DeepSoul Salutes Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis: Cherrelle and Alexander O'Neal - "Saturday Love"

The Jam and Lewis-penned duet lives on as an unforgettable 1980s R&B classic.
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Continuing our DeepSoul tribute to the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is "Saturday Love," a classic 1985 duet featuring Cherrelle and Alexander O'Neal. While not a huge US pop hit, "Saturday Love" peaked at number two on the R&B charts and fared even better in the UK.  Just a year before their legendary collaboration with Janet Jackson, Jam and Lewis proved how they could effectively showcase voices through solid songwriting and thoroughly modern arrangements.  Indeed, just before Jackson, Cherrelle and O'Neal served as their two biggest muses.  

The story begins with the Los Angeles-born Cherrelle, an R&B vocalist who drew the attention of bassist/singer Michael Henderson in 1978.  Her appearance on "One to One," the final track off Henderson's album In the Night-Time, helped earn her a spot on the Tabu label.  Jam and Lewis were teamed with the new singer, and their collaboration started with a bang: her 1984 debut Fragile produced the light-funk hit "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," which was later covered by Robert Palmer and Mariah Carey.  The duo regrouped to work on her sophomore effort, 1985's High Priority, but this time added a crucial ingredient: O'Neal, a robust-voiced R&B crooner who had recently joined the Tabu label.  The Jam and Lewis-penned "Saturday Love" became the perfect vehicle for their opposing voices, namely O'Neal's grittier style and Cherrelle's wispy soprano.  

From the opening beat, "Saturday Love" immediately establishes itself as a Jam and Lewis production.  Cherrelle begins with an almost whispered monologue, apparently addressing an old flame.  "It's been a long time," she coos.  "I didn't think I was going to see you again."  Interestingly Jam and Lewis introduce the chorus right away, listing the days of the week and introducing the song title.  That chorus alone has transformed into an instantly recognizable 80s R&B hit.  Keyboards and bass accent but never overwhelm her voice as she recalls a brief love affair.  "My feelings can't explain / Why after all this time / My heart still feels pain,"she sings.  Backup singers serve as a Greek chorus, echoing her thoughts in a back-and-forth exchange.  "You will stay on my mind," she sings as the chorus answers "Saturday, the day we met."  Reintroducing the chorus, Cherrelle delivers the title phase: "For always and forever / You will be my Saturday love."

When O'Neal enters the picture, he repeats the same lyrics but in a more demonstrative style.  When he sings the lines "There's never any question / You will be my Saturday love," he wrings every drop of emotion out of those words.  After they trade ad libs, the duo finally comes together in the final verses.  Despite their differing ranges, their voices blend perfectly together as the song reaches its climax: 

Never on Sunday, Monday's too soon

Tuesday and Wednesday just won't do

Thursday and Friday, we can begin

But our Saturday love will never end

Jam and Lewis wisely keep the arrangement simple, letting Cherrelle and O'Neal's unique chemistry assume center stage.  Yet the electronic drum beat brands the song a Jam and Lewis production, and the sound blends R&B with pop and funk elements.  These traits were rapidly becoming the team's signature, one that would benefit countless artists including Jackson.  Cherrelle and O'Neal would go on to record another duet, 1987's "Never Knew Love Like This," but "Saturday Love" represents their creative peak as well as Jam and Lewis' emerging hit-making power.