Friday Song: “Plastic”
P.M. Dawn was a melodic hip-hop and R&B act that broke big in the early 1990s and seemed destined for greatness. Their first two albums were critically and commercially successful, yet they faded into oblivion before the decade was out despite their music consistently receiving critical acclaim. A more overt tilt into religiosity may have contributed to their commercial struggles.
Known for songs like “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss,” “Looking Through Patient Eyes,” and “I’d Die Without You,” the group consisted of brothers Attrell Cordes (known as “Prince Be” or “Prince Be the Nocturnal”) and Jarrett Cordes (known as “DJ Minutemix”).
The brothers formed P.M. Dawn in 1988, funding their first demo tape with $600 Attrell had earned through his job as a night security guard at a homeless shelter.
Initially rejected by US labels as too similar to other groups or not hardcore enough, the group turned to the UK to find success, releasing a few tracks, finding commercial traction, and ultimately being courted by Island Records.
“Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” has the honor of being the first #1 hit in the Billboard Hot 100 after the introduction of Nielsen SoundScan to the chart.
“Plastic” is a deeper cut off the group’s The Bliss Album? . . ., which included multiple hits, a cover of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” and the song “So On and So On,” which became a bellwether in sampling lawsuits (Island Records and P.M. Dawn prevailed).
Proving that fact is stranger than fiction, there’s a remarkable video of P.M. Dawn performing “More Than Likely” with Boy George at Disneyworld.
Prince Be suffered a massive stroke in early 2005 which left him paralyzed on his left side. Undeterred, P.M. Dawn appeared on NBC’s Hit Me, Baby, One More Time, performing “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss.” Despite the effects of the stroke, they won the $20,000 charitable prize, which they contributed to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as Prince Be was diabetic. He died of renal failure in 2016.
The melodies, message, and delivery of “Plastic” all land well. It’s a great song about disrespecting those who bend to the winds of the time or the wills of others. Every time I hear the song, I’m reminded of two talented siblings who seemed full of positive vibes and good intentions.
The video has a short (40-second) skit lead-in. Then, the song hits.