Very few artists have captured the independent artistic spirit as powerfully as Grace Jones. For well over 40 years, the Jamaican model-turned-musician has built a career defined by bold experimentation and unwavering originality.
Today, we take a look at five key albums from one of music’s most influential artists.
From Portfolio to Nightclubbing, we take a look at five essential albums from the groundbreaking and incomparable genius of Grace Jones.
Arguably Grace Jones’ most well-known and fully-formed body of work, Nighclubbing is an undeniable masterpiece. Here, Jones’ groundbreaking blend of jazz, funk, soul, dub, disco, post-punk, and synth-pop was taken to another level; effectively altering the face of pop music forever.
Flaunting a series of daring cover tracks, including Bill Withers’ Use Me and Iggy Pop’s Nightclubbing, the album’s references to music’s past only seemed to highlight how ambitious Jones’ vision of the future truly was.
Following the relatively tepid releases of her first three albums, Grace Jones decided she needed to shake things up for album number four. The results of this ‘shake up’ were spectacular. Cited by many as the first true glimpse of Jones’ genius, Warm Leatherette saw the artist begin to establish a sonic universe of her own.
Although Jones spent much of the 70s revolutionising the fashion industry, this 1980 release saw her break into the new decade with a new vision in mind. Warm Leatherette’s inventiveness and groundbreaking musicality truly kickstarted her mission of toppling outdated ideas of sexuality and nightlife.
Slave To The Rhythm
Following a brief hiatus from music to focus on her acting career, Jones returned in 1985 with Slave To The Rhythm; an eight-track journey of bold experimentation. With pulsating rhythms and Ian McShane voiceovers (“Ladies and gentleman, Ms Grace Jones” is an all-time great musical moment), this album is vibrant and stylish, perfectly capturing everything that made Jones so great.
After producing her most commercially successful track, Slave To Rhythm would go on to define a career built on true artistic independence.
Living My Life
Following on from Warm Leatherette and Nightclubbing, Living My Life was the last of three albums recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. The tropical location definitely shows through in the album’s dub-infused rhythms.
This is especially prevalent on My Jamaican Guy, a tune about The Wailers’ Tyrone Downie that Jones wrote almost entirely in Jamaican patois.
Finally, how could we not include Jones’ 1977 debut, Portfolio? Although Jones’ earlier albums fall more into traditional disco spheres, their influence is undeniable. At a time when racist and homophobic movements like Disco Sucks were gaining traction, Portfolio’s bold dance tracks spat in the face of musical bigotry.
Here, Jones quickly established herself as a musical force to be reckoned with, though few could have predicted the many turns her career would take in the years to come.