Lady Marmalade

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"Lady Marmalade"
Single by Labelle
from the album Nightbirds
B-side "Space Children" (US)
"It Took a Long Time" (Europe)
Released August 3, 1974
Format 7" single
Recorded 1974
Genre Soul
Length 3:56
Label Epic
50048
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Labelle singles chronology
"Going on a Holiday"
(1973)
"Lady Marmalade"
(1974)
"What Can I Do for You"
(1974)

"Lady Marmalade" is a song by the group Labelle. It was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, and produced by Allen Toussaint and Vicki Wickham. It was released on August 3, 1974 as the first single from the album Nightbirds. The song was inspired by Crewe's first-hand observations of New Orleans. After it was first recorded by Nolan's group Eleventh Hour in 1974, on Eleventh Hour's Greatest Hits LP, Labelle's producer Allen Toussaint decided to record it for Nightbirds. The song is famous for its sexually suggestive chorus of "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?", which translates into English as "Do you want to sleep with me (tonight)?"

The song held the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week, and topped the Canadian RPM national singles chart on the same date. Labelle's version of "Lady Marmalade" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.[1] and was ranked number 479 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song has had many cover versions over the years. In 1998, all female group All Saints released a cover of the song that peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart. The 2001 version by singers Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink, produced by Missy Elliott with instrumentals contributed by producer Rockwilder, was released for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. It was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US for 5 weeks and won Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink a Grammy Award. In the United Kingdom, the song has been sung on several talent shows, including The X Factor by Leona Lewis, and on Eurovision: Your Country Needs You by Jade Ewen.

History[edit]

Patti LaBelle sang lead vocals on "Lady Marmalade" with backing vocals being contributed by band mates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. The song's chorus, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?", appeared previously in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, uttered by the promiscuous Blanche DuBois.

Lyrically, "Lady Marmalade" is about a prostitute. Patti LaBelle, the lead female vocal of the band, expressed that, "I didn't know what it was about. Nobody, I swear this is God's truth, nobody told me what I'd just sung a song about."[2]

Labelle performed "Lady Marmalade" on Soul Train on December 7, 1974.[3] "Lady Marmalade" was a number-one hit for one week on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States during the early spring of 1975, and charted at number one for one week on the Billboard Top Soul Singles chart.[4] Along with the track, "What Can I Do for You?", "Lady Marmalade" peaked at number seven on the disco/dance charts.[5] The single also charted at number seventeen in the United Kingdom. "Lady Marmalade" replaced another Crewe/Nolan composition, Frankie Valli's "My Eyes Adored You", as the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single, a feat that made Crewe and Nolan the third songwriting team in Billboard history (after Lennon–McCartney and Holland-Dozier-Holland) to replace themselves at number-one.[6] Billboard ranked it as the No. 22 song for 1975.[7] Also in 1975, Nanette Workman recorded a French version that became very popular in Canada (Quebec).

The song was first covered by Nanette Workman[8] in the same year, and then later on by Sheila E. on her 1991 album Sex Cymbal in a jazz-oriented rendition, with horns as the centerpiece. In 1995, disco cover band Boogie Knights covered "Lady Marmalade", fronted by singer Jeff Scott Soto. In 1999, the song was covered by the techno act Lords of Acid as a bonus track on their remix album Expand Your Head. More recently, the track was featured in the TV series Angel, performed by actor Andy Hallett, and was released on the soundtrack in 2005. The Labelle version appears in several films, including The Long Kiss Goodnight, Dick, and Jacob's Ladder.

Improbably, the lyrics to the song were sung to the tune of the "Toreador Song" from "Carmen" by Tim Brooke-Taylor on the radio comedy and panel game show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue as part of a round called "One Song to the Tune of Another". It was featured on the video game Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 as a version performed with Patti LaBelle.

Formats and track listings[edit]

US 7" single
  1. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:14
  2. "Space Children" – 3:04
Europe 7" single
  1. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:14
  2. "It Took a Long Time" – 4:04

Charts and certifications[edit]

Sabrina cover[edit]

"Voulez-Vous Coucher avec Moi? (Lady Marmalade)"
Single by Sabrina
from the album Sabrina
B-side "Megamix"
Released 1987
Format CD maxi, 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1987
Genre Soul, Italo disco, funk
Length 3:56
Label Baby Records
Writer(s) Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan
Sabrina singles chronology
"Sexy Girl"
(1986)
"Lady Marmalade"
(1987)
"Boys (Summertime Love)"
(1987)

"Lady Marmalade" was covered by Italian pop star Sabrina. It was released in 1987 as the album's second single by Baby Records. In some countries, including France and the Netherlands, the song was known as "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? (Lady Marmalade)" and was released in 1988.

Track listings[edit]

7" maxi[12]
  1. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:55
  2. "Boys, Hot Girl, Sexy Girl" (7" megamix) – 4:10
12" maxi[13]
  1. "Lady Marmalade" (12" remix) – 5:57
  2. "Boys, Hot Girl, Sexy Girl" (12" megamix) – 6:04
CD maxi[14]
  1. "Lady Marmalade" (12" remix) – 6:08
  2. "Boys, Hot Girl, Sexy Girl" (megamix) – 6:04
  3. "Lady Marmalade" – 3:55
  • Remixed by Peter Vriends, produced by Claudio Cecchetto

Charts[edit]

Chart (1988) Peak
position
Belgian Flanders (Ultratop)[15] 36
France (SNEP)[16] 41
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 40

All Saints cover[edit]

"Lady Marmalade"
Single by All Saints
from the album All Saints
B-side "No More Lies", "Get Bizzy"
Released January 27, 1998
Format CD single
Recorded 1997
Genre Dance-pop, disco, R&B
Length 4:04
Label London
Producer(s) Johnny Douglas, Timbaland
All Saints singles chronology
"Never Ever"
(1997)
"Under the Bridge"/"Lady Marmalade"
(1998)
"Bootie Call"
(1998)
Audio sample
file info · help

Background and release[edit]

In 1998, English girl group All Saints covered "Lady Marmalade" as part of the double A-sided single "Under the Bridge" / "Lady Marmalade". The third single from their self-titled debut album, it contained the "Marmalade" cover and a cover of "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers; it reached number one on the official UK Top 40, becoming their second number-one hit. In Europe, only the "Lady Marmalade" single was released. A total of 424,799 singles have been sold in the UK, with proceeds from the single going to breast cancer charities. The All Saints version contains different lyrics for its verses; the only lyrics retained from the original composition are the chorus. A version remixed by Timbaland appeared on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack.

Music video[edit]

British actress Kathryn Allerston appears in the music video.

Track listings[edit]

  • All Saints CD maxi single
  1. "Lady Marmalade" ('98 mix) – 4:02
  2. "Lady Marmalade" (Mark's Miami Madness mix) – 7:55
  3. "Lady Marmalade" (Sharp South Park vocal remix) – 8:09
  4. "Lady Marmalade" (Henry & Hayne's La Jam mix) – 6:47
  • All Saints CD 1
  1. "Under the Bridge" – 5:03
  2. "Lady Marmalade" – 4:04
  3. "No More Lies" – 4:08
  4. "Lady Marmalade" (Henry & Haynes La Jam mix) – 9:23
  5. "Under the Bridge" (promo video) – 5:00
  • All Saints CD 2
  1. "Lady Marmalade" (Mark!'s Miami Madness mix) – 7:56
  2. "Lady Marmalade" (Sharp South Park vocal remix) – 8:10
  3. "Under the Bridge" (Ignorance remix featuring Jean Paul e.s.q) – 4:55
  4. "Get Bizzy" – 3:45

Charts[edit]

Chart (1998) Peak
position
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 3
French Singles Chart 28
Swiss Singles Chart 45
UK Singles Chart 1
Preceded by
"All That I Need" by Boyzone
"Turn Back Time" by Aqua
UK Singles Chart number-one single
May 3, 1998
May 17, 1998
Succeeded by
"Turn Back Time" by Aqua
"Feel It" by The Tamperer featuring Maya

Moulin Rouge! cover[edit]

"Lady Marmalade"
Single by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink
from the album Moulin Rouge! Soundtrack
Released March 27, 2001
Format 12" maxi single
Recorded January 2001
Genre R&B, hip hop soul
Length 4:24
Label Interscope
Producer(s) Rockwilder, Missy Elliott
Christina Aguilera chronology
"Falsas Esperanzas
(2001)
"Lady Marmalade"
(2001)
"Dirrty"
(2002)
Lil' Kim chronology
"How Many Licks?"
(2000)
"Lady Marmalade"
(2001)
"In the Air Tonite"
(2001)
Mýa chronology
"Free"
(2001)
"Lady Marmalade"
(2001)
"My Love Is Like...Wo"
(2003)
Pink chronology
"You Make Me Sick"
(2000)
"Lady Marmalade"
(2001)
"Get the Party Started"
(2001)
Audio sample
file info · help
Music video
"Lady Marmalade" on YouTube

Background and release[edit]

In 2001, "Lady Marmalade" was featured as part of a medley in the film Moulin Rouge!. For the film's soundtrack album, Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink recorded a cover version; it was released as the soundtrack's first single in spring 2001. Produced by Missy Elliott and writing partner Rockwilder, it features an intro and outro from Elliott. A lyric was changed from the original version, with the song's setting being transferred from New Orleans to the Paris nightclub Moulin Rouge. The song became a number-one hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for the second time, reaching number one in its eighth week and spending five weeks at the top of the chart.[18] It was the third song in Billboard chart history (after Aaliyah's 2000 single "Try Again" and Shaggy's 2001 single "Angel") to hit number one without being released in a major commercially available single format. "Lady Marmalade" was Aguilera's fourth US number-one single and first-time number-ones for Kim, Pink, and Mýa in the US. For Aguilera, the song would be her last number one until 2011's "Moves Like Jagger" collaboration with Maroon 5. It would be Pink's only number-one hit until 2008, when her single "So What" reached the top. It remained in the top forty for seventeen weeks in the US, and topped the charts in fifteen different countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia.The song also holds the record for the longest reigning no.1 on Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 chart for an all female collaboration, topping the chart for nine consecutive weeks.[19]"Lady Marmalade" is the best-selling single for Lil' Kim and Mýa. Lil' Kim also held the record for having the longest number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 for a female rapper, with "Lady Marmalade" being on the top of the charts for 5 consecutive weeks, until Australian female rapper Iggy Azalea's Fancy held on to the number one position for 7 weeks in 2014. The song was included on non-US versions of Aguilera's first greatest hits album, Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits. Lady Marmalade was the top selling song of 2001 and has sold 5.2 million copies worldwide as of December 2001.[20]

Critical response[edit]

Allmusic's Brand Kohlenstein praised the song by highlighting it, adding that the ladies "teamed up for a surefire hit with their naughtier version of Patti Labelle's "Lady Marmalade.""[21] Slant Magazine editor praised the collaboration, too: "the track is simply an accolade to the performers' various distinctive styles, with Lil' Kim trashing it up and Aguilera caterwauling her way through the second half of the song."[22]

Music video[edit]

The music video, directed by Paul Hunter, features all four performers in lingerie (rapper Missy Elliott makes a couple of small appearances.) and was filmed at the end of March 2001 on sets (Los Angeles) built to resemble the actual Moulin Rouge night club around the turn of the century (1890–1910). The video won the MTV Video Music Award for "Best Video of the Year" and "Best Video from a Film"; it was also nominated for "Best Dance Video", "Best Pop Video", "Best Choreography" (Tina Landon), and "Best Art Direction". The song won a 2002 Grammy Award in the category of "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals". It ranks at number 30 on MuchMusic's 100 Best Videos. The video is now certified on Vevo it reached 100 million views

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[58] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[59] Gold 20,000x
Belgium (BEA)[60] Platinum 50,000*
France (SNEP)[61] Silver 125,000*
Italy (FIMI)[62] Platinum 50,000*
Greece (IFPI Greece)[63] Gold 10,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[64] Platinum 15,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[65] Platinum 10,000*
Sweden (GLF)[66] Platinum 30,000x
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[67] Gold 20,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[68] Gold 560,000[69]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "LaBelle Says Didn't Know Meaning Of 'Lady Marmalade'". Jet 79 (21). March 11, 1991. p. 8. 
  3. ^ The Best of Soul Train Live (booklet). Time Life. 2011. 
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 337. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 150. 
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External links[edit]