Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Sugar Don't Bite" by Sam Harris

Song#:  2050
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  62
Peak:  36
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  In 1983, a new talent competition show made its debut. Star Search, hosted by Ed McMahon, had people competing each week in various categories of singing, comedy, and dancing. In each category, two people would compete and a panel of judges would pick a winner by awarding stars. The winner would come back the next week to take on a new challenger. The show was a hit and one of the reasons for its success was a competitor in the male vocal category, Sam Harris. Harris mowed down the competition for fourteen weeks straight with his big voice and fun personality. He quickly became the breakout performer of the show and would go on to win the grand final at the end of the show's first season. His signature tune was a big, blistering, and emotional performance of "Over the Rainbow," which slayed the audience. Winners of each category received a cash award, but that was about it. For the singers, there was no record deal, so their actual futures were uncertain. With the star potential that Harris had, it was a no-brainer for a label to pick him up. He signed with Motown and began work on his self-titled debut album. This first single was issued and it was expected that it would do well thanks to his Star Search fan base. Unfortunately, the best it could do was a short stay just inside the Top 40. It did a little better at Dance getting to #24. Although fans and others didn't really show up for the song, they did for the album, which included his star-making version of "Over the Rainbow," and it would be a gold seller. A second single, "Hearts on Fire," would reach #23 at Dance, but fail to make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  I was a fan of Star Search and watched the whole first season. Like a lot of folks, I mainly tuned in to watch Harris. He was fantastic. He virtually killed anything he sang. I was excited for his first album and bought it. However, it wasn't all that impressive. This song was not all that great and didn't really seem to fit him. In fact, many of the songs on the album did not suit his personality or voice. Caught up in the business of music, I think Harris was stuck with what Motown wanted and it didn't serve him very well (they even forced him to remake one of their catalog hits for the album - "You Keep Me Hanging On"). He has stated in a couple of interviews that he really didn't like this song to begin with and chucked it to the side of the curb as soon as he could escape it. The song is not all that bad and it has good writing pedigree with Roberts and Weiss, but it just doesn't fit Harris at all. He had potential for a much bigger career, but with this song setting the tone, it basically reset him back to square one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was written by Bruce Roberts and Donna Weiss. It was originally recorded by Rita Coolidge and included on the soundtrack to the 1983 film A Night in Heaven.  2) Does the chorus of this song sound familiar at all?  If not, instead of "Sugar Don't Bite" sing "Papa Don't Preach." A bit too similar? "Sugar's" writers Roberts and Weiss thought so as well and they sued the writers of Madonna's 1986 #1 hit, Brian Elliot and Madonna. The claim by Roberts and Weiss must have had merit as a settlement soon followed.  3) Harris was the standout star of the first Star Search, but he would not be the most successful recording artist to be a winner on the show. That would most likely be season one vocal group winners Sawyer Brown. That country band would end up scoring nineteen Country Top 10's including three #1's. But what many folks talked about years after the original show ended in 1995 were the non-winners who made it big. The list is pretty significant and includes stars like Britney Spears, Tiffany, Alanis Morissette, the Backstreet Boys, Drew Carey, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Dave Chappelle, Destiny's Child, Rosie O'Donnell, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, and Usher.


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