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[i adore mi a malden] Color Me Badd @ Rain

In 1991, it was hard to avoid C.M.B., the debut record from Oklahoma City quartet COLOR ME BADD. But nobody -- at least nobody my age, anyway -- wanted to avoid it; their sound, an amalgam of bubblegum and R&B,  proved irresistible to girls on the verge of pubescence, especially their hit song "I Wanna Sex You Up." Here they are performing it on Arsenio Hall, wearing white suits identical save for the right arms, which are each a different, bold color.

I'm pretty sure we all wanted to be sexed up, even if we didn't quite know what that meant yet. At the time, we suspected it had something to do with Christian Slater, or Jason Priestley, or Richard Grieco, or maybe even Corey Feldman, at least in my case, anyway. The same year I bought C.M.B. on compact disc, I started junior high. Around that time, I was blown away when I heard my first MIDI file: a stirring rendition of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." I'm trying to make it clear that at that time, not only did we not know better; we knew practically nothing at all. (As Steven Hayden writes in his epic A.V. Club series about '90s Top 40, "Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation," "Being a kid in 1990 wasn’t all that different from being a kid in 2010 save for one massive technological step forward for mankind: the Internet.")

What adult doesn't pine for earlier, more innocent days? This longing accounts for nearly half the product of the entertainment industry, from the Transformers franchise to the Pavement reunion tour. Simon Reynolds may argue that nostalgia is hastening the demise of our dessicated culture, but I haven't yet got around to reading that book, and besides, I like dancing. And that is how, more than 20 years after I bought C.M.B., I found myself with three other grown-ass women on the way to Malden to see Color Me Badd at Rain, a nightclub-cum-bowling alley, a pleasure for which we had paid $15 plus fees. In the weeks leading up to the show, I had walked around humming a strange hybrid of "I Wanna Sex You Up" and Three Times One Minus One's "Ew, Girl, Ew."

On the car ride over from Central Square, speculation abounded: what, exactly, would they sing? As far as I could tell, they only had two songs (in addition to "I Wanna," the soulful, Latin-infused ballad "I Adore Mi Amore"), three if I was being generous ("All for Love").

We were also deeply worried about the turnout: what if nobody else came? What if the Badd boys, brought low by time and fickle fashion, crooned to an empty club? But as soon as we pulled into the Rain parking lot, a giant billboard assuaged our fears.

In the entryway, a 30ish woman posed underneath the event poster as her male friend took pictures. "How else would anyone believe me?" she asked as they flitted through the door. Inside, we were greeted by dozens of women, ranging in age from their late 20s to mid 40s, dressed to be sexed. There were moms in halter tops, moms in tube dresses, moms in shiny spandex Li-Lo leggings. We went up to the bar and ordered the drink we felt would be most appropriate: Cosmos. My friend checked her phone.

"Oh my god," she said. "Whitney Houston died."

We lifted our pink drinks in memoriam.

Soon, a rumor floated throug the crowd: Color Me Badd wouldn't go on until 11:30 pm. Fuck it, we thought, and ordered a round of Midori sours. The DJ started spinning some serious '80s and early '90s jams, including a hideous mashup of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and some indeterminate Eurodisco beat. It was appalling. Do they even know she died? we wondered, sipping our melon liqueur. Then the strippers came out, nubile girls likely born around the time of C.M.B.'s release, wearing underwear and knee-high furry boots. We and the mothers stopped dancing -- stopped completely, all of us -- contemplating our lost youth, I guess. Then Rob Bass' "It Takes Two" lifted us from our dreary reverie.

Around 11:30, we started getting restless. One of my friends posted a message on the CMB Facebook page (CMB has a Facebook page). "Where are you guys?" she wrote. They did not write back.

On the way back from the bar, I was approached by a woman wearing large, speckled plastic glasses and a party dress. She had recognized me as one of her own. 

"Oh my GOD, where ARE they?" she said.

"I don't know," I said. 

"I heard they're going on at midnight," she said.

"Oh no," I said. 

"It's worth it though. I saw Lisa Lisa here a few months ago, and they only were onstage for 15 minutes. But it was worth it for that rush of nostalgia. It's like..." she said, her eyes blazing. "It's the best."

It was at that time that someone shat himself. The DJ was playing the opening strains of the Jock Jams classic "Let Me Clear My Throat" when an unmistakable smell wafted across the room. Throngs of people dispersed, creating a large, empty circle in the middle of the crowded dance floor. We never found the culprit. 

When Color Me Badd finally took the stage, it was after 12:30. The curly-haired one, the one who looks like Kenny G but is bald now and married to that American Idol runner-up, wasn't with them. The three remaining members were fatter, sweatier versions of their younger selves -- as are we all, I guess.

Their first song was the jaunty "All For Love." Although the stage show lacked the pelvic thrusting and stage humping of the C.M.B. salad days, the group has taken to Temptations-style moves more suitable for middle age. The next song they sang was "I Adore Mi Amore." Here is a very poorly shot video (sorry; Midori sours):

With two of their three songs completed, C.M.B. turned to an inferior cover of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" and a new number from their forthcoming record that might have been about Jesus. I did not videotape it for reasons you will understand if you purchase their new record, which I wholeheartedly encourage that you do. 

The Badd boys then pulled up two women from the crowd, one of them in a red corset and an extremely diffident facial expression. They led us in a chant, something along the lines of "2012, the year of C.M.B." They told us to scream. Then the fat one with the hat said the words we'd all been waiting for: "I wanna sex you up."

As you can see from the above video, COLOR ME BADD LIPSYNCHED "I WANNA SEX YOU UP."

<< EDIT: As you can read in the comment section, Kevin Thornton -- KT -- of CMB disputes this claim. Check the video and decide for yourself. Also, KT, I never claimed not to be fat :(  >>

I stopped recording on principle.

This was the single biggest ripoff ever in the history of fake R&B comeback tours. Five hours after we arrived in Malden and $16 poorer, my friends and I piled back into the car without having heard the song we longed to hear, without having achieved the catharsis we so needed. We smelled shit and drank Midori sours and were jostled by slutted-up soccer moms and for what? To see some fat middle-aged guys sing two good songs and lip-synch their only great one. Did that stop us from playing "I Wanna Sex You Up" on the car ride home? No, it did not. 

A wiser woman would discern some bigger lesson from this experience, some greater truth about time's ruin.

I'm not wise.

To understand Saturday's events, I look to words Color Me Badd wrote themselves: "Tick, tock, you don't stop." Indeed. 

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