Sunday, July 21, 2019

"Sweet Love" by Anita Baker

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2836
Date:  08/16/1986
Debut:  74
Peak:  8
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Quiet Storm

Pop Bits:  Baker began singing in clubs around Detroit when she was in her teens. It was at one of her gigs that she was offered the chance to audition for the lead singing slot in a band. She got the job and fronted the funk band Chapter 8. They got signed to Ariola Records and issued a debut album in 1979. Soon after, Ariola was purchased by Arista and that led to the group being dropped by the new label. After a couple of years of doing menial day jobs, Baker was given the opportunity to start a solo career. She was signed to the Beverly Glen label by its owner, Otis Smith, whom she had known from her days with Chapter 8. By 1983, her debut solo album, The Songstress, was ready. It was a moderately successful album that yielded the #5 R&B hit "Angel." Unfortunately, issues with the Smith and Beverly Glen tied up her career and after a successful lawsuit to separate from the label, she was free to sign with Elektra Records. Finally after a three-year gap, Baker was able to record her second album, Rapture. It didn't get off to a good start as the first single, "Watch Your Step," stalled at #23 on the R&B chart. The label then issued "Sweet Love" as the follow-up. It was the exact right choice to release. The song took off and got to #2 R&B and #3 AC while becoming her first entry and first Top 10 hit at Pop. Seemingly overnight, Anita Baker had become a star. The album and single would yield Baker two Grammys - one for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female, for the album, and one for Best R&B Song for "Sweet Love" (Baker co-wrote the tune with Louis A. Johnson and Gary Bias). Rapture would go on to sell over five million copies.

ReduxReview:  Hindsight is 20/20 and now it seems obvious that this should have been the LP's lead single. It was a smart and sophisticated track that had mainstream appeal with its groove and modern production. Baker's unique tone and delivery also helped make the song a standout. Baker wasn't a powerhouse R&B vocalist like Patti LaBelle and that was a good thing. Her smooth, jazzy voice was perfect to sell this tune and it was like nothing that was on the radio at the time. It still sounds great and I think the production style helped it transcend the decades. It still sounds fresh to me. Baker couldn't have asked for a better song to finally kick her career into high gear.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Prior to her singles from Rapture, Baker had reached the R&B chart eight times. Her first three appearances were with Chapter 8. Their best effort was 1979's #38 entry "Ready for Your Love." Then five tracks from Baker's solo effort The Songstress managed to reach the R&B chart. As mentioned above, "Angel" would do the best at #5. "You're the Best Thing" would get to #28 while the balance of the songs would peak below the Top 40 mark.


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