In Random Tracks, I’m reviewing a random hit song from any point in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 going from the chart’s beginning in 1958. To make my site more interactive, if you like what I’m doing comment and let me know what random hit song you want me to review.
Ray Parker Jr.- “The Other Woman”
PEAKED: #4 on June 12, 1982
The rise of MTV in the early ‘80s is often seen as one of pop music’s most exciting moments along the lines of the 1964 arrival of the Beatles in America. Music videos had existed before MTV came along in August 1981 but it was now the driving force. Soon after MTV’s launch, it was a requirement for many artists to create visual representations of their songs to keep up with this new order and remain relevant.
Outside of providing some entertaining and cutting edge visuals of our favorite songs, MTV proved to be a force of good in terms of pop music in the ‘80s kicking out a lot of the drippy easy listening and soft rock that had dominated the charts in the immediate beginning of the decade towards more exciting-sounding new wave and synth-pop sounds. Yet despite these benefits, there’s always been an ugly side to the beginning of MTV mainly that it intentionally excluded Black artists from their channel early on.
The initial idea for MTV was that it would be the TV equivalent of a rock station and that the artists’ race didn’t matter as long as they fit their rock format. Of course, by the early ‘80s, rock music meant mostly white artists so that’s what flew on MTV for its first few years. When MTV premiered, most Americans still didn’t have cable television and those that did were mostly white people in the suburbs that the network targeted in their rock-centric format. Eventually, the network began to get called out for this exclusion by many before the release of Michael Jackson’s 1982 album Thriller and his single “Billie Jean” broke through the MTV color barrier helping to redefine MTV.
But several months before that, an actual rock song from a Black artist had been a big hit with the solo debut of Ray Parker Jr. and his silly ode to infidelity complete with an equally silly music video that in a more perfect world should have been a major MTV hit.
“The Other Woman” came shortly after the breakup of Raydio, the R&B group Parker had created, who scored several Top 10 hits during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. In fact, when Raydio broke up they had just scored their biggest Hot 100 hit with the breezy synth-driven uptempo love jam “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)” which peaked at #4 in 1981. (It’s a 6.) Parker wasted no time on his solo career releasing his first album The Other Woman in 1982 and its title track becoming a Top 5 hit matching the peak of #4 he had with Raydio.
In “The Other Woman,” Ray Parker Jr. describes himself as an average guy who fools around a little on the side without thinking about the larger implications. His life was fine until he starts seeing a girl who blows his mind as their one-night stand turns into a larger romance. He knows he shouldn’t cheat but can’t help himself to the point where he doesn’t care that his friends are laughing at him. He confesses that this particular affair is special and gets him so filled with ecstasy that it makes him want to play his guitar all night long.
Most songs about cheating are often delivered with a sense of tension or acknowledgment of the dangers of the situation. Ray Parker Jr. doesn’t do any of that. Instead, he delivers the song in a flirty and playful style that makes him sound like he totally enjoys cheating on his girlfriend. It’s like cheating gives him a high like what teenagers feel when they do reckless activities. You may know it’s wrong but you can’t resist doing it. So lyrically “The Other Woman” is a stupid song but it’s a fun type of stupid song.
It also helps that the song sounds fun as well. Ray Parker Jr. had spent over a decade in the music industry up to this point starting out as a top session guitarist playing on many hit songs through the ‘70s and he brings that professionalism to “The Other Woman.” Parker plays the entire rhythm section on the song of guitar, bass, and drums along with a couple of session players and backing vocalists. Everyone on the song kills their parts: the opening drum crack, the heavy guitar playing, the mocking saxophone riff on the chorus and solo, the catchy call and response of the backing vocalists. It comes out as a slight but enjoyable piece of early ‘80s rock.
Adding to the song’s silliness is its music video. In it, we see Parker and his girlfriend on a date walking together through a haunted cemetery. A female vampire rises up scaring his girlfriend away as the vampire seduces Parker taking him into the haunted house. Soon enough, Parker transforms into a goofy and horny vampire as a group of scary creatures gathers and dance together in a circle. We also get some funny shots in between with a Frankenstein creature playing the saxophone, Parker singing to a skeleton, and Parker as a vampire playing his guitar solo while trying his best to give off a scary face. It all makes for a fun watch.
I can’t find much information about the song or its video aside from the fact that one of the women, Patricia Kotero, had a successful career in show business that included collaborating with Prince and starring in his Purple Rain movie. Because of this lack of information, I don’t know if it got any MTV play though considering the situation at the time I don’t think so. You will notice the girls who appear with Parker are all white which I’m assuming was done to increase its chances to get on MTV though probably not by much.
Watching the music video and listening to the song, you can easily see the blueprints for what would become his signature song a couple of years in “Ghostbusters.” It’s all there with the not serious goofy delivery, the Halloween imagery, the call and response vocals, and the mocking riffs. Nowadays, you don’t hear “The Other Woman” that much anymore and you can see why. It’s not a song that’ll change anyone’s lives but it’s nice to know that in an era of musical racism Ray Parker Jr. was able to drop a fun and silly jam that manages to rock hard with a funny video to boot.
BONUS BEATS: Since “The Other Woman” hasn’t left much of a cultural impact, here’s Ray Parker Jr. performing the song at the 2014 Temecula Wine Festival where he still sounds the same as he did in 1982. Here’s the video: