Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"(I Just) Died in Your Arms" by Cutting Crew

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3048
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  80
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The basis for this UK band actually started in Canada when Nick Van Eede was on tour in Nova Scotia with his band The Drivers. He met up with Canadian Kevin Macmichael whose band Fast Forward was doing some shows with The Drivers. The pair hit it off and by 1985 they were in London writing and recording demos. Those songs got them signed to Siren Records, an offshoot label of Virgin UK. They brought on board two more members and the first lineup of Cutting Crew began recording. This first single was released in the UK in the summer of '86. It became a hit reaching #4. Their debut album, Broadcast, was then issued out in the fall. Wanting a stronger foothold in the US, Virgin decided to open up their new Virgin Records America label and it was decided that the Cutting Crew's album would be its first release in the States. It was preceded by this single, which became both Virgin's and the band's first #1 hit on the US Pop chart. It also got to #4 at Rock, #24 AC, and #37 Dance. The album then became a gold seller reaching #16. It was a significant debut by the band and one that helped to earn them a Grammy nod for Best New Artist.

ReduxReview:  Back in the day, this was one of those songs you could identify within a few seconds after it started playing. That windy, tooting synth line was a dead giveaway. It was a bit cheezy too, but luckily it led to quality song with a memorable chorus. For a debut single in the 80s, this one was pretty spot-on. It was well-written, had good production, and sounded great on the radio. It would later be used in several films and TV shows. Just a week or so before I wrote this post, the tune got used in a high-profile commercial. The somewhat infamous ad where Mr. Peanut of Planters Peanuts died included the song. In the ad, Mr. Peanut, Wesley Snipes, and Matt Walsh are in a peanut-mobile driving on a mountain road. Snipes and Walsh are singing to this song, which is playing on the radio. Then they crash and Mr. Peanut dies. Frankly, it's a stupid commercial and ad campaign, but at least this song got some attention again.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Lead singer and songwriter Nick Van Eede basically began a professional career in music when he was still in his teens. He ended up getting a deal with Barn Records and released a few solo singles for them in '78 and '79. The tunes didn't get him anywhere, so a couple years later he formed a band called The Drivers. They ended up signed with a Canadian label and scored a Top 40 hit in 1983 with "Tears on Your Anorak." The associated debut album, Short Cuts, sold fairly well. A tour of Canada ensued and that is when Van Eede met his future Cutting Crew bandmate Kevin Macmichael.


Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"Looking for a New Love" by Jody Watley

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3047
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  82
Peak:  2
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Watley was an original member of the R&B vocal trio Shalamar. But after scoring several hits including the 1979 #1 R&B/#8 Pop hit "The Second Time Around, Watley left the trio in 1983. She took off for London and while there got hooked up with Mercury Records. She co-wrote and recorded a couple of singles for the label and released them in the UK under the single name of Jody in '84 and '85. Nothing much happened with the songs, so Watley headed back to the US. Still wanting to make a go of it as a solo artist, she secured a deal with MCA Records. She began recording songs for a self-titled debut album including five tracks that she co-wrote with producer AndrĂ© Cymone. One of those songs, "Looking for a New Love," would serve as the LP's first single. It first took off at R&B where the tune reached #1. It then got to #1 on the Dance chart. That momentum allowed it to cross over to the Pop chart and eventually it would just miss out on the top spot peaking at #2 for an extended four-week period. The album would be a #1 R&B/#10 Pop platinum seller. The song would earn Watley a Grammy nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. She would also be nominated for Best New Artist, an award she would end up winning.

ReduxReview:  Watley only got to co-write a few minor songs for Shalamar, so her taking control and co-writing the majority of this album established her as a lot more than just a voice in a vocal trio. This track was really quite defiant and it made a statement. The groove set by AndrĂ© Cymone was fierce as was the production. Watley's voice was solid, but it wasn't real strong or unique. Yet she made you pay attention with a confident and sassy delivery. This was super groovy ear candy that was hard to resist. It can definitely be counted as one of the best dance tracks of the decade.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Watley's win for Best New Artist was a tad controversial at the time. The category had already seen its share of issues over the years (and still does), so it didn't seem unusual that some folks balked at both her nomination and win. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, she was already an established artist who had accumulated hits with Shalamar. That alone probably should have taken her out of contention considering that many former group/band members later hit it big as solo artists but were not nominated (Paul Simon, Don Henley, etc.). Second, she had already released two solo recordings in previous years. That was a stickler that took Whitney Houston out of contention a couple years before. But apparently because those singles were not issued in the US and they were not released as by Jody Watley (just "Jody"), those didn't seem to count. Both were minor, but fair points that probably would have been forgotten had she not won. She ended up winning over Breakfast Club, Cutting Crew, Swing Out Sister, and Terence Trent D'Arby, who everyone thought would take the trophy. Granted, it was a very weak year of candidates since three of them pretty much had one hit and disappeared, so sneaking Watley in was probably a way to boost up the category. In the end, the win was the right choice as she outlasted all the others on the charts scoring six Pop Top 10s.


Monday, February 17, 2020

"The Boy in the Bubble" by Paul Simon

Song#:  3046
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  86
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, World

Pop Bits:  Simon's Graceland LP had been around since late summer '86. Its first two singles weren't major hits, but solid reviews of the album and interest in its worldbeat style helped it reach #6. Then in late Feburary '87, the album got a significant boost when it won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Graceland was still in the Top 20 at the time, but due to the win it did a turnabout on the chart and headed up to a new peak of #4. The Grammy win coincided just right with the release of this third single. It would do quite well at Rock reaching #15. Unfortunately, it couldn't make much headway on the Pop chart and fell off after a short month.

ReduxReview:  This was the first track on Graceland and with the opening accordion line along with the big drum bang, you knew you were in for something completely different than Simon's normal pop fare. The driving rhythm created by the accordion and the bass were just so cool. Add to that Simon's near-stream of consciousness lyrics and you had a truly unique and memorable track. There was something earthy and mysterious about the song and I liked it from the get-go. As a Pop single? Well, it wasn't necessarily built for that. However, it was interesting and groovy enough that it might have had a chance to catch on and be one of those strange radio hit oddities. Rock radio played it, but the track just wasn't cutting it next to Madonna and Bon Jovi. I don't think the pop radio audience was quite ready for worldbeat music.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This was among the first songs Simon attempted to record when he went to South Africa. Before arriving, he had heard a song by a group called Tau Ea Matsekha that he particularly liked. Simon decided to record a version of the tune and he asked the group's leader, songwriter, and accordionist Forere Motloheloa to join him in the studio. They reworked the tune with other musicians and completed the backing track. When he got back to the US, Simon wrote the lyrics and recorded the main vocal part. Motloheloa received a writing credit on the song alongside Simon.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

"Meet Me Half Way" by Kenny Loggins

Song#:  3045
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  95
Peak:  11
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Loggins had previously worked with producer/songwriter Giorgio Moroder on two songs for the hit soundtrack to the film Top Gun. Both ended up being singles with "Danger Zone" cruising up to #2 and "Playing with the Boys" making it to #60. So when Moroder began writing songs with Tom Whitlock again for the soundtrack to the Sylvester Stallone sports drama flick Over the Top, it seemed logical to reach out to Loggins for another assist. He obliged and recorded this ballad. It would be released as a single a few weeks after the soundtrack's first single, Sammy Hagar's "Winner Takes It All" (#54), was issued out. While that rock track didn't make much headway on the Pop chart, Loggins' ballad slowly cut a path up until it finally peaked just outside the Top 10 at the dreaded #11 spot. It was his sixth song from a film to reach the Pop chart. The song did even better at AC where it got to #2.

ReduxReview:  I hadn't heard this song in ages. It's one of Loggins' hits that seems to have gotten lost over the years. It's a lovely song with a nice vocal performance from Loggins and was well-written by Moroder and Whitlock. The production was a bit stiff in an 80s kind of way, but it seemed to work okay at the time. The single was certainly a slow burner on the Pop chart. It debuted way low and really had a tough climb. It got to #11 in its fifteenth week, stayed there for one more week, then finally ran out of gas. Yet it stayed on the chart for another two months. It would have been an impressive run for any song, but especially for one that didn't make the Top 10. The tune was another worthy addition to Loggins' run of soundtrack hits.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song remained Loggins' biggest hit on the AC chart (#2) for nearly ten years. He would finally top that chart later in 1996 with another film song. Loggins record "For the First Time" for the George Clooney/Michelle Pfeiffer rom-com One Fine Day. The song was serviced around to radio stations for airplay, but for whatever reason it was not made commercially available as a single. Consequently, even though it became a #1 AC hit, the song didn't make the Pop chart as chart rules dictated that in order to make the chart, the song had to be release commercially as a single. While that may not have seemed like a good decision, the upside was that if people wanted to own the track they had to buy the soundtrack album. It would do well reaching #52. The song, written by James Newton Howard, Jud Friedman, and Allan Rich, would later be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

"Boy Toy" by Tia

Song#:  3044
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  97
Peak:  97
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This singer from Long Island was supposedly discovered while dancing in a club by a local NYC DJ and his wife. The DJ, Jim "Chopper" Cohn, had some music business and studio experience and thought that the teenager could be a viable dance-pop artist and convinced her to sign with his production company. Their first effort was this single that was co-written and co-produced by Cohn. The tune was pitched around and RCA Records decided to bite and release the record. It took off in the clubs and by February of '87 it had reached #6 on the Dance chart. That gave it momentum to cross over to Pop, but it would only be for a very brief two-week stay. It was enough for RCA to call for an album and while that was being readied, Tia released two more singles, a remake of Alisha's #1 Dance hit "Baby Talk" and "Cupid." Neither charted and due to those results, the associated album Sugar-N-Spice got shelved and that ended Tia's major label days.

ReduxReview:  You can pretty much lump Tia in with all the other Madonna-wannabes from the time period. I mean, it's pretty obvious when you record a song titled after an iconic Like a Virgin era piece of fashion and the song has a similar dance-pop feel of Madonna's True Blue album. At least Tia's voice was different from Madonna's, although there were a few inflections on this track that are certainly reminiscent of Madge. It got doubly crazy when Tia covered a song ("Baby Talk") from another Madonna-a-like Alisha. Weirdly, Alisha ended up on RCA just about the same time Tia was leaving. I think the label was starved for a Madonna of their own and took a chance on several. For what it is, this song is not all that bad (it's not all that good either). Tia's voice seems a bit stronger than the average Madonna-wannabe and the chorus is hooky. Still, it all seemed just a bit too manufactured and while it may have drawn folks to the dance floor, it wasn't nearly strong enough to claw its way up the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It seems that Tia had some success in France. Her singles were released there and apparently she was popular enough that two other records were released as well. "Sugar Baby" came out in 1988 while "Dance to the Music" came out in 1992. Later in 2010, her singles and material that was to be included on her debut album were gathered and released on a collection titled Absolutely.  2) After her days as a dance-pop diva, Tia turned to rock music and began fronting a few bands. Since 2010 she has been with the New Jersey hard rock band Sinsanity. They released an album in 2012 titled The Machine.