Diana King – Shy Guy

Bad Boys video:

Original video:

Release Date: Jul 95
Chart Position: 2

“I don’t want no Fly Guy, I just want a shy guy, that’s what I want yeah, you know what I want yeah.”

You and me both Diana. You see, I work in xml publishing, and generally have a Fergie-like recruitment record. I have a knack of spotting good graduate coders that I know will enjoy the thrill of delivering valid, well-formed xml on time and to the needs of the product. Unfortunately once I took a punt on a ‘fly guy’ – a young chap that appeared to enjoy enjoying himself as much as I do. He didn’t last. So these days, like Diana, I like my guys as shy as possible.
What a tune though. The opening acapella vox calls to mind Brownstone’s If you love me or the Acapella remix of Soul II Soul’s Back To Life. You’d be forgiven for assuming this is a standard New Jack Swing, sorry R’nB (its 1995 not 1992) tune. It’s even got that HUGE New Jack Swing guitar sample that I should know but I don’t so please answers in a tweet to @Modernings if anyone knows it.

The break drops, BUT HOLD ON! The riddim is placed square in the 2 and 4 beat. This is Neggae plain and simple. Diana’s half-patois-half-US-soul-chanteuse shtick is beautiful. Clearly an antecedent to Welwyn Garden City’s very own Alesha Anjanette Dixon. Diana King has clearly a cracking set of lungs on her and delivers the song with aplomb. We’ve seen some swingbeat-Neggae abominations on this chart but this isn’t one of them.
Score: I  ♥ DK. 8/10.

What a beauty, we’ve had a pretty good run of late with Supercat, Marley and now a stellar effort from the talented Ms King.
What I really like about this is the video. The exact opposite of UB40, Dawn Penn, some Bitty and some that couldn’t even be bothered to make a video to compliment their offerings. As you can see, no expense was spared by Diana and her producers. We are treated to Will Smith and Martin Lawrence berking around, having a dance off that would be fit for the JazzMine’s fag ashed, Kronenbourg drenched dance floor. Then as the song progresses, we are treated to a Hollywood film of sorts condensed into 4m21s. Action packed from start to finish, everything we need:

  • Guns
  • Fire
  • Police helicopters
  • Main character running open shirted with gun
  • Fast cars on runway with plane about to take off (high speed chase of sorts)
  • Mike Lowery jumping on a taxi
  • Bad guy doing a Klinsmannesque headfirst dive on the mens room floor, skidding past some urinals
  • Exploding buildings

Needless to say, I was impressed with Diana’s planning and execution of this visual treat to go along with a stunning vocal performance.
Onto the song.
It starts strong, great pace and has me head bobbing from the beginning. I was put into a groove straight away, a good groove, a fun groove, a non-UB40 groove. Her island stylee voice is a treat, clear and crisp delivery, JA tones that are easily deciphered throughout this joyous voyage of Neg. Her voice ranks up there with anyone I’ve listened to. So smooth that you need to listen to this in the sun, kicking back, feet up with a Malibu and Lilt on a beautiful beach in Jamaica or Litten Tree beer garden/car park which was my alternative.
So, how do we score this ‘un? I thoroughly enjoyed this Bad Boy (pun intended) from start to finish. I was entertained mainly by Diana’s sweet vocals, excellent rhythm and pace of this tune. The videos was a plus.
Score: Put me down for a 8.5/10

James BC
I seem to have joined the neggae blog in a bit of a slow patch. The last top ten hit was Here Comes The Hotstepper from January ’95 and it’s taken until now, six months later in neggae time, to reach another one. What’s more, both these songs had a film soundtrack connection, strongly suggesting that the public lust for skank was in a slump: songs that would have been number 1 for a month in 1993-94 needed a Hollywood push just to go top five a year later.
All that is irrelevant when it comes to Shy Guy, though, because it would have been a smash hit in any era. It is an immense pop song that once listened to will be in your head for days – whenever one bit stops buzzing round your brain another will pop in to replace it. The number of hooks is outrageous: the verses, bridge, chorus and middle 8 could each carry a track in their own right.
(If you’re watching on Youtube, make sure you find the original video rather than the Bad Boys one or you’ll miss out on the “Shy man I wanna hear you” bit, one of many highlights. Instead you’ll get a weirdly empty instrumental section and a lot of clips of comedians reaching for pixellated-out guns.)
However, despite the hatstand full of hooks and a pioneering vocal performance that switches effortlessly between patois toasting and RnB singing like a proto-Lauryn Hill, I find that I like Shy Guy rather than love it – I respect it, but I can’t embrace it like I do the true neggae classics. It’s very much an American take on the form, its production a little too smooth and stringy, its lack of brass potentially fatal. It’s the Man City of neggae: the quality is undeniable but its success seems like such a forgone conclusion that I can’t get completely excited about it.
Score: A solid 8 out of 10, but for me it lacks the bit magic needed to go higher.

I actually find myself having little time for the bling neg/jazz affair and the inclusion of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in this Diana King effort ironically entitled Shy Guy is a little laughable. I don’t find it does much for the movement but only dilutes the credibility of reggae through this important era. I find it pretty non-offensive and perfectly acceptable as background tunage, but further than that would not and still don’t pay much attention to it vs. the rest of the hot list.
I find it a real bandwagon effort to leverage the commercial success of Bad Boys and why we need a further advertisement of Will and Martin is beyond me? It’s got all the elements to a good track, it peaks and troughs, builds throughout and has some pretty strong delivery from Diana King, but I find it all too soulless to find it appealing. The real knife to the gullet is then the trade mark Will and Martin jokey dancing including classics such as stirring the pot and the running man. Genius!
I think she did a version of Stir It Up for Cool Runnings which implies to me that at the beginning of her career she did little more but hang around studios sniffing out potential soundtracks, actually pretty smart from a business perspective, but loses credibility as an artist in my book.
Score: I hope I cheer up and don’t kill myself today – 4/10 from me.

This week’s offering is from Diana King, who’s something of pioneer in the Jamaican music scene by being openly gay, not sure what Shabba Ranks made of it? I get the impression it was only men he objected to although his religious justification is sound, I’m sure we all know John 3:17 ‘and thou shall make countless records boasting of sexual prowess’, but props to Diana for coming out you brave, beautiful, beanflicker you.
I’m sure neggae elders of the past would argue this is more RnB than Neggae but I think the fact there is Steel Drums and a skanking bass put it firmly in the church of Neg. The intro is a nice neg/hip hop crossover sampling the Average White Bands ‘Schoolboy Crush’ (A hip hop staple since being used by Eric B and Rakim) with a skanking beat. Diana then kicks in with the vocals which carry on the hip hop links as they were previously used by N.W.A (interestingly the same acronym is used by the Crystal Palace hooligan firm – Nigels With Axes). Throughout the song Diana demonstrates her impressive vocal flexibility by switching between toasting and more conventional RnB stylings, backed by the tight production of Andy Marvel it’s a heady combination of New York and Kingston riddims. Lyrically the jist of the song is that Diana is fed up of being pursued by Alpha male types and all they do is give it the big I am and can’t be trusted. She’s after a Wolowitz basically, someone who’s going to treat her right and not mess her about. Of course we know now that this isn’t strictly true but in the crazy world of pop anything goes, Freddie Mercury sang of his lust for Fat bottomed Girls whilst Elton John asked Kiki Dee not to break his heart and then got married to a woman, Rupaul!
The video includes scenes of the film this was on the original soundtrack for, the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ spin off ‘Bad Boys’ which followed the exploits of Will and Carlton after they left college and joined the police. Going by the clips from the film it seems a policeman’s lot in Miami isn’t a bad one at all, sports cars, helicopters, nightclubs, women and blowtorches. I don’t remember Reg Hollis in ‘The Bill’’ getting any of these perks, mind you Reg Hollis was a little bit suspect. As this is a Fresh Prince spin off there’s the obligatory shots of Carlton and Will dancing interspersed with Diana in front of some of her biggest fans. The end of the video is classic Carlton as he and Will walk off the set and he can’t resist a bit of stupid dancing, the only real disappointment is there’s no footage of Uncle Phil throwing Jazzy Jeff out the front door.
Score: Overall this scores a regal 8/10 from me.



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