Word Up! (song)

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"Word Up!"
Single by Cameo
from the album Word Up!
B-side"Urban Warrior"
ReleasedMay 27, 1986
Producer(s)Larry Blackmon
Cameo singles chronology
"Single Life"
"Word Up!"
Music video
"Word Up" on YouTube

"Word Up!" is a funk and R&B song originally recorded by American funk band Cameo in 1986. The song was written by band members Larry Blackmon and Tomi Jenkins. Its frequent airing, on American dance and R&B radio, as well as its MTV music video (in which LeVar Burton appears as a police detective trying to arrest the band),[3] helped the single become the band's best known hit.

Release and reception[edit]

From the album Word Up!, "Word Up!" was Cameo's first US Top 40 hit, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spending three weeks at number 1 on the US R&B chart[4] and one week at number 1 on the US Hot Dance Singles chart. In the UK, it spent 10 weeks in the top 40, peaking at number 3 on September 21, 1986.

Besides being a commercial success, the track also earned critical acclaim from several publications. "Word Up!" won Cameo the Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Single as well as the NME Award for Best Dance Record. Like the band's previous single "Single Life", "Word Up!" features a reference to the opening notes of Ennio Morricone's theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

"Word Up" was a colloquialism, popular in New York City and other US urban areas, that acted as an affirmation of what was said - a kind of a hipper "You Bet."

Blackmon said of the song:

It just sounded good, and it was before its time. You can play 'Word Up' anyplace anywhere, and someone is going to be grooving and bobbing their head. Our sound was unique, as well. I haven’t heard another one like it, and we probably won’t hear another one like it in the future. It was that significant for us."[5]

Impact and legacy[edit]

Time Out listed the song number 54 in their The 100 best party songs list in 2018.[6]

Use in media[edit]

"Word Up!" is featured in Dancing Stage EuroMix, a dance video game for the arcade and PlayStation.[7]


Gun version[edit]

"Word Up!"
Single by Gun
from the album Swagger
ReleasedJuly 1, 1994
GenreHard rock
Songwriter(s)Larry Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins
Gun singles chronology
"Welcome to the Real World"
"Word Up!"
"Don't Say It's Over"

In the 1990s, "Word Up!" was first covered by Scottish hard rock band Gun, whose version carried a harder, more rock-oriented sound, including a guitar solo.[citation needed] Taken from their album Swagger, it was released on July 1, 1994, and reached number 8 in the UK singles chart.[25] Two versions of the CD single were released in the UK, each carrying different cover art and different tracks.[26]

Gun's version of the song was featured on the soundtrack to 1996 film Barb Wire, and was also used in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation season one episode "Who Are You?". The Gun version was also featured on the 2011 series of British television show Dancing on Ice, when Vanilla Ice used it as background music for his dance in the first episode.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1994) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[27] 41
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[28] 24
France (SNEP)[29] 46
Ireland (IRMA)[30] 17
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[31] 21
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[32] 14
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[33] 39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[25] 8

Mel B version[edit]

"Word Up!"
Single by Melanie G
from the album Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me: Music from the Motion Picture
B-side"Sophisticated Lady"
ReleasedJune 28, 1999
Length3:25 (radio edit)
5:23 (single version)
  • Blackmon
  • Jenkins
Melanie G singles chronology
"I Want You Back"
"Word Up!"
"Tell Me"
Music video
"Word Up" on YouTube

"Word Up!" was later covered by Mel B of the Spice Girls (known as Melanie G at that time) from the film soundtrack Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. It was released on June 28, 1999. It peaked at number 13 on the UK Singles Chart. The single was also included on the Japanese edition of her album Hot.

Format and track listing[edit]

  • Digital download EP[34]
  1. "Word Up" (Radio Edit) – 3:23
  2. "Sophisticated Lady" (featuring Emma Bunton) – 2:43
  3. "Word Up" (Tim's Dance Mix) – 5:31

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1999) Peak
Italy (FIMI)[35] 34
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[36] 86
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[37] 13

Korn version[edit]

"Word Up!"
Word Up!.jpg
Single by Korn
from the album Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
ReleasedNovember 16, 2004
Songwriter(s)Larry Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins
Korn singles chronology
"Everything I've Known"
"Word Up!"
"Another Brick in the Wall, Pts. 1–3"

"Word Up!" by American nu metal band Korn is a cover of the Cameo song.[citation needed] Its musical arrangements are similar to that of the cover version by Gun, except it is played in a lower sounding 7 string guitar tuning instead of the standard E. "Word Up!" was the first track featured on Korn's 2004 retrospective album, Greatest Hits, Volume 1, and was one of three new tracks along with Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" that was exclusive to the album (the "Word Up!" CD single also featured a live performance of the latter).

Background and release[edit]

It was released as the album's first single in July 2004, and received heavy airplay on alternative radio at its time of release, peaking in the top 20 of both Billboard charts,[38] whilst making a respectable impression on the mainstream charts of other countries, including Australia (where it debuted at number 28),[39] and Germany (number 46).[40] It is the only Korn single to be sent out to Top 40 radio stations, notably receiving airplay on New York City's Z-100, the largest Top 40 station in the US. Lead singer Jonathan Davis has said of the band's decision to include the song on their greatest hits, "We've been doing 'Word Up!' for years as a sound-check song—not the full version, just messing around with the riff."[41]

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song, directed by Antti Jokinen, featured the band-members' faces digitally edited onto dogs in a club scene with women dancing topless. It was the last Korn music video to feature their full original lineup with guitarist Brian Welch who departed the band the next year until his return in 2013.

In other media[edit]

The cover was featured in "Credit Where Credit's Due", an episode of the television series Veronica Mars, and in "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic", an episode of Monk.[citation needed] The track is also featured in the video game Lego Rock Band.[citation needed]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2004) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[39] 28
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[42] 58
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[43] 9
Brazil (ABPD)[44] 75
Norway (VG-lista)[45] 15
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[46] 47
US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100[citation needed] 23
US Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks[38] 16
US Modern Rock Tracks[38] 17

Little Mix version[edit]

"Word Up!"
Little Mix Word Up.png
Single by Little Mix
ReleasedMarch 16, 2014 (2014-03-16)
Songwriter(s)Larry Blackmon, Tomi Jenkins
Little Mix singles chronology
"Little Me"
"Word Up!"
Music video
"Little Mix - Word Up!" on YouTube

British girl group Little Mix covered the song for Sport Relief 2014. It was released digitally on March 16, 2014, followed by a physical release the following day, which was only available to purchase from Sainsbury's.[47]

Background and release[edit]

Little Mix first announced the single on January 16, 2014, through their official Twitter.[47][48] The song was first played on BBC Radio 1 on January 20, 2014, during Nick Grimshaw's Breakfast show.[49]

The cover art of the single was revealed on January 24, 2014.[50]

Critical reception[edit]

The song received rather positive reviews with the Popjustice ranking it as third for the best version of the song and third for the best Sport Relief single and gave the song 7 out of 10 stars.[51] Kevin Kevinpod of DirectLyrics said that "[Little Mix's] harmonies are spot-on, and the whole record is pure fire." and that the song is a chance of the band getting a number one hit.[52] Its production was also likened to Janet Jackson's single "Black Cat."[53]

Music video[edit]

The shooting for the music video started in early February 2014. The band posted an exclusive picture from the video on February 25, 2014.[54] The video was first shown on the Chart Show TV on February 28, 2014[55] and was posted on Vevo on March 3, 2014.[56] It features celebrity cameos from Nick Grimshaw, Louie Spence, Louis Smith, Arlene Phillips, Melanie C and Chris Barrie.[57]

The video starts off with the band in a changing room of a gym. As they walk out of the changing room, Jade tries to pick up a barbell pretending that she cannot lift it but then she lifts it up and walks away carrying it. Perrie then walks along four women who are working out while Jade is on a stationary bicycle among three other women, following the instructions of a trainer. With the bicycle, Jade starts going forward with the rest following her at the back.

The scene then switches to a court with the band exercising and dancing the same time along with other people while singing the chorus of the song. Afterwards, Leigh-Anne is stood in front of some athletes with one using her as a barbell at the end of her part. Jesy continues with her part while dancing in front of two men working out on treadmills and fall off them after some time. During the chorus, the scene changes again to the court with the owner (Barrie, who had previously played a gym manager in BBC sitcom The Brittas Empire) of the gym seeing the girls and the rest dancing and runs upset out of his office. As he is going down to the court, he sees the athletes in the swimming pool shaping out the title of the song. When he reaches the court, he starts dancing with them. As of December 2018 the music video has reached over 130 million views on YouTube

Track listings[edit]

Digital download[58]
  1. "Word Up!" – 3:26
Digital remixes[59]
  1. "Word Up!" (The Alias Radio Edit) – 3:33
  2. "Word Up!" (Extended Mix) – 4:59
  3. "Word Up!" (Instrumental) – 3:05
CD single[60]
  1. "Word Up!" – 3:26
  2. "Word Up!" (The Alias Radio Edit) – 3:33
  3. "Word Up!" (Extended Mix) – 4:59
  4. "Word Up!" (Instrumental) – 3:05

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[61] 45
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[62] 65
Czech Republic (Rádio Top 100)[63] 92
Denmark (Tracklisten)[64] 38
France (SNEP)[65] 107
Ireland (IRMA)[66] 13
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[67] 71
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[68] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[69] 6

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
United Kingdom March 16, 2014 Digital download Syco
March 17, 2014 CD single (Exclusive to Sainsbury's)

Other cover versions[edit]

  • German country band the BossHoss covered the song on their 2005 debut album Internashville Urban Hymns. Their version was featured on a 2011 advert for VO5 Extreme Style hair gel and later featured in the climactic battle in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, where it was mixed with samples of the Cameo original.
  • The song was covered by German artist Jan Delay in 2007 on his album Mercedes-Dance Live, and his version peaked at #31 during its 9-week-stay on the German charts with heavy rotation on German music channels VIVA and MTV Germany.


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External links[edit]