Thursday, September 1, 2016

"Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1770
Date:  01/28/1984
Debut:  73
Peak:  2
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Kennedy William Gordy had aspirations of becoming a famous music star. It was certainly in his blood as his father was Motown founder Berry Gordy. With his father running the label, it seemed the young Gordy would have a direct shot at a recording career. However, two issues prevented that. First, father and son were estranged and second, Kennedy wanted to get a record deal on his own with no involvement from his father. With the help of Berry Gordy's ex-wife Ray Singleton, Kennedy worked on songs and got them recorded. Singleton would play them for Berry hyping this potential new artist (keeping Kennedy's identity under wraps), but Gordy wasn't liking what he heard. Then Singleton heard a song of Kennedy's that she thought had real potential. Kennedy recorded the song, but it needed a boost. He was able to convince childhood friend Michael Jackson to sing the chorus. With Jermaine Jackson adding backing vocals, the song was done and Singleton played it for Berry, who immediately recognized Jackson's voice. Smelling a hit, Berry signed the new artist, which ended up being his son. Not wanting the Gordy name attached to him, Kennedy sought a new name which came courtesy of the label. The newly christened Rockwell released this first single and it became a major hit reaching #2 at Pop and #1 at R&B. A comedic horror themed video became an MTV favorite and soon the record went gold as did Rockwell's debut album. Although he was able to get his career started on his own terms, he just couldn't follow up his distinctive smash hit and after two more failed albums, his music career was over. Despite one more very minor Top 40 entry, Rockwell got tagged as a one-hit wonder (#20 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  Let's face facts here. The main reason this became a hit was due to Michael Jackson's appearance. Thriller-mania was going on and about anything Jackson did was snapped up by rabid fans - and both Gordys knew that. I remember when this came out. The talk surrounding it wasn't about this great new artist Rockwell, but "hey, did you hear that song where Michael Jackson is singing the chorus?" Without Jackson, I think this song would have tanked. It's just not that good. The chorus is fine, thanks to Jackson, but the bordering-on-corny lyrics recited in a weird accent by Rockwell doesn't work. Yes, I know it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek "fun" stuff, but I'd call it a novelty song gone wrong helped along by a superstar cameo. I utterly hated it then and I still don't like it. Plus, I have to rail a bit here. In all accounts of the Rockwell story, he wanted to be anonymous in order to get a career going on his own without the help of his father. Yet, he still used connections that came about via Gordy including the ex-wife, Jackson, and even Gordy's own publishing company! Yes, it was without Gordy's knowledge, but if Rockwell really wanted to do things on his own and prove he had talent, why didn't he step away from all of the family and connections and attempt to get a contract by himself at another label? After all, he wasn't even on speaking terms with his dad, so why on earth did he want to be on a label that his dad controlled? Was it just to prove a point or to rekindle his relationship with Gordy? I dunno. Whatever it was, he didn't really do it on his own and ended up on the family label anyway. He got his hit, but as it proved out, that was all the gas he had in the tank. I want to give this one a zero, but I'll post two pity points for Jackson's appearance, which he was kind of ambushed into doing (according to what I've read).

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Rockwell was not the first Gordy to have a chart entry, nor would he be the last. Berry Gordy's brother, Robert, would record a song in 1958 that the pair had written titled "Everyone Was There." With a name change for Robert to Bob Kayli, the single would be a blip on the Pop chart at #96. Two other singles followed in the early 60's, but nothing came from them. Rockwell would be the only other Gordy to hit the charts until his half brother and nephew formed LMFAO. The duo of Redfoo (Stefan Gordy) and SkyBlu (Skyler Gordy) would have two huge #1 hits in 2011 with "Party Rock Anthem" and "Sexy and I Know It."


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