VALENCIA. Grace Jones She is the kind of woman who scares some men. Those who are like Pablo Motos or Santiago Abascal, for example. His power doesn’t just come from a supernatural-looking physique – the feline gaze, the radiant black skin – it’s also intrinsically linked to his personality. Grace Jones, born Grace Mendoza in Spanish Town, Jamaica 71 years ago, is the result of the alliance between a fierce instinct and an indomitable intellect. Her modeling work was what made her known, but her greatest success was molding herself into a work of art. This process began forty years ago, when on May 9, 1980, Warm Leatherette. Although it was his fourth album, it was with it that he made his first sound and visual contribution with a view to altering the course of pop music. He presented his new incarnation creatively instigated by his then partner, the photographer and designer. Jean-Paul Goude. His gaze sharpened his gifts: a defiant expression, a Marine haircut, the shoulder pads of the Issey Miyake sharpening his androgyny. Grace Jones took this photograph pregnant with her son Paulo.
The cover photo existed before the record was recorded. Businessman Chris Blackwell and the producer Alex sadkin They greeted her with a suggestion: Make a record that sounds like this photo. Grace Jones came from disco music, a style in which the performers brought voice and charisma, but where creative merit was always associated with producers. In 1979 the disco music it had reached its commercial and creative peak. Despite the fact that it was always a far more inclusive and risky musical stream than rock fans were willing to acknowledge, Jones felt like he was at a dead end. He wanted to evolve and to achieve this he put himself in the hands of Blackwell, owner of the Island Records label, who had spread the Jamaican sounds around the world through Bob Marley. Blackwell just built a recording studio in the Bahamas. I wanted to give it an identity by creating a team of session musicians that would give a spirit of their own to the artists who recorded there, something similar to what teams like the Wrecking Crew, the Chic Organization or the Stax label had done. Blackwell, entrusted to the rhythmic tandem formed by Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare the cadence of that bet. He then proposed to Jones that he enhance his Jamaican roots, that he merge that tradition with musical currents such as electronics or funk. The seventies were crying out for a goodbye. Grace Jones was one of the female figures who helped define what would be the richest and most creative stretch of the eighties.
Grace Jones had become known as a malleable material for photographers and couturiers -Miyake, Helmut Newton– and producers –Tom Moulton– but everything he did had his personality. A few years ago she complained that all the female stars today – Gaga, Perry, Cyrus, even Madonna– They have something of her but none of them have molded their own style, which Jones did. During her first years of modeling for agencies such as Ford and Wihelmina, she lived in Paris, revolutionizing the nights of the city in the company of her roommates and agency, Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall. Later, the jump to New York to mutate into a sophisticated singer, famous for her disco reading of Through rose-colored glasses, and reign in Studio 54. She cultivated her man-eater image to such an extent that a man tried to handcuff her ankle during a performance. The fierce and menacing look also permeated his new way of playing. It was she who proposed to Blackwell to sing as if reciting, expressing all or nothing, channeling her passion as if the voice were just another instrument. The artist was so clear about her potential that she would declare: “Only I sing like that and only I can make a Grace Jones record.” Warm Leatherette it marked one of the smartest and most celebrated artistic twists in popular music.
The album had several compositions from rock, signed by Tom Petty, Chrissie Hynde O Bryan Ferry -Even a song of Joy Division for a B- side, which the team transformed at will. However, the title topic was a single electronic music independent released in 1978 and signed by The Normal, which turned the erotic and mechanical fantasy of Crash from J.G. Ballard. Jones liked that analogy, sex seen as a car accident, already made it his own. It was the first song recorded in the Compass Point sessions, and it marked the way forward for the sophisticated mutation that would be the album. In the hands of Jones, Private Life it became the Caribbean piece that Chrissie Hynde fancied it to be, and provided its singer with the first hit single in England, a market that celebrated her songs thereafter. Her presentation on English television made it very clear who Grace Jones was. The condescending tone of the presenter Russell Harty He ended up fed up with the star, who hit him in the middle of the interview when he began to pay more attention to another guest.
In the performance that closes that same program – a playback of Love Is The Drug with a live voice – the artist takes off her leather jacket and reveals a plastic cuirass, one of the elements that would emphasize her image as a living work of art. Warm Leatherette was the first fruit of the so-called Compass Point trilogy, which culminated a year later with Nightclubbing and ended in 1982 with Living My Life-, which developed in parallel with the artistic symbiosis that was established with her partner. Goudé made it the preferred subject of his photography. The challenge was mutual, she allowed herself to be done as a model and the photographer accepted the challenge of turning into art the daring that radiated from her body and mind. Grace Jones became a cubist woman, a mannequin in the service of constructivism, a living design of Sonia Delaunay, at a Bauhaus celebration. And also, as it was presented by the show that Goude directed, in a one-man show. Androgynous, defiant, exotic, eager for risk, the Grace Jones who gave the most to pop music, photography and the image in general, was also born with Warm Leatherette and its hypnotic cover.
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Grace Jones: In Praise of the Cubist Woman