This is the 11th post in a biweekly series. Read about the series — and just what we mean by “freestyle music” — here. Freestyle Fridays post on the first and third Fridays of each month.
Let’s mark the 11th Freestyle Friday post by returning to our very first featured artist!
Shannon’s 1984 single “Give Me Tonight” was released as the follow-up to her smash debut “Let the Music Play.” “Give Me Tonight” was not nearly as successful on the charts, though it did receive the same enthusiastic response in the dance clubs.
I’ve already covered how important and unique Shannon’s “Let the Music Play” is to freestyle music, and to dance music in general. So, this time, let’s take a look at this song and its insane and entertaining video.
“Give Me Tonight” is perhaps a bit too date-rapey to our modern ears. But I like the complicated storyline of the song, in which “Shannon” first hears a male lover “in the park” imploring his partner to give him one more night before she decides whether or not to leave him. He has a stone cold, pretty killer line: “Give me tonight/Then, if you don’t wanna stay,/Girl, I’ll just forget you.” Shannon sings that these words tear her heart apart, though I’d suggest that she instead hurry to alert the authorities. In the second verse, Shannon finds herself in the same situation as those lovers; she’s trying to break up with her man, and gets his demand for one more night as a response.
The video is pretty straight-forward in depicting this plot — except for an additional reversal at the very end. But first: the costumes! The couple at the beginning of the video are dressed like Adam and Eve by way of Solid Gold. When Shannon takes up her role in the second part of the song, her partner seems to be the embodiment of Love. (If you remember, Love is also a character in “Let the Music Play.” Shannon asks, “What does Love want me to do?” And “Love said, ‘Let the music play….’”) Here, Love is Shannon’s demanding lover, and he’s dressed as a cross between an ancient entity and maybe Dracula. But don’t fear for Shannon: after hearing his demand for one more night, she responds by transforming into a goddess of some sort (?), turning his words back on himself, and ultimately dominating him, making him the prey.
Really, if anyone can explain what they think is happening at the 3:00 minute mark in the video, please leave a comment.
While researching this song, I came across this excellent cover by Adore Delano, the singer/drag queen who competed in RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. This version of the video is terrific: Adore rejects her suitor – who is in boy drag – and later becomes his pursuer when he’s in girl drag. It makes sense that a drag queen is uniquely able to portray this storyline, the gender play offering a new layer to the reversal at the end of Shannon’s video. I like that Adore nods to the Adam and Eve reference in the original video by protectively brandishing a Bible while squirming on her bed. Is it me, or is Adore made up to look like her harshest RPDR critic, Michelle Visage?
On a personal level, “Give Me Tonight’s” percolating opening takes me back into the kitchen of Micheletti’s Diner in my home town. For about a year, I worked as a dishwasher at Micheletti’s, blithely shoving my hands into filthy water that hid many, many kitchen knives, permanently infusing my clothes, hair, and skin with the stale smell of fried foods, and listening to the small radio nailed above the door. The problem with this memory is that I was no longer working at Micheletti’s in 1984. I think the vividness of both that job (my first) and the incredible music of 1983/1984 have melded in my brain, so that any time I think about listening to deeply evocative early-80s music, I remember hearing it in that dirty back room. As with Shannon’s “Let the Music Play,” this song evokes a slick, cultured, pleasure-seeking world beyond the reach of young Tony Grima. Both that dishwashing job and the sophisticated, new Shannon sound gave me my first glimpses of a more adult freedom, one where dance clubs still waited for me, and I had a little cash in my pocket.
- Number 46 on the Billboard Hot 100
- Number one single on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play March 31, 1984
- Number 6 6 on the American R&B chart
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