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The song has had many cover versions over the years. In 1998, girl group All Saints released a cover of the song that peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart. The 2001 version by singers Christina Aguilera, Mýa, Pink and rapper Lil' Kim, recorded for the Moulin Rouge!soundtrack, was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, and also a number-one hit in the UK. "Lady Marmalade" was the ninth song to reach number one by two different musical acts in America.
The song was written by Bob Crewe and Kenny Nolan, and was inspired by Crewe's experiences in New Orleans and the sex workers in the area. A sex worker named Lady Marmalade shows up to a man named Joe, flirts with him and takes him home. Joe drinks wine and he screams French words while she is in the Boudoir.
A demo of the song was first recorded by The Eleventh Hour, a disco group made up of studio musicians fronted by Nolan on vocals. It was released in 1974 as a track on the Eleventh Hour's Greatest Hits LP which did not chart. Crewe showed the song to Allen Toussaint in New Orleans, and Toussaint then decided to record the song with Labelle.
Background and release
Labelle's version of "Lady Marmalade" was produced by Allen Toussaint and Vicki Wickham. It was released in November 1974 from Nightbirds, their first album after signing with Epic Records.Patti LaBelle sang lead vocals on "Lady Marmalade" with backing vocals being contributed by bandmates Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. The song is best known for the slang French lyric "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" (English: "Would you like to sleep with me tonight?") in the refrain. "Lady Marmalade" is a song about a prostitute, although Patti LaBelle, the lead female vocal of the band, was completely oblivious to its overall message, saying: "I didn't know what it was about. I don't know French and nobody, I swear this is God's truth, nobody at all told me what I'd just sung a song about."
Steve Huey from AllMusic selected the song as one of the best tracks on Labelle's 1995 compilation Lady Marmalade: The Best of Patti and Labelle. Critic Robert Christgau described it as "great synthetic French-quarter raunch."
"Lady Marmalade" is billed as the song that made Labelle one of the "hottest girl groups" of the 1970s. It was a number-one hit for one week on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States during the early spring of 1975, and charted at number one for one week on the BillboardTop Soul Singles chart. Along with the track, "What Can I Do for You?", "Lady Marmalade" peaked at number seven on the disco/dance charts. The single was also a major hit in the United Kingdom, where it charted at number seventeen . "Lady Marmalade" replaced another Crewe/Nolan composition, Frankie Valli's "My Eyes Adored You", as the Billboard Hot 100 number-one single. This feat made Crewe and Nolan the third songwriting team in Billboard history (after Lennon-McCartney and Holland-Dozier-Holland) to replace themselves at number-one.Billboard ranked it as the No. 22 song for 1975. Labelle performed "Lady Marmalade" on Soul Train on December 7, 1974.
"Lady Marmalade" was covered by Italianpop star Sabrina on her eponymous album. It was released in 1987 as the album's second single by Baby Records. In some countries, including France and the Netherlands, the song was known as "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? (Lady Marmalade)" and was released in 1988. Author James Arena named the cover among Sabrina's "relentlessly catchy" singles.
In 1998, English-Canadian girl group All Saints recorded a cover version of "Lady Marmalade" as part of the double A-sided single "Under the Bridge" / "Lady Marmalade". In Europe, only the "Lady Marmalade" single was released. The All Saints version contains different lyrics for its verses; the only lyrics retained from the original composition are the chorus. A version remixed by Timbaland appeared on the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack.
"Lady Marmalade" was the third single taken from their self-titled debut studio album; it contained the "Marmalade" cover and a cover version of "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers. The single reached number one on the official UK Top 40 chart, becoming the group's second number-one hit. A total of 424,799 singles have been sold in the UK, with proceeds from the single going to breast cancer charities.
The video shows the band members and other people having a dance party on one of the floors of a skyscraper in New York city, at night. British actress Kathryn Allerston appears in the music video.
In 2001, the song "Lady Marmalade" appeared as part of a medley in the film Moulin Rouge!. For the film's soundtrack album, Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink recorded a cover version; it was released as the soundtrack's first single in spring 2001. Produced by Missy Elliott and writing partner Rockwilder, it includes an intro and outro from Elliott. Lyrics were changed from the original version, transferring the song's setting from New Orleans to the Paris nightclub Moulin Rouge.
AllMusic's Brand Kohlenstein praised the song by highlighting it, adding that the ladies "teamed up for a surefire hit with their naughtier version of Patti Labelle's "Lady Marmalade."" Slant Magazine editor praised the collaboration, too: "the track is simply an accolade to the performers' various distinctive styles, with Lil' Kim trashing it up and Aguilera caterwauling her way through the second half of the song." However, Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone called the cover "god-awful". The Sun Journal opined that the Moulin! Rouge version helped the song "find a new life."Entertainment Weeklys Andrew Hampp named it the best all-female collaboration of the time span 1988-2018.
This version of the song reached number-one in its eighth week on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and spent five weeks at the top of the chart, 26 years after Labelle's version had reached number-one, making "Lady Marmalade" the ninth song in history to top the U.S. chart as performed as different artists. It was the third airplay-only song in Billboard chart history (after Aaliyah's 2000 single "Try Again" and Shaggy's 2001 single "Angel") to hit number one without being released in a major commercially available single format.
The song also holds the record for the longest reigning number one on Billboards Mainstream Top 40 chart for an all female collaboration, topping the chart for nine consecutive weeks. "Lady Marmalade" is the best-selling single for Lil' Kim and Mýa. Lil' Kim also held the record for having the longest number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 for a female rapper, with "Lady Marmalade" being on the top of the charts for 5 consecutive weeks, until Australian rapper Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" surpassed the record by holding on to the number one position for seven weeks in 2014. The song was included on non-US versions of Aguilera's first greatest hits album, Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits. Lady Marmalade was the top selling song of 2001 and has sold 5.2 million copies worldwide as of December 2001.
The music video, directed by Paul Hunter, shows all four performers in lingerie in a cabaret-style video (with rapper Missy Elliott giving an introduction) and was filmed March 17-18, 2001 in Los Angeles with sets built to resemble the actual Moulin Rouge night club around the turn of the century (1899). Interviewed by MTV News, the singers expressed their excitement about the video. P!nk predicted the clip would be like a "circus on acid". Christina gushed, "The video's going to be dope", while elaborating on the video's concept, "We're going to be having cabaret costumes. It's something you've never seen from us before. So, it's going to be fun." The video's art direction was anachronistically merged hip-hop sensibility with the film's French cabaret setting, thanks to some props and costumes actually used in the movie, according to Hunter's office. Choreographer Tina Landon was hired to choreograph the video. Speaking on the collaboration, Christina said she embraced the idea of collaborating with Elliott, Pink, Mýa and Lil' Kim on the track as soon as it was pitched to her. "I'm a fan of all of theirs, and just to be in the same song doing something with them -- collaborating, which I love to do, is a really big thing for me", she said. "And it's cool to be out there before my next album comes out there, too."
^ abFred, Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number One Single on Billboard's Hot 100 from 1955 to the Present (5th ed.). Billboard Books. pp. 399, 913. ISBN0-8230-7677-6.