Finding music on television used to be easy (there was a channel that played these short movies called “music videos”). Nowadays, the best you can hope for are ambitious warblers getting mocked by “producers,” the odd bit of indie rock in a cell phone commercial, and, if you stay up late, that dinosaur known as the music-compilation infomercial. So we called on intrepid insomniac Gabriel Boylan to watch the paid programming so you don’t have to, and listen to the mammoth compendiums they offer to remind you that sometimes the best music can’t be downloaded–it has to be mailed.
A few of the advertorial papers that came with my most recent infomercial-inspired purchase, Midnight Soul: (1) an ad for a $5.95 leather-bound, 22-karat-gold-accented collector’s edition of Huckleberry Finn; (2) an offer for “free Night-time Renewal kit” courtesy of the revolutionary Tempur-pedic Swedish Sleep System; (3) an offer for $15,000 in life insurance with no medical exam and no health questions (if I was 50 or over). It certainly says something about the target market of infomercial-inspired purchasers, or at least Time-Life’s idea of who they might be.
For my own part, I comprise a sample demographic that is being thoroughly ignored in this literature: drunk late-twentysomethings/early-thirtysomethings (I’ll never tell!) who have nothing better to do than while away the wee hours watching television.
Which brings me back to the album that inspired all my mail, Midnight Soul. It seems odd that anyone fool enough to order nine discs of slow jams by artists like Sisqo, Tyrese, En Vogue, and the formidable K-Ci and JoJo would hold even a passing interest in Swedish sleep technology, to say nothing of Huck Finn. Yet here we are, and here I am with my luxuriously boxed set–the set comes wrapped in a white satin ribbon, and the interior resembles golden silk sheets–and I’m struck mostly by how odd this whole process feels, and how wrong it feels to be holding said box and still wearing pants and shoes, as opposed to some sort of silky, golden robe-and-slipper set.
Certainly I had no notion of the awkwardness I would feel on delivery when I pecked my information into Time-Life’s Web site after Midnight Love‘s staggering half-hour infomercial, the likes of which I had not witnessed before in the world of late-night television. To begin with, I did not even realize that music was involved in this advertisement when I first happened upon it. Rather, the sensuous tunes seemed just a complement to the randy conceit on display. Couples, mostly black, gave testimony on comfy couches (holding one another tight, tighter!) of how their love came to be, how much they had in common, how “intimate” they felt toward one another, and how certain songs seemed to enhance that intimacy… to the boiling point! Another couple kept showing up to connect these interviews (also holding on to one another tight, tighter!) and after a while it became clear they were touting some sort of aphrodisiac, some wonderdrug that produced in any test-subject desire, lust, wanton abandon. This product was not some shady cream with a name like “Extendeyore” or “Longeze”; it was a set of ordinary compact discs, albeit discs blessed with the sexiest, freakiest slow jams imaginable.
The box supplied visual confirmation of the sexy that I was about to experience. Each cover featured a couple much like those that appeared in the infomercial, but in a much more heightened state of “intimacy,” their skin almost glistening with lust, their bodies entwined in a position that anyone could tell you was very “late-nite” indeed.
And so, even though it was just the beginning of the evening, hardly time yet for serious lovin’ to go down, I unwrapped (oh my!) the discs and laid them (dang!) in the player before sitting back to enjoy the honeyed sounds (aw yeah!).
Of course, I knew exactly what I was getting: Non-stop seduction in a box, where even the most heartbroken laments (“Unbreak My Heart” by Toni Braxton, “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” by Deborah Cox or, worse yet, Tyrese’s “How You Gonna Act Like That?”) were tempered–indeed, rendered mute–by such self-assured swaggerings as Freddie Jackson’s direct “Do Me Again,” New Edition’s late entry/entreaty “Hit Me Off,” and of course Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up.”
Now, there’s some serious fire on these discs (courtesy D’Angelo, Babyface, and, let’s be honest, Adina Howard is hotttttt!), and some undeniable classics too, but odd choices abound (Montell Jordan? Really?). In the end, the set feels a lot more like some sort of throwback “remember the ’90s” R&B nostalgia trip than a collection of the sexiest of the sexy. (More Sade and D’Angelo might have raised the temperature.) Still, if you’re looking for a collection that includes “Candy Rain” as well as “Maria Maria,” then you are in luck. Just look for the slightly plump middle-aged black couples holding on to one another and radiating “WE MAKE LOVE LIKE YOU CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE” from their very being, and stay tuned for the 800 number that follows.
Perhaps the only serious problem with Midnight Love is that after listening, I had nothing in common with the couples who helped sell me the thing. I had been led to believe this collection was more a sexual aid than anything, and while I was feeling, well, in the mood, and wearing my own version of the silky robe-and-slipper set (I like to call it “my T-shirt and pajama pants,” and it feels pretty sexy in its own way). But I was still white (white! whiter!), and my little taste of honey, the shorty I’ve been waitin’ for, dreamin’ of, thinking about all the freaky ways we could do it every freakin’ night and every freakin’ day in every freakin’ way and stuff, well, she’d gone to bed hours ago.
Midnight Soul [timelife.com]