It’s 1984. For the last four years you’ve been the only bright spot on a struggling Saturday Night Live. Your recent stand up special and starring role in Beverly Hills Cop have made you a household name. You are among the hottest comics in America. You are Eddie Murphy.
What do you do?
If you answered call up Stevie Wonder, Rick James, and your cocaine dealer and put together an R&B record, you would be correct, and you would also have extremely poor judgement.
How Could It Be was Eddie Murphy’s first (yes, there were more...) musical album. Paving the way for future crossover comedy/R&B acts like Jamie Foxx, Wayne Brady, and... well, I think that’s really it, Eddie Murphy decided that since he was so good at one form of creative expression, he probably rocks at all of them.
Spoiler alert: he was wrong.
Sounding at times a bit like someone recording himself singing karaoke, this album alternates between ridiculous and just sort of uncomfortable. This is not to say that Eddie Murphy doesn’t hold his surprises as a lyricist. For example, instead of being a self-aware inquiry in to how he found himself in the music studio as the name might suggest, title track “How Could It Be” actually appears to be an examination of the uncharted emotional territory surrounding the end of a relationship. Innovative. And I bet you’ll never guess what “My God is Color Blind” is about.
Now, this album is not a complete waste. After all there has to be a “Best” component to this Best/Worst, and that component comes in the form of the two tracks where Eddie made the only reasonable decisions to come within a mile of this album: letting Rick and Stevie work. The fifth track, “Party All the Time” is Rick James’ electro-funk at its funkin’ finest. I’ve actually got an original pressing of this track on vinyl that I used to keep in my record bag as a sort of secret weapon when I was spinning parties. That only got busted out one night... but that’s a different story. The closing track, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” is a fantastically arranged upbeat R&B jam that makes me wonder what kind of dirt Eddie had on Stevie back in the day. The funky bass and guitar lines, awesome keyboard work, and killer backup singers combine to make such a strong track that I feel like I could probably sing on it and have it turn out okay.
All in all, this is not a good album. But it’s a fun listen for the novelty factor and the two standout tracks that give you a glimpse into the sort of work two of the all-time great black artists might do on an ill-advised weekend.
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