Saturday, October 19, 2019

"I'm for Real" by Howard Hewett

Song#:  2926
Date:  11/08/1986
Debut:  90
Peak:  90
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  In 1979, Hewett would be hired in as the lead singer for the R&B trio Shalamar. He was the group's third lead singer since their formation in 1977. He came on just in time to sing on the trio's biggest hit, 1979's "The Second Time Around" (#1 R&B, #1 Dance, #8 Pop). Hewett would stay with Shalamar through to 1985 when he chose to leave for a solo career. He got a deal with Elektra Records and began work on a debut album to be titled I Commit to Love. This first single got issued out ahead of the LP and it did well getting to #2 at R&B. It crossed over to AC for a #31 showing, but it was virtually a non-starter at Pop where it spent a minor few weeks near the bottom of the chart. Three more singles from the album would reach the R&B chart including the #8 "Stay," but none would chart elsewhere. The LP would get to #14 at R&B, but peak at a minor #159 at Pop. Hewett's second album, 1988's Forever and Ever would feature the #9 R&B hit "Strange Relationship" (a duet with Lyn Davis), but it didn't sell as well as his debut. Hewett's 1990 self-titled effort would result in his biggest charting hit, the #2 R&B/#33 AC/#62 Pop entry "Show Me." It would help the album become his best seller reaching #8 R&B and #54 Pop. Hewett continued to record over the years but could only manage to get a few minor singles on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  Hewett jettisoned the dance-pop that Shalamar was doing in favor of a smoother R&B sound a la Luther Vandross and it worked well for him. He co-wrote and co-produced all but one of the tracks on the album, so it really was a reflection of Hewett as an artist. This is a good quiet storm ballad sung well by Hewett and one that played well at R&B. I'm guessing it was just a bit too "urban" at the time for Pop radio. Plus, Hewett wasn't a crooner like Gregory Abbott or Freddie Jackson whose voices and more pop/AC-friendly material set them up for crossover success. This was a solid introduction to the solo Hewett and it should have done a bit better at Pop.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although this was Hewett's first solo hit, it wasn't his first single to reach the R&B chart. After he joined up with Elektra Records, his first assignment was to record a song for the soundtrack to the 1985 fantasy/rom-com film The Heavenly Kid. Hewett recorded the song "Obsession" and it was released as a single. It made a very minor impact on the R&B chart at #90. The Heavenly Kid starred Lewis Smith, Jason Gedrick, and future Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmareck. It was not a critical or box office success.  2) Hewett's debut album was titled I Commit to Love, but it nearly could have been called I Commit to Prison. In 1985, Hewett and his then fiancĂ©e Mari Molina were indicted in Miami for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. While awaiting trial, Hewett was able to sign a record deal with Elektra and record his debut album. At the summer of '86 trial, Molina testified that Hewett was not involved in the incident that got them arrested (Molina sold cocaine to an undercover officer in a mall parking lot) and he knew nothing about her drug trafficking. A jury acquitted Hewett of all charges. Molina plead guilty. She was given probation, but was sentenced to four-years in prison for a separate drug conviction. Despite that, Hewett and Molina married. They split not long after.


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