Thursday, April 11, 2019

"Headed for the Future" by Neil Diamond

Song#:  2735
Date:  05/24/1986
Debut:  83
Peak:  53
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Diamond's sixteenth studio album, Primitive, was a bit of a stumble. Although fans would make it a gold seller, the album was his lowest peaking (#35) since 1969. With only one of the album's three singles barely doing anything on the Pop chart (the #62 "Turn Around"), it seemed that 80s pop radio was leaving Diamond behind. He tried to rectify that situation with his next LP Headed for the Future. While Diamond still co-wrote more than half of the LP's songs, he brought in a couple of tunes from hot-at-the-time writers like Martin Page and even the Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance songwriting team. Diamond even incorporated propulsive synths and effects to the title track in trying to stay with current trends. That track was issued out as the first single and while it did better than "Turn Around," it still couldn't break into the top half of the Pop chart. As usual, the AC crowd showed their support and the song made it to #10 on that chart. A second single, "The Story of My Life," failed at Pop while reaching #11 at AC. Yet the songs did well enough to make the album a gold seller that reached #20. Sadly, this would be Diamond's last song to reach the Pop chart. He would still do pretty well at AC grabbing a couple more Top 10's before the decade was out, but after that radio had little interest in Diamond. Thanks to his rabid fan base, his albums would continue to sell well and go gold despite featuring no hits.

ReduxReview:  I've mentioned in other posts that even the greatest of songwriters/artists will have bumps in their careers and turds in their catalogs. It's inevitable and for Diamond the mid-80s were not the best of times. He couldn't shake the stigma of being an non-hip older adult artist and he just wasn't able to make his songs fit with the day's sounds. He certainly tried with this song, but it just didn't work. I think he was going for a big "America" style of tune, but he came up short...way short. The opening is kind of promising, but once the real song starts it just goes downhill. Frankly, it is a goofy tune with a silly 80s production. It sounds like a forced bizarre effort to try and stay current. I'm a Diamond fan, but this one makes me cringe. It also makes me sad that it was his last Pop chart entry. He really should have simply written his own material from the heart, chucked all the multiple producers, and put out a focused effort regardless of hit song potential. It would have served him so much better. In fact, the best song on the LP (despite its cheezy 80s produciton) is "The Story of My Life," which was solely written by Diamond. It was pure Diamond and he should have been doing more on his own like that. It sounded true and real as opposed to the rest of the manufactured tunes on the album. He'd finally get back to basics later in 2005 (see below), but until then his career would be a mishmash of styles and themed projects. (Note - if you want to hear Bryan Adams' attempt at writing an AC tune, check out the odd "It Should Have Been Me" on the album - yikes.)

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  After Headed for the Future, Diamond continued to put out a new studio album about every two years through to 2001's Three Chord Opera. Each one would be a gold seller and would have varying themes. He would do an album of songs from films, one where he remade tunes from Brill Building writers/artists (of which he was one in his early career days), and even a country album titled Tennessee Moon. That 1996 LP did quite well getting to #14 Pop and #35 Country. Following Three Chord Opera, Diamond happened to meet Rick Rubin, who had become a highly sought after producer. Rubin was a Diamond fan and wanted to work with him. The two began collaborating and it resulted in the 2005 album 12 Songs. The more stripped down LP had Diamond writing and performing some of his best material in decades and it was met will all kinds of accolades. It also became his first LP to hit the Top 10 (#4) since 1982's Heartlight. The pair then worked on a follow-up titled Home Before Dark. Again, the album was a critical success and it ended up hitting #1. Surprisingly it was the first time in his career that one of Diamond's albums topped the chart. Since then, Diamond has released two more regular studio albums, one remake LP and one of originals, both which reached the Top 10. Diamond had always been a top draw when it came to his live shows, but in 2018 he abruptly stopped his touring. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and decided to retire from performing. Although he said he would continue to do music projects, as of this posting date (early 2019) he has yet to release any new studio recordings.


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