Follow Your Own Advice
It’s not unheard of to experience new music and make psychological connections to other music in a completely separate sphere. With this is mind, Give the People What They Want, the sixth album from Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, strangely feels like a kindred spirit to Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Both are albums released after a namesake was treated for cancer, and while their sounds were made prior to public disclosure of any diagnosis they suggest willing spirit but unfortunately weak flesh.
If you’ve ever seen this crew live you might understand the issue at hand with this album. Like many of today’s funk revivalists Jones and her Daps can turn a mother out like The JB’s once did, with party-music peaks and smoldering valleys. Give the People What They Want seems to have the same problem they encountered on album #4, I Learned the Hard Way: tempos and arrangements that pull punches, finding their way to a comfortable and convenient middle.
Jones already has her soul tropes down, yet she wastes time and energy stooping to use some others. The opening empowerment anthem “Retreat!” seems oddly weakened by its Captain Obvious martial sounds and stomp. Meanwhile, the middle of the album—”Making Up and Breaking Up” b/w “Get Up and Get Out”—is such a 1960s girl-group throwback that you wonder if the backup singers should be on the marquee. And her friends in Daptone Records’ house band take a rare moment here to sound rote, whether turning Jones’ jealousy into oompah in “Now I See” or making a would-be stormer in “Long Time, Wrong Time” feel stiff and spare.
It speaks volumes of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings that the two best tracks on here—the uplift of “We Get Along” and the warmly inviting diss track “You’ll Be Lonely”—aren’t R&B barnburners. There’s too much swing and sway on the album, and far too little swagger. Surely they haven’t forgotten how to show off the latter, but we’re allowed to be concerned by Jones’ creative health as much as her physical health, no? In much the same way as people considered Hot Sauce Committee, you’ll want to enjoy Give the People What They Want a whole lot more than you actually will, and probably feel guilty about it.