Sometimes when all the creative stars align just right, a song written and performed by two beloved, multi-talented veteran artists meets the sociopolitical moment in unimaginably provocative ways.
With a vibe resonating like an update of the classic atmosphere drenched 70’s soul of Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack and Isaac Hayes, “What Do You Think of That?” finds former Tempations lead singer Louis Price and keyboardist Starr Parodi - who wrote and produced the song with Starr’s husband and musical partner Jeff Fair - following up their fresh, soul-deep re-imagining of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” by speaking volumes about this crazy, divisive, pandemic ridden world we’ve been inhabiting in this strange, seemingly parallel universe of 2020.
After drawing us in with slowly seductive percussion, a touch of vibraphone and an in your face synth vamp that punctuates throughout the track, the duo’s words boldly address our current challenges from the get go: “You’re running fast, you can’t catch up/The cards are stacked, you’re out of luck…why is this for real…”
Easing deftly into the irrepressible soul piercing hook, Price and Parodi fashion the contemporary equivalent of Gaye’s What’s Going On with the pointed question: “What do you think of that?” Several of the lyrical couplets that follow in the chorus and verse (“A lot of crazy in the air/Signs and symptoms of little care” and “You read the news, it gives you the blues”) might work for any fraught time in history, but at this moment it’s as if the duo is holding up a mirror and asking us not only what we think, but what we’re going to do personally and collectively to make enduring, meaningful changes that make a difference.
Production wise, Parodi lays a classic old school soul-jazz foundation with her vintage snakeskin (not real snakeskin, she assures us) covered Fender Rhodes, and the wafting echoes of “I wanna know, I wanna know” rolling off Price’s poignant main question add a rich emotional texture. While radio may jump on the single version, listeners will get the full impact from the nearly six-minute extended mix, which includes a fascinating an extended a capella vocal interlude (with multiple layers all created by Price) after the second chorus which may prompt you to sing along with anthem-like passion.
This colorful element of the remix is followed by the spirited jazzy dazzle of Parodi’s Fender Rhodes solo – and towards the end of the tune, there’s a minute-long outro where Price riffs off and improvises lines above the song’s main vamp and even more colorful Rhodes energy by Parodi.
Though “What Do You Think of That?” was originally penned to address the topic of gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, as it is said, to every thing there is a season – and it speaks even better to our fraught moment in the present.
It’s an invitation to confront our attitudes towards pain, suffering and injustice of any kind – and hopefully, for those who take it to heart, like any socially conscious classic in pop music history, a musical springboard prompting meaningful action.