Cutouts Gone Wild!: Nu Shooz, “Told U So”

Written by Cutouts Gone Wild!, Music

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Nu Shooz – Told U So (1988)
purchase this album (Amazon)

Yes, yes, I know. Some of you were hoping for Boy Meets Girl — but as far as I can tell, all of their albums are still in print, whereas Nu Shooz’s Told U So had the good sense to fade into cutout bins many years ago. We will now repay this courtesy by making fun of the band and its music.

Actually, in all fairness, I feel like I can’t start this entry without pointing out that Nu Shooz were nowhere near as awful as they should have been. A Caucasian husband-and-wife duo — from Oregon, no less — doing a sort of suburban pop/freestyle hybrid? And with the worst band name of the entire decade, to boot? It should have been a Shaggs-esque train wreck, but it wasn’t. They sound unbelievably dated now, but Nu Shooz’s hits were (and remain) undeniably catchy. Go on and sing along — you know you want to:

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Hey, is that Timbuk 3’s dog in there?

For a minute, Valerie Day and John Smith were bona fide pop stars — they were even nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy in 1987. (Other nominees: Glass Tiger, Simply Red, Bruce Hornsby & the Range, and, yes, Timbuk 3.) Their sound wasn’t just synthesizer-dominated, it was pretty much all synths, which put Nu Shooz right at the cutting edge of pop in 1986. Of course, what was trendy in ’86 sounded played out in ’88 — which is a big part of why Told U So tanked. Before we get into that, though, let’s watch the video for “Point of No Return,” just for fun:

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The other reason for the album’s lack of success, as you may have already guessed, is that Day and Smith forgot to write any good songs for it. Where “I Can’t Wait” and “Point of No Return” beat you over the head with hooks, Told U So just kind of wafts along on a MIDI-scented breeze. Leadoff single “Should I Say Yes?” had enough oomph to almost reach the Top 40 — look for it in a future installment of Bottom Feeders — but aside from the dance hit “Are You Lookin’ for Somebody Nu” (download), Nu Shooz’s days on the charts were done. Have a listen to “Wonder” (download) and “Montecarlo Nite” (download) and ask yourself why. (Or just fall asleep. That’s what I did.)

Atlantic, believe it or not, responded to Told U So‘s #93 peak by picking up its option for a third album, which Day and Smith worked on for an unbelievable four years before finishing. Titled Eat & Run, it was presented to the label in 1992, at which point everyone in the Atlantic boardroom presumably went pale with shock upon learning that Nu Shooz was still on the roster. This oversight was quickly corrected, Eat & Run was never released, and Nu Shooz soon disbanded to, in the words of their official bio, “focus on other projects.”

And you know what happened next, don’t you? Yes, yes, yes — the inevitable 21st-century comeback, complete with an unplugged version of “I Can’t Wait”! No, I’m not kidding! No, I’m not fucking listening to it! You can’t make me! The band’s reunion has also grown to encompass something called the Nu Shooz Orchestra, which allegedly “exudes an eclectic ‘James Bond meets James Brown’ mix of soul, jazz, ambient, exotica, world music and film noir.”

Don’t ask me, folks. I don’t understand it either. Listen for yourselves, if you dare.

And that’s it for this week’s installment of Cutouts Gone Wild! — join me next Thursday, as we enter the final month of this series with a look at the great lost power pop supergroup of the ’90s. See you then!