In 2011 Steven heard Soundtree’s remix of The Temptations’ “Power” on a BlackBerry commercial. He didn’t buy the PlayBook they were peddling, but his ears were buying what they were hearing. The commercial led Steven on a journey to discover the original mega-hit, explore the incredible group behind it, and grapple with its POWERful message about greed and mass control.
The Temptations are one of music’s biggest acts, ever. Getting their start in 1960 and finding their groove by the ’70s, they have created some of the most recognizable hits of all-time. Tracks like “My Girl”, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.”
Today, only one of the original five founding members remains alive: Otis Williams. He owns the rights to the group’s name and continues to perform with the other current members to this day.
In 1980, The Temptations return to Motown, after a hiatus from the legendary label, was marked by the release of “Power,” produced by Berry Gordy together with Angelo Bond. The song features the iconic rumbling of bass singer Melvin Franklin, the only Temptation outside of Otis that never left the group. Though Franklin died in February 1995 at the age of 52, his profound and powerful vocals will live on forever.
Combined with the smooth and soulful compliments of Richard Street, Glenn Leonard, and Dennis Edwards, “Power” is a deep and direct dialogue on the dangerous and shady aspects of never-ending greed and the pursuit of mass control. The song reached #11 on the Billboard Top R&B/Soul charts, despite being forced off of shelves and limited in plays because of its influence and message—something we should be even more familiar with in today’s world.
The Temptations were not strangers to long, passionate, controversial songs and never shied away from that fact, either. Though today they are largely portrayed as well-dressed, smooth singing, polite, love song hitmakers, the evidence of the truth shows they were so much more.
Truthfully, I was born in 1995 and I didn’t discover this gem of a song until my junior year in high school when the classic phone company Blackberry released their own tablet, the Blackberry PlayBook in 2011. Though support for the PlayBook ended a few years ago as technology has whizzed by, the song featured in their commercial announcement has remained one of my all-time personal favorites.
At the time, Peter Raeburn—the co-founder of London-based music production company Soundtree—was commissioned to provide the soundtrack for the new commercial promoting the PlayBook. Raeburn rediscovered The Temptations’ 1980 hit and felt the track encompassed everything he was looking for. Wanting to give it an extra kick, Raeburn worked with producers Oli Julian and Luis Almau to reimagine the track with a modern approach.
After the remix gained massive attention upon the debut of the commercial, Universal Music Enterprises announced in September 2011 that the track would be fully released. The remix also includes a previously unreleased segment of Melvin Franklin’s own spoken-word piece about NFL Legend Jim Brown and a previously unreleased final verse from Dennis Edwards.
The remix, of course, brought me to the original 1980 track which completely blew me away the first time I listened to it and honestly, still does. I feel that it’s rare that a remix is able to hold the same ideals, feelings, and beauty of an original track, but Soundtree’s take on “Power” is truly special and brings out a more industrialized production without sacrificing the heart and soul that the original is filled with—all while including aspects from the original members that had never been heard before.
The original will always be the best, in my unsurprising opinion. However, I do listen to the remix every so often just to get that fresh perspective and to acknowledge the respectful greatness that Soundtree achieved.
“Power” remains incredibly arranged and showcases each member of the group at their very best. An undeniable groove, “Power” also continues to provide an important and necessary dialogue on the disgusting effects of evil and greed—a message that seems more relevant to today’s world than possibly ever before. Just the second verse alone hits hard as they belt out:
I’m your hope, your one salvation
I’m your one man United Nation
All you poor, all you needy
All you’re doin’ is givin’ to the greedy
Tell me your sins, I’ll be your friend
I won’t do you in
All I need’s a little more power
As this half of the world slowly transitions from an arctic winter to a fresh spring, there isn’t a better time to sit back and cherish the super-sonic waves and poignant passions that The Temptations’ embodied for decades.
Have a fantastic week, friends, and stay tuned for much more right here on MM&H!