“Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara

Some listeners have taken “Flashdance… What a Feeling” as a song of general inspiration, i.e. the type of self-encouragement tunes we have become accustomed to in the 21st century. And whereas based on Irene Cara’s own interpretation of the lyrics, that theory may hold true, understanding the song solely as such sorta oversimplifies what’s going on here. 

That is to say that this is not simply the case of dancing being synonymous with ambition in general, since this song was created specifically for a dance-related movie. But at the same time, Irene herself was a professional dancer. And she did take this piece as being “a metaphor about a dancer”, though under her estimation being more about exerting control over life as such an individual would over their own body during dancing.

As such, we can conclude that the “feeling” being celebrated is not only being spurred by the practice of “believing” but also one acting upon said belief. Or as the vocalist encourages, this is about ‘taking your passion and making it happen’. 

It is never revealed if she goes on to achieve her set goal, nor is that the point. Instead, going back to the metaphor of dancing, what’s being further implied is that for Irene, the journey is even more important than the destination. 

Or put otherwise, the true value one receives from fully following their passion is along the lines of having the courage, or perhaps Cara would say self-control, to do so, against not only “a world made of steel”, but also one’s own inner fears and apprehensions.


So the way “Flashdance” would differ from a likeminded song if it were to come out here and now is that more contemporarily, the artist would likely focus more on the ultimate goal, i.e. becoming successful as the main source of inspiration to heed the call. But as inferred in this piece, success is realized by pursuing an ambitious goal with a mindset whereas one is fully confident that it will be achieved.

Lyrics for "Flashdance... What a Feeling"

Irene Cara

Irene Cara (1959-2022) was perhaps the most-notable American dual-threat actress/singer during the early 1980s. She dropped a couple of big hits associated with music-based films during that era, one of them being “Flashdance… What a Feeling”.

Release of “Flashdance… What a Feeling”

This piece was released on 3 April 1983. It served as the theme song to a film titled “Flashdance”, starring Jennifer Beals. Said flick does not feature Cara, but she was employed to render this track largely due to the success she had with “Fame” (1980), her other hit song.

Success of “Flashdance… What a Feeling”

“Flashdance… What a Feeling” outperformed “Fame” both commercially and critically. Owing to this, it stands as the signature song in Irene Cara’s discography. 

For instance, it marks the only time she topped the Billboard Hot 100. Furthermore, it also reached the peak of Billboard’s US Dance Clubs Songs list as well as the Cash Box Top 100. The song also replicated this feat (being a number 1 single) in these countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

In Canada it has thus far been certified double-platinum. 

And as for the UK Singles Chart, it didn’t reach the very top of that ranking, but did earn a second place showing.

This song also placed as high as third place on the year-end Billboard Hot 100 of 1983, only being bested by two other undeniable classic from that year, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” at number 2 and “Every Breath You Take” via The Police at number 1.

The legacy of this track was further cemented when it won the following top-tier industry awards in 1984:

  • Golden Globe (for Best Original Song)
  • Oscar (also for Best Original Song)
  • Grammy (for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance)

Success of “Flashdance” turns into a Curse for Cara

Those of us who were around during the 1980s may recount that whereas Irene Cara was hella popular earlier on, it’s as if no one has heard of her since, not until she unexpectedly passed away at the age of 63 in 2022. 

And it seems that “Flashdance” contributed significantly to that reality, as in a way the success of this song ultimately proved to be somewhat of a curse on her career. That is to say that when the track blew up, Irene came to the clear realization that she was getting beat in the head as far as royalties were concerned. 

This caused her to sue a couple of entities, i.e. Network Records, one of the labels behind the track, as well as its founder, Al Coury (1934-2013). Meanwhile, it appears that Coury was very well connected in the music industry, which made Cara believe that he resultantly stifled her music career. To be honest, it is odd how she just kinda vanished from the entertainment scene altogether. 

And to add salt to the wound, whereas a jury did eventually award Irene over one million dollars in the case, due to certain intricacies of the economic/legal system, she was unable to collect those funds.

Irene’s descent into obscurity was apparently in part her own doing also. For instance, after dropping the classics “Fame” and “Flashdance… What a Feeling”, the next movie theme song she tackled, also in 1983, was “The Dream (Hold on to Your Dream)”.  The film this was associated with is D.C. Cab, an outing that only the likes of Mr. T fans are likely to recall. And likewise the song itself was, related to Cara’s earlier soundtrack contributions, a bust.

Did Irene Cara write “Flashdance… What a Feeling”?

This song was produced by Giorgio Moroder, who is akin to a legend as far as the music industry is concerned. And Moroder – who was enlisted to work on the Flashdance soundtrack by the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer – also co-wrote this track with Keith Forsey and Irene Cara.

More Noteworthy Stuff

Some professional film scholars have gotten quite elaborate in highlighting connections between this song and the film itself. However, interesting to note is that as for Irene Cara and Keith Forsey, they were only shown one scene from Flashdance beforehand. And even then, Cara admitted that she had absolutely no idea what the story of the film was about.

The original recording of “Flashdance… What a Feeling” was actually helmed by a relatively-obscure singer named Joe “Bean” Esposito. Interestingly, Moroder was intent on releasing Bean’s rendition as the final cut. However, it was Paramount Pictures, the distributors of “Flashdance”, who decided against. They wanted Cara’s version to be used for the following reasons:

  • they preferred a female singing the song
  • they wanted a singer whom the public was already familiar with 

But that said, Esposito is one of the three backup singers on Cara’s rendition. The other two backup singers on the song are: Stephanie Spruill and Maxine Waters.

A few artists who have covered this piece throughout the years to moderate chart success are Marcia Hines (1998), DJ BoBo (2001) and Priscilla Betti (2002). But the act to experience the most success with it to date, besides Irene Cara, appears to be Global Deejays, a house outfit from Austria, who charted internationally with their rendition in 2005.

Flashdance proved to be a box office success and sort of a prototype in terms of what dance-related movies would go on to become. Reportedly, Paramount was not anticipating that the flick would hit. But the song itself, which was officially dropped over a week prior, did notably contribute to the film’s overall success.

Besides the aforementioned Network Records, the other label listed as backing this song is Casablanca.

Flashdance... What a Feeling

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