Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Give" by Missing Persons

Song#:  1833
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  67
Weeks:  6
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This band had great success with their debut album Spring Session M. It would be a gold-seller despite not having a single Pop Top 40 hit. What it did have was four charting songs with two of them, "Words" and "Destination Unknown," both getting to #42. It helped the band build a sizable following and expectations were high for their next effort. It should have been their mainstream breakthrough, but instead it fell far short of expectations. Their second LP, Rhyme & Reason, would be a slick, yet experimental effort that hit a bump in the road immediately when this first single stalled far short of the Pop Top 40. Rock wasn't all that interested either and it stopped at #29. Subsequent singles failed to chart and the album quietly disappeared. Their label was less than happy with the results, but decided to give them another shot. Unfortunately, by the time Color in Your Life came out in 1986, the band was already forgotten. The tour for that album presented its own problems within the band and when it was over, the husband and wife team of Dale and Terry Bozzio divorced. Missing Persons finally closed up shop by the end of '86.

ReduxReview:  Their first album was full of sturdy, synthy new wave tunes that had a commercial edge and a sound that grabbed your attention (specifically with Dale Bozzio's squeaky voice). Really, it should have been a much bigger hit. Regardless, they set themselves up for bigger success and all they had to do was deliver something that the masses could eat up. With this song, they totally failed. It really had zero business being a single. There was nothing remotely catchy or radio friendly with this tune. I'm not sure what they were thinking with this album. Weirdly, it almost sounds like European new wave, guitar-driven synthpop. It was just the wrong direction - like what ABC did when they changed their sound for their failed second LP Beauty Stab. Maybe they just didn't really have the material or writing chops it took to go mainstream. Or maybe they didn't want to. Whatever it was, they squandered a great opportunity. However, Spring Session M lives on and it is still a classic 80s synthpop album.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  After the band broke up, Dale Bozzio tried for a solo career. She signed on with Prince's Paisley Park label and issued the 1988 album Riot in English. Prince even wrote a song for the album titled "So Strong." But even with the backing of the Purple One, the album failed with only one single, "Simon Simon," doing anything ( #33 Dance). Band member Warren Cuccurullo went on to become Duran Duran's guitarist in 1986 and became an official member in 1989. Patrick O'Hearn began a successful career in new age music releasing several albums over the years. He has also written scores for films.


Friday, October 28, 2016

"Love Me in a Special Way" by DeBarge

Song#:  1832
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  45
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This family group got their second Pop Top 20 and first R&B #1 with "Time Will Reveal," the first single from their third LP In a Special Way. For a follow-up, this song was chosen. Like "Time Will Reveal," the lead vocal was handled by El DeBarge. He wrote the tune as well. It just missed out on the R&B Top 10 getting to #11 while just missing out on the Pop Top 40. It also stopped short of the AC Top 20 stalling at #21. The combined performances of the singles were enough to get the album to gold level - their second in a row.

ReduxReview:  After the beautiful "Time Will Reveal," which was their third ballad single in a row, I expected something more upbeat for the follow-up. Instead, they stayed on the ballad path and issued this gospel-influenced tune. It's a lovely song, but I don't think it works very well as a single. Indeed, it kind of sputtered out before becoming a significant hit. I'm actually surprised it performed as well as it did. I think the group was realizing they were stuck in a ballad rut and needed to get out of it. They would do so on their next LP. What was strange was that "Time" and this song were the only ones released as singles from the album. For an album that was selling well, the lack of a third single was quite unusual. It would be a year before DeBarge would be on the charts again.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Stevie Wonder guest stars on this single playing harmonica.  2) Initially, the plan for this album was that each sibling would submit two songs for the album and perform the lead vocals. That idea didn't work out so well. By the time the album was set to go, El sang lead on four songs, he and Bunny shared vocals on two, Bunny sang one, and James lead two. For the most part, El, James, and Bunny wrote all the songs (individually and together). Bunny wrote and sang the LP's anchor track "A Dream." It became a popular radio track at R&B and would end up getting sampled by several artists. It can be heard on Blackstreet's 1997 R&B Airplay #1 hit "Don't Leave Me" and, more recently, on the 2015 Fifth Harmony track "We Know." R&B star Mary J. Blige covered the tune for the soundtrack to the 1997 film Money Talks.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Love Somebody" by Rick Springfield

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1831
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  49
Peak:  5
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  So, you're a musician and an actor. Both careers are going great and your star has risen. Now what do you do? Why not break into movies with a challenging role like...playing a famous rock star! Well, that is what Springfield signed on to do for the film Hard to Hold. In addition to his work on General Hospital, Springfield had done quite a bit of TV work since the early 70s, but he had not branched out into films. This would be his first real theatrical film and his first starring role. If the film was even somewhat of a hit, it could move him to better roles and establish him as a bankable movie star. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The film was not a critical favorite and it was a dud at the box office. However, one good thing did come from it - the soundtrack. Springfield wrote six songs and co-wrote one instrumental for the film. This first single got things kicked off. It was highly successful going Top 5 at Pop and #13 Rock. The soundtrack would reach #16 and become Springfield's fourth platinum album in a row. It was a bright spot from a film debacle, but it wasn't all completely rosy. This single would be Springfield's last to reach the Top 10 and the album would be his last platinum selling Top 20.

ReduxReview:  It's a good thing Springfield had a few solid songs in his pocket that he could use in the film. Otherwise, this could have been a bigger disaster than it was. The movie was terrible, but the soundtrack had a handful of keepers from Springfield including this first single. It's not one of his most memorable hits, but it gets the job done and it increased his streak of writing good, solid, pop/rock tunes.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Springfield's film career could have gone off on another, better trajectory. At the same time he was approached to do Hard to Hold, he was offered a role in the film The Right Stuff. That movie ended up being a hit and an Oscar nominee for Best Picture along with seven other nods (winning four). When asked to work on The Right Stuff, Springfield was given a script for a movie in which he'd be the star. Initially, Springfield hated the script and said no. But then the folks behind the film offered a lot of money to do it and Springfield had a change of heart. He did the movie even though he thought it was crap. Springfield has mentioned that his decision was ego-based and he totally regrets it now. He realized later his mistake in turning down The Right Stuff. At least the soundtrack did well for him.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"You Might Think" by The Cars

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1830
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  57
Peak:  7
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Cars grabbed their first Top 10 Pop hit when "Shake It Up" reached #4 in 1981. After the success of that single and its same-named album, the band decided to take a bit of a break. A couple of members did solo projects including Ric Ocasek, whose album Beatitude featured the #5 Rock/#47 Pop single "Something to Grab For." Later in '83, the band got back together and with producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, they set out to record their next album titled Heartbeat City. This first single got things started and it shot up to the Top 10 thanks in part to an inventive MTV video that grabbed a lot of attention.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't much of a fan of this song when it came out. The video was certainly inventive and fun, but the single didn't attract me, which was kind of a bummer since I was a fan of "Shake It Up." For some reason, I didn't like the staccato keyboard riff that set the song up. It played like a childish taunt and it kind of irritated me. Alas, I've grown to like this song and find it kind of fun. I also like Mutt Lange's production. He really beefed up the band's sound so they didn't sound so synthpop-y. He gave the band a bit of a backbone, which they needed, and it paid off.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was quite something at the time. Computer graphics and effects were just starting to get used and director Jeff Stein really wanted to throw all he had into this video. Stein had filmed other performance-style videos for artists like Billy Idol ("Rebel Yell"), but he thought The Cars were too boring of a live band to make that work. So he tried to convince the band to do an effects-laden one with the help of a company that did some odd ads for the National Enquirer. The band wasn't necessarily on board with this approach, but gave in and work began. It was a long and tedious process (using effects that are simple and commonplace today) and by the time the song was ready for release, the video wasn't quite done. It was missing the fly that buzzes around. However, the video had to get out so it was initially aired unfinished. Soon after, the fly was added and the video was formally done. In the end, it all paid off as the video won the very first MTV Music Video Award for Video of the Year. It beat out the likes of Michael Jackson's mini-movie "Thriller" and Herbie Hancock's inventive "Rockit" video.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Eat It" by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1829
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  59
Peak:  12
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Comedy

Pop Bits:  Yankovic's parody songs started to get attention when his single "Ricky" became an unexpected chart entry reaching #63. It was boosted by a popular MTV video that had Yankovic and Tress MacNeille portraying TV's Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. With the power of a hit now in his bag and a good rapport with MTV, Yankovic was ready to make his next move. His second LP "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D featured this song, which was a parody of the Michael Jackson hit "Beat It." The comical tune probably would have made a chart appearance on its own, but what pushed the single near the Top 10 was the accompanying video. It was a shot-for-shot remake of Jackson's "Beat It" video that even used the same sets and cast. It was just a dead-on parody and it worked perfectly. So much so that the single would be certified gold and the song would win Yankovic a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. The album would also be Yankovic's first to go platinum.

ReduxReview:  Weird Al strikes again and the timing couldn't have been better. Not only was getting permission to do a parody of a song by the biggest star on the planet at the time a real coup, but pairing it with a hilarious video was the icing on the cake. Yes, the song is actually good and funny (the background effects and noises are a hoot), but in reality it was the video that made it a hit. In a way, it was kind of brave for Yankovic to do a shot-for-shot remake of the original video. With Jackson mania at its peak, this could have easily gone bad with people thinking Yankovic was making fun of Jackson. It could have been a disaster, but Weird Al's genius made the whole thing work. If just judging the song, I think it works fine on its own because it is so well done. It's Yankovic at his best. I really have no interesting in just hearing the tune, but I'll watch the video most any time.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This single was Yankovic's only one to reach #1 on any worldwide chart. It hit that spot in Australia. In doing so, Yankovic's parody did better in that country than Michael Jackson's original. Jackson's "Beat It" only got to #3.


Monday, October 24, 2016

"Borderline" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1828
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  76
Peak:  10
Weeks:  30
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Madonna first established herself on the Pop chart with "Holiday" (#16 Pop/#1 Dance). Taken from her self-titled debut, the single was a solid introduction and soon folks were buzzin' about this new pop sensation. The hype paid off when this follow-up song became Madonna's first to reach the Pop Top 10. This song and every Madonna single released through to 1987 would reach the Top 10. It was an impressive streak that quickly made her into an international superstar.

ReduxReview:  This is actually one of Madonna's sweetest sounding songs. It's so effervescent with Madonna turning in a good vocal that matches the feeling of the song. It also helped that the video was just as breezy and showed even more of what would become her signature fashion style at the time. It all added up to something that was easy to listen to and like. The tune also sounded quite innocent (which wasn't going to be the case by the time fall of '84 rolled around). The single didn't necessarily sail into the Top 10, but it finally got there.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double shot!  1) This was a delayed hit in the UK. When first issued in 1984, the song could only get to #56. Later on when Madonna mania was in full swing, the single got reissued. On its second chart run in 1986 the song got to #2.  2)  You might have noticed above that the single was on the Pop chart for a whopping 30 weeks, which at the time was lengthy even for a #1 song. It would be Madonna's longest charting single and would remain so until 1995 when her song "Take a Bow" would tie that mark. It would also be her eleventh #1.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

"Without You" by David Bowie

Song#:  1827
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  80
Peak:  73
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After three successful singles, including the #1 title track, Bowie's Let's Dance album seemed to have run its course and was ready for the history books. Alas, the label decided to try and eke out one more tune in hopes of a hit that would continue sales of the album. This fourth single was issued in just a few countries including the US. The tune couldn't get any traction at all and slipped off the chart quickly. It's b-side, "Criminal World," got some minor attention at Rock radio and made it to #31. Let's Dance would end up being Bowie's best-selling album with worldwide sales near 11 million copies.

ReduxReview:  This really was an unnecessary single. The top three songs from the album were released and the remaining tracks had little commercial potential at all. So forcing this tune out to a few countries was a bit ridiculous. I like the tune, but as an album track. It has a nice groove that almost sounds like a bluesy take on "Ashes to Ashes." However, there is no commercial potential to this song at all. This just smells like an attempt by the label to get as much gas out of the Let's Dance tank as they could. It didn't work. That tank was already drained.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although Bowie was already considered a superstar and had sold tons of albums and had a few hit singles over the years, his success wasn't so huge that he couldn't experiment with different music styles and characters for his albums. That change when Let's Dance became a massive success. It was his first effort for his new label EMI and as Bowie described in an interview, it backed him into a corner. Suddenly he had a huge new young fan base who were interested in this new commercial turn and may have never even heard of Ziggy Stardust or even "Changes." Bowie planned on Let's Dance being a one-off project and he would return to something more experimental for his next LP. But that wasn't going to fly with his new label or fans. They wanted more hits. So Bowie acquiesced and tried to write and record as requested. He said the demands of being a commercial music star put him at an all-time creative low. He wouldn't recover from this creative slump until 1989 when his hard rock band project Tin Machine recorded their self-titled debut.