Saturday, January 5, 2019

"I Found Someone" by Laura Branigan

Song#:  2639
Date:  03/01/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  90
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Branigan's fourth album, Hold Me, wasn't being fully embraced. It's first single, "Spanish Eddie," stalled at a low #40 while a follow-up couldn't even crack the top half of the Pop chart. Her label then decided to push out this third single, which was co-written by soon-to-be mega star Michael Bolton. Branigan previously had good luck with another Bolton-penned track, the #12 "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," so hopes were high that this tune would help turn things around. Sadly, it did not. It waffled around the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks and then disappeared. It got a little attention at AC getting to #25, but it wasn't enough. Hold Me would be Branigan's lowest peaking album to-date (#71) and it would be her first to not reach gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  Well, Cher was certainly lucky that this didn't become a hit for Branigan (see below). Although I don't think this song had a shot to begin with for Branigan. You can hear a potential hit with the material and Branigan sounds pretty good, but it just lacked when it came to the arrangement and production. It's a power ballad and it needed some real muscle to sell it. I think had it been done in a more rocked up arrangement, Branigan would have sold it even better and it might have had a chance. As-is, it was just a good album track. In fact, it didn't leave much of an impression on me because when Cher's version came out, I had totally forgotten about Branigan's version. There's just no comparison. Bolton's production combined with Cher's delivery really made the song a hit. Plus it helped that Cher was extra hot at the time and her return to music was a really big deal. I like Branigan's take, but Cher really knocked it out of the park..

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As mentioned above, this song was co-written by Michael Bolton along with Mark Mangold. By this point in time, Bolton had released four rock-oriented solo albums in addition to two with his band Blackjack. Nothing much came from any of them. However, he was having some success as a songwriter. While this particular one wasn't a hit for Branigan, it would be picked up a year later by Cher, who was recording her first album in five years and her first after becoming a film star. Bolton also produced Cher's version, which got issued out as the LP's first single. It became Cher's first Top 10 (#10) hit since 1979. After becoming a successful solo artist himself, Bolton recorded his own version of the song for his 1995 hits collection Greatest Hits (1985-1985).


Friday, January 4, 2019

"Twist My Arm" by The Pointer Sisters

Song#:  2638
Date:  03/01/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The Sisters' Contact album was not shaping up to be as big of a hit as their previous one, the multi-platinum Break Out. With the lead single "Dare Me" missing the Top 10 (#11 Pop) and a second single not even cracking the Top 40, there was little to help promote the LP. It would eventually go platinum, but that was a third of what Break Out did. They tried to light another fire with this third single, but it just didn't catch. The song couldn't get out of the basement at Pop while only reaching #61 R&B. It saw some better action at Dance where it got to #15, but it wasn't enough to help it elsewhere and that closed the book on Contact.

ReduxReview:  This album opener had some good energy and the standard solid production from Richard Perry, but the song wasn't all that strong. It had various hooks throughout yet when pushed together they didn't add up to much. And the "woo-woo-woo" part quickly became grating and annoying. Contact just didn't have the same quality of songs as Break Out and the results proved that.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Andy Goldmark and Bruce Roberts. Roberts had written songs for several artists including two major disco hits by Barbra Streisand in 1979 - her #3 movie theme "The Main Event/Fight" and her #1 duet with Donna Summer "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)." Long before that pair of hits, Roberts wrote songs for and produced an album by young teenage star Danny Bonaduce. Bonaduce was on the hit TV show The Partridge Family and after the "family" began to have hit songs and albums, someone thought it was a good idea to have Bonaduce do a solo LP. His 1973 self-titled debut album went nowhere and that ended his music career. Many years later, Bonaduce was asked about the album and he stated that he barely sang on it and that Bruce Roberts had pretty much done all the vocals. In the interview, Bonaduce said that the album "should have been called Danny Vanilli" (a reference to the infamous Milli Vanilli lip syncing scandal).


Thursday, January 3, 2019

"Now and Forever (You and Me)" by Anne Murray

Song#:  2637
Date:  03/01/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  92
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country Crossover, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The last time Murray had a significant hit on the Pop chart was with her late 1979 remake of "Daydream Believer" (#12 Pop/#1 AC, #3 Country). Since that time she had been itching to turn more towards pop like some of her contemporaries (Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, etc.), but it seemed she just couldn't get her label and her producer (Jim Ed Norton) to get on board. While a few of her songs along the way had a more contemporary feel, she still remained grounded in country and scored twelve more Country Top 10's including five #1's. None of them were hits at Pop and as time moved forward, pop radio showed little interest in Murray's music. Then finally for her 22nd studio album, Murray got her chance to make a pop album. On board for the experiment were producers David Foster, Jack White (Laura Branigan), and Keith Diamond (Billy Ocean). The end result was Something to Talk About and to kick things off this first single was issued out. Although it was definitely a pop song, Country still embraced the tune and it became Murray's tenth #1 on that chart. AC was also on board taking the song to #7. There were high hopes that pop radio would play the single and that a younger audience would latch on to it. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. The song got locked in the basement of the Pop chart for a month and a half before disappearing. An even more synth poppy second single, "Who's Leaving Who," didn't get much support from anyone and it stopped at #62 Country/#26 AC. The album would make it to #2 at Country (#68 Pop) and go gold, but it just seemed that pop radio and its audience had no interest in Murray as a glammed-up synthpop diva. This song would actually end up being Murray's final one to reach the Pop chart. It was also her last #1 at Country. She would go on to have four more Country Top 10's, but by the early 90s, she was no longer hitting the chart.

ReduxReview:  This falls in the category of "too little, too late." Country music was going through an identity crisis during this time period and sales were on the decline. Coupled with that, the golden age of country crossover hits was over. Even superstar acts were having trouble securing crossover hits. So for Murray to try and become a pop star at this time was not a great idea. Had she made the switch six years earlier after "Daydream Believer," it might have worked. But in '86, no one wanted a synthpop Anne Murray. However, that doesn't mean that the actual songs on the album were bad. This was a solid tune co-written by David Foster, Randy Goodrum, and Jim Vallance (Bryan Adams) that had a nice 80s production by Foster. Unfortunately, I think it was just too AC-leaning to capture the pop audience she wanted. And it's still Anne Murray! She could front a Metallica song and her soothing croon and bedazzled pant suit would still tame it into a bizarre country/AC/metal track! She just wasn't meant to be a cool, hip, pop diva. "Who's Leaving Who" was certainly something that fell into Laura Branigan territory, but it wasn't going to get a shot at pop after the first single failed (which is too bad as I've always like the song, even though it needed a stronger production). It was a valiant effort from Murray, but the timing of it all was just wrong.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The name of the album came from a song that Murray wanted to record, but ultimately never did. "Something to Talk About," written by Shirley Eikhard, would get a big second lease on life five years later when Bonnie Raitt picked it up for her Grammy-winning album Luck of the Draw. It was the first single from the album and it became Raitt's first and only Pop Top 10 hit reaching #5. The song would be nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year while Raitt would win a Grammy for her performance of the song (Best Female Pop Vocal Performance).  2) While Murray's career cooled in the 90s, it didn't mean she still couldn't sell albums. In 1999, she recorded an album of contemporary Christian songs titled What a Wonderful World. It would be a surprise hit reaching #1 at CC, #4 Country, and #38 Pop. It would also become her third career platinum album. In 2002, she recorded an collection of classic country songs called Country Croonin'. It would be a gold-seller that got to #13 on the Country chart.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

"Where Are You Now?" by Synch

Song#:  2636
Date:  03/01/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  77
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  This Pennsylvania band formed in the mid-80s with Lou Butwin handling most of the lead vocal duties. However, the band's drummer, Jimmy Harnen, offered up this song that he had co-written with a friend and when they went to a local studio to record the demo, Harnen did the lead vocal. The demo ended up getting the attention of a local radio station who began to spin the track. Requests to hear the song kept coming in and soon the band had to get a single pressed to offer for sale. After the single sold a few thousand copies, the major labels came knocking. The band ended up in a deal with Columbia and a debut album, ...Get the Feelin', was issued out. It included a newly recorded version of this song, which served as the LP's first single. Hopes were high for a big hit, but the song ended up falling short of expectations staying in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. With little to show for their investment, Columbia let the band go. The band tried to keep going, but eventually just split up. Normally, this would be the end of the story, but for this song it wasn't. It would return to the airwaves later in 1989 and become a left-field hit.

ReduxReview:  I typically don't mind a small dose of schlock like this song once in a while. I used to write stuff like this - big pop ballads with saccharine lyrics that gets everyone doe-eyed. I probably got a dozen or more tunes that could sit comfortably next to this one. In the late 80s, forgotten songs were all of a sudden getting rediscovered and practically forced into being hits and this was one of them. While there were songs that were far more worthy of being dug up, this one wasn't too bad. It's actually quite perfect for sentimental teenagers and reminiscing middle-aged adults. In fact, if you look at the comments for the video above, the words "prom" and "high school dance" are often used. It makes sense. I barely remember the song so it obviously didn't make an impression on me. I guess I'm just picky about my schlock.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After his days in the music spotlight waned, Jimmy Harnen went on to have a career behind the scenes working as a promoter for labels like DreamWorks and Capitol. He then became a big wig at Big Machine Records, the home of Taylor Swift. He was hired in by BMR's founder Scott Borchetta, who some folks may remember from his appearances on American Idol as a senior mentor. The winners of the last two season of the original run of American Idol were signed to BMR (Nick Fradiani and Trent Harmon). Harnen helped sign and break major BMR acts like The Band Perry and Florida Georgia Line.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

"Kiss" by Prince & the Revolution

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2635
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  52
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Funk, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After the success of Purple Rain, Prince was bitten by the film bug and decided to do another project. For his second venture, he chose to do a rom-com with a 1930's feel. Under the Cherry Moon had Prince and Jerome Benton (of The Time) as cousins who were scamming rich women and living the high life on the French Riviera. All was fun until Prince falls in love with one of their targets. Of course, the film would contain music and that translated into a sort-of soundtrack album titled Parade. This first single would kick things off and after a high debut, the song shot to the top of the Pop chart. It also reached #1 at R&B and Dance. It was his third single to top all three charts. Despite the major hit, the album would peak at #3 and would only go platinum, which was half of what his previous LP, the psychedelic Around the World in a Day, would sell and a tenth of what Purple Rain sold. It didn't help that the film was a box office bomb and big critical failure. Still, the album was critically more successful than Around the World and this song became one Prince's most enduring hits. It also won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance, Duo or Group and was nominated for Best R&B Song

ReduxReview:  This sparsely arranged track just hit all the right buttons. It was a retro-ish R&B tune that was minimally dressed with modern flare. It had a great hook and Prince's falsetto sounded right at home. It was an irresistible piece of ear candy and there was no doubt this was gonna hit #1. Apparently, his record company didn't like the tune and thought it was way too underdone and sounded like a demo. They didn't want to release it, but Prince put his foot down and the song got out. It's completely amazing, even in retrospect, that no one at Warner Bros. heard this as a hit. I knew it on first listen. Idiots.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Prince originally wrote this song for the Minneapolis band Mazarati, which was formed by Revolution bassist Brown Mark. The band worked up the song with Prince, but then Prince liked how the tune had developed and decided to finish it himself. The completed track still has some of the original recorded parts including the background vocals done by Mazarati. Mazarati would issue a debut album in 1986 with only one single making any impression - the #19 R&B track "100 MPH," which was written, produced, and all instruments performed by Prince.  2) Two covers of this tune would end up reaching the charts. Later in '86, the British alt-rock band Age of Chance recorded a version that featured their own lyrics. The song got to #50 in the UK while hitting #35 on the US Dance chart. A couple of years later, singer Tom Jones began including the song in his shows and even sang it on TV. That performance was caught by members of the Art of Noise and they reached out to Jones to see if he would sing on a version they had worked up. He obliged and in 1988 it was issued out as a single. It was a big hit in the UK reaching #5. In the US it would get to #18 Dance and #31 Pop.


Monday, December 31, 2018

"I Can't Wait" by Stevie Nicks

Song#:  2634
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  60
Peak:  16
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Nicks' third solo LP, Rock a Little, got off to a great start thanks to her #4 Pop/#1 Rock hit "Talk to Me." It would be the second biggest hit of her solo career. Hoping to break into the Top 10 again, this next single was issued out. The tune would do well at Rock getting to #6, but it fizzled on the Pop chart after getting inside the Top 20. It also made it to #26 at Dance. She needed something a bit stronger performing to boost interest in the album, which had oddly stalled at #12. It would eventually go platinum, but that was half of what her previous LP did and a quarter of what her #1 debut solo album Bella Donna sold.

ReduxReview:  This is where Nicks went full-on 80s. The track had massive production and it was just loud. There are crashing guitars and explosive effects along with a bunch of synth riffs, odd spoken word background vocals, and reverb for days. The bonus was Nicks doing her best caterwauling to try and stay above all the noise. It was just bananas. Back in the day I thought it was awesome, especially when I cranked it up to 11. This certainly wasn't the witchy Fleetwood Mac-style Nicks. She was in full-on synth-rock MTV diva mode. Yet even then I knew this tune was way over the top and I figured it might have a little trouble on the chart. It actually did better than what I thought, but I knew it was not a Top 10'er. I also remember David Letterman making fun of the video for the song (see below), which was pretty bad. These days I still like the song and get a kick out of it. It's kind of fun to revel in how big and bonkers it was.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When the video for this song came out on MTV, late night talk show host David Letterman took notice and began poking fun at the video, especially a part where Nicks breaks through a styrofoam wall and her dance moves during the song's break section after the guitar solo. For a couple of days he'd have a Stevie Nicks update and show the break part of the video and over the top would put a list fake TV appearance dates like "3/13 Circus of the Stars (spotting for Juice Newton on the rings)" or being a co-host on Sally Jesse Raphael. Nicks' management wasn't thrilled with what Letterman was doing and so Letterman started to make fun of them calling them "weasel management" and other things. It all seemed to stem from Letterman trying to get Nicks on the show to perform the song, which had just been released. Yet even her management was having issues getting Nicks to do promotion as she seemingly "disappeared." Apparently she was off in Australia hanging out with Tom Petty on his tour. For over a week, Letterman did a nightly spot talking about Nicks' management and showing the video clip. At one point, the management company sent over a couple of tour jackets to Letterman. In one of the last Nicks bits, Letterman asks for the video clip to run, but this time instead of Nicks, they had comic Chris Elliott mimicking Nicks and her dance moves. Eventually, Nicks did finally appear on the show.


Sunday, December 30, 2018

"I Think It's Love" by Jermaine Jackson

Song#:  2633
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  74
Peak:  16
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After nine solo albums with Motown, Jermaine Jackson left his long-time home label for Arista. His first effort for them was a self-titled LP that featured a pair of Pop Top 20 hits including "Do What You Do," which topped the AC chart (#13 Pop/#14 R&B). Following a couple of low-charting soundtrack singles, Jackson returned with his second Arista album, Precious Moments. This first single was issued out and once again it was able to crack the Pop Top 20. It did nearly the same at R&B reaching #14 while hitting the Top 10 at AC (#5). The song was co-written by Jackson, producer Michael Omartian, and superstar Stevie Wonder.

ReduxReview:  I really liked this song when it came out. I thought it had everything going for it - jammin' production, great chorus, blasts of horns, a third-act key change, and lovely chords/melodies that were taken from the Stevie Wonder playbook. I was certain it would take the Top 10 by storm. Yet it stopped just inside the Top 20 and I could never figure out why. My only guess was that it leaned a little too far towards the adult side of pop, hence the Top 10 showing at AC. It just may not have appealed to a younger audience. I still think its a great song, but in retrospect it may have been a bit overproduced. I've always wondered what this song might have sounded like if performed by Michael Jackson and produced by him and Quincy Jones. I think they could have done something pretty cool with the tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After Jackson moved over to Arista, his talents as a producer were quickly put to use. He would end up producing two songs that would appear on the debut album of soon-to-be superstar Whitney Houston. Neither track would be issued out as a single. Thanks to those collaborations and being label-mates, Jackson was then able to secure Houston for a duet for his own album. The pair would perform the track "If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful." While the song was never issued out as a single, it did garner some radio airplay at a time when Houston was on a streak of #1 hits. It proved to be popular enough for the song to appear on Houston's first compilation LP, 2000's Whitney: The Greatest Hits.