Friday, February 17, 2017

"Breakaway" by Tracey Ullman

Song#:  1944
Date:  06/16/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  70
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  British TV star Ullman scored a left-field hit with "They Don't Know," a single from her debut album You Broke My Heart in 17 Places. Helped along by a popular MTV video, the fluke hit reached #8 at Pop (#11 AC) and introduced the comedic actress the US audiences. For a follow-up single, this song was chosen. It originally served as her debut single in the UK and got to #4 on that chart, but the US was far less interested and the song stalled early in the basement of the Pop chart. It would be Ullman's final charting single in the US. While her first album was charting in the US, her second album was already issued in the UK. It wasn't as successful as her debut, but it did featured four charting singles the best of which was the #18 "Sunglasses." Those lackluster results in addition to Ullman wanting to stop her music career kept the album from being issued in the US. She would become a bigger star in the US when The Tracey Ullman Show would be a hit for the new Fox TV network.

ReduxReview:  Although "They Don't Know" had a retro girl group sound, it was still a contemporary pop song. This tune was just all-out retro and not too dissimilar from the original (see below) and that may have been what killed it at radio. Even though it had a fun video, the song might have just been a little too old-fashioned for the modern pop audience. She might have been better off issuing her version of Blondie's "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear," which had a new wave, Go-Go's feel to it. Or maybe her dramatic remake of Dusty Springfield's "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten," a song that never got its due in the US (Springfield took it to #4 in the UK). "Breakaway" just wasn't going to do it. However, I think it is a fun song. The original version is kind of a lost gem from the 60s that probably should have been a hit back in the day. Luckily, it got some overdue attention thanks to Ullman. It was a song that fit her voice and persona perfectly.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by soul star Irma Thomas. Written by Jackie DeShannon and Sharon Sheeley, the tune served as the b-side to Thomas' biggest hit, 1964's "Wish Someone Would Care" (#2 R&B, #17 Pop). Originally titled as "Break-A-Way," the b-side never charted or gained much airplay, but over the years it caught on and became one of Thomas' more well-known songs. It then got a second lease on life when Ullman took the song to #4 in the UK.


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