10 Years, 100 Songs: #90. “I’ve Been Waiting, Think I Wanna Make a Move”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 19, 2009
There weren’t too many one-hit wonders like “Me & U” this decade, or any other, really. 90-95% of the time, an artist becomes an OHW either because their original hit paints them into a corner, making them forever identified with a song whose novelty was unsustainable, or was riding a trend that had already started to crest, or really just wasn’t good enough to deserve a follow-up. But every soften, you get a one-off that’s just the result of a fantastic set of circumstnaces coming together–the forces of the universe conspiring or the planets aligning or whatever. You don’t even really consider them as one-hit wonders until you look back at the end of the decade and think to yourself, “wow, haven’t heard from them lately.” Because it’s a song that, essentially, seems much better, much more special, than the artist performing it.
Cassie never really struck me as a particularly exceptional talent. She had a nice enough voice but not one so distinctive that you could pick it blind from the radio, and she was cute, but if you tried to picture her in your head, you’d probably just come up with some aggregate compisition of three or four different, cuter, and far more memorable R&B divas of the decade. Not like she ever really stuck around long enough to show us one way or the other, but from “Me & U” alone, you probably wouldn’t be too inclined to try to discover more about her. Especially not when she had already given us “Me & U,” a song so wonderful that you really couldn’t possibly care less what else she–or any other ingenue on the radio, really–had to offer.
Of course, the success of “Me & U” is not even all Cassie’s to take credit for–much of it, if not the great majority of it, has to go to writer/producer Ryan Leslie. Leslie was the man who discovered Cassie (though unsurprisingly, more as a party girl than as a musical prodigy), and having deemed her the feature star of his NextSelection label, he hedged his bets a little on her breakout by giving her one of the great lyrics and beats of the decade to work with on her debut single. As could be heard on his moderately successful solo singles since (“Diamond Girl,” “Addiction,” the latter of which actually features Cassie on the hook), Leslie was a good songwriter and a dynamite producer, but there was something missing–a star quality, or maybe just a totally undeniable hook. Cassie was probably his best bet for a big hit, and he put all his chips on her by giving her “Me & U” to carry.
Of course, it’d be something of a challenge for anyone to screw up a beat this good. Like most of the Timbaland/Danja and Timbaland/Danja-influenced hits that dominated the charts around the time of its release, “Me & U” was centered around a minimal, synth-heavy hook, but unlike those songs, the minimalism wasn’t intended to sound gritty or funky, but just kind of…intimate. It was more lulling than invigorating, more delicate than raw. I remember Timbo saying at the time of his big hits with Nelly Furtado that they were listening to groups like the Police and the Eurythmics for inspiration, but more than any of their collabs, “Me & U” feels like those bands’ best hits to me–mysterious, private, and a little bit weird, but perplexingly compelling. Take away the vocals and it could almost work as a late-90s Aphex Twin or Boards of Canada song, and the instrumental version of the track has since become a mix favorite of mine.
But that’s not to say that Cassie doesn’t get points for the song’s success, either. Leslie’s lyric is the perfect complement for his beat, a come-on song that actually scales back the seduction a surprising degree–really, it’s a song written about the moment before the seduction, still when the relationship is in the hypothetical (tellingly, the video features no male lead at all, just Cassie alone with her potentially scandalous thoughts in a dance studio). Cassie delivers the song quietly and dispassionately, which doesn’t exactly show off her chops, but is just the sort of vocal underplaying that such a gentle, almost naive-sounding love song (“I think I wanna make a move”–Cassie sounds more like she’s scribbling mash notes in her high school notebook than grinding with some dude in a club). It’s so personal-sounding, both musically and lyrically, that it almost felt uncomfortable to witness it on Top 40 radio for all the world to hear, and it made almost everything else that was on at the time sound unbearably obnoxious by comparison.
Interestingly, the song’s So Seductive Remix and its original, low-budget and fairly risque video show what the song would sound and look like if its temptress qualities–which are there, certainly–were brought to its forefront. At this point, the song ceases to be a young girl’s romantic fantasy and turns into a minx’s siren call, now grimy and desperate instead of gentle and yearning. The video, which now features a male lead somewhat more prominently as Cassie takes an anonymous guy (in slightly disconcerting “Smack My Bitch Up”-esque POV) back to her hotel and comes about two steps away from actually fellating him on-screen (in One Night in Paris-esque nightvision), drives this transformation home more than a little bit. Apparently Cassie disavowed the video entirely, preferring the much less scandalous version to be the authoritative take on the song, but it’s actually far more interesting with both existing, and the remix is almost as cool and strange in its own slightly more obvious way.
So why couldn’t I have named a single other Cassie song if my life depended on it before writing this article? Well, with songs like this, you don’t question why the artist was never able to follow it up, but marvel at how lucky they were to cobble it together in the first place. I don’t know whether it was divine intervention or the kinship of all living things that was responsible for it, but for a few months in 2006, “Me & U” made Cassie an immortal.