Thursday, May 14, 2020

"Why Should I Cry?" by Nona Hendryx

Song#:  3133
Date:  05/23/1987
Debut:  80
Peak:  58
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This former Labelle member scored her first significant hit in 1983 with "Keep It Confidential" (#22 R&B/#25 Dance/#91 Pop), a track from her second album Nona. The following year, "I Sweat (Going Through the Motions)" a single from her third LP The Art of Defense (also used in the Jamie Lee Curtis/John Travolta flick Perfect) got to #28 R&B/#40 Dance, but failed to make the Pop chart. Still searching for a bigger breakthrough, Hendryx recorded her next LP, 1985's The Heat. While The Art of Defense was a bit of a diversion into post-disco/dance territory, The Heat found Hendryx going back to the rock-leaning funk of her 1977 self-titled debut. The change in sound wasn't necessarily welcome with only a couple of singles making the lower reaches of the R&B chart. On the bright side, the track "Rock This House" featuring Keith Richards did secure Hendryx a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. For her next effort, Female Trouble, Hendryx mostly stuck with her rock/funk sound while keeping an ear towards the mainstream. The LP's first single only got minor attention (see below), but this follow-up struck the right balance and it became Hendryx's biggest hit reaching #5 R&B and #6 Dance. The song then crossed over to the Pop chart and got close to the Top 50. The album would then get to #30 R&B/#96 Pop, which was her best showing since 1983's Nona. This single would end up being Hendryx's last to chart. After five albums for three major labels and this lone R&B Top 10, Hendryx left behind mainstream ambitions and set out to make music on her own terms.

ReduxReview:  While Patti LaBelle's career took off after Labelle split, Hendryx's kind of floundered despite her writing a good chunk of the trio's tracks. But let's face it. LaBelle's massive voice and performing abilities set her apart and she got hooked up with quality songs and producers while Hendryx marched to her own drummer and wasn't necessarily a major label darling. She had the tougher road and it was unfortunate her career didn't produce better results. It wasn't like she didn't try. Her rock-edged debut album was excellent and along the way she had solid tracks with potential like this one, which could have also been a hit for someone like Teena Marie. She was just never able to secure that one big crossover hit that might have made her a bigger star. Still, her catalog has a lot of forgotten gems that are worth seeking out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Female Trouble's first single was "Baby Go-Go." The composer listed for the song was Joey Coco, aka Prince. Apparently, the tune was initially recorded by Prince in 1986 and then handed over to Hendryx for her use. In many cases when Prince recorded a song and passed it along to another artist, the recipient would usually use Prince's backing track or at least a portion of it. However, Hendryx decided to nix all of Prince's work and record it in her own way. She co-produced the track with Dan Hartman. When released as a single, the song didn't make a big impression. It only got to #44 at Dance and #60 at R&B.  2) Two years after Female Trouble, Hendryx returned with the album Skin Diver. Fully written by Hendryx and co-produced with Tangerine Dream's Peter Baumann, the LP was a more ambient/new age affair. Critics were positive about the project. Over the years, Hendryx would collaborate with other artists for a couple of albums, but she would not released a full-on solo album again until 2012. The politically charged neo-soul disc Mutatis Mutandis would also be a critical success.


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