Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"Human" by The Human League

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2860
Date:  09/13/1986
Debut:  71
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Synthpop, Blue-Eyes Soul

Pop Bits:  The Human League was having issues. After their 1984 album Hysteria failed to live up to expectations (#62 US), the band went through some changes including the loss of Joe Callas, who had co-written most of their material with leader Philip Oakey (and Philip Wright on some tracks as well). They went in the studio to record tunes for a follow-up album with producer Colin Thurston, but the sessions didn't work out and they were scrapped. In flux with direction and creativity, their label suggested that they team up with the hot new production/songwriting team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who were having great success at the time with Janet Jackson. The band decided to give it a whirl and headed to Minneapolis to record. Although these sessions had their own set of issues (see below), an album titled Crash was completed. This first single, written by Jam & Lewis, was issued out and it slowly caught fire. The song would become their second chart topper at Pop while also reaching #3 AC and #3 R&B. A remix of the tune would hit #1 at Dance. It was a major comeback for the band and it put them back on the map again, but only for a short while. It would be their last single to hit the Top 10 in the US. The song helped sell some albums, but not enough for it to go gold. It would peak at #35 and be their last album to reach the US chart.

ReduxReview:  As soon as I heard that opening chord and the drum pattern, I knew this was something special. It was so unique and different. That feeling was additionally enhanced because I adored The Human League. Jam & Lewis had been perfecting their writing and production style for a while and they hit on a winning formula by the time they worked with Janet Jackson. However, this track was different. It was like every snare beat of the song pounded out a seal in cement that this was Jam & Lewis' signature sound at the time - even more so than anything from Jackson's Control LP. It also showed that they could pull it off with any style of artist, even a British electronic synthpop outift. Critics either loved or hated this song and were divided on the spoken word part, but the general public loved it including me. I still adore this song and sometimes get chills when I hear that opening chord. Despite the troubles the two factions had when making the album (see below), the pairing of Jam & Lewis with the band was inspired and it resulted in this 80s classic.


Trivia:  Depending on what you read and who said it, the sessions for Crash were not all peaches and cream. Apparently, the band members and Jam & Lewis all got on just fine as people. However, when it came to work, it was a different story. Jam & Lewis were having grand success writing and producing songs for other artists and that got them used to having complete control in the studio. Yet The Human League, in particular Philip Oakey, wanted control over the band's music and that created conflicts, especially when it came to songs written by Jam & Lewis as they viewed those as their product, not necessarily the band's. Along with that, the producers would bring in session players to perform instead of using band members and that rankled some feathers. "Human" drove a bigger wedge in the divide between producers and artist when Jam & Lewis brought in singer Lisa Keith to do the background vocals. This did not sit well with the band's two female singers, Joanne Catherall and Susan Sulley. Arguments ensued about the use of Keith on the song, but Jam & Lewis stuck their ground and said that was the sound they wanted and that was the way it was gonna be because it was their song. In the end they got their way, but this issue and others lead the band to departing Minneapolis as soon as they could and just leaving the tracks with Jam & Lewis to finish, which they did. Despite all the acrimony, the two sides agree that "Human" was a great song and Oakey has even said that the hit helped to revive the band's career and kept it going for years after.


1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with your rating. I always wondered whose idea it was to combine these two disparate groups. It clearly shouldn't have worked, but did it ever!