Groove Is in the Heart

OHW Groove Is in the Heart by krin.jpg

Date Aired
May 29th, 2014
Running Time
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Todd plays "Groove Is in the Heart" on the piano.

A one-hit wonder retrospective

Todd: Some acts, it's really obvious why they only had one hit, but this one kind of baffles me.

Video for "Groove Is in the Heart"
Lady Miss Kier: Groove is in the heart

Todd (VO): From the very beginning, with their debut smash single, Deee-Lite seemed like a band that was destined for bigger, better things. They weren't some second-tier act riding some trend. They were bigger than life—fully-formed, unique, unmistakable for anyone else. Everything about them screamed, "star!"—their music, their image. They should have been one of the biggest pop acts in the world. And "Groove Is in the Heart" was the perfect introduction to them. To this day, "Groove Is in the Heart" is one of the most beloved songs from the otherwise horrible wasteland that was [brief clip of Vanilla Ice - "Ice Ice Baby"] pop music in 1990.

Lady Miss Kier: The chills that you spill up my back

Todd (VO): I've spent a lot of time around music geeks, and I've never heard a single one of them have anything but glowing praise for "Groove Is in the Heart." But even among them, I've never heard anyone acknowledge a single other thing they ever did. If I had been aware of music back then, I would've torn apart record stores trying to find out everything about them. I mean...

Todd: ...I thought groove was in the butt. But here is this group upending everything I ever thought I knew about groove!

Bootsy Collins: Groove is in the heart

Todd: It is.

Lady Miss Kier: Groove is in the heart

Todd (VO): Who doesn't love "Groove Is in the Heart"? Nobody, that's who. And yet despite having stardom written all over them, nothing else from Deee-Lite ever seemed to happen. Someone says, "hey, you know that other Deee-Lite song, right?", no one raises their hand. Out of all the acts who couldn't get a second hit I've ever covered, I think this is the one that bothers me the most, so I have dedicated myself to finding out why exactly our hearts no longer had any groove in them.

Todd: My guess... too much cholesterol.

Bootsy: Watch out

Before the hit

Todd: You know, as much as I love "Groove Is in the Heart," I always like Deee-Lite the first time I heard them, when they were called [self-titled album cover of...] the B-52s. No, that's not fair. The B-52s were a...

Brief clip of the B-52s - "Rock Lobster"

Todd (VO): ...New Wave rock band, and they really liked their 60s surf music. [Clip of "Power of Love"] Deee-Lite were a dance act, and their influences come from the psychedelic 60s and disco, as evidenced by the fact that they always seem to be [picture of band...] wearing 70s basement furniture.

Todd: There are three members of Deee-Lite.

Interview and behind-the-scenes footage

Todd (VO): Supa DJ Dmitry, Jungle DJ Towa Tei, and frontwoman, the Lady Miss Kier, know, let's be serious here, that's a drag queen name. In fact, it made me kinda wonder if she wasn't a really convincing drag queen herself,, she's all woman. [Picture of Lady Miss Kier] Obviously. In fact, I may have made some unfair assumptions about, you know, the music scene and their image, but I was really kind of surprised to find out that every single one of these people is straight. [Footage of Dmitry and Lady Miss Kier] These two were even married for a while. I gotta admit, it feels nice to have somebody representing for us straight folks in nu disco, like...

Todd: God, we are super-unrepresented. Where's our parade?

Promo pic

Todd (VO): The name Deee-Lite was inspired from the Cole Porter song [album cover of Cole Porter collection] "De-Lovely." As a matter of fact,...

Todd: ...they did seem to like adding "de" to the beginning of words.

Lady Miss Kier: How do you say, dee-groovy
How do you say, dee-gorgeous!

Todd: That feels like it could get dee-annoying real quick.

Todd (VO): Matter of fact, it really surprises me these people don't get on my nerves. I mean, the Lady Miss Kier. What a pretentious name, right?

Todd: [consulting notes] Okay, I'm looking here, and her real name is [picture with DOB of August 15, 1963; hometown of Youngstown, Ohio; and real name...] Kieren Magenta. Well, I guess she actually kind of toned it down.

Concert footage

Todd (VO): They were big in the club scene in the late 80s, because they mixed up all kinds of genres: funk, house, jungle, rave, synth, disco, all sorts of stuff. This got them a deal with Elektra Records, which unfortunately killed Dmitry's other project, which starred [footage of...] two drag queens playing the characters Lady Bunny and Sister Dimension of the planet Shazork. [Beat] Okay, that's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say Deee-Lite could've been really obnoxious.

And right before they finished the album, they gained two more fans. [Pictures of...] Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins and saxophonist Maceo Parker heard their demo and traveled to the studio to play with them personally.

Todd: I don't want to say that's the entire reason Deee-Lite got big, but it certainly didn't hurt.

The big hit

Video for "Groove Is in the Heart"
Lady Miss Kier: Ooh la la la la la la la la
[Faux francaise, ending with one high-pitched squeak]

Todd: Like I said, anyone else who tried this might have been the most annoying person on Earth. Not here, though.

Bootsy: Dig!

Todd (VO): God, I just love this song. It just makes you wanna get up and dance.

Lady Miss Kier: Groove is in the heart

Todd (VO): And it doesn't even matter if you can't dance. Neither could Deee-Lite. They were kinda terrible dancers for a dance act.

Todd kind of imitates the group's "dancing"

Lady Miss Kier: I couldn't ask for another

Todd (VO): How can you not enjoy that? I've never met anyone who said, "I hate 'Groove Is in the Heart'." I don't even know what that would say about you if you did.

Todd: Now, the song I always like to compare this to is...

Clip of the B-52s'

Todd (VO): ..."Love Shack," and they do have a lot in common. But "Love Shack" is very different structurally because it's all over the place. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that most of it was ad-libbed. It sounds like they're just jamming.

"Groove Is in the Heart" is the exact opposite. It sounds loose and funky, but if you listen, every element is tight and controlled. None of this would work if every single element didn't come together the way it does, starting with the world's tightest bass line...[bass riff]...courtesy of Bootsy Collins, who also adds his own vocal stylings. [Brief clip of Bootsy live] In his own band, he always sounded like he was just rambling whatever random thing came into his head, and he sounds no different here.

Bootsy: Deee-Lite have definitely been known to smoke

Todd: I dig, 'cause it's Bootsy, baby.

Todd (VO): And then there are the wacky lyrics, some of which are utterly retro-cool.

Lady Miss Kier: The chills that you spill up my back
Keep me filled with satisfaction

Todd: Some of which are just gibberish.

Lady Miss Kier: My supper dish, my succotash wish
Q-Tip: Sing it, baby

Todd: Succotash? Well, I guess [label for Margaret Holmes triple succotash] veggies would be good for your heart, and the groove therein.

Todd (VO): And some of which are just confusing.

Lady Miss Kier: We're gonna groove to
Horton Hears a Who

Todd: I like Dr. Seuss, but I never thought Horton Hears a Who was particularly groove-able. [Clip from the "Horton Hears a Who" film adaptation, with Horton dancing] No.

Todd (VO): But then there's the key element that brings it all together.

Todd: Random noises!

Random noises include record-scratching, slide whistles...


[Dmitry pops lips, Towa gives two snaps...]
Lady Miss Kier: 1, 2, 3...


Q-Tip: Feeling kinda high like a Hendrix haze

Todd (VO): Honestly, I guess Q-Tip's rap isn't all that memorable. But when a legendary rapper like Q-Tip is the worst thing about a song, that says some good things about it. And of course, it's all anchored by what should have been a star-making performance by Miss Kier. And also, I know she picked a style intentionally designed to appeal to gay men, but as a straight guy, I could watch this lady all day and all night.

Todd: [guttural sounds] I'm an ape.

Q-Tip: Blow them, blow them horns

Todd (VO): I'm surprised it didn't rank even higher on the charts, but apparently, it only reached as high as #4. But it's a good base from which to start a career. What the hell happened?!

Todd: Surely, they had more silly sound effects they could turn into a song!

The failed follow-up

Video for "The Power of Love"
Lady Miss Kier: I believe in the power of love
I believe in the power of love
I believe in the power of love

Todd: Okay, well, this is clearly not "Groove Is in the Heart."

Todd (VO): In retrospect, they obviously weren't going to be able to replicate "Groove Is in the Heart," so it's probably a good thing to produce music that doesn't really sound that much like it. This is a little more generic, early 90s house music, but it's still good. Look at all the colors! Pinks and oranges and greens! That feels pretty Deee-Liteful.

Todd: I don't know why it didn't catch on.

Video for "Good Beat"
Lady Miss Kier: I just wanna hear a good beat

Todd (VO): That whole album is actually pretty good. Don't know why it doesn't get more play, or maybe it does among a hipper crowd than I go to. This should have been big.

Todd: Maybe they were just a victim of being a dance act in 1990.

Brief clip of Technotronic - "Pump Up the Jam"

Todd (VO): I think I've said before that the early 90s were a time of traumatic upheaval, as far as pop music goes. [Clips of Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"...] I've usually connected that to Nirvana, but it goes beyond just rock. [...Nelson - "Love and Affection"...] I'd estimate that 80% of acts that had a big hit in 1990, were gone by 1993. [...C + C Music Factory - "Things That Make You Go Hmmm"] And certainly house music wasn't known for long careers anyway. This is a genre where C + C Music Factory were considered mega-superstars.

Concert footage of Deee-Lite

It may also be that "Groove Is in the Heart" pigeonholed them as this happy, fun-times act, and...

Todd: music in the early 90s was moving in a different direction.

Clip of Snap! - "The Power"
Penny Ford: I've got the power

Todd (VO): People didn't want fun, they wanted in-your-face, aggressive.

Todd: Slammin', I think we called it in the 90s.

Todd (VO): Miss Kier said they felt a little alienated by the sudden Jock Jam-ness that took over house music. All that said,...

Todd: ...I still think Deee-Lite had it in them to go a little longer...but then that second album happened.

Video for "Runaway"
Lady Miss Kier: Why don't we
Why don't we, why don't we, why don't we

Todd (VO): This is their sophomore album's debut single "Runaway."

Lady Miss Kier: Runaway, runaway

Todd (VO): It's among the better songs on that album, and though it's not awful, it is, at best, half-finished.

Lady Miss Kier: Free
Let's go free

Todd (VO): And that's not even getting into the bigger problem with that album, which is that they got a lot less dee-gorgeous...

Todd: ...and a lot more dee-preachy.

MTV News interview
Tabitha Soren: Along with the techno grooves and neo-psychedelia we've come to expect, it shows us a surprisingly serious side to Deee-Lite.

Todd (VO): Now, if you were around in 1992, would you want to hear the band that did "Groove Is in the Heart" rap about [pictures of graph of hole in...] the ozone layer, [...billboard with rainbow condom...] safe sex, [...and roll of "I Voted" stickers] and the importance of registering to vote?

Video for "Vote, Baby, Vote"
Lady Miss Kier: Vote, baby, vote
Vote, baby, vote
Are you registered, baby

Todd (VO): I can't believe this exists. And this isn't just a Rock the Vote ad, for the record; this is a full song on the album. The safe sex one is even worse.

Video for "Rubber Lover"
Lady Miss Kier: You'll wind up pulling the covers from each other
Don't make love without wearing a rubber
They might have slept with another

Todd: Towa Towa left the group at that point, and they never recovered.

Did they ever do anything else?

Picture of Deee-Lite

Todd (VO): Towa Towa said he left because the atmosphere was getting toxic. [Back album cover of Dewdrops in the Garden] They got a new member, [picture of...] DJ Ayni...Ani?

Todd: Whatever.

Video for "Picnic in the Summertime"

Todd (VO): That brought them into trance music and they had more of a relaxed vibe at this point.

Lady Miss Kier: Watching people have a good time
Watching people have a good time in the summertime

Todd (VO): It's not bad, but again, it's not "Groove Is in the Heart" either.

Todd: Oh, and about that "toxic atmosphere," [picture of Keir and Dmitry] did I mention these two were married? Well, emphasis on "were."

Concert footage

Todd (VO): Kier and Dmitry were splitsville at that point, and that was pretty much it. [Single cover of Fleetwood Mac - "Dreams," pictures of ABBA and No Doubt] Some acts could make good music after an initial band breakup, Deee-Lite wasn't one of them. The process kind of broke down, and...

Todd: ...the group just wasn't on the same page anymore.

Shot of Space Channel 5

Todd (VO): The last I heard from Deee-Lite was back when Lady Miss Kier sued this PlayStation game, Space Channel 5, because they allegedly ripped off her image [side-by-side pictures of Kier and Ulala] for their lead character. I've played it, it's basically [picture of...] Simon with a dance beat behind it, it's okay. And yeah, the lead character is totally her, but she didn't win the lawsuit.

Ulala: Let's go

Todd (VO): (Footage of three original members now) All three members work as DJs now. Miss Kier is still an icon among certain circles, for the record, and a lot of fashion magazines say she's one of the most influential [Vogue layout] style icons in music, so...

Todd: ...there you go.

Did they deserve better?

Todd: None of their other songs ever delivered on the promise of "Groove Is in the Heart." [pause] They still deserved better.

Todd (VO): They were fun to listen to, especially on their first album. They were just too weird, I guess, for the times. They might have had better luck in the last half of the 90s, alongside [clips of "Walkin' on the Sun" by...] Smash Mouth, [..."MMMBop" by...] Hanson, [...and "Wannabe" by...] and especially the Spice Girls, who show a lot of the influence of Deee-Lite on them.

Todd: Lady Gaga probably owes her a lot too.

Lady Miss Kier: Groove is in the heart

Todd (VO): At least we still have "Groove Is in the Heart," though. Everybody loves that.

Todd: Unless you don't, in which case, I guess groove is just not in your heart. God knows what actually is in your heart.

Clip from How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Thurl Ravenscroft: Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.

Todd: See? Groove will make your heart grow three sizes. I'm Todd In The Shadows, and I'm out. Dee!

Lady Miss Kier: Dee-groovy

Closing tag song: Crocodiles - "Groove Is in the Heart/California Girls"

"Groove Is in the Heart" is owned by Elektra Records
This video is owned by me

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