Monday, September 5, 2016

"That Was Then and This Is Now" by ABC

Song#:  1774
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  The sophisticated dance-pop of this UK band's debut album, The Lexicon of Love, attracted listeners and it wound up being a gold seller, thanks in part to the #18 single "The Look of Love." It did even better in the UK where the album topped the chart. For their follow-up LP, the band decided to take a bit of a left turn with their sound. Instead of repeating the slick keyboard based pop that got them established, they veered into guitar-driven rock territory for the political-leaning Beauty Stab. They dangled this first single in the waters, but folks were not biting. It stalled at a disappointing #18 in the UK while not even getting out of the basement on the US Pop chart. The results affected the album which couldn't get into the UK Top 10. The outcome was worse in the US where the LP pretty much tanked. In the aftermath, the band would end up make changes that would benefit their next effort.

ReduxReview:  Oh, the sophomore slump. It's one of the most notoriously difficult things to overcome in the music business. Your first LP strikes gold, but can your next one tap into the same vein? It can be a make-or-break situation. Lots of careers have been killed thanks to failed second discs and ABC came dang close to the chopping block with Beauty Stab. The shift in sound for their sophomore effort was a real WTF moment at the time. It's unclear why they would mess around with the formula that made their debut a hit, but they did and it did not work. This song was actually a bright spot on a dark album, but it plays more like something from The Fixx or INXS. Gone were the lovely pop theatrics of their debut. The song is less guitar-driven than other tracks on the album, but the change was still apparent and people tuned out. Beauty Stab was not a great album, but it wasn't a total dud either. If it had been their debut, folks might have thought it was pretty good. But after the delicious Lexicon, it left a bad taste. It almost killed their career, but luckily sales were decent enough in the UK to call for a third album and they got the opportunity to turn things around.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 2007, the BBC Radio 6 Music channel had listeners submit what they thought were the worst lyrics in pop music. After many suggestions, listeners voted on what was the worst and the channel ran a special counting down the top 10. Lyrics from this ABC song ended up in fourth place. Specifically for the lines "More sacrifices than an Aztec priest, standing here straining at the leash, all fall down, can't complain, mustn't grumble, help yourself to another piece of apple crumble." Who topped the list? British R&B singer Des'ree did with her UK #8 hit from 1998 titled "Life." She had twelve charting songs in the UK, but in the US she is known as a one-hit wonder thanks to her lone 1994 hit "You Gotta Be," which hit #5.


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