Benjamin Race feat. Donna Odain Present “Memories”

Maybe you’ve got memories of the 1980s. You remember the decade’s sound, the gloss, the warmth, the sophistication, the soul. You recall the harmonic subtlety of the composition and the passion of the performances. You remember the silky textures of the electronic percussion, the soft-focus synthesizers, the smoky saxophone solos. You know the hits by heart — pop sweet enough for kids, but smart enough for grownups.

But even if you’re too young to have been there, it’s a good bet that you know what it was all about. That’s because the sound of the ’80s has never quite gone away. It’s still the gold standard for pop songwriters and recording artists. On “Memories,” his latest confection, the celebrated UK soul producer Benjamin Race has captured the sound, right down to the last day-glo flourish. For the new single, a follow-up to the underground hit “Take You Home” [20K+ YouTube views], Race got personal guidance from ’80s rhythm master Jimmy Jam. He’s learned his lessons well.

It’s all here; the gleaming major sevenths, the gentle but propulsive beats, the elastic bass and gleaming chords struck on Oberheim synthesizers, the danceable mid-tempo groove, and, of course, a winning ride from a reed man. Race has also brought in a ringer to bring his nostalgic vision to life — the accomplished R&B singer Donna Odain, who graces this track with a vocal that feels simultaneously contemporary and timeless. Verse by verse and line by line, she draws us into the dream.

A song that demonstrates such devotion to pop like it was made in the ’80s deserves a throwback video and Benjamin Race has delivered a clip saturated with the colors, textures, and the sultry mood of MTV back in its heyday. We’re shown a CRT television in a wood-paneled den, and on it, video game sports cars streak through Miami Vice-era towers toward a digital sun. Odain, wearing hot pink lipstick to suit the occasion, is bathed in radiant magenta and aqua neon lights. As dancer Belinda Wood allows her tresses to be swept up by the breeze that always seemed to blow through ’80s videos, drummer Pascal Consoli keeps time on a vintage Simmons electronic drum kit. Naturally, the whole video is preserved for posterity on the reels of a Kisho cassette player.

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