If all of Silk Electric were as witty and outrageous as the hit single "Muscles," it would bode well for the new phase of Diana Ross' career launched last year with Why Do Fools Fall in Love? Written and produced by Michael Jackson, "Muscles" is something of an update of Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" in which a woman rejects the elementary requirements in a man for the one she holds most profound: "Just make him beautiful." A smutty but sweet role reversal, no? The production is full of teasing-threatening touches prickly acoustic-guitar picking, startling percussion crashes, breathy gaspingthat suggest a cartoon-S&M; Fay-Wray-and-King-Kong fantasy, and as an aural fantasy, "Muscles" is a modern pop masterpiece. Though one could argue that there's something disturbing and repellent about its view of the current health craze (it seems to say "Work that body so you can work me over"), on the same pop-psych level it's undeniable that "Muscles" is a more interesting reflection of today's culture than any bland baby-baby love song.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album is as glossy and superficial as Interview, the magazine published by Andy Warhol, who designed the album's cover. Two acceptable cuts are the doo-wop-style "So Close," with snazzy vocals arranged by Luther Vandross, and the jaunty "Anywhere You Run To," garnished with Randy Brecker's genuinely exciting horn charts. But, as a producer, Ross has done herself a disservice by choosing icky songs that invite namby-pamby cooing ("Love Lies," "In Your Arms") and rock tunes that obliterate the best qualities of her singing ("Fool for Your Love"). There's nothing here as soul wrenching as "Mirror Mirror" or her solo version of "Endless Love." And the absolute nadir arrives with the album's final cut, a narcissistic anthem in which Ross discovers, to an MOR-cum-reggae beat, "I am me! I am myself!" Diana, darling, we love you, but save it for your shrink.