C+C Music Factory Make You Go Hmmm ...

Sly raps, sexy vocals and lots to ponder in this week's Forgotten Videos
  • Freedom Williams in C+C Music Factory's "Things That Make You Go Hmmm ..."
December 14, 2011 -- 3:51 pm PST
GRAMMY.com

Welcome to Forgotten Videos. For some, these videos are forgotten, for others just filed away, and for others still, a totally brand-new discovery. Whichever category you fall into, each week we'll feature a video that's possibly been collecting dust when what it really deserves is a fresh look. Or vice-versa. … We're not here to judge, we just want to take you on a little trip down memory lane. Yep, you'll remember when hair was really that big, when drums were that up front in the mix, when video was young(er) and so were you.

C+C Music Factory
"Things That Make You Go Hmmm ..."
1991

"Hmmm. …"

Sneaking suspicion never sounded so good or looked so much fun. C+C Music Factory — the catchall group name for producers David Cole and Robert Clivillés, with various collaborators — put themselves on the pop culture map and the pop charts in 1991 with a string of singles from their debut album, Gonna Make You Sweat. The first, "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)," topped the Billboard Hot 100 and was a straightforward call to the dance floor, but "Things That Make You Go Hmm …," also a Top 5 hit, was a tribute to those strange discomforting moments when one realizes that something fishy may be going on. The baby doesn't look like you. Your girlfriend's girlfriend is suddenly acting awfully affectionate. Your new love is strangely quiet about the intensity, and number, of past loves. These are the things that make you wonder, ponder and reconsider — in short, the things that make you go, "Hmmm. …"

The song is built around a playful James Brown groove with sly raps by Freedom Williams and sexy vocals from Zelma Davis, but what truly pulls it all together is the video, which marked a radical departure from the familiar style of the '80s. The smoke machines, soft-focus shots, neon-color schemes, and parachute pants were replaced in favor of a highly stylized 2-D world of black-and-white silhouettes, with a stark, primitive sense of graphic design that seems inspired by the late graffiti artist Keith Haring. There's no mystery in what the video images are supposed to "mean" — they tie in directly to every lyric line. When Williams says, "17 and I was having a ball," we see him wearing a shirt with a giant "17" on it, then he's bouncing a giant ball. But rather than feeling redundant, the video is almost irresistible — it's hard not to feel drawn in by the speed of the images and the inventive twists with which they're presented (when Williams' love tells him he was the first, he delivers that line standing over the "1" of an animated Olympic-style winner's platform).

Williams is a winning on-camera presence; Cole and Clivillés pop up here and there to help the visuals along; and by the end of the tune Davis has morphed into a wide-eyed, many-armed goddess of Hmmm-dom.

C+C never repeated the splash they made with their first album, and Cole died in 1995. However, it's worth noting that a 20-year-old video can still thump along with wit, energy and style, while seeming arguably smarter and fresher than plenty of its contemporaries.

Hmmm. …

What makes you go "Hmmm"? Got any Forgotten Video recommendations? Leave us a comment.

Last week's Forgotten Video. Click on the "Forgotten Videos" tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

Email Newsletter