Saturday, March 25, 2017

"She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1987
Date:  07/21/1984
Debut:  52
Peak:  3
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Lauper's star was solidly high in the sky thanks to two big hits ("Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "Time After Time") from her debut album She's So Unusual. This next single would make it three in a row when it spent three weeks at #3 and went gold. But it wasn't without a bit of controversy. The song's subject matter, female masturbation, rankled a few people. Although Lauper's lyrics are not explicit in any way, there were folks who thought the tune's meaning was way too much for radio and young pop music listeners. One such person was Tipper Gore who later in 1985 put the song on the Parents Music Resource Center's "Filthy Fifteen" list. That organization would successfully lobby for record companies to label music products that contained explicit and/or offensive content. Luckily for Lauper, her album came out prior to all the hubbub. Had this album been assembled a year later, this song most likely would not have made the cut. Inclusion of the song would have gotten the album a parental advisory sticker and that would have directly affected a big chunk of Lauper's target audience. Lauper and her she-boppin' made it in under the wire.

ReduxReview:  Lauper's hit streak continued with this crunchy paean to gettin' it on wit yo bad self. It's almost like a twisted type of rockabilly or early rock song with the "be-bop-a-lu" and Lauper's quirky delivery. It more than hits all the marks and deservedly made the Top 10. Although the instrumentation keeps it stuck in the 80s, it still sounds awesome thanks to top-notch production and engineering. It didn't sound wimpy like a lot of 80s synthpop. The thing had muscle and it still flexes quite well today.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Lauper co-wrote this song with Rick Chertoff, Gary Corbett, and Stephen Broughton Lunt. Lauper's intention was to write the song in a way that a younger audience would think the lyrics were about dancing. As they got older, they would then later understand the song's more adult-oriented meaning. That ploy worked as the song's indirect lyrics allowed it to be played on the radio and its associated video got put into heavy rotation at MTV. However, the cheeky wink-wink lyrics didn't go unnoticed by the Tipper and the song would end up being tagged as filthy by the PMRC.


Friday, March 24, 2017

"Dynamite" by Jermaine Jackson

Song#:  1986
Date:  07/21/1984
Debut:  55
Peak:  15
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Jackson's 1982 album Let Me Tickle Your Fancy would be the last one for his home label of Motown. The title track was a hit (#5 R&B/#18 Pop), but it seemed that Jackson was ready to move on. He signed on with Arista and began work on his debut album for that label. The self-titled LP was introduced by a first single title "Sweetest Sweetest." It ended up being a complete failure missing out on both the Pop and R&B charts. Hoping to turn things around, this second single was issued. Luckily, things went much, much better. The song took off and became Jackson's fourth R&B Top 10 (#8). Pop responded well with the tune peaking in the Top 20. It also got to #20 at Dance.

ReduxReview:  I liked this workout of a jam right off the bat. It's very hooky and the 80s flourishes in the production were used to great effect. Jackson served as producer for the song and he did a great job. The song had a different flavor than the usual pop candy on the chart and I think that helped the song along. The album was quite good as well. Clive Davis had a hand in all this and for a change he did quite well getting Jackson back on the hit making path.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Despite the slow start, Jackson's album was catching on thanks to this hit. There was potential for an even bigger hit from the album, but circumstances killed its chances. The track "Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin' (Too Good to Be True)" featured a guest vocal appearance by Michael Jackson. With Michael's name and voice attached to the song, the catchy tune was poised to be a sizable hit. Unfortunately, issues arose between the artists' two labels (Arista and Epic) that they were unable to resolve and it prevented the release of the song as a single. Despite not being officially released, the song still got a lot of airplay, but airplay alone did not fit the criteria for charting at the time. However, airplay at clubs was all it needed to get on the Dance chart and the song went to #1 for three weeks. That was pretty good advertisement for the album, but this certainly was a missed opportunity for Jackson. It could have easily been one of his biggest solo hits. Alas, the music biz took that away. The song ended up garnering a Grammy nod for the brothers for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

"Right By Your Side" by Eurythmics

Song#:  1985
Date:  07/21/1984
Debut:  67
Peak:  29
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  After a set of dark and edgy new wave singles that included the the #4 "Here Comes the Rain Again," the duo unleashed this joyous, calypso-leaning tune that served as the third single from their album Touch. The tune had already been a hit in the UK where it got to #10, but it didn't do quite that well in the US. The song struggled to reach the Top 30 and couldn't do any better at Dance (#32) or AC (#38). However, by this time the album was already a #7 platinum hit.

ReduxReview:  This is a fun track that showed the duo in a completely different light. Not everything they did had to be so serious and intense. The song was a welcome breath of fresh air. I loved the tune when I first heard it on the album, but wasn't so sure it would do so well as a single. The UK embraced it, but I had doubts that US pop listeners would latch on to the quirky calypso sound. It ended up not doing too bad hitting the Top 30. While I prefer their darker tunes, I still enjoy hearing this once in a while.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  As a quick follow-up to the Touch album, the band's label, RCA, decided to release a remix EP of songs from the album. It featured remixes of four tracks from Touch that were not issued as singles, plus three instrumental versions. Heading up the remixes were noted producers Jellybean Benitez (Madonna) and Francois Kevorkian. Titled Touch Dance, the collection would reach #19 on the US Dance chart. It also did fairly well in the UK where it got to #31 on the Album chart. On the US Album chart it could only manage a #115 showing.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Cruel Summer" by Bananarama

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1984
Date:  07/21/1984
Debut:  74
Peak:  9
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  The UK trio's self-titled second LP was off to a shaky start in the US with the single "Robert De Niro's Waiting" flaming out at a very minor #95. Despite having Top 10 success in the UK, the US was not warming up to the group. However, that would finally change with this next single. The song, co-written by the trio plus their producers Jolley & Swain, debuted on the chart far higher than the peak of "Robert" and proceeded to make its way up the chart. It eventually became their first US Top 10 (#11 Dance). The hit boosted the album, which made it to #30. After several attempts, the trio finally broke through in America.

ReduxReview:  This was the song where everything came together for the trio and Jolley/Swain. It was a delicious blast of pop candy that perfectly fit in with the summer of '84. The group's unusual vocal approach combined with Jolley and Swain's glossy 80s production finally got its due in the US thanks to the tune. Since that time, the song has been an essential entry on most any summer-themed playlist. I had a particularly bad time in '84 and when this single came out I dubbed it my theme song for the summer. Despite scoring two bigger hits later on, for me this remains the best song Bananarama ever did.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  1) This hit was helped along by its appearance in a summer box office hit. Folks took notice of the tune when it was used in the film The Karate Kid. Although the track was not included on the official soundtrack album, the exposure certainly helped make the song a hit.  2) Later in 1998, the hit making Swedish pop group Ace of Base recorded a cover of this song. It would serve as the title-track and lead single from their third US album. The song would reach #10 and go gold. It was the group's fourth and final US Top 10 hit.


"Reach Out" by Giorgio Moroder (Featuring Paul Engemann)

Song#:  1983
Date:  07/21/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  81
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  To accompany the 1984 summer Olympic games that were held in Los Angeles, an official soundtrack was created. Several popular artists contributed songs and each one was dedicated to a specific event category. Just prior to the games, the LP's first single, the swimming theme "A Chance for Heaven" by Christopher Cross, was released. It fared okay at AC getting to #16, but was a dud at Pop tanking at #76. Next up was this song from hit songwriter/producer Giorgio Moroder. It was tagged as the theme for the track and field events and featured vocals by Paul Engemann (see below). The single was unable to gain any traction and ended up stumbling at a low #81. Oddly, the song caught fire in Germany and it reached the #1 spot on that country's chart. The track would end up being Moroder's final one to reach the US Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Once again, Moroder employed his "Flashdance" slow opening technique to this sporty synth jam. That much-used device was getting tired and the rest of this song wasn't much better. As I mentioned before, it is rather difficult to come up with a song that is specific to an event. Even some of the best songwriters fail. I'm not sure I'd count this one as a complete failure, but it's not very good or inspiring. The lyrics are full of sporting clichés and the music sounds like something from a b-movie about a teen or team overcoming the odds to win! Moroder just tries way too hard here and the results sound stiff and forced. It might have been good for a razor blade commercial, but as a pop single - nope. The Germans seemed to love it, but need I remind you that they made a music star out of David Hasselhoff...

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song would also be included on Moroder's 1985 LP Innovisions. That album would end up being Moroder's last formal studio release of original material for thirty years. When his appearance on Daft Punk's Grammy-winning Album of the Year Random Access Memories brought him back in the limelight, Moroder returned to the studio for the brand new 2015 album Déjà Vu. Featuring appearances by stars like Sia, Britney Spears, and Kylie Minogue, the LP spawned two #1 Dance tracks.  2)  This song was co-written by Morodor with Richie Zito and Paul Engemann. Engemann supplied the vocals for the track. This wasn't Engemann's first time on the Pop chart and it wouldn't be his last. Engemann first reached the chart back in 1975 when he and his sister formed the duo Christopher Paul & Shawn. They got to #91 with the song "For Your Love," a remake of the 1958 #7 R&B/#13 Pop hit by Ed Townsend (who also wrote the tune). Engemann would later hook up with Moroder for the song "Push It to the Limit," which was featured on the soundtrack to the 1983 film Scarface. Engemann would continue to work with Moroder for the next few years before becoming lead singer of the band Device (with songwriter Holly Knight). That band would get to #35 in 1986 with "Hanging on a Heart Attack." Soon after Device broke up, Engemann joined Animotion in time to do the vocals for their #9 1989 hit "Room to Move." (Side note:  Engemann's sister Shawn later married TV icon/journalist Larry King.)