Rub You the Right Way

Album: Johnny Gill (1990)
Charted: 3

Songfacts®:

  • Gill promises to "rub you the right way" in this swaggering uptempo R&B song from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. This was Gill's first single since leaving New Edition earlier in the year, and it landed at #1 on the R&B chart.
  • For Jam and Lewis, Gill was a reminder of all the R&B greats who came before him. "We think of Johnny as a 1990s version of a lot of classic singers," Jam told Billboard magazine. "I think he has some of the Stevie Wonder nuances, some of the Teddy Pendergrass aggressiveness, and some of the Donny Hathaway inflections in his voice. So when we write songs for him, we go back and borrow ingredients from the things that made those singers great. 'Rub You the Right Way' came about from that kind of thinking."
  • It was the Teddy Pendergrass influence, in particular, that got Jam and Lewis thinking, especially the uptempo cuts written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in the '70s mixed with the sexiness of bedroom ballads like "Close the Door" and "Turn Off the Lights." Jam explained: "'Run You the Right Way' came from thinking, 'What would Teddy do if he were going to do an uptempo, aggressive song?"
  • Jam and Lewis had successfully brought Janet Jackson out from under her family's shadow into her own brand of sexy limelight, but Gill had some trouble adjusting to their methods. "In the beginning, it was really awkward. A lot of times, they don't demo the tapes. They show you how the song goes and let you interpret it right then and there, the way you choose to interpret it. That's why I think they've been so successful in working with people having their own sounds, because they make you interpret the song the way you hear it once they tell you how it goes. You don't try to copy a demo tape; you sing what you feel."
  • Because he had become so accustomed to performing live, Gill hated to drag himself into the studio to record. "I hate going into the studio because it is work. It's the same thing over and over and over again. If I feel like doing it, I will sing. And If I don't, I won't."

    Jam agreed: "It's like pulling teeth making records with Johnny," but he added: "He covers it by being such a great singer, just so naturally gifted. So it's fun to work with him."

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