Saturday, July 21, 2018

"Eaten Alive" by Diana Ross

Song#:  2471
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  77
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  After her 1983 album Ross failed to produce a sizable hit single, Diana Ross returned to gold-level sales with her next effort Swept Away. It featured three Top 20 hits including the #10 "Missing You." With momentum swinging her way, she decided to work with Barry Gibb on her next album. Gibb had been having great luck writing and producing hit singles and albums for stars like Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and Dionne Warwick, and it seemed like he could do the same for Ross. Gibb and his brothers went ahead and wrote a set of songs specifically for Ross. The project would be titled Eaten Alive and this title track would be issued out as the first single. In addition to Gibb co-writing, co-producing, and performing backing vocals on the track, Michael Jackson joined in and contributed to the writing, producing, and singing as well. With the dream team of the Gibb brothers, Jackson, and Ross creating this song, it seemed like the single would be a slam-dunk, surefire hit. Yet oddly, the song tanked at Pop. It couldn't even get out of the bottom quarter of the chart. Elsewhere, it did fine getting to #3 at Dance and #10 R&B, but even with the Michael Jackson name attached, pop radio listeners were just not interested in the song and promptly ignored it. The lack of a sizable Pop hit didn't help sales of the album, which also struggled on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I think the old proverb "too many cooks spoil the broth" applies to this song. It was just way overdone and Ross is practically swallowed up by it all. In the chorus, especially the last go-rounds, you can't even hear her. You mainly hear Jackson's voice. That's not too surprising since apparently Jackson's contribution to the song was reworking the chorus, which sounds like something he would have recorded for himself. Yet even the Gibb brothers' verse work doesn't contain their usual signature melodic moves or phrasing. Ross tries to get through the song, but she is totally lost and there are points you can't even understand the words. The production is jarring and overwhelming as well with a bunch of synth fills and even a disturbing bone crunching chomp at the end. Top it all off with a crazy video featuring an overacting Ross with fangs and panther eyes and what you end up with is a giant mess. That said, there is still something about the song I kinda like. Perhaps I just get a kick out of it because it is such a fascinating, crazy-ass disaster. It was a giant misstep by everyone involved, yet I don't mind hearing it every once in a great while and chuckling that they all thought this was a good idea.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The elaborate video for this song was based on H.G. Wells' 1896 sci-fi classic The Island of Dr. Moreau in which a shipwrecked scientist finds himself on an island where the main inhabitant, Dr. Moreau, is experimenting on animals giving them human traits through painful surgeries. The novel was first adapted into a movie in 1932 as Island of Lost Souls. That version featured a woman that was created via a panther, which is the character Ross plays in her video. The story was revived for a 1977 film under the novel's title. It starred Burt Lancaster and Michael York. Then there was the 1996 version starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer that was an infamous box office bomb. In Ross' video, the shipwreck survivor was played by actor/singer Joseph Gian. Gian would later go on to work on several TV shows and films including a recurring role on the hit nighttime soap Knots Landing. He also competed on the talent show Star Search in 1986. He was the male vocalist champion for a five week run and was a semi-finalist at the end of the season. In the "Eaten Alive" video, he ends up getting..well...eaten Diana Ross after she turns into a panther.


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