Single Review: Chaka Khan - Like Sugar | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Single Review: Chaka Khan – Like Sugar

The latest single from 80s legend Chaka Khan is a minimally funky and impressively triumphant return to form, Music Writer David Evans argues

It’s been over a decade since Chaka Khan’s last solo release and, for the most part, her name is one that’s synonymous with the past. Classics such as ‘Ain’t Nobody’, ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘I Feel For You’, iconic in their own right, are mega hits that have come to define Khan as ‘The Queen of Funk’ and are rightfully staple pieces of the 80s decade. 

Switch’s incredibly inventive production work on this record keeps listeners on their toes as each second brings something beautifully fresh

So, after such a dry spell, it’s come as a bit of shock and potentially a worry when Khan announces a new single seemingly out of nowhere. As consistently demonstrated, veteran artists don’t always get things right when trying to bring their music into the present, Sting and Shaggy’s 2018 collaboration 44/876 being a hilarious example of this. Khan, however, has dropped an absolute bomb and undisputedly hit the metaphorical nail on the head.

Produced by Switch of Major Lazer fame, ‘Like Sugar’ is a deceptively simple track, essentially only consisting of two parts- verse and chorus. The whole song is constructed around a single baseline (sampled from Fatback’s 1975 hit ‘Do The Bus Stop’) and each verse is just a lyrical repeat of the last. To be honest, that doesn’t sound like the blueprint for a hit, but Switch’s incredibly inventive production work on this record keeps listeners on their toes as each second brings something beautifully fresh. Every single element, from the baseline to the beat, has been given incredible attention. Whilst the track is in keeping with the straightforward funk sound it’s inspired by, the details have been fine tuned with a multitude of alterations such as pauses, drum fills and sequences to catch the listener out in a way that’s conducive to grinning.

'Like Sugar' is a real testament to Chaka’s pedigree as a vocalist and makes for a popping summer tune
Then there’s Chaka. She only sings about three sentences across the track but my lord does she put a lot into them. It’s hard to express how well her voice fits the classic funk accompaniment, screeching and soaring. It simultaneously harks back to her 80s sound whilst bringing enough variety to make it intensely modern: “Why, with the state that I’m in / Everybody here is dancing /  All I wanna do is get your body next to mine” being a prime example of a line that simply demonstrates Chaka's capability in bringing absolute life and soul to something that could potentially be quite dull.

Read it aloud, listen to the song and hear the difference. Chaka is quite simply a god among mortals in this regard.  Not just a masterclass in production, 'Like Sugar' is a real testament to Chaka’s pedigree as a vocalist and makes for a popping summer tune. Recently, artists such as The Avalanches have shown the commercial success of funk and disco-era sampling brought into a modern framework. Nostalgia is in, disco-funk is booming in dance circles and Chaka looks set to propel herself back into mainstream tastes. If ‘Like Sugar’ is anything to go by, the LP set to follow could be huge. Absolutely Red Hot.

'Like Sugar' by Chaka Khan is available now via Diary Records. 

First year Political Science & International Relations student at UoB. (@dwrevans)



Published

8th August 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

Chrisna Herbst



Share