When considering the spectrum of love songs, Atlantic Starr has both ends covered.
The saccharine “Always” is a declaration befitting a wedding’s first dance, a ballad consumed by promises of dedication. “Secret Lovers,” arguably the R&B band’s best-known song, replaces devotion with blissful and flagrant corruption.
The chorus from “Secret Lovers”: “Secret lovers, yeah that’s what we are / Trying so hard to hide the way we feel / ’Cause we both belong to someone else / But we can’t let it go, ’cause what we feel / Is, oh so real.”
However conflicted the lovers are, they continue their affair. They continue to cheat. Sometimes that’s how love goes.
Wayne Lewis and his brother, Jonathan Lewis, form the core of Atlantic Starr, a band that has rotated female vocalists. Wayne Lewis said “Secret Lovers” wasn’t originally meant to have such a depraved concept.
“As I went through life, I started seeing so many situations where you’d have to become the secret lover,” said Lewis, who was in the studio working on a new album. “It started out to be just a song about two people who wanted to be together, but all odds were against them.”
He was thinking along the lines of, say, something like “Romeo and Juliet,” but inspiration moved him to consider a more contemporary consequence of love.
“Sometimes you can’t help yourself with what happens in life,” he said. “Sometimes you can marry the wrong person.”
Cheating — whether it’s done to or by a mate — has inspired superlative music, and “Secret Lovers” is certainly one best from ’80s pop music.
Here are selected songs about cheating that have, for better or worse, made people fall in love — with the song:
“Me and Mrs. Jones”: Billy Paul’s soulful and remorseful 1972 extramarital elegy. It has been covered, most notably by Freddie Jackson and Michael Buble.
"Irreplaceable": Sure, Beyonce has a catalog of empowering songs — “Me, Myself And I” and “Say My Name” immediately come to mind — but none vanquish a misbehaving man like this one, with the lyrics, “So go ahead and get gone / Call up that chick and see if she’s home / Oops, I bet you thought that I didn’t know / What did you think I was putting you out for?”
"Your Cheatin’ Heart": Hank Williams’ 1953 creaky-voiced ballad was released posthumously. Patsy Cline’s version is, actually, rather seductive.
“Confessions Part II”: Cheating — and a pregnant mistress — might lead to smashed windows, but Usher turned the tale in an indelible smash hit.
“Before He Cheats”: The title is deceptive, because this is a Carrie Underwood revenge song. “I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights,” she sings.
“Lips of an Angel”: Cheating, as witnessed in Hinder’s rock ballad, can be an emotional drain. Or is this true love?
“It Wasn’t Me”: Shaggy’s infectious single is an ode to those who refuse to admit they’ve cheated — even when their significant other catches them red-handed.
“Bust Your Windows”: Jazmine Sullivan forgoes the tires but instead chooses the car windows, and she has the scars — and smile — to prove it on this slow-tempo R&B song.
“The Girl is Mine”: Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney wrangle over a two-timer on this solid gold classic, an often overlooked “Thriller” deep-album cut.
“Should’ve Said No”: Heartache can be an inspiration for great pop songs, and right now is there anyone else better at mining feelings of betrayal than Taylor Swift?
“The Thunder Rolls”: It wasn’t the rolling thunder — or the lighting strikes — that kept Garth Brooks out all night.
“Song Cry”: As Jay-Z relates, even a player can feel guilty.
“O.P.P.”: All cheaters are down with the Naughty By Nature anthem.
“Friend of Mine”: This is Kelly Price’s song, but the vocal interplay between R. Kelly and Ronald Isley, acting as his alter ego, Mr. Biggs, make this precursor to Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet” series memorable.
“Humpin’ Around”: Remember when Bobby Brown was a talented, if petulant, pop star? He was already making excuses for his behavior, but this one was worth dancing around.
“If Your Girl Only Knew”: The music of Aaliyah, the deceased R&B singer whose voice moved on beats like a soft and sure-footed counter-hopping cat on the prowl for baked goods, has enjoyed a revival through the sampling and lyrics of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, The xx and Katy B, among others. But the original did it best, particularly on this dismissal of unscrupulous behavior.
“Creep”: Early in its career, the group TLC earned reputations as women who weren’t afraid to be bold and unapologetic, especially when singing about provocative material. This song is a reminder that women and be as deceitful as men.
“If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)”: The title of Meshell Ndegeocello’s song says it clearly.
“Just A Friend”: Of course Biz Markie was going to be on this list. Let’s hope he grabs a microphone to do a snippet, if only to sing the chorus. “Oh baby, you...”