“Back To Life” by Soul II Soul (ft. Caron Wheeler)
Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)” is a dance song which doesn’t rely too much on wording. In fact it is never specified who the addressee may be. However, judging by the very last verse especially, we will logically presume that it is a romantic interest. And basically, the vocalist is pressuring him into ‘making up his mind’ as to whether or not he wants to date her.
So that is the part of the storyline which the subtitle refers to, i.e. the singer’s willingness to submit to the romantic will of the addressee.
And in terms of the main title, the way it is used in the lyrics is apparently pointing to the notion of the singer fantasizing about being with the addressee. So now she has resolved herself to coming “back to reality”, as in freeing her mind from her imagination. And this would also apparently be why she has resolved to force the apple of her eye to make a decision, as she is no longer content with just daydreaming about him.
But again, that is just the most logical explanation of the lyrics. For instance, Caron Wheeler herself has suggested that who she is actually singing to is God. And that theory would make sense to some degree, at least until you reach the final verse. There, it becomes pretty obvious that the vocalist is speaking to a person whom she has a very-human history with. And it’s like they’re playing love games, perhaps once having been involved but now failing to be in a serious relationship.
A Kind of Complex Love Song
But that noted, this is more than just a simple love song. Or more specifically, the singer perceives getting into a relationship with the addressee as an event which will have a “positive change” on her change-needy life. Or put into more layman’s terms, she is in love with this individual.
And taking Caron Wheeler’s explanation into consideration, even if this was originally more of a spiritual piece, as it arguably starts off as, it eventually evolves into more of a standard romantic storyline. Such actually happens quite often, as in a song that in conception has a very-deep meaning ultimately being put into a romantic context. This is often done to presumably make it more palatable for a mainstream pop audience.
What “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)” is all about
But that being said, being that the storyline verily concludes on a romantic note, that’s what we have to take this as first and foremost, a love song. And what the singer is relaying, conclusively, is her willingness to be whatever it is the addressee wants her to be. She is ready to do this so long as he actually decides to accept her.
The music video to this song was filmed in an area on the outskirts of London known as Epping Forest. It was directed by Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom. Both of them belonged to an entity known as Big TV. And as far the Black female backup singer who is shown in certain scenes throughout, she wasn’t actually a member of Soul II Soul. Rather that would the late Claudia Fontaine (1960-2018), a former bandmate of Caron Wheeler’s.
Soul II Soul
Whereas Soul II Soul may still be active to this day, their heyday was definitely back around the early ‘90s, i.e. the era in which this song was dropped. That was when, in 1989, they released their debut album, “Club Classic Vol. One”. And this UK Albums Chart topper produced their two signature songs, “Keep on Movin’” and the track we’re covering today, “Back to Life“.
Release Date of “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)”
The full name of this track is “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)”. Its official release date, coming out via Virgin Records, was on 29 May 1989. And it was the second single from the aforementioned project.
At the time this song was released, the membership of Soul II Soul would have looked something like this:
- Caron Wheeler (lead vocalist)
- Jazzie B (co-lead vocalist)
- Jazzi Q (DJ)
- Aitch Bee (DJ)
- Nellee Hooper (producer)
- Daddae (co-lead vocalist)
As for the actual producers and writers of this song, that would Jazzie B – the dude with the dreds and sunglasses that started the movement – and Nellee Hooper. And additional co-writers are Caron Wheeler and band affiliate Simon Law. And it is also Caron Wheeler, the lady on the cover art, who serves as the lead vocalist of Back to Life.
Serving as instrumentalists on this tune is the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra, an entity, like Soul II Soul, which is based in London.
Achievements of “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)”
Soul II Soul is still active as of 2021. However, now instead of being mad deep, the main unit consists only of three musicians. And that would be Jazzie, Caron and another vocalist, Charlotte Kelly, who first joined the crew back in 1994. Interesting to note is that despite still being extant, as at the above date, Soul II Soul hasn’t released any singles or studio albums since 1997. And in a way, that reality proves just how popular this song was and is.
For instance this tune has made a number of ‘greatest songs’ or ‘greatest dance songs’ lists compiled in the 21st century by the likes of Pitchfork, VH1 and The Guardian.
And when it did come out, this track topped the UK Singles Chart, a couple of Billboard charts (Dance Club Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs) and music charts in a few other nations. Overall it charted in approximately 15 countries, and it achieved platinum certification stateside, which at the time was a rare feat for a British dance song.
Also this classic has gone on to be sampled or covered by many famous artists and bands, including the following:
- George Michael (1991)
- DJ Clue featuring Jadakiss and Mary J. Blige (2001)
- Estelle (2010)
- JoJo (2015)
- The Black Eyed Peas (2018)
- Little Mix (2019)
There is also an acappella version of this tune featured on “Club Classics Vol. One”.