Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s Frankie Knuckles’ “It’s a Cold World” 12-inch. Listen to the song below, buy the MP3 and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
At about midnight on Saturday, I was at a Chinese restaurant banquet hall looking at a very red haired girl I used to work in an office with. I never talked to her except for occasionally in the hallway or elevator. Extra quiet, she seemed more like a young teenager than a new adult. At the Chinese restaurant, she was wearing all black, her hair pulled back tight in a ponytail, though still red. She was with a man, his arm around her. He too was in all black, leather. The walked in unison, a rebel pair. Her shoulder tote bag was black with white writing that said “Fuck you.” This, I found to be terribly offensive. Onstage, a so-so band played a cover of “It’s a Cold World,” a song by Frankie Knuckles. I sang along before I realized it. “This is a Frankie Knuckles cover,” I said to my friend. “I just spent a bunch of money on this record.” He seemed genuinely interested to know that. We left just after. I have no idea if the girl recognized me.
The next day I woke up in a bad mood, so I sat in my bed and watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Have you seen it? I’d like to be Brad Pitt. Around the second hour, there is a moment where he and Cate Blanchett are standing in front of a wall of mirrors in a dance studio. He grabs her and says something like “these times won’t last,” which is true for us all, but especially true for a couple where one partner ages upwards and the other down. But in that moment they are so beautiful, skin and hair glistening, souls glistening, a perfect moment of radiance. Then she tells him she is pregnant and instead of the topsy-turvy twist you expect, there is just buttery joy. Beautiful people in nice clothes, well lit and with great news. It’s not a small wish to be Brad Pitt as a weird aging, fictional character from New Orleans, I understand, but if somehow I could be sucked into the movies and exist only for the film’s duration of two hours and 40 minutes I most certainly would trade my regular life of Fuck You bags and house music covers. They fit a whole life into two hours and 40 minutes. After the film ended, I tried on some of my clothes to see if I could make a proxy of an outfit or two he wore. I’ll need more chambray, it seems.
I would consider being Frankie Knuckles. He has a street named after him, you know. “The Godfather of House Music” Frankie Knuckles Way. I would live on my own street. “House music,” as a category, came to be defined by the music played at The Warehouse, a Chicago dance club in the mid-’80s. Frankie Knuckles was just making R&B. “It’s a Cold World” is a collaboration with Jamie Principle, a singer Knuckles worked with frequently. Their song “Your Love” is the basis for the mega-smash Animal Collective song, “My Girls,” a song which has very little to do with house. “Baby Wants to Ride” sounds like low budget gay horror film music. “It’s a Cold World” may be their most direct R&B follow through, Principle’s mighty moan and Knuckles’ soft synths. But it’s just so sad. Listen to the children/ They’re crying Jamie whispers towards the end of a song entirely about heartbreak. He does not sound happy, nor, apparently, do the children.
Look at this picture of Frankie Knuckles with Barack Obama. Is it possible Obama has the bigger smile? He’s from Chicago. He’s probably been on Frankie Knuckles Way. Maybe Benjamin Button Me could get a house there, don’t know how well I’d do in the South.