Track By Track: Gloria Estefan And Miami Sound Machine: Let It Loose
In 1987, Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine released their third English-language album, Let It Loose. One of their most successful albums, Let It Loose has an excellent combination of dance songs and ballads.
I was first exposed to several of the tracks on this album when I purchased a 1992 greatest hits compilation by Gloria Estefan in 1997. Looking back at Let It Loose, though, I think every song from the album could've been a hit. It's now time to go Track By Track once more, so Let It Loose.
The album's first track is Betcha Say That.
This is a song about how single guys who are desperate for romance, or what they think is romance, at least, tend to say the same things to every woman they meet. Gloria Estefan's role is expressing bemusement at these lines, but also hinting at an interest in what the person is saying. It's a fun track that really starts things off on a lively step, and the music video is great fun as well, cutting between multiple concert performances of the song.
As to saying the same things to every new person you meet, I think we all do that when we're trying to establish a bond of any kind, whether it's a romance or a friendship. I've certainly had to do that a lot at my retail job. There have been many times when people, either customers or fellow employees, have expressed puzzlement at my behavior. I then have to explain how my autism spectrum disorder impacts the way I behave and how I look at the world. They usually understand by that point. It's not looking for romance, but it is something I find myself explaining to almost everybody. Thankfully, nobody has said anything like "Betcha Say That" when I make those explanations. I'm definitely making some impact with that.
Getting back to Let It Loose, we come to the album's second track, the title song.
Let It Loose, the song, is about learning to relax and not be so uptight. The song itself borrows lyrically from the 60s classic song Surfin' Bird by The Trashmen, and I can kind of see where they're going with that. Surfin' Bird is about trying to get people to understand a new trend, while Let It Loose is about trying to get an uptight person to understand life in a new way by having some fun for a change. With a world that's always in chaos and has been since the beginning, relaxation is important.
I know that I was certainly uptight for my teens and 20s. I viewed the world in a very black-and-white way. I thought that way about everything from serious matters like politics to trivial matters like pop culture, not helped by the fact that, during that time period, I treated pop culture seriously and politics trivially. When I did Let It Loose, it wasn't in a positive way, but in a negative way, screaming profanities and physically abusing myself. It was not a healthy or safe way to live.
When I started seeing my current psychologist, and was put on the right mix of meds by a psychiatrist, I started to calm down. By learning to calm down and control myself, I was able to Let It Loose in a more positive way. Now I'm feeling a lot better. I have a song in my heart and lots of writing ideas in my head. I'm able to keep an open mind, now, and state my feelings in a calmer and more rational way. It's a strange feeling, but a fantastic one. In order to Let It Loose in a healthy way, I had to tighten my focus on changing my attitude. It's paid dividends.
The third track on Let It Loose is the album's first ballad, Can't Stay Away From You.
Put briefly, this is a song about a codependent and toxic relationship. Gloria is playing the role of somebody who's been hurt by her lover and wants to break away from them, but somehow lacks the ability to do so. It's a real tearjerker, and as Gloria Estefan wrote it herself, I hope she wasn't writing the song from experience. The song is certainly a truthful one, though, as we've all had at least one relationship like that in our lives.
Personally, this song came to mind for me when Rihanna went back to Chris Brown after he brutally beat her in 2009. The idea that they were. to quote The Breakfast Club, "riding the hobbyhorse" after what he did to her shocked me. I ended up making a joke that Rihanna, in celebration of her new love for Chris Brown, was going to sing a medley in concert of Can't Stay Away From You and He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss). My brother, who is a Rihanna fan, found that joke to be in poor taste. Personally, I think it's poor judgment to go back to someone who abused you.
That's kind of what Can't Stay Away From You is about...Poor judgment. In some ways, it's the dark side of Betcha Say That. Gloria's lover isn't doing sweet talk to win her love. He's making promises that he's reformed, he's changed, he's learned his lesson. Despite that, though, the toxic dance continues once more. Of course, I may be overanalyzing things, but after having lived the life I have, and living with the autism spectrum disorder I do, it's kind of par for the course for me.
Changing gears, the fourth track is Let It Loose is Give It Up.
When relistening to this song, the saxophone in the background reminded me of Sade's Smooth Operator. Give It Up is a song that has a similar concept, approached from a different perspective. In Give It Up, a "smooth operator" is finding himself desperate and flustered. He's no longer so smooth as he jumps into this relationship. The song, a rather quick one, is also rather open-ended about how the relationship will end.
I've certainly been in situations similar to the one in this song. It's not in a romantic way, but in the way of trying to communicate with people. For example, I've always had difficulty controlling the volume of my voice. People six inches away from me have asked me to speak up, and then when I do speak up, they ask me to lower my voice. I've tried explaining that just because I raise my voice doesn't mean always mean I'm angry. It sometimes means everything else is so loud that I might not have been heard the first time, but they treat all raised voices as angry ones.
That's why I've always preferred writing. With writing, you're never too loud or too soft, unless you're using the Caps Lock key, of course. Your ideas can be presented in a manner that can be easily understood if you have enough writing experience. You don't need to worry about people questioning your attitude or your behavior. The words are on the screen, and they can speak for you better than you can speak for yourself. At least, that's usually been the case with me.
Getting back to Let It Loose, we now come to the album's fifth track, Surrender.
Revisiting this track, I can't help but wonder if it influenced a song that came out in 1988. The song I'm reminded of when revisiting this is Surrender To Me by Robin Zander and Ann Wilson, as featured on the soundtrack to the thriller Tequila Sunrise. Both songs have a lyrical conceit about wanting one's lover to be with them completely. Sonically, they're very different, as Estefan's Surrender is a danceable song while Zander and Wilson's Surrender To Me is a power ballad. Lyrically, though, they're two halves of the same idea.
When I say that, though, I don't mean it as a slight to either song. Both tracks are enjoyable for different reasons. Estefan's Surrender is a bop, as they say in the modern day, with a pronounced Latin sound to it that's just made for dancing. Zander and Wilson's Surrender To Me is an emotional ballad with powerful vocals. Mix it up as you please, and have fun with both of them. That's what music should be at the end of the day...A lot of fun.
Speaking of which, we now come to Let It Loose's sixth track, and a song I've written about before on the 80sxchange, Rhythm Is Gonna Get You.
I actually first heard this song when, as a child, I watched a 1988 NBC special called Disney's Magic In The Magic Kingdom. It was a special hosted by George Burns that featured popular magicians performing tricks alongside talents like Harry Anderson (a magician himself), his Night Court co-star Markie Post, and Morgan Fairchild. The Miami Sound Machine's performance was a stage performance that was also a magic trick with Gloria Estefan disappearing from the stage and reeemerging in the audience. If you can track down the special, check it out.
I love Rhythm Is Gonna Get You so much that I actually sang the song at karaoke one evening. I was always adventurous in my song selections...Well, mostly adventurous. I tended to avoid 90s songs because of how bad the decade was for me on a personal level, but all other decades were all systems go. I performed Rhythm Is Gonna Get You to a rousing reception one evening. Why didn't I add it to my repetoire of songs that always got a good response? That's difficult to say. I don't recall why it never made it there, but if I ever come across another place that does karaoke, you know I'll be singing it again.
Moving along, we now come to Let It Loose's seventh track, Love Toy.
This is easily the horniest track on Let It Loose, and I'm not talking about the brass. Just listening to the lyrics, you can tell it's about sex. Estefan is playing the role of a woman who really loves her man, and knows he's better than a vibrator. Although she may feel shy and demure, you can tell she's eager to ride the pony. I could easily imagine the song being sung by a guy as well, although it would probably come across as misogynistic if such a song were to be sung from the male perspective.
A side note: If you're someone who loves 80s music, but who also considers today's music explicit, you obviously weren't listening to the lyrics of a lot of 80s songs. While the 80s was a very dangerous decade sexually, it was also an extremely horny decade, and a lot of that was in the music. From songs like Sex (I'm A...) by Berlin and Like A Virgin by Madonna to the genres of funk music and pop-rock to practically the entire oeuvres of artists like Prince and 2 Live Crew, the 80s was loaded with songs about sex. This is where my habit of paying attention to the lyrics has paid off, but then again, even Shakespeare's sonnets were basically songs about sex.
Back to Let It Loose, we're now at the album's eighth track, I Want You So Bad.
Listening to this album chronologically, I Want You So Bad can be seen as the slow second part to Love Toy, as well as a companion track to Surrender. The production on this one is interesting. It has a very ethereal sound to it, an interesting counterpoint to the passion of the lyrics. I could easily imagine this song being played in a Playboy Video Centerfold from the late 80s, both because of the sound and the lyrics.
I haven't attended a Gloria Estefan concert yet, but I wonder if she ever revisits deep cuts like I Want You So Bad. I could see her singing the song again today. People don't always become prudes when they get older. They can still have the same passions of their younger years, but revisit it through new eyes. I would love to hear Gloria revisit some of the album cuts from Let It Loose on future tours. I think they would go over as well as the big hits from this album.
Speaking of big hits, we now come to Let It Loose's ninth track, 1-2-3.
This song is an excellent example of how a remix can change the thrust of a song. The album version, linked to above, can be seen as sort of a synth-pop track, not of the new wave style, but of the dance persuasion. The song, which is about seeking the attention of a potential love interest who's shy, has a rather shy sound to it. Lyrically and musically, it's a match that works well on its' own terms.
Compare that to the remix featured in the music video above. With the addition of the horns and the lyrical cold open, the song is still about seeking out the love of a shy person, only now there's a greater intensity to it. She's now insistent that he come out of his shell and show her love. There's nothing meek about this. She's eager, and she wants her lover to be eager as well. It's an interesting sonic conceit, helped greatly by the video. Gloria could really rock a pair of chaps, an excellent visual representation of the power of the remix.
We wrap up Let It Loose with the album's 10th track, Anything For You.
This song is an illustration of the trope I Want My Beloved To Be Happy. In this song, Gloria is playing the role of someone who's ended a relationship, but still loves their ex and wishes all the best for them in their new relationship. The lyrics remind me of Sting's If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free), which he wrote in response to the people who thought The Police's Every Breath You Take was a love song instead of a song about stalking your ex. Gloria's lyrics and vocals evince a similar concept to Sting's song, but with the added bit of hoping that her ex might come back someday.
I've had to end several friendships over the years because of matters like being disrespected or not having the pain of my past acknowledged, but I still wish these people the best anyway. Some people will be in all of your life, but others won't make the journey to the end with you. You can still wish them the best, though. For example, I broke off a friendship with one of my late mother's friends when she disrespected my intelligence, but I still wish her the best in her battle against her health issues, and I still get Christmas cards from her. She wasn't meant to be part of my life as it is now, but I still wish her all the best, and I won't ignore her if I cross paths with her when I take my evening walks.
Anyway, that's Let It Loose, and I think the album is an excellent example of Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine's stylings. From the dance songs to the ballads, every track on here is a winner, and I guarantee this album would get you dancing both fast and slow, depending on what track you're on. I hope you enjoyed listening to these songs again as much as I did, and I look forward to your thoughts on my thoughts on these songs.
By the way, I'm always open for suggestions, so if there are any 80s albums celebrating 35th or 40th anniversaries this year that you would like me to go Track By Track with, leave a comment below. Thank you so much as always for reading, and yes, I will get back to the 80s Movies Sampler articles again soon. Those take a lot of time, though, so they may be in the backseat for now, but they're still in the car