So it's Black History Month. Most media outlets are busy honoring the usual historical figures of African descent, as they should. But this is Afro-punk, and it's time to take a minute to acknowledge the ultimate counter-culture soldier, Ms. Bad-Ass herself, singer/songwriter/performer/model/actress Grace Jones. I don't care how old you are, you need to know that Grace owns this shit, the timeless talent, the "fuck you" attitude, the outrageous fashion, the political lyrics. Don't come to me talking about your latest starlet of the moment, I'm talking about Legendary here, OK? :-P
Grace Jones Is Punk As Hell
by Lou Constant-Desportes
Born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Grace Jones moved to the U.S. as a teenager when her parents relocated. She comes from a very religious family, which seemingly gave her something to rebel against... She later became a model in New York City and got signed to Island Records in 1977. But we figure you know how to use Google, so instead of giving you a history class about her career and accomplishments, let's focus on her art and how unique and subversive it is.
First thing first, the woman is one of the most charismatic performance artists of our time. The kind of artist you have to see Live to fully understand the scope of their talent. The videos included in this article are there to show you what we're talking about, please watch them.
;) Let's start with a stunning performance during which Jones sings about a man "pulling up to her bumper with his long black limousine", while members of the British Royal Family are in the audience. She got balls, I tell ya!
One of Jones' main qualities as an artist is her versatility. Don't even try to put her in a box. One day she's in Jamaica singing in patois with Sly & Robbie, the next she pulls off a jaw-dropping performance next to tenor Luciano Pavarotti, or at a high-profile fashion event. Proud of her Caribbean roots, she often includes reggae and other sounds from the islands in her recordings and shows.
But at the end of the day, if Jones' recording career spans 4 decades, that's because she wrote and recorded timeless music, with the help of inspired producers like Chris Blackwell, Nile Rodgers, and more recently, Tricky. One of the best examples is 'Slave To The Rhythm', produced by Trevor Horn:
It's not all about hot tracks and extravagant shows though. Jones' songs often tackle social issues, politics... If you thought 'Slave To The Rhythm' was about shaking your thang at the club, think again. The lyrics are about "the system" and how many of us are slaves to a way of life that involves working 'for the man' and do what society expects from us in order to survive.
'Corporate Cannibal', the lead single from her latest album 'Hurricane', is about capitalism and corporations. Brilliant song and video...
As for her fashion icon status, well, the avant-garde, androgynous, extravagant looks speak for themselves. She's a muse to designers and artistic directors alike. No other pop artist is in her league. Except Madonna maybe... ALL the other ones a pale copies, you heard?!
In today's music world, few artists have such staying power. Like a force of nature, Grace Jones is a better performer than ever at 62, touring the world, giving one mind-blowing performance after the other, putting out the kind of music she wants to make. So yeah... Grace Jones is punk as hell! And that's the gotdamn truth.