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Company B – Fascinated

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If you thought Sia donning a platinum blonde fright wig to wrestle back a degree of anonymity was an exciting new pop concept, please think again – Latin freestyle trio Company B were doing it thirty years ago. As concepts for groups go it was sort of brilliant, enabling them to go through seven members in under three years without anyone really noticing – but it’s also rather appalling if you think about it for more than a second.

Emerging from the Miami club scene at around the same time as Exposé, Company B (as in The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From) were part of a growing trend for producer-led pop (in this case Ish “Angel” Ledesma), where the performers were largely secondary to those who made the records (S/A/W being the most notable UK example of this.) They’d be little more than a footnote in dance music history were it not for Fascinated, a record which managed to cross over to the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100, despite being absolute filth and lacking the polish that typified much of the rest of the chart.

 
It’s odd how pop evolves over time – while Fascinated sounded incredibly edgy in the mid 80s,  it went through the 90s sounding hopelessly dated, tinny and cheap. Yet in this century it seems to have regained its charm and relevance. I like to think Lady Gaga was paying homage on LoveGame, where she throws in a very Company B euphemism, swapping their “love toy” for “disco stick.”

Fascinated sounds fantastically seedy, and incredibly minimal; aside from a vocal, synth line and a cowbell, there’s almost nothing to it – which is precisely what makes it so good. It’s both basic and base – built for a night when all you want to do is dance and possibly hook up with a complete stranger.

Latin freestyle was massively popular in America – Exposé, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Sweet Sensation were all huge for a time – but it never really took off in the UK (other than in gay clubs where it emphatically did), with I Can’t Wait by Nu Shooz being one of the few to cross over to the top 10. Instead, the sound was filtered through our homegrown pop stars, with Pet Shop Boys, New OrderFreeez, and Paul Hardcastle all being early adopters. Stock, Aitken and Waterman raided it frequently – if you find yourself with the urge to sing “I’m captivated by your honey” during the chorus, it’s because you’ve noticed that they totally ripped off Fascinated for Bananarama‘s I Can’t Help It.

Company B scored a few more US dance hits but ultimately weren’t part of the massive Latin freestyle chart crossover, which itself petered out in 1992 – but they deserve to be remembered for this one amazing record. Hats (and wigs) off to you, girls.

 

Company-B

Entered chart: 09/05/1987

Chart peak: 89

Weeks on chart: 1

Who could sing this today and have a hit? If Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea fancy doing a Pretty Girls follow-up, they could do a lot worse than this.

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