Marvin (Penze) Gaye Phyl Garland - Essay

Phyl Garland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[On "Midnight Love"] Gaye concentrates on music that, he admits, is intended to be superficial and commercial. The lyrics are obviously trite and at times downright abominable; all of the worn-out sexual references are expressed in the unimaginative terms that have branded commercial funk as an aggressively anti-intellectual medium. But Gaye as an artist could not fail to produce an album that tingles with musical excitement. Sexual Healing, the first single released from this set, engagingly fuses reggae rhythms with soul references. Midnight Lady has contrived, campy lyrics yet reverberates to offbeat rhythm patterns and unexpected chord changes. Some tracks have no redeeming qualities—Rockin' After Midnight and Joy are so thuddingly banal as to be take-offs on the usual funk fare—but Gaye's artistry shines through. He plays most of the instruments and does all the singing, and, if the content isn't all that we would like to hear from him after a prolonged silence, it is enough to reassure us that he has not lost his basic appeal. After all, it hasn't been just what Marvin Gaye has said that has drawn us to him, it's also been the way he says it.

Phyl Garland, in her review of "Midnight Love," in Stereo Review (copyright © 1983 by Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), Vol. 48, No. 3, March, 1983, p. 99.