Such a supremely silly, sassy, classy, chic, irrepressible, positive song, though - until I tracked "I Love Your Smile" down online and revisited it recently - I only remember it being irrepressible and positive, a well-spring of easy adoration, a reminder of innocent crushes and sunny early 1990s Saturdays wasted watching videos on television. (In other words, only the titular chorus really stuck with me between that bygone era when this song - plus a bunch of equally fly TLC joints like "Baby Baby Baby," remember those? - was inescapable and the present.) One of the reasons I dug "Every Girl" so much - Young Money Fam's recent, caddish ode to equal-opportunity sex addiction - is that that song draws on the same wide-open, chill vibe, the sense that it's early spring, that anything's possible, that those conditions will persist forever despite reams of convincing evidence to the contrary. "Smile" reminds me of its video, which I mis-recall as lots of soft-focus shots of Shanice smiling beautificly on some anonymous college campus, of watching A Different World and The Cosby Show, of attending Black Awareness Club-affiliated high school mixers, of wishing I had a car and didn't have to rely on the MTA to get around.
You know what, though? There's so much more to "Smile" than that. There are corny-ass 80s-ubiquitous horn breaks. There's a part where Shanice busts some rhymes, and another where she actually says "sike." There's talk of charging a black mini-skirt to a credit card. There's the lyric "I don't see the bad boys trying to catch some play, because I love your smile." There's the sub-textual possibility that Shanice is totally fronting or is engaged in some intramural flirting exercise, that maybe she doesn't actually love your smile. (Maybe she's taking your measure. Maybe she's acting on a dare. Maybe she's just bored.) And despite all that, "I Love Your Smile" remains a totally great period piece or time-capsule item - an onrush of warm, welcoming bass lines and dorky saxophones (yep, you heard right, she really does say "Blow, Branford, Blow," and Branford Marsalis really is wailing on his sax here) and syncopated beats and New Jane swing vocals and soul-stirring pianos with nowhere to be, in no great hurry to ever get there.