I Feel For You
Warner Brothers, 1984
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/05/2009
Of all the black female artists, Chaka Khan is my favorite. She’s got that unique, unmistakable voice that leaps from the speakers and grabs you right where it counts. When she hits those high notes, it’s like the Earth stops spinning on its axis. I first discovered Miss Khan in the mid-‘80s. I didn’t know anything about her involvement with the ‘70s funk outfit Rufus, so even though she had been in the industry quite a while, it was all new and exciting to me. To this day, the only Rufus songs that I care to listen to are “Tell Me Something Good” and their classic farewell tune “Ain’t Nobody.”
Solo Chaka Khan is where it’s really at, especially on the albums she released from 1984 to 1986. This particular disc, entitled I Feel For You, is where it all began for me. Radio listeners couldn’t get enough of the #1 smash title track with its staccato rhythms (“Ch-ch-ch Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, lemme rock you lemme rock you Chaka Khan…”) and the buttery smooth slow jam “Through The Fire.” It was none other than Prince who wrote “I Feel For You,” and he didn’t even replace the word “For” with the number “4!” Prince’s affect on female artists back in the ‘’80s is now legendary, and the diversity was quite amazing. He worked with everyone from Chaka Khan to Sheila E. to Sheena Easton to Martika to Sinead O’Connor. Back then, Prince was in demand everywhere; now he’s selling albums at Target. Oh, how times change.
On I Feel For You, Khan effortlessly handles an old Gary Wright chestnut “My Love Is Alive” and succeeds in blowing the original out of the water by giving it an experimental twist. She completely busts out of her shell on the declarative #1 dance single “This Is My Night” and shifts to a mellower gear for “Stronger Than Before.” Both songs put her incredible vocal range on display and help to make this album such a welcome surprise. The flattering, slimmed-down artwork on the back cover probably didn’t hurt from an image standpoint either. Producer Arif Mardin, the miracle worker who transformed the Bee Gees back in the ‘70s, works his magic once again for Chaka Khan in the ‘80s. We really could use someone like him with so many artists floundering about these days.
However, Khan misses the mark whenever she strays into more obscure territory, as she does on “La Flamme” and “Chinatown,” both of which are obvious filler-style B-sides. It is the strength of the other eight tracks that keeps this album firmly in the A range.
In 1986, she would attempt to duplicate this success with the follow-up Destiny, with less than stellar sales results. Had Destiny gotten the same push from Warner Bros. as I Feel For You did, it could have been a hit, too. Chaka Khan certainly did her part for both releases, touring extensively for three years straight – and I got to see her both times she came to my town. Her show is what you might call a must-see. As dance albums go, I Feel For You is a must-hear.