Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Grace Jones

  • Portfolio [Island, 1977] C+
  • Warm Leatherette [Island, 1980] B+
  • Nightclubbing [Island, 1981] B-
  • Living My Life [Island, 1982] B+
  • Island Life [Island, 1985] B-
  • Inside Story [Manhattan, 1986] B+
  • Bulletproof Heart [Capitol, 1989] C

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Portfolio [Island, 1977]
This disco queen sings flat enough to make Andrea True sound like Linda Ronstadt and Tom Verlaine like Art Garfunkel, which is nice--very liberated, very punky. But it's less than ironic that a woman who demands an end to jealousy--that is, who demands the same license to fuck around that male rock stars claim as their due--should (as a fashion model) occupy a similar power position. And while I prefer her version of "Send in the Clowns" to Judy Collins's, I'd just as soon she cover "Pretty Vacant" or something. C+

Warm Leatherette [Island, 1980]
When Jean-Paul Goude's chocolate-covered s&m fantasy hit the discos in 1977, she seemed more "Pretty Vacant" than "Send in the Clowns," and with DOR taking over the dance floors she admits it, moving in on the unoccupied title tune and taking it from there. With Smokey Robinson and Chrissie Hynde scripting adventures in dominance and fellow Jamaicans Shakespeare and Dunbar adding cyborgian oomph, the theoretical allure of her persona is finally made flesh. I just want to know why Barry Reynolds didn't give "Bullshit" to Marianne Faithfull. B+

Nightclubbing [Island, 1981]
For as long as "Love Is the Drug" and "Private Life" last, Jones makes you forget the Pretenders and Bryan Ferry by sheer weird force of personality, but Bill and Iggy never relinquish "Use Me" and "Nightclubbing." And then there are the ones she wrote herself. B-

Living My Life [Island, 1982]
I still don't know why people get hot and bothered about Jones's statuesque if not motionless voice, but that sure is one great disco band, and each album edges her a little closer to her material. "Everybody Hold Still," about getting mugged, moves the New Yorker in me almost as much as Melvin Van Peebles's unblinking urban matin "The Apple Stretching," and three of the five remaining cuts convince me Jean-Paul Goude doesn't know the half of her. B+

Island Life [Island, 1985]
Is she rock or disco? Disco, ripostes this farewell label sampler, right up to the Trevor Horn-ghosted autobiography "Slave to the Rhythm." A lot of her best material is simply ignored, and the likes of "Love Is the Drug" and "My Jamaican Guy" succumb to the concept. "Pull Up to the Bumper," it turns out, is the concept. B-

Inside Story [Manhattan, 1986]
This isn't the weirdest album this weirdo has ever made, not with last year's stupid Trevor Horn cut-up in the running. Sometimes it goes too far, as on the religious title cut: "How great thou art/How great is art." And beyond the perfect "I'm Not Perfect (But I'm Perfect for You)," Bruce Woolley's tunes aren't up to Nile Rodgers's beats or Grace's lyrics. But the beats strike the perfect balance between David Bowie and Diana Ross, and the lyrics--well, "Chan Hitchhikes to Shanghai," "White Collar Crime," "Barefoot in Beverly Hills"--what kind of disco diva sings about such things? You got it--a weirdo. B+

Bulletproof Heart [Capitol, 1989]
The title means nothing, because without giving up her stentorian tendencies, the dominatrix is here reborn as love bunny. "Seduction Surrender," "Amado Mio," "Love on Top of Love," "Someone to Love," "Paper Plan" with its "marriage of the heart," even "Kicked Around"--all proclaim her vulnerability and/or softness of orifice. The effect is so incongruous that when she quotes Nancy Reagan on crack (never say she has no social conscience), there's only one answer. No, Grace--no! C