The Debut

The Moment of Truth


Finally, the announcement came of El’s exit from the group. Soon after Bunny began working on a solo effort, younger brother Chico would later arrive on the scene with a solo project and the remaining three members plus Bobby would continue with the name “DeBarge” minus the Motown label and backing. No one’s projects however, would come before El’s, as he was the main priority and all efforts were geared towards him.

El’s supposed rivals were Prince and Michael Jackson. Whether or not he felt that pressure to compete, he never eluded to it. He seemed more concerned with not having his family with him than with any media produced competition. At times he did appear to be unsure or uncomfortable, but after while that too faded.  Obviously, the record company was trying to promote him to continue the crossover success in the direction of Michael Jackson (at the time on Epic label). In part it worked, with the release of the lead single “Who’s Johnny” which appeared in the movie “Short Circuit. This shot El out the gate hard and fast. It opened him up for a quick chart topper; peaking at #8 on Billboard.  Still, the debut album was catered to the gentlemen and ladies who were in love, the love struck teenage girls and the audience captured from “Rhythm of the Night.”

His image was a slight departure from the playful energy he exuded with DeBarge. He had a new look with short hair, tailored suits and a conservative presence. He was poised and ready to face the world. He looked good, sound great and came with a subtle but strong entrance!

 The next single, “Love Always” rendered his audience the El they knew best, the balladeer. Although a great song, of which he executes beautifully there was one question lingering in the minds of his fans. Why didn’t El write any of the songs on his album? He did not write one lyric which was a surprise, especially since he did so much with DeBarge. Yet he kept rolling out the ballads with the release of “Someone.” He was more than on his way, but the nagging question was why on his first solo album, El did not display his instrumental and writing chops? Not that El didn’t deliver he did; except the sound that was instinctively his was simulated. Songs were written for him which was a slight disappointment because  any fan no doubt wanted pure unadulterated El. El did attempt to explain the reason behind the decision to shelve his songs for this album; in short stating it gave him an opportunity to explore, grow and allow others to construct the songs he would sing. Nevertheless this new El was embraced, loved, adored and supported.

Although he did not write any of the material, El undoubtedly made the songs his own convincingly. They really were not that far from what he would have written himself. Names such as Burt Bacharach, Diane Warren, Michael McDonald, Tata Vega, Jay Graydon, Peter Wolf, were certainly chosen to make this album solid and successful, and it was. El’s ability to interpret and connect with the material, made the delivery believable and for that moment it wasn’t such a big deal any more.

El definitely put in the work to promote the album. From Solid Gold, to Jerry’s Kids, Joan Rivers, The Today Show and everywhere else in between and he even appeared on T.V. shows such as ‘Side Kicks.’ Not to mention the magazine covers he graced, Black Beat, Jet, Right On! and others, he was flyin’ high! It was the voice, the looks, the persona…the man.

Then there was the battle of which male solo artist was the best, or who would come out on top. El, Prince, and Michael Jackson were the ones everyone had their eyes on. They were slated as “The Mighty Three,” because each had the full package, looks and the talent to go with it. Various magazines pushed a comparison and actually posed the question of WHO would win! Prince had a pinnacle moment with the success of Purple Rain and the movie. Michael Jackson was already crowned the King of Pop with the mega success of Thriller. Now El was in the mix to see what he would come up with. There really was no rivalry, but at the time Prince, El and Michael were the ones to watch, and to whom everyone else in the future would be compared. Through the years it would be interesting how much these three men had in common, and how many circles they appeared in together. Prince would later contribute a song on one of El’s albums. Likewise El would be seen in cordial company with the Jackson family; and this is even after the highly publicized marriage of James and Janet!

When all was said and done El came out a star in his own right. The departure from his family proved to be a solid move. He had fans worldwide and was even named an “El’igible” bachelor. Even though his competition was stiff, he was in good company and 1986 proved to be a good year for him and a strong start. He was a bona-fide solo artist and had demonstrated he could hold his own without the backing of his family. Although he ended up dedicating his album to his siblings, Bunny, Randy, Marty and James as it just seemed right. It was a gracious gesture, letting the world know they had not heard the last of him or them; and contrary to belief his family and he were still intact and they supported him.

Click HERE to listen to music from this album

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Written by TBOE
Copyright © 2010 – 2015 The Book of El Blog
All Rights Reserved


~ by thebookofel on May 21, 2010.

6 Responses to “The Debut”

  1. Your assessment is on point Fed4real of how El was portrayed, stacked up against Prince and MJ. That is one of the reasons this blog exists, to definitely showcase his musicianship. Hope you’ll enjoy the ITS and Gemini reviews.

  2. I also wonder Why he didnt showcase his piano skills in the 80s.THat would have gave him more credit ,the way it happened with Prince. People saw him as a cute guy wannabe MJ in some way and ignored his musical talents.MJ showed he could sing and dance brillaintly,Prince could sing and play isntruments,El was portraited as the cute falsetto singer and not the musical genius he is

  3. The album is legendary keepin in mind some of the best songwriters in 20 century worked on it and El vocals were already awesome. But its the less personal album,it has highs and lows many tracks that are too poppy and lack soul. even tho it ahs unforgetable classics like someone or lOve always I prefer the later albums as a whole. So much more soul and El essence. Gemini and In the storm are very personal albums

  4. el, michael and prince had some similarities but el always was creative and stood out just as well as michael and prince he was uncomparable and that’s what I loved about him . I didn’t know prince gave el a song for his album..

  5. hello
    I’m a new member here . I’m loving the site so far and happy about the updates and other el projects. yes I do agree that although el didn’t write the songs on his debut album he did sang like he owned them songs !!!

  6. I have to admit i loved his first solo album much better than I liked any of the others because he really seemed to put “something” in the mix. i didn’t know he didn’t write anything on that album that should teach me to read more. but just the depth of his singing. he put his heart mind and soul in that album (no pun intended). maybe its because it wasnt his material. like u said, he made it his own and more!

Comments are closed.