DeepSoul: Evelyn "Champagne" King - "Betcha She Don't Love You"

A seventies disco star transitions into funky soul with this underrated classic.
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It's hard to believe that Evelyn "Champagne" King was just 17 years old when her smash "Shame" was released in 1977.  Possessing a voice far beyond her years, King and her powerful pipes graced that disco classic as well as several 80s R&B jams.  Today, she is known not only for "Shame" but for her 1982 comeback "Love Come Down."  But the followup single, "Betcha She Don't Love You," proved just as strong.  Her brand of smoothed-over funk hit just at the right time in the early 1980s, as the song  peaked at number two on the R&B charts.  

Born in the Bronx in 1960, King and her family later relocated to Philadelphia.  To make ends meet, King and her mother worked as janitors at the famed Philadelphia International Records.  One night producer T. Life heard an incredible female voice singing in a bathroom at the studio; he was shocked to discover that those mature-sounding vocals came from a 16-year-old custodian.  Life signed her to a deal with Philadelphia International, producing her debut album Smooth Talk.  Released in 1977, the album spawned the massive hit "Shame."  But disco's days were numbered, and her next two albums with Life failed to significantly chart.  

Her next break came by teaming with a new producer, the up-and-coming Kashif.  Under his guidance, King retooled her sound to match 80s contemporary R&B.  The move paid off--her next album,1981's I'm in Love, revived her career.  The funky title track, an 80s update of disco, topped the R&B charts and cracked the Billboard Top 100.  Riding on this wave of success, she again enlisted Kashif to produce several tracks on the followup,1982's Get Loose.  The single "Love Come Down" became her biggest hit since "Shame," finally reaching broader audiences.  The next release, "Betcha She Don't Love You," did not sell as well, but still effectively showcases her pliable voice and funky delivery.

Written by Kashif, "Betcha She Don't Love You" first catches the ear with its slightly off-kilter beat, punctuated by layered keyboards.  King then enters the picture, confidently riding the groove.  "Betcha she don't love you, like you know I love you / And I betcha she would never do, all the things I do for you," she sings, sounding both hurt and empowered.  She argues that while her ex's new love may have money, she will end up breaking the man's heart.  The key then changes, with King's voice gaining even strength. "Ooo, you said my kiss was one of a kind / And that my love was so hard to find / She's gonna break your heart!" she exclaims.  As the track reaches the middle, King even briefly raps: "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush / You don't miss your water, til the well runs dry."  

"Betcha She Don't Love You" works on several levels.  The chorus quickly becomes an earworm, a section that lingers in the mind long after the song has ended.  In addition, the beat differs from typical disco 4/4 time, but remains highly danceable.  While the keyboards definitely place the track firmly in the 1980s, they are never overdone; instead, they punctuate the beat and emphasize King's rhythmic singing style.  Finally, King's vocal performance demonstrates her multi-range voice and ability to fluctuate the volume and power to enhance the drama communicated in the lyrics.  In short, "Betcha She Don't Love You" stands as an early 80s soul classic that should earn as much radio airplay as "Love Come Down."