Hump Day Slow Jam of the Week: Stephanie Mills, "Never Knew Love Like This Before"

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The Singer: Discovered by Jermaine Jackson (and later romantically linked with his brother Michael), Stephanie Mills began her recording career in 1974 but didn't find success until the early '80s. Her bright, clear voice was ideal for big, glossy disco numbers, and 1979's What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin went gold on the strength of the title track. She continues to record and tour, but her legacy was cemented with 1980's "Never Knew Love Like This Before."

 

The Song: Mills' biggest hit is a bubbly piece of disco-pop, built around a twinkly electric piano and sharp, syncopated guitar. The song earned a Grammy in 1980 for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance by a Female, and it remains one of the most joyful, effervescent tracks of the era. The song is also notable for providing the template for Madonna's 1984 hit "Borderline" (though, in fairness to Madge, "Never Knew Love Like This Before" is awfully similar to the great Dionne Warwick/Spinners track "Then Came You").


The Video: There's no high concept for this clip, just Mills walking around a park, singing her song with the appropriate amount of jubilation. Something about the urban-pastoral setting reminds me of an old Sesame Street clip; in fact, Mills' exaggerated facial features recall that creepy anthropomorphic orange that sang a Switched-On version of "Habanera" from Carmen on Sesame Street

Hipster Cachet: Mills played Dorothy in the Broadway version of The Wiz, the re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz. She was initially cast in the role for the 1977 film version (which starred Michael Jackson) but lost out to a 33-year old Diana Ross.  


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