Release Date: Jun 24, 2016
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Dance-Rock, Post-Disco
Few human beings have so fully embodied the notion of a “singular artist” more so than Grace Jones. In the annals of pop music and fashion, there has simply never been anyone else on earth quite like her—strong, severe, and otherworldly in every way, Jones has blazed a trail through popular culture over the past four decades that remains unrivaled in terms of boldfaced originality. Warm Leatherette, Jones’ career-shifting 1980 release, gives a glimpse of the artist just as her true genius was coming into sharp focus.
Warm Leatherette is one of those albums whose commercial performance is dwarfed by its cultural impact. At the time of its release in 1980, it marked a decisive departure for Grace Jones. Already in her 30s, she went from striking but ultimately nonthreatening would-be disco queen to eccentric, new wave dominatrix and soon-to-be cosmopolitan icon. Warm Leatherette was both a catalyst and a by-product of this transformation; it was also a flop.
It’s difficult to imagine now how much of a mindfuck Warm Leatherette was when it landed in 1980. Grace Jones was best known up to that point as a disco singer, having recorded three albums with Philly sound legend Tom Moulton, as well as as a Jamaican model based in Paris. Taking a song by Daniel Miller’s The Normal as title track, or recording a dubby version of Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’, would surely have caused cognitive dissonance in alternative music listeners, who might have hitherto imagined her internationalism being out of reach.