Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)

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"Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)"
Back to life however do you want me soul ii soul single.jpeg
Single by Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler
from the album Club Classics Vol. One
Released29 May 1989 (1989-05-29)[1]
Genre
Length3:52
LabelVirgin
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Soul II Soul singles chronology
"Keep On Movin'"
(1989)
"Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)"
(1989)
"Get a Life"
(1990)
Music video
"Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" on YouTube

"Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" is a song by British R&B band Soul II Soul featuring the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. It appears on a secondary version of their debut album, Club Classics Vol. One (1989) (titled Keep On Movin' in the United States), and was released as its second single on 29 May 1989. "Back to Life" is one of two songs on the album featuring British R&B singer Caron Wheeler and gained success in both North America and Europe, topping the charts in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and peaking at number four in the United States. The group won their first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with the song in 1990.

Production[edit]

The album version of the song was an a cappella which was remixed and re-recorded before being released as a single. Two new versions were produced — the first taking the original recording with instrumentation added, and the second was a re-working of the song with new lyrics and chorus (also adding "However Do You Want Me" to the title). It was the second version that became most popular. In a 2012 interview with British newspaper The Guardian on how "Back to Life" was made, producer Jazzie B said:

Everything about this single was magic. We weren't trying to follow any trend or fit into any category – we were just doing our own thing. ... Its shuffling beats were a cross between reggae and what was to become known as hip-hop: breakbeats and electronic sound. Caron Wheeler's vocal, coming over these very heavy bass beats, was the icing on the cake. ... We also had the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra on the track, and the RPO became a key part of our sound. ... We often look to America for our influences, but this was a moment that put British music back on the map. It also came out at a special time in the industry's history – just before digital took over and everything seemed to fall apart.[4]

For a time, the album was packaged together with a CD3 single including the new versions of the song.

Critical reception[edit]

Justin Chadwick from Albumism wrote in his review of Club Classics Vol. One, "While “Keep on Movin'” lit the fuse for the group’s ascendance across radio and the sales charts, another Wheeler blessed composition kept the flame burning bright. Originally—and in retrospect, somewhat incredulously—included on the album in stripped-down, acapella form, “Back to Life” further illuminated Wheeler’s vocal prowess as she sang about seeking romantic clarity, with the drums borrowed from Graham Central Station's "The Jam" kicking in at the 2:40 mark. In short order following the album’s release, the song was reworked into a more robust midtempo groove, its instant earworm appeal and unforgettable hook (“How ever do you want me, how / How ever do you need me”) all but ensuring its ubiquity throughout the summer of 1989."[5] AllMusic editor Alex Henderson described it as a "Chic-influenced gem".[6] Geir Rakvaag from Norwegian newspaper Arbeiderbladet called it "delicate".[7] Daryl Easlea for BBC noted its "swooning chorus and churning beat".[8] Duff Marlowe from Los Angeles Times wrote in his review, that "the gorgeously arranged, a cappella "Back to Life", shows that the sound-system concept not only works, but also may be an effective way of presenting a wide range of talent."[9]

Chart performance[edit]

"Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" peaked at number-one on both the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in the United States and the RPM Dance/Urban chart in Canada. It went to number four on the Billboard Hot 100,[10] becoming one of Soul II Soul's most successful singles in the United States (and the only one to enter in the top 10). In the United Kingdom it performed even better, reaching number-one in the UK Singles Chart for four weeks in June and July 1989.[11] In Europe, it peaked at number-one also in the Netherlands, as well as on the Eurochart Hot 100. The single made it into the top 10 also in Belgium, West Germany, Greece (number two), Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland (number two). In Oceania, it peaked at number four in New Zealand and number 45 in Australia. "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" earned a gold record in Canada and Sweden, a silver record in the UK, and a platinum record in the US. It went on to win the group their first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1990.

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" was directed by Monty Whitebloom & Andy Delaney, of Big TV! and was shot in Epping Forest.[4] Wheeler's former-Afrodiziak member and friend Claudia Fontaine sings and dances to the song throughout the video.

The video starts with an opening silhouette of the group dancing in a forest and proceeds with repeated close-up shots of Wheeler singing "Back to life, back to reality". While Wheeler sings the first verse, video shots of the other Soul II Soul members and the band are shown. Another scene is shown on a rooftop during early sunrise as the group parties and dances to the song. Close to the end of the video, the group is shown dancing at night on the same rooftop. Wheeler closes out the song as she sings and dances to the song. The video was published on YouTube in March 2009. By January 2021, it had more than 64.1 million views.[12]

Live performances[edit]

Wheeler performed "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" on various televised appearances, including the Arsenio Hall Show,[13] Rockopop, and Later... with Jools Holland.[14] At the end of 1989, Wheeler later departed from the group. When Soul II Soul performed the song at 1990 Soul Train Music Awards, Marcia Lewis; a new addition to the group, performed the lead vocals.

The song was included in the group's set list for their A New Decade Tour in 1990 and was performed late in the set on tour dates. Lamya, a later addition to group, performed the lead vocals to the song during the tour. Wheeler also included the song during her solo tours. A live recording of the song was released on Wheeler's live CD/DVD Live at Duo Music Exchange, which featured her performing live in Tokyo, Japan. In 2007, Wheeler reunited with the group and performed the song at the Lovebox Festival. In August 2012, Soul II Soul performed the song at the Rewind Festival in Remenham, Berkshire, with Charlotte Kelly singing lead vocals.

In December 2016, Soul II Soul released their live album Origins: The Roots of Soul II Soul which included a live recorded version on the song, sung by Wheeler.[15]

Impact and legacy[edit]

An a cappella version was memorably featured in the opening scene of the 1998 film Belly.[16]

VH1 listed "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" at number 50 in its list of the "100 Greatest Dance Songs" in 2000. [17]

Q Magazine ranked it at number 534 in their list of the "1001 Best Songs Ever" in 2003.[18]

Slant Magazine ranked the song at number 57 in its list of the "100 Greatest Dance Songs" in 2006.[19]

The Guardian featured "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)" on its "A history of modern music: Dance" in 2011.[20]

In 2015 the song was voted by the British public as the nation's 18th favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.[21]

The song was featured in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, as part of an extended dance sequence involving popular British songs from the 1960s through the 2010s.[22][23]

Accolades[edit]

Year Publisher Country Accolade Rank
2000 VH1 United States "100 Greatest Dance Songs" 50
2003 Q United Kingdom "100 Songs That Changed the World"[24] 67
2003 Q United Kingdom "1001 Best Songs Ever" 534
2005 Bruce Pollock United States "The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000" *
2005 Pitchfork United States "The 200 Best Songs of the 1980s" 119
2005 Q United Kingdom "50 Greatest British Tracks"[1] 38
2005 Süddeutsche Zeitung Germany "1020 Songs 1955-2005"[25] *
2006 Slant Magazine United States "100 Greatest Dance Songs" 57
2010 Groove Germany "Die 100 wichtigsten Tracks der letzten 20 Jahre" *
2011 The Guardian United Kingdom "A history of modern music: Dance" *
2011 Max Australia "1000 Greatest Songs of All Time"[26] 517
2015 ITV United Kingdom "The Nation's Favourite 80s Number One" 18
2015 Robert Dimery United States "1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2015 Update)" *
2019 Billboard United States "Billboard's Top Songs of the '80s"[27] 212
2019 Max Australia "1000 Greatest Songs Of All Time"[28] 853
2020 Slant Magazine United States "The 100 Best Dance Songs of All Time"[29] 41
2022 Rolling Stone United States "200 Greatest Dance Songs of All Time"[30] 182

(*) indicates the list is unordered.

Track listings and formats[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[58] Gold 50,000^
Sweden (GLF)[59] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[60] Gold 400,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[61] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions[edit]

Samples[edit]

The song samples:

Graham Central Station - The Jam: drum track

Songs that have sampled this song include:

References[edit]

  1. ^ "New Singles". Music Week. 27 May 1989. p. 33. Misprinted as 30 May.
  2. ^ "Best of House Music: Disco Nights, Vol. 5 - Various Artists - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  3. ^ Pitchfork Staff (24 August 2015). "The 200 Best Songs of the 1980s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 16 October 2022. ...lipped a Larry Graham drum fill into a proto-jungle rhythm track...
  4. ^ a b Watkins, Jack (22 October 2012). "How we made Back to Life by Soul II Soul". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  5. ^ Chadwick, Justin (9 April 2019). "Soul II Soul's Debut Album 'Club Classics Vol. One' Turns 30: Anniversary Retrospective". Albumism. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  6. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Soul II Soul - Club Classics, Vol. 1". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  7. ^ Rakvaag, Geir (14 July 1989). "Tilbake til livet". Arbeiderbladet (in Norwegian). p. 28. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  8. ^ Easlea, Daryl (2009). "Soul II Soul Club Classics Vol One Review". BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2020.
  9. ^ Marlowe, Duff (14 July 1989). "Indian summer for Summer?". Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Soul II Soul Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Soul II Soul - Back To Life (Official Video)". YouTube. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
  13. ^ The Arsenio Hall Show - Season 2, Episode 31. TV.com. Retrieved on 25 October 2017
  14. ^ Soul II Soul - Back to Life, Episode 10, Series 41, Later... with Jools Holland. BBC Two. Retrieved on 25 October 2017
  15. ^ Origins: The Roots of Soul II Soul - Soul II Soul. All Music Guide. Retrieved on 25 October 2017
  16. ^ "Belly Gave Us One of the Clearest Pictures of DMX During His Rise". 11 April 2021. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  17. ^ "Rock on the Net: VH1: 100 Greatest Dance Songs".
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  20. ^ "A history of modern music: Dance". The Guardian. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  21. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (25 July 2015). "The Nation's Favourite 80s Number One: 12 more classic 80s chart-toppers which didn't make the cut". Metro. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  22. ^ Xan Brooks (27 July 2012). "London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony – as it happened". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
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  58. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Soul II Soul – Back to Life". Music Canada. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  59. ^ "Guld- och Platinacertifikat − År 1987−1998" (PDF) (in Swedish). IFPI Sweden. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
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  61. ^ "American single certifications – Soul II Soul – Back to Life". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
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  63. ^ "Maxi Priest's 'Close to You' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  64. ^ "Big boi's 'Shutterbug' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  65. ^ "The Game's 'However Do You Want It' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 30 September 2017.

External links[edit]