Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"Certain Things Are Likely" by KTP

Song#:  3152
Date:  06/13/1987
Debut:  97
Peak:  97
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This UK band, originally named Kissing the Pink, had been known for their new wave experimental rock sound that garnered them a cult audience. They signed with Magnet Records and after releasing albums in '83 and '84, they didn't have much to show for it except a minor US chart entry with 1983's "Maybe This Day" (#87 Pop). Magnet still wanted to invest in the band, but wanted them to spruce up their sound to make it more commercial. In other words, they wanted a hit from the band. After some personnel changes and a trimming down of their name to just KTP, the group recorded their third album Certain Things Are Likely. It signaled a significant shift in sound from quirky new wave to streamlined dance-pop. The LP's first single, "One Step," didn't do much in the UK only getting to #79. However, it caught on in US clubs and the song ended up at #5 on the Dance chart. A follow-up single, "Never Too Late to Love You," wouldn't do as well (#87 UK/#32 US Dance). This third track was then issued out. In the UK it wouldn't chart, but it would become a major hit on the US Dance chart reaching #1. The song's success there allowed it to cross over to the Pop chart where it would circle the bottom rungs for a month. Despite having a pair of Top 10s on the Dance chart, the album wasn't a big seller and it failed to chart. Magnet apparently wasn't impressed with the results and KTP had to seek another record deal.

ReduxReview:  This song is certainly different from the noir-ish new wave of '83's "Maybe This Day." It was obvious that they were looking to break through in a bigger way. This track had a Dead or Alive/Stock Aitken Waterman vibe combined with some British new wave/synthpop. The charging tune was a club floor filler in the US and there was opportunity for it to break wider, but I don't think it got the promotional push needed to really crack the Pop chart. While I don't think it would have been a major hit, it certainly could have been a Top 40 contender. Actually, their first Dance chart hit "One Step" was a really nice track that had a Human League feel to it. I'm surprised that song didn't do better in the UK. The album is a surprisingly good listen. Critics and fans balked because it wasn't anything like their previous discs, but I think they did a good job in their attempt to become more mainstream.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following their time at Magnet, KTP then signed on with Warner Bros. They reverted back to their original name of Kissing the Pink and recorded the single "Stand Up (Get Down)." The song didn't chart and Warner Bros. lost interest in the group. An indie album would follow later in 1993. The band in various iterations would kick around over the years and even record some songs that were released on Bandcamp in 2015.


Monday, June 1, 2020

"I Want Your Sex" by George Michael

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3151
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  51
Peak:  2
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  Although George Michael had a couple of singles credited to his name while with Wham! and a had supporting role on "I Knew You Were Waiting for Me," the #1 duet with Aretha Franklin, his solo career didn't get fully kicked off until this single was released. The track would do double duty; it would be the third single released from the Beverly Hills II soundtrack while also previewing Michael's debut solo album, Faith, which would get released later in October. The track, especially its title, would elicit controversy, which of course only helped to promote the song and it would end up reaching #2 at both Pop and Dance while getting to #43 at R&B. It would also be a big seller going platinum, a certification that was getting rare by this point in time (the RIAA would change rules for certification in 1989 to address this). It was quite the way to kick off a solo career and it would only go up from here.

ReduxReview:  Michael idolized Prince and this song certainly was a reflection of that adoration. While it certainly had shades of the Purple One, I thought Michael did a nice job incorporating what he'd learned over the years with Wham! and in the end he created something that was a definitive line in the sand between his Wham! days and his solo career. He had decisively moved from teeny-bopper pop to something more groovy and mature. I loved the song and like a lot of people I bought the single. However, I will say that over the years the tune has lost a little bit of its luster. It's not quite as enthralling now as when it was first released. It's still a fun track and a good listen, but the "wow" factor from back in the day has diminished.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This single was actually just the first part of a longer three-part song. Although all parts were under the "I Want Your Sex" title, each part had a subtitle: "Rhythm One: Lust," which was used for the single, "Rhythm Two: Brass in Love," and "Rhythm Three: A Last Request." Parts one and two would be included on the Faith album while part three would only be available on the 12" single of the song and as a bonus track on the CD versions of Faith. The full three-part song, which clocked in at over 13 minutes, would be tagged as the Monogamy Mix and as of this date is still only available on the 12" single.  2) Since this song was first featured in a film, it was eligible for movie-related awards and it did end up winning one trophy. Unfortunately, it was the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song.  3) Hard to believe now, but back in the 80s just having a DJ announce a song called "I Want Your Sex" was a little shocking, especially after all the PMRC uproar concerning potentially offensive music. Even American Top 40 host Casey Kasem famously refused to say the song's title on the air. Instead, he would call it George Michael's "latest single". Some folks thought the song promoted promiscuity and that led some stations to banning the track. The BBC would only play it later in the evenings. Even the video had its share of issues with MTV initially refusing to air it. But as the song's popularity grew and folks got used to it, the reins loosened up a bit. Still, the controversy along with lack of airplay in some places helped sales of the single.


Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Cross My Broken Heart" by The Jets

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3150
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  63
Peak:  7
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  At this point in time, this family band's self-titled debut album was just about to get a platinum certification. It got there thanks to a pair of #3 Pop hits, "Crush on You" and "You Got It All." As the band began to prepare their follow-up album, they got the opportunity to record a song for a film soundtrack. This song co-written and co-produced by Stephen Bray (of Madonna fame and The Breakfast Club) was what came The Jets' way and they got it recorded for the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy flick Beverly Hills Cop II. It was issued out as the soundtrack's second single on the heels of Bob Seger's "Shakedown." It would also serve as the lead single to The Jets' second album, Magic, which would be released in the fall. The song would be another multi-format hit for the band making the Top 10 at Pop, #8 Dance, and #11 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This song was a good vehicle for the family band. It certainly had a contemporary Madonna sound to it thanks to Bray. Had the label/producers hired a Madonna-ish singer to record the song, it may not have been as big of a hit because it might have sounded like a rip-off. However, since it was The Jets and they already had a couple of hits under their belt, the song sounded more like an extension of their sound rather than an imitation. Bray probably should have kept the tune for his own band (The Breakfast Club), but either way, he ended up with a solid hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Labels sometimes like to capitalize on artists who have broken through quickly with their debut album. Especially artists who have a large teen-based following or perhaps fall in the AC crowd. If the timing is right, one of the ways to do that is to get the artist to record a holiday album. Due to the artist being hot at the time, holiday albums can sell well and can be money makers since they are typically done quickly on a low budget. And if the artist has longevity, there is a chance the album could continue to sell over several holiday seasons. MCA seemed like it was a good idea for The Jets to hop on board a sleigh and deliver a gift to their fans. The band recorded Christmas with the Jets and it was released in time for the '86 holiday season. It was a more modern Christmas album with the band doing contemporary tunes instead of old holiday standards. Unfortunately, it seems only a few folks bought the album. The album topped off at a minor #30 on the Holiday Albums chart.


Saturday, May 30, 2020

"One for the Mockingbird" by Cutting Crew

Song#:  3149
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  78
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band grabbed a major hit with their very first single "(I Just) Died in Your Arms." The song would hit #1 on the US Pop chart and lead them to a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It didn't catch on quite as well and after making the Pop Top 40, it stalled. It did only slightly better at Rock getting to #29. By this point, the album had already peaked at #16 and gone gold. This track didn't promote it all that well, but a third single would help spur some sales of the album.

ReduxReview:  While this song didn't have the mainstream appeal of "(I Just) Died in Your Arms," I thought it was a worthy follow-up. In addition to being nicely written and produced, the song had a good hook and it showed a different side of the band. It may not have been destined for the Top 10, but I thought it would do better than a minor Top 40 showing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Not long after Cutting Crew broke up, lead singer/songwriter Nick Van Eede ended up on the ground floor of what would become one of the biggest hits of the 90s. Van Eede produced a demo of a song that was written by Brian Higgins, Matthew Gray, Stuart McLennen, and Timothy Powell. The little ditty floated around at Warner Bros. for a long time, but it generated little interest. Then a lucky break came in 1998. Warner was seeking material for a new Cher album that was to have a Eurobeat flavor. Producer/songwriter Mark Taylor was already working on the project and was given the demo to see if he could do something with it. He enlisted the help of a couple other staff songwriters and in the end they came up with the song "Believe." Of course that song went on to become an iconic worldwide #1 hit for Cher. Van Eede had nothing to do with the song beyond producing the original demo. All he got out of it was a good story and as he has stated in interviews, "I got a bottle of whiskey for my work!"


Friday, May 29, 2020

"Rock Steady" by The Whispers

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3148
Date:  06/06/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  7
Weeks:  23
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Although The Whispers hadn't been in the Pop Top 40 since 1981's "It's a Love Thing" (#28 Pop/#2 R&B), it didn't mean their success had waned. Over the course of three albums (one of them going gold) the group scored four R&B Top 10s between 1982-84. They took a bit of a break after that run of hits and finally returned with their fourteenth album Just Gets Better with Time. For the recording, they were paired with the new songwriting/production team of L.A. Reid and Babyface, who were members of the band The Deele. The Whispers recorded two songs with the pair including this first single. It would be an immediate hit at R&B easily reaching #1 on that chart. A week before it would hit that peak, the single debuted on the Pop chart. After a leisurely climb, the tune would become the first Pop Top 10 for the group. In turn, the album would become their second platinum seller hitting #3 R&B/#22 Pop. The song would be the group's last to reach the Pop chart in the 80s.

ReduxReview:  When an artist has been around for a long time and have remained popular like The Whispers (since 1970), sometime a boost of new blood is needed in order to keep them viable on the charts. The Whispers had been doing consistently well on the R&B chart in the 80s, but they still hadn't managed to breakthrough to Pop in a big way; and with their albums in '83 and '84 not going gold, it was time for a change. Luckily, they got hooked up with L.A. Reid and Babyface and that breath of fresh creativity gave them this hit, which became the biggest of their career. It was a terrific, hooky track with a nice 80s-oriented production. The song took its time breaking through to Pop even though I thought it was an instantly likable tune. The group was never able to replicate its success, but at least they were able to cap off their career with this memorable hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After another break and a label change to Capitol Records, the group returned with 1990's More of the Night. It would do well going gold and reaching #3 R&B/#83 Pop thanks mainly to the #8 R&B/#55 Pop single "Innocent." Two more R&B Top 10s would follow, but after that the group's fortunes began to dwindle and their hit-making days came to an end.  2) This was the first major hit co-written and produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface. Two big crossover hits with R&B singer Pebbles would quickly follow. Then their career as ace writers/producers blew up big time when they worked on former New Edition member Bobby Brown's massively successful second album, 1988's Don't Be Cruel. They then became one of the most successful writing/production teams of the 90s. The duo would end up winning the Grammy for Producer(s) of the Year in 1993.