There was a singer who shall remain nameless set the tone for the nineties slow jams. However as nineties R&B fans know there were tons of singers who provided quality albums and tracks when it came to making a playlist via audiocassette. Lincoln Browder, better known as Link, was one of the singers.
Slow Jam Saturday : Michael Sterling, Lovers & Friends
In 2004 I made a name for myself as a part-time DJ while serving in the Air Force. My first duty station was in the United Kingdom, which sometimes meant music was slow to arrive for retail purchase. The holiday season was kicking off, and the Crunk sound was everywhere. Hip Hop group Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz released their fifth album Crunk Juice. As I often do, I gave the album a listen straight through to find samples and album tracks that I would work into my set in hopes they would catch on by club-goers.
To my surprise, after a Chris Rock skit on the album, Lil Jon gave us a slow jam! The song “Lovers & Friends” featured guest spots from Usher & Ludacris. Pulling out the liner notes, I discovered that Lil Jon had sampled the song from a singer named Michael Sterling, who is this week’s pick for Slow Jam Saturday. I must’ve listened to the song five times in a row and instantly knew three things; the song had hit potential, that I would work it into my next DJ set, and I had heard the song in my previous life travels.
“Lovers and Friends” was the second song on Sterling’s third solo album, 1990’s Trouble. Sterling has a unique falsetto voice, and he opens the song with a spoken word where he expresses repentance for his mistakes in his last relationship as an adolescent. At about the one minute and five-second mark of the song, Sterling smoothly croons:
“Place your trust in me
Darling, you will see the kind of love that makes the world go around
You’re my woman
You’re the one, that wraps your love around me so tight
I can feel it. I can feel it girl, Come on…
Tell me again my baby whoa
We will be so much more, girl
(Tell me again) Tell me again girl, Come on
(That we’ll be lovers and friends)
Lovers and friends, my baby”.
Sterling avoids oversinging the song, and the listener genuinely feels his emotion throughout. The OG version of “Lovers & Friends” became a staple on Slow Jam Mix CDs during the winter and spring months of 2005. I’m sure those who knew me while l lived in Europe heard the song at some point. I even found a way to feature “Lovers & Friends” as my closing song. I knew it was the right choice when my good friend and Miami resident Michael French made his way to the DJ booth. French dapped me up for not only surprising him by knowing the song and showing love to one of his neighborhood heroes. As French would say, “Lovers and Friends” is a quiet storm staple.
Final Grade: A
“Lovers and Friends” from Trouble is available on all streaming platforms.
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