Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Next Love" by Deniece Williams

Song#:  2012
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  81
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Williams got her second and biggest #1 hit with "Let's Hear It for the Boy" from the Footloose soundtrack. In addition to that song being on the soundtrack, she was also able to use it on her next studio album, which was named after the song. Thanks to the hit, the LP sold well and got to #10 at R&B and #26 Pop. It would eventually become her best-selling solo album going platinum. Unfortunately, the follow-up singles from the LP couldn't capture the same magic as the title track. This second single could only manage a #22 showing at R&B while peaking at #17 at Dance and barely getting on the Pop chart. A third single titled "Black Butterfly" also got to #22 at R&B, but missed the Pop chart completely. Despite the lack of other hit singles, Let's Hear It would be Williams' commercial peak.

ReduxReview:  I think the main problem here is that "Let's Hear It" was such a great pop song that folks wanted more of the ilk from Williams. However, she was really an R&B artist at heart and the material she both culled and co-wrote for the album didn't include anything like "Let's Hear It." This song, co-written by Williams and George Duke, is a good track, but it's not all that catchy and lacks crossover appeal. It sounds a bit like a Luther Vandross tune co-written with Madonna. It was going to take a fantastic song to get her near the top of the charts and this one just wasn't it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Also included on the album was the traditional song "Whiter Than Snow." That album-closing track got the attention of the Grammys and they gave Williams a nomination for Best Inspirational Performance.


Friday, April 14, 2017

"Can't Wait All Night" by Juice Newton

Song#:  2011
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  66
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Newton's sixth album, Can't Wait All Night, had a rough time out of the gate when its first single, "A Little Love," faltered before hitting the Pop Top 40 (#44). Hoping to turn things around, this second single with good songwriting pedigree (see below) was issued. The more rock-oriented tune fared even worse and fell off the chart after a short few weeks. It would be Newton's last single to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  When Newton's last album of crossover material tanked, I'm not sure why she and her label would up the ante even more with the next one. This track is really rockin' and just seems out of Newton's comfort zone. She does okay with it, but she doesn't have a voice for rock and she kind of gets lost in all the guitars and production. It was the completely wrong move and that proved out when the album did even worse than the one before. That said, I do like this song. It's got a crunchy rock production that features a solid hook. Had it been done by the songwriter (see below), it might have done a lot better. Instead, Newton got the song and tried it on for size. It didn't fit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was co-written by an artist who was just beginning to become a solo star. Bryan Adams co-wrote this tune with his writing partner Jim Vallance. Although a demo of the song most likely exists somewhere, Adams never recorded and released the song himself. Newton would be the first artist to record it.  2) Although this song and album closed out Newton's time in the Pop spotlight, her brightest days were yet to come at Country. After Can't Wait All Night failed in its crossover appeal, Newton decided to revamp her image and return to a more traditional country sound. Her next album, Old Flame, would be marketed to a country audience and the new approach worked very well. The LP would generate six Top 10 Country hits including three #1's. The album's lead single "You Make Me Want to Make You Mine" would reach #1 and earn Newton a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The album was a big hit, but the success wouldn't last long. Her next album could only manage one Country Top 10. After one more album, she was dropped from RCA. Newton continued to perform, but her charting days were over.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

"Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)" by Billy Ocean

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2010
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Born in Trinidad and later raised in England, Ocean began singing on his own and with various bands when he was a teenager. A few singles were recorded along the way, but none of them attracted much attention. By 1975, he had signed with GTO Records and the following year issued a self-titled debut album. It featured the single "Love Really Hurts Without You," which became his first UK hit reaching #2. The song also became his first to chart in the US, but it was a minor hit at #22. Two follow-up singles hit the UK Top 20 and a non-album single titled "Red Light Spells Danger" would become his second #2. After that, things kind of crumbled. Over the course of three more albums, the only significant single would 1981's "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)," which got to #7 on the US R&B chart. His fortunes would change when he moved over to the Arista imprint label Jive and recorded his fifth LP, Suddenly. This first single took its time revving up, but it would eventually reach #1 at both Pop, R&B, and Dance. It also got to #7 at AC. In his UK homeland, the song would get to #6. It would end up being a gold seller that would earn Ocean a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. In doing so, Ocean would become the first artist from the UK to win in that category. He would go on to have several more hits, but this one would remain his biggest chart song.

ReduxReview:  I didn't dig this song when it came out. The little sound effects at the beginning to go with the lyrics were annoying, I didn't much care for Ocean's little vocal additions in the chorus, and it kind of sounded like a Michael Jackson ripoff. I didn't understand the attraction to the song, but it ended up all over the place. I don't mind it so much now. The groove is solid as is the hook of the chorus. It's an 80s standard that is always a good addition to an 80s playlist mix.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song had two other versions that made it specific to certain world regions. "European Queen" got issued in Europe and it had some success in Germany (#2) and Switzerland (#3). The UK opted for the original version over this one, which could only manage a #82 showing. There was also "African Queen," which got to #7 in South Africa.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"Just the Way You Like It" by The S.O.S. Band

Song#:  2009
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  64
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After their second and third albums failed to generate any significant singles, this band got a new lease on life thanks to the newbie production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Their fourth album, On the Rise, hit #7 at R&B and went gold thanks to two R&B Top 10 hits courtesy of Jam & Lewis. The production team assisted the band once again for their next album Just the Way You Like It. This title-track first single was another success at R&B getting to #6. Like their previous two R&B hits, the song made it to the Pop chart, but couldn't bust into the upper reaches. Although the album would hit #6 at R&B, sales were not as strong as On the Rise and the LP missed out on a gold certification.

ReduxReview:  This song is very similar to their #2 R&B hit "Just Be Good to Me," which was also done by Jam & Lewis. I'm sure that is not a coincidence. It seems like another case of "hey, that one worked - can we have another one that is similar?" That is fine, but unfortunately this one is not as good. It nearly sounds like a weak attempt at a "part 2." And once again, Jam & Lewis take the song out to an unnecessary 8+ minutes on the album. The single version plays so much better. It's still good quality Jam & Lewis, but it doesn't rank among their top hits.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Jam & Lewis had a good chunk of this song done, but it still lacked lyrics and a vocal. The duo ended up taking a break to get something to eat. They decided to hit up one of their favorite establishments - The Waffle House. While there, they happened to notice the company slogan that was printed on the door. It said "Just the way you like it." With that stuck in their minds, the duo returned to the studio and finished this song.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Here She Comes" by Bonnie Tyler

Song#:  2008
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  76
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  In 1984, superstar music producer Giorgio Moroder turned into a film producer when he restored the classic 1927 Fritz Lang silent film Metropolis. In addition to adding color shading and using subtitles instead of the old dialogue cards, Moroder also added a new score that was made up of contemporary pop songs, which he wrote (or co-wrote) and produced. Many of the songs were performed by popular artists like Freddie Mercury, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, Loverboy, and Bonnie Tyler. A soundtrack album would be created and this Tyler song became the introductory single. The tune didn't catch on and it fell off the chart after a few weeks. Without a significant hit, the album sold poorly and couldn't even crack the Top 100.

ReduxReview:  I think I was one of the few at the time that really enjoyed this soundtrack. While the decision to use pop music in the film is debatable, I thought the tracks stood up on their own. It was highly overlooked at the time due to its use in the film, but I think later years have been kind to it. I've run across several folks who later discovered the LP and now love it. This Bonnie Tyler tune has a rock/blues feel smashed into robotic synthpop and it's pretty delicious. Tyler sells it well and I think it is one of her best performances. I'm not sure why it did not catch on at the time. Was it too dark? Maybe a bit too mid-tempo? I have no clue. Whatever it was, folks certainly missed out.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Lang's Metropolis suffered the fate of a lot of early films. It's original premier form was lost to time, decay, and other factors. But sometimes whole films or parts of films once thought lost are suddenly discovered in vaults, old movies houses, or even someone's basement. That was what happened with Metropolis. Moroder worked with several film archival organizations to assemble the existing portions of the film with newly discovered sections. The goal was to replicate Lang's original vision as best as possible. Such things as coloring the film was part of Lang's goal, but it could not happen at the time. Other items like the new score were done to help enhance the film and introduce it to a new generation. Critics were divided over the new edition, but many agreed that it was the most complete version of the film that had existed up to that point. Decades later, more footage was discovered and there were new versions of the film done in 2002 and 2010. The 2010 version is now considered the most complete with only a small fraction of the film still missing or unusable from any of the prints found.


Monday, April 10, 2017

"Stranger" by Stephen Stills

Song#:  2007
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  61
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Stills has had an amazing career. His work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash (&Young) made him a legendary musician and a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Along the way he also maintained a solo career that began with a platinum #3 1970 self-titled debut album. That LP was helped along by what would be his biggest solo hit, the #14 "Love the One You're With." He released four more albums in the 70s, but his solo career remained silent in the 80s until he issued 1984's Right by You. This first single was issued and it did fine at Rock reaching #12. However, it didn't get very far at Pop and after a couple of months it was gone. The album fizzled at #75 and was his last solo effort to get on that chart.

ReduxReview:  Even though this tune got boosted with some 80s flare, its 70s rock sound probably seemed out of place on Pop radio at the time. The one thing that several former hit makers never really learned in the 80s was that you can't just take the standard songs you've been writing for years, add synths, and get a hit (or attract new listeners). Your songwriting and/or song selection has to change as well. It seemed Stills had a difficult time with the transition and the results ended up a bit drab and cheap sounding. This particular song sounds like the songwriters/producers (both which include Stills) had listened to Lionel Richie's "Running with the Night" one too many times. Instead of sounding original, it comes of as a pale imitation. Definitely not great for a rock superstar like Stills.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  There is a bit of a legendary story that Stills auditioned to be one of The Monkees and he was turned down due to an existing publishing contract. However, Stills then recommended Peter Tork to the producers and Tork became a member of The Monkees. According to Stills, this story is not entirely true. As a young, struggling songwriter, Stills thought he might be able to sell his songs if he got his foot in the door doing auditions. Once at the audition, he offered his songs to the producers, but they already had tunes ready to go. Stills then confessed he really wasn't there to audition, but he knew of a guy that might be perfect for the job and recommended Peter Tork. It all seemed to work out just fine for everyone. The Monkees became a sensation and around the same time Stills experienced success with Buffalo Springfield.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

"The More You Live the More You Love" by A Flock of Seagulls

Song#:  2006
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  93
Peak:  56
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This Liverpool band made waves with their self-titled debut album and the spacey Top 10 hit "I Ran" (#9). Their second album of sci-fi synthpop, Listen, didn't do as well and the band regrouped to figure out a new path. For their third effort, they ditched the sci-fi references and went for a more conventional concept with The Story of a Young Heart. This first single actually did well at Rock getting to #10, but the band's sound and look seemed to have run its course with Pop listeners and the song failed to reach the Top 40. It would also be the band's last charting single. After some personnel changes and a move to the US, the band would release Dream Come True in 1985. It flopped and with that went the band.

ReduxReview:  When an artist has a very specific sound and look, their moment in the sun is usually brief. What typically happens is that the artist gets trapped in what made them popular, and then listeners quickly tire of that exact same thing. So the artist has to change it up in hopes that something new will keep people interested. It almost never works and the artist fades after a short, shining moment. The Gulls kind of got stuck in that vicious cycle. They quickly lost some ground with their second LP and when they tried to change the formula a bit for the third one, few people were interested. It's actually too bad. I liked Story and thought it was better than Listen. It was a more mature effort that tried to separate them from their quirky sci-fi shtick. The problem they had was the lack of a song strong enough to break them through a second time. This particular song was solid and did a good job of retaining their signature sound, however it was inevitably going to get compared to "I Ran" and this tune wasn't nearly that hooky or cool. Although their career didn't last all that long, they certainly made a mark and are remembered still today.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Band co-founder and leader Mike Score continued to keep the band going over the years despite being the only original member remaining. A new line-up recorded an album to little notice in 1995. Later in 2000, they recorded a version of the 1992 Madonna hit "This Used to Be My Playground" for a 2000 Madonna tribute collection. The Gulls original line-up did get together for a performance on the 2003 TV show Bands Reunited. That gig led to a few tour dates, but it wasn't long before Score was once again on his own leading the band.