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Let the Music Play (song)
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Let the Music Play Song
"Let the Music Play"
Single by Shannon
from the album Let the Music Play
ReleasedOctober 24, 1983[1]
Length3:34 (album version)
5:46 (12-inch version)
  • Mark Liggett
  • Chris Barbosa
Shannon singles chronology
"Let the Music Play"
"Give Me Tonight"
Music video
"Let The Music Play" on YouTube

"Let The Music Play" is a song recorded by American singer Shannon for her 1984 debut studio album of the same name. It was released in 1983 as her debut single and as the lead single from the Let the Music Play album. Some mark "Let the Music Play" as the beginning of the "dance-pop" era.

"Let the Music Play" was the first of Shannon's four number ones on the US dance chart, reaching the top spot in October 1983.[3] It also became a huge crossover hit in the US, peaking at number two on the soul chart (behind "If Only You Knew" by Patti LaBelle") and number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1984.[4] It was Shannon's only Top 40 hit in the States. It was ranked 43rd on the 2009 VH1 Special 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s.[5] Shannon's version appears in the video games, Dance Central 3 and Scarface: The World Is Yours.


The original version of the song was produced by Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa. By the early 1980s, the backlash against disco had driven dance music off mainstream radio stations in the US. The rhythmic ingenuity of "Let the Music Play" was largely due to Barbosa, who wrote and arranged the original demo track. Rob Kilgore played all the instruments on this seminal track. It featured a series of keyboard chords and drum patterns produced by gating a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Specifically, a reverb was placed across the kick and snare and hard gated to change the sounds. Further, it was one of the first tracks to sync together a TR-808 and a Roland TB-303 bassline, notorious in later years for the instrument responsible for creating acid house. The TB-303 plays the bassline for the entire song; however, in this case, the filter is not adjusted, which was typical for acid house music. This technical achievement made the production even more groundbreaking, and it also resulted in a unique sound, called "The Shannon Sound", which in time came to be known as freestyle. The Prophet-5 is used for the hookline and sound effects. The vocal on the chorus is sung by session guitarist/vocalist, Jimi Tunnell, who was uncredited. Shannon sings the answering line but it is Tunnell who sings the "Let the music play" hook.


"Let the Music Play" is a freestyle dance song with synthesizer and drum machine-produced rim shot percussion sounds and kick-drum/snare-drum interaction. Critic and journalist Peter Shapiro described the song as a "cross between Gary Numan and Tito Puente."[6] The song has a tempo of 116 beats per minute.[7]

Music video

The music video for the release was directed by British director Nigel Dick and premiered in November 1983. The video shows Shannon in a dressing room applying make-up as if she is getting ready for a performance. She then makes her way to the stage of an empty theater where she proceeds to dance and sing the song. Interspersed throughout these scenes are shots of male and female dancers fashioned in dress shirts and bow ties warming up. The dancers join Shannon by the second chorus of the song, and, near the end, one of the dancers proceeds to take her in his arms and dance with her. The video ends with the dancers doing a choreographed routine while Shannon continues singing.[8][9]

Impact and legacy

VH1 listed "Let the Music Play" at number 24 in their list of the 100 Greatest Dance Songs in 2000. [1]

Slant Magazine ranked the song number 54 in its 100 Greatest Dance Songs-list in 2006, adding:

"Alongside Madonna's "Holiday," D.C.-born Jazz vocalist Brenda Shannon Greene's "Let the Music Play" helped redefine dance music in the anti-disco early-'80s, setting the stage for the troubled genre for the next decade. Producers Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa, considered one of the founding fathers of Latin freestyle, merged the then-hip electro-funk sound with Latin rhythms, unwittingly creating the world's first freestyle song."[10]

VH1 ranked it number 42 in their 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s in 2009.[11]

ThoughtCo placed the song at number nine in their list of 25 Best Dance Pop Songs of All Time in 2018.[12]

Charts and certifications

Mary Kiani version

"Let the Music Play"
Single by Mary Kiani
from the album Long Hard Funky Dreams
ReleasedApril 1, 1996
FormatCD single, 12" vinyl
Label1st Avenue, Mercury Warehouse Records, Leeds UK
Chris Barbosa
Ed Chisolm
Mary Kiani singles chronology
"I Give It All To You / I Imagine"
"Let the Music Play"

In 1996, Mary Kiani covered "Let the Music Play" as her third solo single. The song was remixed in a variety of styles, notably by Paul Oakenfold of Perfecto and Steve Rodway of Motiv8. A video of the song was also released.

Track listings and formats

These are the main formats and track listings of the single release of Mary Kiani's "Let the Music Play."

# Title Length
UK CD single MERCD456
1. "Let the Music Play" [Radio Mix] 3:50
2. "Let the Music Play" [Perfecto Radio Mix] 5:40
3. "Let the Music Play" [Motiv8 Club Mix] 6:32
4. "Let the Music Play" [Mr. Spring Contrary Mary Mix] 5:34
5. "Let the Music Play" [Perfecto Vocal Mix] 8:00
6. "Let the Music Play" [Argonauts Kiani Do This Mix] 5:42
7. "Let the Music Play" [Mr. Spring Club Edit] 4:29
UK 12" MERX456
A1. "Let the Music Play" [Motiv8 Club Mix] 6:33
A2. "Let the Music Play" [Union Jack Mix] 6:27
B1. "Let the Music Play" [Perfecto Vocal Mix] 8:01
B2. "Let the Music Play" [Perfecto Dub Mix] 5:00
UK 12" MERX457 / Fubar12
A1. "Let the Music Play" [Casio Brothers Mix]
A2. "Let the Music Play" [George Bowie Mix]
B1. "Let the Music Play" [Steve Kerr Mix]
B2. "Let the Music Play" [Tom Wilson & David Livingston Mix]

Cover versions

  • In 1987, Icelandic punk band Mosi frændi released a cover of the song on their 13-track cassette-only release, "Suzy Creamcheese for president".
  • In 1991, freestyle artist Tiana did a cover of this song.
  • The soundtrack of Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, released in 1992, includes a cover by Carroll Thompson, produced by Pet Shop Boys.
  • In 1996, Scottish singer Mary Kiani covered the song and hit the #19 spot on the UK singles chart. (See below.)
  • A cover version by Music Instructor was included on its album Electric City of Music Instructor, released in 1998.
  • Exile, a Japanese boy band, did a cover of this song on their album, titled Asia, released in 2006.
  • In 2006, Mexican pop band RBD covered "Let the Music Play," which is featured on its first English-language album, Rebels, but only as an iTunes digital-download exclusive. The track was not included on the album itself.
  • "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)," the second single from the 2009 album Battlefield by Jordin Sparks, contains lyrics and melodies from the song.
  • In 2006, "Let The Music Play" was also recorded by Sisaundra Lewis from NBC's "The Voice."


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  2. ^ Hogan, Ed. "Artist Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2014.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 231.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 521.
  5. ^ Ali, Rahsheeda (2 May 2013). "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s". VH1. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ Jamieson, Teddy (28 October 2013). Not Fade Away 1983: Let the Music Play, Shannon. HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2014-10-01
  7. ^ Brusca, Donny (2006). BPM List 2006: Main Edition. Lulu.com, 2006. p. 542. ISBN 978-1-84728-860-8.
  8. ^ http://www.mvdbase.com/video.php?id=25057
  9. ^ http://www.popflock.com/video?id=cpEGDXhu5oM
  10. ^ "100 Greatest Dance Songs". Slant Magazine. 30 January 2006. Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ Ali, Rahsheeda (2 May 2013). "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s". VH1. Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ "25 Best Dance Pop Songs of All Time". ThoughtCo. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  13. ^ "Billboard Oct. 29, 1983" (PDF). Billboard. New York, NY, USA. 29 October 1983. p. 47. Retrieved 2016.
  14. ^ "Forum - ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts - CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ "Ultratop.be - Shannon - Let the Music Play" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Radio 2 Top 30" (in Dutch). Top 30. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  17. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6304." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  18. ^ "CHART NUMBER 1420 - Saturday, March 24, 1984". Archived from the original on 7 November 2006. Retrieved 2017.CHUM.
  19. ^ "Le Détail par Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Select "SHANNON" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved 2016.
  20. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de - Shannon - Let the Music Play". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  21. ^ "HitParadeItalia Indice per Interprete: S". HitParadeItalia (in Italian). Retrieved 2016.
  22. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl - Shannon - Let the Music Play" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  23. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 - week 18, 1984" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  24. ^ "Charts.nz - Shannon - Let the Music Play". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  25. ^ "Swisscharts.com - Shannon - Let the Music Play". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  27. ^ "Billboard Feb. 25. 1984" (PDF). Billboard. New York, NY, USA. 25 February 1984. p. 76. Retrieved 2016.
  28. ^ "Billboard Feb. 4, 1984" (PDF). Billboard. New York, NY, USA. 4 February 1984. p. 49. Retrieved 2016.
  29. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles - Week ending MARCH 3, 1984". Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 2017.Cash Box magazine.
  30. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de - Shannon - Let the Music Play". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 9638." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  32. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts 1984". GfK Entertainment Charts (in German). Retrieved 2016.
  33. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - I singoli più venduti del 1984". FIMI (in Italian). Retrieved 2016.
  34. ^ a b c "Volume 96 No. 51, DECEMBER 22. 1984" (PDF). Billboard. New York, NY, USA. 22 December 1984. p. TA-19, TA-21, TA-25. Retrieved 2016.
  35. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1984". Cash Box magazine. Archived from the original on September 30, 2012. Retrieved 2017.
  36. ^ "American single certifications - Shannon - Let the Music Play". Recording Industry Association of America.If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.

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