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Shannon - Let The Music Play (1983)

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  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 1.68
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“Let the Music Play” is a song recorded by American singer Shannon for her 1984 debut studio album of the same ...

“Let the Music Play” is a song recorded by American singer Shannon for her 1984 debut studio album of the same name. The song, written by Chris Barbosa and Ed Chisolm, and produced by the former and Mark Liggett, was released on October 24, 1983 as her debut single and as the lead single from the Let the Music Play album.

“Let the Music Play” was the first of Shannon’s four number ones on the US Dance Club Songs chart, reaching the top spot in October 1983. It also became a huge crossover hit in the US, peaking at number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (behind Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew”) and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1984. It was Shannon’s only Top 40 hit in the States. Some mark “Let the Music Play” as the beginning of the “dance-pop” era.

“Let the Music Play” was ranked 43rd on the 2009 VH1 Special 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s. The song also appears in the video games, Dance Central 3 and Scarface: The World Is Yours.


The original version of the song was produced by Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa. By the early 1980s, the backlash against disco had driven dance music off mainstream radio stations in the US. The rhythmic ingenuity of “Let the Music Play” was largely due to Barbosa, who wrote and arranged the original demo track. Rob Kilgore played all the instruments on this seminal track. It featured a series of keyboard chords and drum patterns produced by gating a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Specifically, a reverb was placed across the kick and snare and hard gated to change the sounds. Further, it was one of the first tracks to sync together a TR-808 and a Roland TB-303 bassline, notorious in later years for the instrument responsible for creating acid house. The TB-303 plays the bassline for the entire song; however, in this case, the filter is not adjusted, which was typical for acid house music. This technical achievement made the production even more groundbreaking, and it also resulted in a unique sound, called “The Shannon Sound”, which in time came to be known as freestyle. The Prophet-5 is used for the hookline and sound effects. The vocal on the chorus is sung by session guitarist/vocalist, Jimi Tunnell, who was uncredited. Shannon sings the answering line but it is Tunnell who sings the “let the music play” hook.

Music video

The music video for the release was directed by British director Nigel Dick and premiered in November 1983. The video shows Shannon in a dressing room applying make-up as if she is getting ready for a performance. She then makes her way to the stage of an empty theater where she proceeds to dance and sing the song. Interspersed throughout these scenes are shots of male and female dancers fashioned in dress shirts and bow ties warming up. The dancers join Shannon by the second chorus of the song, and, near the end, one of the dancers proceeds to take her in his arms and dance with her. The video ends with the dancers doing a choreographed routine while Shannon continues singing.

Impact and legacy

VH1 listed “Let the Music Play” at number 24 in their list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs in 2000.

Blender put the song at number 465 in their list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born in 2005.

Slant Magazine ranked the song number 54 in its 100 Greatest Dance Songs-list in 2006, adding:

“Alongside Madonna’s “Holiday,” D.C.-born Jazz vocalist Brenda Shannon Greene’s “Let the Music Play” helped redefine dance music in the anti-disco early-’80s, setting the stage for the troubled genre for the next decade. Producers Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa, considered one of the founding fathers of Latin freestyle, merged the then-hip electro-funk sound with Latin rhythms, unwittingly creating the world’s first freestyle song.”

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