If you’ve heard Latto’s swaggering track “Big Energy” — and after 30 weeks on the Hot 100, you probably have — you likely spotted more than a passing resemblance to Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit “Fantasy.” That’s because both songs borrow a groove from Tom Tom Club’s genre-defying smash 1981 hit “Genius of Love.”
Starting out as a side project for Talking Heads members Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, Tom Tom Club recorded a single, “Wordy Rappinghood,” when they took a break to let loose at Compass Point, the Island Records studio in the Bahamas. Island founder Chris Blackwell liked the song so much he sent Weymouth and Frantz back to the studio to make “Genius of Love” (with the help of some reggae luminaries — the engineer Steven Stanley and the famed duo Sly and Robbie).
The original “Genius of Love” mashed up funk, New Wave, disco, and rap, capturing the diverse sounds of 1980s downtown New York City and shouting out their musical influences in the process. From there, the song wended its way through hit after hit, from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “It’s Nasty” to Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.” Why does “Genius of Love” continue to spark musicians’, and audiences’, imaginations 40 years after its release? Tune in to the latest episode of Switched on Pop to find out.