The best thing about “I Wanna Sex You Up” is its bounce – the first swingbeat Number One (and so the first modern R’n’B number one in some sense) is full of springy confidence. Compare it to the New Kids’ hits from a year or so before and this is an altogether slicker proposition – the boyband and street music elements on those records were awkwardly cut together, whereas “I Wanna Sex You Up” feels unitary. The beat and samples here mesh with the crooning and pleading, and the whole thing feels deliciously light. At its heart New Jack Swing was an updating of doo-wop – groups of kids standing on imaginary corners, harmonising, playing off each other, serenading passing girls. And “I Wanna Sex You Up” has some of the weightlessness of doo-wop – that repeated “woo-oo-oo-oo-ooOOoo” hook an anti-grav belt round the song’s waist.
It also has a rather unfortunate title. Not because it’s too frank, mind you. I’ve seen the argument that the shift in pop away from coded mentions of sex to explicit ones has meant a decline in creativity: songwriters used to have to work harder and more poetically if they wanted to bring desire to life. That may be true, but the coded songs also helped spare blushes: metaphor was the lightswitch in pop’s bedroom. In any case, the problem with Color Me Badd’s track – if any – is the mismatch between title and delivery. The group sing the song like pleading kids who are trying out the word “sex” as much as planning to do anything about it, which gives “I wanna sex you up” its mildly ludicrous tint. (The lyrics wander further off-message with the very odd “we can do it till we both wake up”). But this shouldn’t detract from a breezy pop song, a wad of bubblegum which anticipates a host of boyband tracks for the next two decades, and betters most of them.