Saturday, July 14, 2012

"I Can't Get Next To You" By The Temptations

"I Can't Get Next To You" by The Temptations is one of the most joyful songs about unrequited love I've ever heard. Generally unrequited love songs are kind of mopey, and the person singing generally sounds downcast and lovesick. On this cut, the Tempts sound energized by the rejection. If anything, being constantly shot down makes them even more pumped up and determined to win the girl over.

Compare it to their other smash about unrequited love, "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)." On that track, the song's narrator is kind of passive and dreamy. It's just the opposite on "On I Can't Get Next To You," where they are proactive about getting the girl. Their passion is so strong that they feel they can perform miracles: "I can build a castle from a single grain of sand/I can make a ship sail on dry land."

But all their supernatural powers mean nothing without the object of their affection. Hyperbole, a common feature of poetry, is skillfully employed on the song's lyrics. I also dig the tag-team delivery and vocal interplay of the Tempts here. There's a real sense of camaraderie among the five group members, with each Tempt singing a separate line from the song's verses.

The track was penned by the brilliant Motown songwriting team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong. And Whitfield also produced the track. The legendary Funk Brothers provided the instrumentation for the soulful, high-energy groove.

"I Can't Get Next To You" was the lead-off single from the the Temptation's album Puzzle People, released in 1969.  The song was an instant smash. It spent five weeks atop the Billboard Top R&B Singles Chart and was #1 for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is one of the group's best-selling tracks.

Download I Can't Get Next To You at Amazon

Related blog entry: The Temptations Deliver The Funk On Hit "Shakey Ground."

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