"Let The Music Play" is a song by American singer Shannon. The song was the first of Shannon's four #1s on the US Dance chart, reaching the top spot in October 1983. The song also became a huge crossover hit, peaking at #2 on the soul chart and #8 on the US Singles Chart in February 1984. Some mark this as the beginning of the dance-pop era. "Let the Music Play" was Shannon's only US Top 40 hit. It was ranked 43rd on the 2009 VH1 Special 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s. This song appears in video games Dance Central 3 and Scarface: The World Is Yours.
The original version of the record was produced by Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa. By the early 1980s, the backlash against disco had driven dance music off mainstream radio stations in the US. The rhythmic ingenuity of "Let the Music Play" was largely due to Chris Barbosa, who wrote and arranged the original demo track. Rob Kilgore played all the instruments on this seminal track. It featured a series of keyboard chords and drum patterns produced by gating a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Specifically, a reverb was placed across the kick and snare and hard gated to change the sounds. Further, it was one of the first tracks to sync together a TR-808 and a Roland TB-303 bassline, notorious in later years for the instrument responsible for creating acid house. The TB-303 plays the bassline for the entire song; however, in this case, the filter is not adjusted, which was typical for acid house music. This technical achievement made the production even more groundbreaking, and it also resulted in a unique sound, called "The Shannon Sound," which in time came to be known as freestyle. The Prophet-5 is used for the hookline and sound effects. The vocal on the chorus is sung by session guitarist/vocalist, Jimi Tunnell, who was uncredited. Shannon sings the answering line but it is Tunnell who sings the "Let the music play" hook.
"Let the Music Play" is a freestyle dance song with synthesizer and drum machine-produced rim shot percussion sounds and kick-drum/snare-drum interaction. Critic and journalist Peter Shapiro described the song as a "cross between Gary Numan and Tito Puente." The song has a tempo of 116 beats per minute.
The music video of the song was directed by British music video director Nigel Dick and premiered in November 1983. The video shows Shannon in a dressing room applying make-up as if she is getting ready for a performance. She then makes her way to the stage of an empty theater where she proceeds to dance and sing the song. Interspersed throughout these scenes are shots of male and female dancers fashioned in dress shirts and bow ties warming up. The dancers join Shannon by the second chorus of the song, and, near the end, one of the dancers proceeds to take her in his arms and dance with her. The video ends with the dancers doing a choreographed routine while Shannon continues singing.
Slant Magazine ranked the song #54 in its 100 Greatest Dance Songs-list in 2006, adding:
"Alongside Madonna's “Holiday,” D.C.-born Jazz vocalist Brenda Shannon Greene's “Let the Music Play” helped redefine dance music in the anti-disco early-'80s, setting the stage for the troubled genre for the next decade. Producers Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa, considered one of the founding fathers of Latin freestyle, merged the then-hip electro-funk sound with Latin rhythms, unwittingly creating the world's first freestyle song."
In 1996, Mary Kiani covered "Let the Music Play" as her third solo single. The song was remixed in a variety of styles, notably by Paul Oakenfold of Perfecto and Steve Rodway of Motiv8. A video of the song was also released.
Exile, a Japanese boy band, did a cover of this song on their album, titled Asia, released in 2006.
In 2006, Mexican pop band RBD covered "Let the Music Play," which is featured on its first English-language album, Rebels, but only as an iTunes digital-download exclusive. The track was not included on the album itself.