Rapture – Anita Baker (1986)
Peak position: #11
- “Sweet Love” (#8)
- “Caught Up in the Rapture” (#37)
- “Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year)” (#44)
- “No One in the World” (#44)
Anita Baker was a throwback to the old chanteuses of the 1940s, right down to the cocktail dresses she wore in her videos. For 1986, it was a risky move; most divas like Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin had established themselves with an upbeat pop-rock sound sprinkled with ballads.
Which is why Rapture‘s success was out of the blue; it was an anachronism, employing a jazzy, quiet-storm sound that only Sade had struck gold with. Rapture is pure rapture, from the opening chords of “Sweet Love” to the cautious “Watch Your Step,” lasting just over 37 minutes.
Rapture was Baker’s second album. The first was the aptly named The Songstress, which featured Baker’s mature voice but tended to wander aimlessly. To combat this, she employed an army of songwriters, including Rod Temperton of “Thriller” fame and David Lasley, writer of the 1979 hit “Lead Me On.” And the songs show a marked improvement in quality.
“Sweet Love,” the opening track, is the breakout song on Rapture, an unlikely Top 10 hit with complex chord structures and a difficult melody. But it gives Baker a chance to showcase her unusually powerful voice that passes into falsetto effortlessly. “Caught Up in the Rapture” is smoky; you can imagine having a few drinks in a smoky bar while Baker scats the intro.
Baker brings joy
The album’s most powerful moment is the second track, “You Bring Me Joy.” Baker sings the title almost a capella. Soon, drums pick up the pace. Her voice builds as well, and you actually hear the joy expressed in Baker’s voice as she moves into the high register during the bridge. “I just love you, I just — I love you!” Baker expresses as if she’s unable to come up with the right words to describe her emotion.
There’s not a bad track on the album. It could easily be dismissed as a mood album, something to put on in your apartment while you drink wine and try to seduce your partner. But Baker meshes with her band so well that at times, you stop the seduction and listen — just listen to the beauty expressed on some tracks.
“Same Ole Love (365 Days a Year)” tends to get cliched (“Flashbacks of the times we’ve had / Some made us laugh and some made us sad”), but its celebration of the familiarity of long-term relationships is warm and genuine. And the heartachingly beautiful “Watch Your Step,” penned by Baker herself, features diminished chords that fall into place. It’s satisfying, despite Baker’s complaint that “I don’t understand your thinking / Don’t know why you do the things you do.” It’s a curious ending to such a romantic album.
Baker surprised the pop music world by sticking around for several years; her album Giving You The Best That I Got was more of the same torch songs that gave her the initial success. And her songs can still set the mood for a romantic evening.