There was a time during in the early ’80s that R&B was clearly the most futuristic pop music on the radio. Gary Numan and The Human League might have set dystopian academic themes to electronic music, but it was far removed from the simple love and lust that fueled the rhythms of R&B music.
The future of pop was sounding like R&B music. One band in particular captured the sense of where the beat might be going. 1980 was an exciting time to listen to the radio. False starts were all over the place, all vying to be the next post disco trend. Yarborogh & Peoples may have been one of those false starts. Although Alisa Peoples and Cavin Yarbrough are famously known for one song, they seemed far ahead of the curve in a time when many of their peers were crowding stages with big horn sections and old style organ/piano combos.
“Dont Stop the Music” with its funky keyboard rift and simple hook was all over the radio by the Summer of 1981. The album from which it came, The Two of Us went to #1 on the American R&B charts while breaking into the pop top 20. That was an incredible feat considering that the rest of the album lacked the impact of that one fantastic single.
Songs like the title song and “Easy Tonight” were the kind of R&B music that once filtered down could make an appearance on episodes of The Love Boat. The Two of Us was clearly in its element when Yarbrough & Peoples stayed within the realm of dance music.
That element was clearly disco or something close to it as in “You’re My Song”. The disco stuff sounds dated now, but traditional crowd pleasing soul ballads like “Come to Me” still sound contemporary due to classic drum, bass and guitar arrangements. It was easy to see how the Lonnie Simmons production team tried to create something for everyone. The results are all over the place stylistically, but the innovation of a few tracks made it worth all the lawns I had to mow to buy the album.
For a moment The Two of Us was the future of pop, or so it sounded like it judging from “Don’t Stop the Music”. That song would influence portrayals of future music on TV shows like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, where in one scene Buck Rodgers dances at a ball to music that sounded vaguely like “Dont Stop the Music” meets the S.O.S. Band.
That’s where Yarbrough & Peoples contribution to the evolution of R&B came and went. Even today “Don’t Stop the Music” is every bit as infectious as it was back in 1981. R&B no longer sounds like the future anymore. The clubs have caught up with it and now with hip hop dictate the course of pop music for the moment.