Saturday, December 30, 2017

"Lost in Love" by New Edition

Song#:  2270
Date:  03/30/1985
Debut:  77
Peak:  35
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This vocal group broke through on the Pop chart with "Cool It Now" (#4), the first single from their self-titled second album. A second single, "Mr. Telephone Man," nearly made the Top 10 getting to #12. Hoping to keep the momentum going, this third single, with lead vocal by Ralph Tresvant, was issued. Although it wasn't nearly as popular, it did become their third Top 40 Pop entry. At R&B the single became their fifth Top 10 hit getting to #6. The hits helped the album reach #6 at Pop (#1 R&B) and go double platinum. It would be their only album in the 80s to break into the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This isn't too bad of a ballad, but it's nearly too AC-ish for the group. Tresvant's teenage voice just doesn't sound right on the tune. In fact, I found his vocal a bit annoying and distracting. It wasn't the right fit. The song needed a deeper, more mature voice to sell it. As-is, it sounds like a kid trying to cover a Peabo Bryson tune. It just doesn't work for me.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although only three singles from the album reached the Pop chart, two more songs from the album would would dent the R&B chart. "Kinda Girls We Like" wasn't necessarily promoted as a follow-up, but it got issued as a 12" single and got enough airplay to get it on the R&B chart at #87. The track "My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?)" was pushed out as a single and it was able to reach #27 at R&B, however it failed to generate interest at Pop and it bubbled under the chart at #103. That song was co-written by Dick Eastman and Bobby Hart. Hart was a part of the famous writing team/recording duo of Boyce & Hart. That duo wrote several songs for the Monkees (including the #1 "Last Train to Clarksville") and even had a hit themselves with the #8 "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" in 1967. In later years, Hart began writing with Eastman. In addition to "My Secret," they also had success co-writing "Dominoes," which was a #14 hit for Robbie Nevil in 1987.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

"We Are the World" by USA for Africa

#1 Alert!
Multi-Platinum Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2269
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  21
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Charity

Pop Bits:  This charity single was the idea of singer Harry Belafonte after he had heard about the UK charity song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" He wanted to do a US-based song to help benefit the organization United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa, which was created to help alleviate the rampant starvation in Africa. Belafonte enlisted the help of entertainment manager Ken Kragen to secure artists for the project. Kragen's clients Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers were first to join up. Soon, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson were on board as well as producer Quincy Jones. Richie, Jackson, and Wonder had signed on to write the tune, but Wonder had to drop out due to time constraints. Richie and Jackson took a couple of weeks to write the song and it was finally completed the night before the first recording session was to take place. With the basic recording done, a second session for recording all the vocal parts from a slew of celebrity artists took place six days later. The single would be issued just over a month later and the hype along with the associated video would send record buyers flocking to the stores. The song would debut just outside of the Pop Top 20 and four weeks later it would be #1. It would be the fastest selling single in US history and would be the first single to achieve multi-platinum success selling over 4 million copies. It would also reach #1 at R&B and AC while getting to #27 Rock and #76 Country. The following year the project would be awarded four Grammy awards including Record and Song of the Year. Not only was it a success in the US, but it hit #1 on many charts around the world. With sales of over 20 million copies worldwide, it is tied for fifth on the list of the biggest selling singles in history.

ReduxReview:  This was quite the deal back in the day, especially the video. It helped that the hottest star on the planet, Michael Jackson, participated alongside several major music stars of the day. I find it hard to judge this tune. I mean, it was done for a cause and I think it really exceeded expectations and (hopefully) in the end did some good. So how can I fault it? I guess what I have to do is set the charity part aside and take a look at the song itself. When I do, I have to admit that I'm not a fan. I wasn't back in the day either. In fact, I found it annoying. One critic said it sounded like a Pepsi commercial and I have to agree. However, that is what was brilliant about what Richie and Jackson did. They created a simple, catchy song that anyone could sing and it basically was a jingle for the charity. It wasn't meant to be a deep, profound musical piece. They just wanted to get the point across and get folks hooked. It worked very well. Ask anyone (of a certain age...) around and I bet that they can sing you the chorus of this song. Mission accomplished! But as a piece of songwriting, I think it is banal. If one artist did this as a non-charity song with different lyrics, I'd totally dislike it. However, the stars, the charity, and the historic nature of the tune adds a bit of value to it. If I never hear this song again, I'd be totally happy. However, I do recognize what was accomplished and it serves as a sort of 80s touchstone for a lot of folks.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The extensive list of artists that participated in the song's recording included heavy-hitters like Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Kenny Rogers, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Daryl Hall, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, and Ray Charles. All of those performers along with a few others performed solos in the song. The full chorus of voices included other celebs such as Dan Ackroyd, Bob Geldof (of the Band-Aid project), Bette Midler, the Pointer Sisters, and several members of the Jackson clan. Although it was noted that one major music star was absent. Prince was initially supposed to be a part of the recording, but ended up backing out. While no confirmed excuse was ever given, one source reported that it was because he just didn't want to record with other artists. Whatever the reason, in the end he ended up donating his own song "4 the Tears in Your Eyes" to...  2) ...the We Are the World album. In addition to the single, it was decided that an album of unreleased songs by various artists would be assembled.  In addition to the title-track, the album featured donated tracks by Springsteen, Turner, Steve Perry, Chicago, Kenny Rogers, The Pointer Sisters, and Huey Lewis and the News. In addition, the Canadian charity single "Tears Are Not Enough" (billed as by Northern Lights) was included. The album would reach #1 and sell over three million copies.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"Everything She Wants" by Wham!

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2268
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  60
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  The UK duo's album Make It Big was aptly title since its first two singles both reached #1 on the Pop chart. The week that their second #1, "Careless Whisper," dropped out of the Top 10, this third single debuted on the chart. It would be another across-the-board smash hitting #1 at Pop, #4 AC, #7 Dance, and #12 R&B. It would also be there third in a row to receive a sales certification, which was gold (their previous two #1's hit the platinum mark). Although the album fell out of the #1 spot the week prior to this single's debut on the Pop chart, it would still remain a Top 10 seller for a long while and would eventually be certified 6x platinum.

ReduxReview:  Although I think "Careless Whisper" is a classic tune that I rated a 10, I do have to admit that this one is probably my favorite Wham! song. Michael did an outstanding job writing this one and I love the groove, the production, and the build to the great line "my god! I don't even think that I love you!" This is a deceptive tune. There's a lot going on and I don't think it got enough credit back in the day because Wham! got tossed into the boy-band type of thing and got dismissed. Even George Michael in later years mentioned that this was the only Wham! song that he really liked. More critics have dialed into this one in retrospect and that is always good. However, I loved it from the get-go and still do.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  In the UK, this song was issued as a single near the end of 1984. The flip side song was a new George Michael holiday composition "Last Christmas." Due to the time it was released, that b-side started to get a lot of airplay in addition to the a-side. Eventually it would become a two-sided hit single that would reach #2 on the UK chart. Since "Everything" didn't get released in the US until late March in '85, the b-side was changed to the album track "Like a Baby." Although "Last Christmas" would receive a lot of airplay in the US, it would never get an official single release. It would eventually reach the Pop chart for the first time in January 2017 following the passing of George Michael. It would peak at #41. The song recurs each year on the Christmas Songs chart and has continued to sell in digital form over the years. As of this posting, it is the 10th best-selling holiday song in digital form.


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

"Vox Humana" by Kenny Loggins

Song#:  2267
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  64
Peak:  29
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the huge success of the Footloose soundtrack and its #1 title track, Loggins retreated to the studio to record his fifth solo album. Assembling an all-star list of producers (David Foster, Michael Omaritan) and musicians (Sheena Easton, Sheila E., El Debarge, Philip Baily, David Sanborn, Steve Porcaro, Steve Lukather, etc.), Loggins finished of the new project titled Vox Humana. To introduce the LP, this first title-track single was issued. It did acceptably well at Rock getting to #18, but it was a bit of a bust at Pop where the single stalled just inside the Top 30. With Loggins' popularity at an all-time high thanks to his work on Footloose, the results were quite disappointing. In turn, the album would stop at #41, which was his worst showing on the chart to that point. However, due to his popularity and AC success of his next single, the album did eventually get certified gold.

ReduxReview:  This song was just a big mistake. Frankly, it's a mess. It's like Loggins took elements of his previous film hits, smashed them together with studio tricks in a blender, and mixed it into a slurry that was free of any hooks. To top it off, he gives it a highfalutin' title that is barely audible in the bridge. It's loud and bombastic - and not in the good way. I'm all for artists experimenting a bit with their sound or style, but this was just wacky. And to top it off, it gets released as a single. Luckily, Loggins' bacon was saved thanks to another big movie song because this had career-ender written all over it. These days, this song is kind of an interesting relic in his catalog, but at the time it was an over-the-top aural assault that put an unattractive crimp in Loggins' career.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "Vox Humana" is Latin for "human voice." It is also the name of a reed stop on a pipe organ. When used in combination with a vibrato effect from another organ setting, the sound made is meant to mimic a human voice.  2) Loggins wrote this song with Anita and June Pointer from the Pointer Sisters. Apparently Loggins wanted to experiment with newer synthpop sounds combined with and R&B swing style, which the Pointer Sisters had dabbled in with their recent smash album Break Out. All three Pointer Sisters performed backing vocals for the song.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

"Suddenly" by Billy Ocean

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2266
Date:  03/23/1985
Debut:  66
Peak:  4
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Ocean was on a roll with his previous singles, "Caribbean Queen" and "Loverboy," hitting #1 and #2, respectively on the Pop chart. For his next single, this title-track to his triple-platinum album was issued. It became his first #1 hit at AC while reaching the Top 10 at Pop and #5 R&B. It also got to #4 in the UK becoming his biggest hit there to-date.

ReduxReview:  I didn't get into his previous two hits, but when this ballad came out, I fell for it. It had a Lionel Richie feel to and also seemed to incorporate elements of Burt Bacharach. The song was lovely without being overbearing. I like that Ocean held back and didn't stray into big-ass ballad territory. He also turns in a nice vocal performance that is relaxed and perfect for the mood of the tune. It was the only 45 single I ever bought by Ocean.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  For his Suddenly album, Ocean teamed up with fellow Trinidadian Keith Diamond. Diamond produced the album and co-wrote four songs with Ocean including "Suddenly" and "Caribbean Queen." Diamond would go on to work with artists like Sheena Easton, Michael Bolton, and Mick Jagger. He would also have success with the funk/new jack group Starpoint. He co-produced their most successful album, 1985's Restless. It featured their biggest hit, "Object of My Desire," which got to #8 R&B, #12 Dance, and #25 Pop. That song was co-written by Diamond.