Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, “I’ll Be There” (2015): One Track Mind

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When Robin Thicke, Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams are building newfound fame around your essential disco vibe, it’s time for a return in full. And that’s just what Chic has done, presenting a burst of sleek, throwback late-1970s R&B — with no updates, no apologies, and no bullshit.

As with their best earlier songs (one of which, “Everybody Dance,” is directly referenced in the early doing), Nile Rodgers approaches things with an unapologetic sense of revelry. “I’ll Be There” almost requires you to move, as it enters at your ear but then races down to your hips.

The smart accompanying video, like the song, works as both reminder of and all-encompassing argument for the underrated contributions of Chic, both together and as progenitors of party soul. We see classic Don Cornelius-hosted footage of the band, with beloved late members Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson. That’s juxtaposed with video of an enraptured, scantily-clad new fan enjoying the song while surrounded not just by Chic albums but also key collaborative hits with Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Madonna and David Bowie.

All of those successes happened well after the age of Saturday Night Fever and Studio 54, of course. And so, the message is clear: This is music not just of its age, but of any age. Certainly, “I’ll Be There” works as well today as a dance floor-filling anthem as it would have back then. The reason is simple: Where so much of today’s so-called dance music relies completely on a computerized framework, Chic works the old fashioned-way — with hand-made riffs, with real-time grooves, with lip-smacking soul. That will always obviate any trend.

“I don’t want to live in the past,” a typically salacious group of Chic chick singers coos, “but it’s a nice place to visit.” Thankfully, Chic’s “I’ll Be There” is all of that, and more.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • balconybar

    Hi there,
    Nice review and this is a wonderful track. The only thing you didn’t mention however is the most obvious one: that the whole track is built over the fantastic groove and chords of Love Somebody Today, from the second Chic-produced Sister Sledge album. Wonderful work and amazing to hear it all over again.

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