Thursday, September 19, 2019

"Gravity" by James Brown

Song#:  2896
Date:  10/18/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  93
Weeks:  2
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Earlier in '86, Brown scored his last major Pop hit with "Living in America" (#4 Pop, #10 R&B, #3 Dance), a song from the soundtrack to the hit film Rocky IV. The song also earned Brown a Grammy for Best Male Vocal R&B Performance. The tune was written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight and produced by Hartman. With the hit reviving Brown's career, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to record a new album. Hartman and Midnight were brought on board and the pair wrote all the songs for Brown's 53rd (!) album Gravity. Hartman would also serve as producer. Ideally, they would have had a song ready for summer release since "Living in America" had fallen off the chart by spring, but things didn't come together until the fall and this title track single was issued out. Despite a renewed interest in Brown, the song fell flat. It only got to #23 at R&B while brushing the bottom of the Pop chart for two short weeks. It did a bit better at Dance getting to #13, but the results were not encouraging. The album would follow suit by only getting to #156 at Pop and #39 R&B.This single would end up being Brown's last to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  After the success of "Living in America," it did seem like a natural thing to just do an album with Hartman and Midnight. The trio seemed like a good partnership and they did work to update Brown's sound for the 80s. This track was pretty good and it fit Brown well. However, it just wasn't as hooky as "Living in America" and since it had a similar feel I think people just preferred to keep listening to "Living." The balance of the album was fine, but it played more like a Hartman solo album with Brown singing than an actual James Brown album.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While this song would not do well, his next single, "How Do You Stop," would do much better at R&B getting to #10. It was his 56th Top 10 on that chart. Unfortunately, it failed to reach the Pop chart. The song was remade by Joni Mitchell for her 1994 album Turbulent Indigo. Her take featured vocals by Seal. The song was issued out as the LP's first single and it did get to #56 in her home country of Canada. It didn't chart in the US, however, great critical reviews and a solid fan base would push the album to #47. It would go on to win the Grammy for Pop Album of the Year.  2) Brown's next album, 1988's I'm Real, would again attempt to keep his sound updated for the 80s. For the LP, Brown collaborated with the production team Full Force, who had recently had success with Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. This time around, the results were more favorable. The album generated two Top 10 hits at R&B and got to #15. Even though none of the singles reached the Pop chart, the LP still sold well enough to cross over and reach #96. It would be Brown's last studio album to reach those heights.


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