cooler person that I am now—it’s just genetics.

Oh, there are some cover versions of this song by The xx and Joss Stone, among others. They’re worth checking out after you listen to the original until the end of time.

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