Thursday, August 13, 2020

"I Just Can't Stop Loving You" by Michael Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3224
Date:  08/08/1987
Debut:  37
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  By the end of 1984, Jackson's Thriller had been certified for sales of over 20 million copies. Obviously he had to follow up that mega hit but thanks to the pressure from that along with all the focused attention on Jackson, his tours, and other projects it would take him five years to complete his new album titled Bad. Co-produced once again by Quincy Jones, the LP took some of the same music styles found on Thriller and expanded upon them. It has been said that Jackson's goal was to sell 100 million records worldwide with the album (Thriller would have about 47 million in certified sales with another 19 million in claimed sales). He wanted the album to have a harder edge and was encouraged by Quincy Jones to write more songs for it than his previous efforts. Jackson apparently wrote about 60 songs and ended up recording thirty tracks. In the end, the album would contain eleven songs (ten on the vinyl version) with Jackson writing all but three of them. When it came time to select a lead single, Jackson and his label decided to follow the formula set by Thriller's "The Girl Is Mine" and release this duet ballad. Also like "The Girl Is Mine," the song would not have an associated video. The track would debut inside the Pop Top 40 and climb to the #1 spot becoming Jackson's seventh to top that chart. It would also reach #1 at R&B and AC. It would quickly become a gold-selling single. The album would be released by the end of the month and debut in the #1 spot. The next era of Jackson's music was off to a good start.

ReduxReview:  Arguably, Bad was the most eagerly anticipated album in music history up to that point. Everyone knew that it was ready and on the way so the arrival of this single was big news. I think no matter what Jackson had released, it would have done well due to the anticipation factor. This track may have caught folks by surprise. I think a lot of people expected a big splashy dance track and video, but then this ballad arrived instead with no video support. At the time I thought it was a terrific track. I loved the breezy feel of it, the big chorus, and the tympani accents. The tune was well executed and it did the job in getting people interested in the album. While I still like the song, it hasn't aged as well as some of Jackson's other hits. The schmaltzy lyrics are now more apparent and while making it a duet was a good idea, having Garrett do it (see below) maybe wasn't the best choice. For me, she sounds too much like Jackson. I think a more distinctive vocalist would have worked better. Plus, looking at the song's chart stats now (#1 for one week, 14 weeks on the chart), it wasn't all that impressive, specially as the song to announce Jackson's return. My guess is that they wanted a true mainstream hit to kickoff the album to get a wide, diverse audience interested before unleashing the harder edged tracks. If that was the case, then this song did its job.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia: Jackson's duet partner on this tune was singer/songwriter Siedah Garrett. Garrett got started in the music business as a member of the band Plush, who released a self-titled album in 1982 for RCA Records. She then set out on a solo career and in 1984 found herself recording "Don't Look Any Further" with Dennis Edwards. The duet would be released as a single and reach #2 R&B/#72 Pop. The following year she wound up over at Quincy Jones' Qwest Records and recorded a couple of singles including "Do You Want It Right Now," a song from the film Fast Forward. It got to #3 Dance/#63 Pop. During this time, Garrett was also honing her songwriting skills and thanks to her Quincy Jones connection, one of her tunes, "Man in the Mirror" (co-written with Glen Ballard), got to Michael Jackson, who decided to record it. At one point, Garrett was called to the studio to work and she thought that it had to do with vocals or something for "Man in the Mirror." To her surprise, she got there and was asked to do the duet vocal for "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." Originally, Jackson had asked Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston to record the tune with him, but both declined. Since Garrett was already on Jones' roster, they decided to give her the job. Although Garrett was credited with vocals on the album and on the back of 45 sleeve, the single was credited solely to Jackson. Obviously, had he got one of the other superstars on the track they would have gotten billing alongside Jackson and promotion of the tune would have been much different.


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