Monday, January 27, 2020

"Lean on Me" by Club Nouveau

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  3025
Date:  02/14/1987
Debut:  47
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  After the Timex Social Club hit it big with their #8 hit "Rumors," problems ensued and the group quickly disbanded leaving them known as a one-hit wonder. The co-producer of the song, Jay King, felt a bit burned by the TSC situation and so he formed his own group that was initially called Jet Set. King then changed the name to Club Nouveau (French for "new club") as a bit of a stab back to the Timex Social Club. The band's first single was an answer song of sorts to "Rumors" titled "Jealousy." It was a hit at R&B getting to #8. The follow-up single, "Situation #9," also followed into the Top 10 (#4). Neither made the Pop chart, but this third single finally did. The cover tune (see below) struck the right chord with a mainstream audience and the single bounded up to #1 at Pop and Dance while getting to #2 at R&B. Sales of the single were strong and it eventually went gold. In turn, the group's debut album Live, Love & Pain, would be a platinum seller that reached #2 R&B and #6 Pop. Club Nouveau would later grab a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, while the song would win composer Bill Withers a Grammy for Best R&B Song. It was a great start for the group, but then it seemed their star burned too bright too fast and it quickly began to fizzle. Despite their next single getting to #2 at R&B, it was a minor #39 entry at Pop. Then their follow-up albums failed to generate any sizable hits. In the end, this song would be their only major hit at Pop and because of that it got them tagged as a one-hit wonder (#94 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  This classic tune was never really one of my favorites, but I appreciated Withers' original (see below) and when played in the right context the song can be quite inspirational. Now, take that lovely little tune and then add beats, claps, farting vocal samples, screaming synths, and someone yelling "we be jammin'" and you have Club Nouveau's grating version. I just can't stress enough how much I hated this song back in the day. It made my ears bleed. I thought they completely desecrated the original. I wanted to throw a rock at any speaker that this song came out of. Frankly, I still do. After avoiding it all these years I thought that perhaps it might not sound so bad now. I was wrong. It is still just as horrible now as it was then. The beats are dorky, the production is loud and overdone, the vocals are indistinguishable, and the "we be jammin'" is as silly and out of place as ever. For me, it's still not only the worst hit remake of the decade, but one of the worst songs of the decade period. On the positive side, I'm glad it got Withers a Grammy and I hope he made a bunch of cash off this thing.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and performed by R&B singer/songwriter Bill Withers. It was the first single lifted from his 1972 album Still Bill. The tune would reach #1 on both the Pop and R&B charts. His follow-up single, "Use Me," would get to #2 on each chart. The album would be his first gold seller. Withers would have some success in the early 80s returning to the Top 10 with "Just the Two of Us" (#2 Pop/#3 R&B). With Club Nouveau hitting #1 at Pop, it made "Lean on Me" one of just a minor handful of songs that reached #1 on the Pop chart twice by different artists. This actually happened a few months prior for another song. In the fall of '86, Bananarama would reach #1 with "Venus," a remake of an earlier 1970 #1 hit by Shocking Blue.


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