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If value for money’s your thing, there are aspects to Chaka Khan’s comeback that might seem like shortcomings. It clocks in at less than half an hour, and, of its seven songs, two are versions of one another. The front cover doesn’t help, either: it looks like it was snapped after a one-night stand in a cheap roadside motel, an experience which, Khan’s face suggests, she won’t be repeating any time soon.

If these are the qualities by which you judge your music, however, I’ll tell you something now: I feel for you. As for everyone else? I think I love you. Yeah, that’s the effect Yvette Marie Stevens can have. There’s really no doubt that Hello Happiness, inspired by a belief that “we need a shot of just not taking the little things so seriously,” succeeds as a valuable antidote to the everyday grind.

Lyrically, of course, she doesn’t beat around the bush: “Music,” she hollers on the title track, “makes me say ‘Goodbye sadness/ Hello happiness’,” adding “Take me back to the dancefloor/ So I can dance away my blues”.

Fortunately, that’s exactly where producer David ‘Switch’ Taylor (ex-Major Lazer) and his collaborator, singer-songwriter Sarah Ruba, place her. The song’s shimmering strings and cheeky keyboard riffs combine triumphantly with a rubbery, Chic-like bassline and her inimitable, extraordinary whoops over a backbeat that struts like a disco rooster.

Like Sugar is simpler, but, thanks to its libidinous rhythm and teasing drops of silence, it does something equally enticing. Isn’t That Enough, meanwhile, cranks up the dub quotient, and Don’t Cha Know slows things down and dirties things up in the manner of Funkadelic (and therefore, by extension, her ally Prince). On Too Hot, furthermore, she preaches a scorching gospel of romance, prowling for “a man who’s gonna feed my fire” against a backdrop influenced by the doo-wop and R&B favoured by Amy Winehouse, now given a dancehall twist.

With Like A Lady successfully recalling her evergreen Ain’t Nobody, and Ladylike a remodelling of the same tune perfect for a beachside bar, Hello Happiness does for Khan what Daft Punk did for Nile Rodgers. Distilling her strengths, confirming her prowess, Switch and Ruba help make her as relevant as ever. Such joys are surely priceless. Wyndham Wallace




© Simon Emmett
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About Classic Pop

Issue 50 of Classic Pop is on sale now! For our 50th issue, we had to come up with something very special – and we certainly have… our cover stars this month are The Specials, hot on the heels of the release of their superb chart-topping album, Encore. Our must-read interview with the band delves into their remarkable comeback and the story behind their superb new record. We also catch up with the iconic Gloria Estefan who tells us how she brought Latin grooves to the world and Bonnie Tyler talks us through her new studio album, which features a hotly-anticipated duet with Sir Rod Stewart. 30 years on, we celebrate New Order’s Technique in our latest Classic Album feature and we also serve up a buyer’s guide to the blue-eyed soul of Simply Red. As Wet Wet Wet face the future without Marti Pellow, we meet the band as they embark on a fresh chapter with new frontman, The Voice winner Kevin Simm. Our packed new album reviews section features the wonderful return of Chaka Khan plus Dido, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Paul Weller. On the reissues front, we check out a must-have 10-CD Heaven 17 boxset plus re-releases from David Bowie, Sparks, Erasure and more. In our live reviews section, we elbow our way down to the front for Gary Numan and Echo & The Bunnymen at the Rockaway Beach Festival plus gigs by Chrvches and The Christians. Enjoy the issue!