Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent" by Gwen Guthrie

Song#:  2812
Date:  08/02/1986
Debut:  91
Peak:  42
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Guthrie began learning music and singing at an early age and by the 70s she was performing with several vocal groups. Guthrie then got into jingle singing and also began writing songs with her boyfriend Haras Frye. One of their tunes, "Supernatural Thing," was picked up by singer Ben E. King. After not having a major hit for nearly fifteen years, King's recording of the song made it to #1 at R&B and #5 Pop in 1975. Other artists would pick up their tunes and it wasn't long before Guthrie was branching out on her own as a solo artist. She signed with Island Records in 1982 and issued out a self-titled debut album. It sold some copies as did her next two LPs for the label. Some of her singles made the R&B and Dance charts, but she still hadn't been able to score an across-the-board hit. That changed when she moved over to Polydor Records and recorded this song for her album Good to Go Lover. The song was a smash at R&B and Dance getting to #1 on both charts. It crossed over to Pop and nearly broke into the Top 40. It would end up being her biggest single and her best-selling album (#20 R&B/#89 Pop). Unfortunately, she couldn't capitalize on the momentum of the hit and further singles were minor entries at R&B. After two more albums that failed to produce hits, her major label recording days came to an end. Sadly, Guthrie would pass away in 1999 from uterine cancer.

ReduxReview:  Guthrie wrote this sassy groove and it easily became an oft-referenced R&B/Dance classic of the decade. Guthrie had worked with the Jamaican team of Sly & Robbie for a couple of albums and many of her tracks had more of a dance-R&B-dub feel to them. She took over as producer on her third album and started to shift towards a modern R&B sound. It paid off when she also produced Good to Go Lover and came up with this hit. It topped the R&B and Dance charts (rightfully so), but it should have been a much bigger hit at Pop, especially with artists like Janet Jackson breaking through to Pop and MTV at the time. The song was slightly controversial when it came out as it seemed the person in the song would only go out with rich men - aka a gold digger. I'm not sure if that was Guthrie's intent was with the lyrics, but I always saw it as about a woman who is trying to protect herself and not get involved with a slacker that won't contribute anything to the relationship. It's kind of like a predecessor to TLC's 1999 hit "No Scrubs." The scrubs were out there and I don't blame Guthrie for wanting to avoid them.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Guthrie's first real major break came in 1974 when she got a call to sing backup vocals on an Aretha Franklin track. Franklin was recording the song "I'm in Love" for her album Let Me in Your Life. Apparently, a scheduled backup singer got sick and they needed a replacement quickly and Guthrie got the call. She sang backup on the track alongside Cissy Houston. The song would be the second single released from Franklin's album and it would reach #1 at R&B and #19 Pop. The tune was written by Bobby Womack and was originally recorded by Wilson Pickett in 1967. Pickett's version got to #4 R&B and #45 Pop. Guthrie would sing backup vocals for other artists including for Madonna on her 1983 debut album.


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