This is more like it. We needed this. After a few days of songs tacking issues like mortality and human nature it’s nice to enter the weekend on a mellow note. If you look up the word “smooth” in the dictionary the song “Cruisin'” should be there. Actually, let’s join the 21st century and say if you Google the word “smooth” the lone result should be a link to the song “Cruisin'” and nothing else. I actually just tried it.
The top result was a link to the original version of the song performed by Smokey Robinson. “Cruisin'” was included on Smokey’s 1979 album Where There’s Smoke…, long after his work with The Miracles. However, the song was co-written by Smokey and fellow Miracle Marv Tarplin. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. This cool mellow breeze of a song was made for Smokey’s silky falsetto.
I shit you not, the very next link took me to a gentrified version performed by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t remember what happened after that as I set myself on fire and blacked out. Apparently they sang it together for a movie released in 2000 called Duets. From what I can tell, Paltrow plays Lewis’s daughter, which makes this song a truly fucked up choice. What happens when he sings to her, “I can just stay there inside you and love you, baby?” Or does she sing it to him? Regardless, does it end with someone calling the cops? Is it more or less awkward than when Michael Bluth sang “Afternoon Delight” with his niece Maeby at the Bluth Company Christmas Party? I refused to watch long enough to find out. Honestly, from the little bit I heard Gwyneth actually sounded lovely. It’s just very…umm…white?
The third link on the list took me to D’Angelo’s version. FINALLY. D’s version sounds very much like the Smokey version yet somehow smoother. Less square. It replaces some of the 1970s sound with 1990s Neo-soul, and that’s a massive upgrade. It’s every bit as chill as the original with a hint of funk. D’Angelo’s harmonies and work on the Fender Rhodes make this the definitive version. D released it as the second single from his debut album, Brown Sugar, and it peaked at #53 on the Hot 100 in December of 1995.
I’d like to talk about the “Cruisin'” video for a moment. I like to keep two things in mind as I watch it: 1. D’Angelo was only 21. 2. 1995 was a different time. My initial reaction to it is how odd D looks in that white Polo USA shirt. I’m used to seeing him in all black or in a white tank top. The USA thing is jarring and a strange choice for this video considering everyone else is dressed to the nines. My next observation is that he has a trio of gorgeous women singing backup…but the only voice you hear is his on the track. Another strange choice. It’s like the George Michael “Freedom! ’90” video. Finally, I very much enjoy the numerous women listening to his music and having borderline-orgasms in everyday situations like the laundromat or the hair salon. I believe if anyone could make that happen it’s D’Angelo, but still…it’s also strange.
This post has been all over the place, but I don’t care. It’s Friday and this song is dope. Just follow me anyway. Lastly I want to address the Brown Sugar Deluxe Edition that was released in 2017. It has FIVE “Cruisin'” remixes. This is exactly why I found the Deluxe Edition a bit disappointing. It contains 21 extra tracks and they’re all inferior remixes. There isn’t a single essential song on that list. Not one remix improves on the original. There aren’t any vault tracks, rarities, etc. Many of the “Cruisin'” remixes open with a voice saying, “Check it out, y’all,” which doesn’t fit with the vibe of the track at all. I was so excited when the Deluxe Edition was released to get more D’Angelo and what we really got was the same songs with crappier beats. I’ll link one of them anyway, and that’s the “WET Remix” which is somehow more mellow than the original. Check it out for yourself and let me know if you prefer it over the original.
“Cruisin'” is soul music at its finest, be it the D’Angelo or the Smokey Robinson version. A perfect chill track. I hope it gives you a lovely transition to the weekend. That’s the end of the fifth week and the first half of the D’aily. I’m out for the weekend, but back on Monday. There are still so many amazing D’Angelo tracks to cover. Coming up Monday is another song that D’Angelo released as a single. This one was written and recorded shortly after the birth of his son. First enjoy your weekend and we’ll get into that on Monday.