Wednesday, December 12, 2018

"I Like You" by Phyllis Nelson

Song#:  2616
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  84
Peak:  61
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance, R&B, Synthpop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  This Florida native originally started off as a member of a family group. She then branched out and began to provide background vocals for various R&B artists. In the mid-70s, Nelson moved into the disco/dance market with the vocal trio Brown Sugar. Signed to Capitol Records, they issued a couple of singles in 1976 that went nowhere. Nelson then later pursued a solo career and signed with the French label Carrere in 1980. Her first single, "Don't Stop the Train," made it to #20 on the US Dance chart, but follow-up singles failed to do anything. Then after hitting it big in the UK with "Move Closer" (see below), Nelson attempted to get established in the US and pushed out this new single. It became a big success on the US Dance chart getting to #1. However, it just didn't cross over to the other charts as well. Its peaks at Pop (#61) and Dance (#65) were nearly the same. Again, further follow-ups failed to chart. This song remains her only one to reach the Pop and R&B charts in the US. Nelson died of breast cancer in 1998.

ReduxReview:  My one takeaway from this song is that...she likes me. A lot. And she likes everyone else too. A lot. I can hear how this song might have played well in the clubs, but the hi-nrg track just wasn't quite right for the other charts. I think it's just an average song dressed up in charging synths and effects. It's great that it found an audience, but it's nothing that really hooks me. It's actually a shame that "Move Closer" didn't catch on in the US. It's a much better and more interesting song.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although she was known for being a dance music diva, Nelson was also a songwriter. In 1984 she wrote a ballad titled "Move Closer." Although it was nothing like her previous songs, it ended up getting selected for single release. The song failed to make an impression and it disappeared quickly. Yet in early '85, nearly a year after its initial release, the song started to get airplay in the UK. It picked up speed and a couple of months later the single sat atop the UK chart. In doing so, Nelson became the first black female artist to reach #1 with her own composition. Despite the success in the UK and a few other countries, the song still couldn't break through in the US. She then quickly wrote "I Like You," which did get her on the US charts. The song would only reach #81 in the UK. Later in 1994, the song was featured in a British commercial for a deodorant. The ad generated interested in the song and it was reissued. It got to #34 on the UK chart.  2) Nelson's son Marc would go on to have some success in music, but he could have had an even bigger one. Marc Nelson was an original member and co-founder of Boyz II Men. The vocal group was on their way to being signed to a major label, but after delays and other conflicts within the group, Nelson decided to leave and shoot for a solo career. He signed with Capitol and was able to get a couple of minor singles on the R&B chart. With not much happening with his solo work, Nelson then became part of the vocal group Az Yet. The group would issue out a platinum-selling debut album in 1996 that featured the hits "Last Night" (#1 R&B, #9 Pop) and "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" (#20 R&B, #8 Pop). He would leave the group and head back out on his own. In 1999, he had his only major chart success as a solo artist with the #4 R&B hit "15 Minutes" (#27 Pop). He continued to work in music and also got into acting.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"No Frills Love" by Jennifer Holliday

Song#:  2615
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Holliday's second solo album, Say You Love Me, wasn't attracting the same attention as her debut LP. The first single, "Hard Time for Lovers," stalled early at both R&B (#17) and Pop (#69). This second single couldn't get a foothold either and it topped out a disappointing #29 at R&B while only spending three short weeks on the Pop chart. However, the tune would fill up dance floors across the country and it ended up reaching #1 on the Dance chart. Unfortunately, that didn't translate into sales for the album, which ended up peaking at #34 R&B and #110 Pop.

ReduxReview:  I'm not really sure why this song wasn't released as the first single. It's pure radio-friendly, hooky dance-pop. It may not have been a big Pop hit, but I think it would have done better if it had been pushed out first. With "Hard Time for Lovers" pretty much tanking, interest was lost in the album and no one wanted to pay attention to this song. However, the clubs spun it to great success. It's not a fantastic song, but it was a pretty good one to show that Holliday could do more than the big ballads she had become known for.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song would be Holliday's last to reach the Pop chart. She had a few more R&B entries including the #10 single "I'm on Your Side," which was from the 1991 album of the same name. She would have better luck on the Dance chart where she had five more Top 10's including 2000's #1 "Think It Over." That song was a remake of Cissy Houston's 1978 #32 R&B original version.  2) In 1996, Holliday released a compilation titled The Best of Jennifer Holliday. Included on the collection was a new remix version of "No Frills Love." Once again it turned into a club hit and made it to #1 on the Dance chart.


Monday, December 10, 2018

"The Power of Love" by Jennifer Rush

Song#:  2614
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  91
Peak:  57
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  New York-born Jennifer Rush (real name Heidi Stern) just couldn't catch a break in her home country. The classically trained musician/singer issued out an indie LP in 1979 under her real name and shopped it around to various labels, but none bit. Her father, who was an opera singer living in Germany, took her demo around to labels there and ended up getting a nibble from CBS. An initial single release in 1983 tanked, but then she was paired with a production team and began writing songs with them. Her first two singles from the sessions didn't fare well, but her next two singles made the German Top 30 and a debut album was issued. Then "The Power of Love" was pushed out late in '84. It became a #9 hit and distribution to other European countries soon followed. By October of '85, the song hit #1 in the UK where it remained for five weeks. Finally, the song made it to the US at the beginning of '86 and it should have been a triumphant return home for Rush, but the song didn't turn into the mega hit it had been in many other countries. It stalled before it could even get into the top half of the Pop chart and failed to catch on at AC. With the single tanking, the album was a non-starter and didn't chart.

ReduxReview:  I still don't understand why everyone went ga-ga for this song. It has always had a snooze factor of about  9.5 for me. The thing just drags on and on. Even the shortened radio version bores me silly. It is just one rolling drone of a tune and no matter who sings it, I'm not going to be a fan. Rush has a nice, big voice but even she sounds a bit lethargic on her own song. Out of the four charting versions, this may be my least favorite. Air Supply probably did the most palatable version. Laura Branigan's take sounds like she's gonna rupture her vocal chords, yet she's engaged and passionate. Then there is Celine Dion screaming her way through the dirge. The thing that saves it for Dion is that the arrangement nearly eliminates the rolling effect and turns it into a more straight ahead pop tune, which does make it better. However, no matter the version, I've suffered enough with the song. Please just make it stop...please...

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song wasn't just a chart topper in the UK. It became the best selling single of the year there in addition to being the biggest selling single ever by a female artist at the time. With that much attention and sales, it seems nearly assured that the song would be a hit in the US as well. Weirdly, it ended up being a dud even as our neighbors to the north, Canada, took it to #1 there. So why was this a hit around the globe yet a miss in the US? There may be several reasons that all contributed. First, when CBS in the US was approached to release the album, they chose not to citing that it sounded to European for the US pop market. They might have been right. Not everything that works in other countries like the UK will appeal to American ears and audiences may not have been ready for this chugging ballad, which definitely had a European feel. Another reason may be that the song had already been a US AC chart hit. As Rush's version was beginning to break overseas, Air Supply got wind of the song and got it recorded and released in the US in late summer of '85. Their version only got to #68 Pop, but it was a hit at AC getting to #3. With the song already having its chance in the marketplace, another version released soon after was going to have a difficult time. Promotion may have also been at play. Since CBS wasn't hot on Rush's album to begin with, it was doubtful they would do heavy promotion on something they weren't keen on in the first place. Combine all this together and basically Rush got the shaft in her home country. However, as a co-writer of the song she can't be too sad as two more versions of the song would do much better on the US chart. Laura Branigan's 1987 take would get to #26 while Celine Dion would take it to #1 in 1994.


Sunday, December 9, 2018

"Jimmy Mack" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  2613
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  65
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Easton's Nile Rodgers-produced album Do You didn't get off to a great start. The first single, "Do It for Love," didn't connect with listeners and it stalled just inside the Top 30 (#29). It was highly disappointing since her previous two albums each began with a Top 10 hit. To try and get things back on track, this next single was pushed out. It also failed to grab an audience and died off after a few weeks in the lower half of the chart. It did slightly better at Dance getting to #30. A third single, "Magic of Love," failed to make any chart. Although the album peaked at a mediocre #40, enough fans showed up to make the album go gold.

ReduxReview:  This song has always confounded me. My main question is - why? Easton's previous two albums set her up to be a pop diva vixen and she accomplished that with three Top 10 hits. She had cemented her new image. Then along comes Nile Rodgers and completely changes things up at a time when it wasn't necessary. I think Rodgers was aiming for a more mature urban-flavored pop-dance sound and it didn't work. It was like Easton aged ten years overnight. I mean, one minute she was doing sexy and current pop tunes like "Strut" and then the next she was covering a moldy Motown hit that wasn't going to appeal at all to a younger audience. It was a major mistake at the time and it took Prince's involvement the following year to get Easton back on track. Does that mean the album is bad? Not really. Years later, many fans point to this as one of her best albums. It just wasn't the right album to do at the time. I like several tracks on the LP, but this isn't one of them. I was never a big fan of the original version (see below) and Easton's remake didn't do anything for me either. Why it was done to begin with, let alone pushed out as a single, remains a mystery. Easton went from talking about her "Sugar Walls" to singing one of your grandma's favorite songs in a span of just over a year. Not good.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. Their version was a #10 Pop/#1 R&B hit in 1967. It ended up being the group's sixth and final Pop Top 10, but it almost wasn't. The song, written by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team, was recorded by Martha and the Vandellas in 1964. In those days, Motown head Berry Gordy would hold his infamous "quality control" meetings where completed songs would be critiqued for release. Apparently, this song didn't pass muster and it got vaulted. Reasons for it not making the cut vary, but it is commonly mentioned that Gordy thought it was too close to sounding like The Supremes, who were basically his pet project since they just hit it big. Flash forward a couple of years and somehow the recording got dusted off and played for Gordy who declared that it was a hit and needed to get issued out right away. The delayed released may have helped the song become a hit. By 1967, the Vietnam War was revving up with thousands of American troops deployed. The song's "when are you coming back" sentiment was timely and may have contributed to its popularity.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

"Let Me Be the One" by Five Star

Song#:  2612
Date:  02/08/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This British family group started to break through a bit on the US charts with the #16 R&B track "All Fall Down" (#6 Dance, #65 Pop). The song was taken from their debut album Luxury of Life as was this follow-up single. This one did better and it got the group their first R&B Top 10 with the song hitting #2. It would also become their second Dance hit getting to #9. The single crossed over to Pop, but like than their previous release, it stayed in the bottom half of the chart. A third single, "Love Take Over," would be their second R&B Top 10 getting to #9 while making a minor impact at Dance (#30). It failed to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This pretty much stays within the lines drawn by their previous single except it has a little more funk. The groove is fine and the tune is better than "All Fall Down," however, it's nothing that really grabs my attention. While certainly capable singers, their vocals don't make much of an impression either. It's all good, just not great or very memorable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song (not to be confused with the 1987 #7 hit of the same name by Exposé) was covered later in 1999 by pop singer Mandy Moore. It appeared as a track on her debut album So Real. That album featured the #41 single "Candy." The album would be certified platinum and she would follow it up with two more gold albums. Moore began to transition into acting in the 2000's. She appeared in many films and TV shows and has done voices for animated films like 2010's Tangled. These days she is mainly know for her role as Rebecca Pearson in the hit NBC TV show This Is Us. What's odd about this is that her character's last name is the same as that of the siblings that made up Five Star.