"Word Up!" is an R&B and funk song written and originally recorded by Cameo in 1986. Due to its heavy play on American dance and R&B radio, as well as music video play on MTV (which has LeVar Burton as a police detective trying to arrest the band), the single became the band's most well-known hit.
From the album Word Up!, "Word Up!" was Cameo's first US Top 40 hit, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 and spending three weeks at number one on the US R&B chart, and one week at number one on the US Hot Dance Singles chart. In the UK, it spent 13 weeks in the top 40, peaking at number six on November 22, 1986. The song was written by Lawrence Ernest Blackmon & Thomas Michael Jenkins.
In the 1990s, "Word Up!" was first covered by Scottish rock band Gun, whose version carried a harder, more rock-oriented sound, including a guitar solo. Taken from their album Swagger, it was released on July 1, 1994 and reached number 8 in the UK singles chart. Two versions of the CD single were released in the UK, each carrying different cover art and different tracks.
"Word Up!" was later covered by Mel B (known as Melanie G at that time). It was released on June 28, 1999. It peaked at number 14 on the UK Singles Chart. The single was also on the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack and was later featured on the Japanese edition of her album Hot. "Word Up!" sold about 77,996 copies in the United Kingdom, which was the lowest selling solo Spice Girls-related single of the 1990s.
"Word Up!" by American nu metal band Korn is a cover of the song by R&B group, Cameo. Its musical arrangements are similar to that of the cover version by Gun, except it is played in a lower sounding 7 string guitar tuning instead of the standard E. "Word Up!" was the first track featured on Korn's 2004 retrospective album, Greatest Hits, Volume 1, and was one of three new tracks along with Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" that was exclusive to the album (the "Word Up!" CD single also featured a live performance of the latter).
It was released as the album's first single in July 2004, and received heavy airplay on alternative radio at its time of release, peaking in the top 20 of both Billboard charts, whilst making a respectable impression on the mainstream charts of other countries, including Australia (where it debuted at number 28), and Germany (number 46). It is the only Korn single to be sent out to Top 40 radio stations, notably receiving airplay on New York City's Z-100, the largest Top 40 station in the US. Lead singer Jonathan Davis has said of the band's decision to include the song on their greatest hits, "We've been doing 'Word Up!' for years as a sound-check song—not the full version, just messing around with the riff."
The music video for the song, directed by Antti Jokinen, featured the band-members' faces digitally edited onto dogs in a club scene with women dancing topless the parody of Basement Jaxx's "Where's Your Head At" music video.
British girl group Little Mix covered the song for Sport Relief 2014. It was released digitally on 16 March 2014, followed by a physical release the following day, which was only available to purchase from Sainsbury's.
The song received rather positive reviews with the Popjustice ranking it as third for the best version of the song and third for the best Sport Relief single and gave the song 7 out of 10 stars. Kevin Kevinpod of DirectLyrics said that "[Little Mix's] harmonies are spot-on, and the whole record is pure fire." and that the song is a chance of the band getting a number one hit. Its production was also likened to Janet Jackson's single "Black Cat."
The video starts off with the band in a changing room of a gym. As they walk out of the changing room, Jade tries to pick up a barbell pretending that she cannot lift it but then she lifts it up and walks away carrying it. Perrie then walks along four women who are working out while Jade is on a stationary bicycle among three other women, following the instructions of a trainer. With the bicycle, Jade starts going forward with the rest following her at the back.
The scene then switches to a court with the band exercising and dancing the same time along with other people while singing the chorus of the song. Afterwards, Leigh-Anne is stood in front of some athletes with one using her as a barbell at the end of her part. Jesy continues with her part while dancing in front of two men working out on treadmills and fall off them after some time. During the chorus, the scene changes again to the court with the owner (Barrie, who had previously played a gym manager in BBC sitcom The Brittas Empire) of the gym seeing the girls and the rest dancing and runs upset out of his office. As he is going down to the court, he sees the athletes in the swimming pool shaping out the title of the song. When he reaches the court, he starts dancing with them.
The Korn version is featured in the background in a scene in the House episode Daddy's Boy.
The Korn version features in two episodes of Monk. First it appears in the season 3 episode Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic (which also guest stars the members of Korn as themselves) as the song that is playing during a tailgate party during the traffic stop on U.S. Highway 101. It is also the song that is played in the background in the season 5 episode Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert when Adrian Monk, Natalie Teeger and Captain Stottlemeyer first arrive at the San Francisco Band Jam.
The song is played in a scene in Johnny English Reborn where Johnny is under the influence of a mind-control drug and dances along to the words of the song (which, conveniently, include phrases like "do your dance" etc.).
The song is used in a commercial for Mars candy bars.
The BossHoss version is used in a commercial for VO5 hair gel.
^Roni Sarig (2007). Da Capo Press, ed. Third Coast: Outkast, Timbaland, and How Hip-Hop Became a Southern Thing. p. 100. ISBN978-0306814303. "With number-one R&B singles like 1984's “She's Strange” and 1986's “Word Up”—released on Cameo's Atlanta Artists label—the city found its first major urban act of the hip-hop era."
^Jonathan Buckley, Mark Ellingham (1996). Rough Guides Ltd, ed. Rock: The Rough Guide. ISBN978-1858282015. ""Word Up" was funk's last stand before it was completely swallowed up by hip-hop culture."
^Joel Whitburn (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 98.