Marvin Gaye 's was originally released 40 years ago this month, and the timing feels somewhat fitting given today's essential dialogue about the existential value of black life. You can't make a convincing argument that black lives matter if you're not also willing to acknowledge that black sexuality, romance, and love-aspects that have been historically threatened, circumscribed, and limited by the horrors of slavery and legally enforced systems of segregation and brutality-matter too. So as we join in the #blacklivesmatter fight, we would do well to recall that #blackerotics have always been an indispensable tool of community recalcitrance and survival.
Like no other record before or since, I Want You captures the distilled feeling and aesthetics of black sensuality, sex, and simmering erotic desire-right down to the seductive bump 'n' grind by the late great Ernie Barnes. With its ambient soundscapes, yearning melodies, experimental tempos, elegant chord changes, and haunting lyrics, the album is, for my money, the sexiest rhythm and blues record ever made. Sure, pheromone-inducing records like Sade's Diamond Life, Maxwell's Embrya, and D'Angelo's Voodoo are worthy contenders to that throne-but all those albums were directly influenced by I Want You's languid flow. Anchored by melancholic tracks like "After the Dance" and "Come Live with Me Angel," I Want You is a gorgeous and delicate ballet of adult romantic desire, featuring a Latin-influenced early-disco-meets-slow-jam sound that remains a staple of Quiet Storm radio playlists everywhere.