Saturday, November 14, 2020

"So Emotional" by Whitney Houston

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3318
Date:  10/31/1987
Debut:  47
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Houston was on a superstar roll scoring her fifth consecutive Pop #1 with "Didn't We Almost Have It All," the second single from her second album Whitney. Hopes were high that this next single would follow suit and it certainly did. The dance track debuted just outside the Top 40 and then headed up to the top spot for a week. It would also reach #1 at Dance while getting to #5 R&B and #7 AC. The wide appeal of the song helped to sell the single and it would become Houston's fifth to go gold (in addition to one platinum single). While the album had already spent 11 weeks at #1, it was still selling well and riding high on the chart around this time. In November of '87, it would be certified 5x platinum. Coincidentally, just a couple weeks prior to the posting date of this entry, the album would be certified for sales of 10 million.

ReduxReview:  This tune was a terrific vehicle for Houston. The chorus was undeniably catchy and Walden's production was meaty and layered. Of course Houston sang the crap out of it. When I first heard this song after getting the album, I predicted that it would be an easy #1. There was just no doubt in my mind and I was quickly proven right when it got issued out as the third single. In my opinion, this was the best track on Whitney, which I thought was an uneven effort thanks to Clive Davis grabbing songs he thought had hit potential from a myriad of writers. While "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" became the song from the LP that remained the most popular over the years, I'd argue that "So Emotional" was the better overall track. It gets far less attention these days, but that's okay because I can enjoy the tune without eye rolling and thinking, "oh god, not this again..." Ain't it shocking what a good song can do?

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by the team of Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. The pair had been having solid success with three of their songs hitting #1 ("True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper, "Alone" by Heart, and "Like a Virgin" by Madonna). This one would be their fourth chart topper. What was interesting about this one is that the duo's original demo of the song didn't really resemble what producer Narada Michael Walden came up with for Houston. Kelly and Steinberg were approached by Arista Records head Clive Davis to write a song for Houston. The pair typically just wrote songs without a specific artist in mind, but due to the fact it was Davis and Houston, they decided to give it a go and came up with "So Emotional." Their original demo (which can be heard on YouTube) was done in a Prince-styled arrangement with lots of synths leading the way. The funky little jam apparently pleased Davis who passed it on to Walden and Houston. Walden then toned down the funk in favor of a more mainstream dance-pop arrangement. His instincts were correct as the song topped both the Pop and Dance charts.


Friday, November 13, 2020

"Reservations for Two" by Dionne Warwick and Kashif

Song#:  3317
Date:  10/31/1987
Debut:  84
Peak:  62
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Warwick's album Reservations for Two secured another Pop Top 20 hit for her with its first single "Love Power," a duet with Jeffrey Osborne, reaching #12 (#1 AC/#5 R&B). It was the sixteenth Pop Top 20 entry of her career and unfortunately it would be her last. This follow-up title track single failed to capture the same audience and it stalled way short of the Top 40. It did a little better at R&B getting to #20 while making the Top 10 at AC (#7). Neither single promoted the album very well with it topping out at #56 Pop and #32 R&B. Although Warwick would have a few minor charting singles at R&B and a couple at AC, this single, along with the album, would close out the main chapter of her charting career.

ReduxReview:  I've always thought this was an underrated track. It was a well-written AC song with sweeping production by Kashif and terrific vocal turns by him and Warwick. While it did well at AC and okay at R&B, it may have not been the right style of song for Pop at the time. Although the late 80s had its share of adult-leaning ballads, it nearly took a big-name, current artist like Whitney Houston to get them noticed on pop radio. Had this song been released earlier in the 80s, it might have had a better chance to become a hit. In '87, soaring ballads were not necessarily in favor and if you factor in that Warwick was in late-career mode and that Kashif was basically unknown in the pop market, the sum of it all didn't equate to a mainstream hit. It was too bad because this was really a lovely record that deserved a bigger audience.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) For a long while it seemed like this single would be Warwick's last to reach the Pop chart. However, she would eke out one more in 1998. For her album Dionne Sings Dionne, Warwick recorded "What the World Needs Now Is Love," a song she first covered way back in 1966 for her LP Here Where There Is Love. While that initial version was not released as a single, it did become a popular track within Warwick's canon. For Dionne Sings Dionne, an album where Warwick revisited and re-recorded some of her hits and best known songs, she decided to give "What the World Needs Now Is Love" another spin. For the new version, she got an assist from a group called Hip-Hop Nation United. It was pushed out as the LP's first single and it briefly scraped the Pop chart at #87.  2) This song was a duet with R&B singer/songwriter/producer Kashif. Kashif got his start in the business as the keyboard player for B.T. Express not long after they scored the 1974 #2 Pop/#1 R&B hit "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)." He left the band in '78 to work with Stephanie Mills. By 1983, Kashif had his own solo deal with Arista Records. He would record five albums for the label that yielded five R&B Top 10 singles. H also became an in-demand songwriter/producer and worked with many artists including Whitney Houston, for whom he produced "You Give Good Love," her first major solo hit. Kashif and Houston were on the same label (Arista) as was Warwick, which led to this duet. It would be Kashif's only appearance on the Pop chart as an artist.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Sweet Rachel" by Beau Coup

Song#:  3316
Date:  10/31/1987
Debut:  88
Peak:  80
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Cleveland band was headed up by brothers Tommy and Frank Amato along with keyboardist/songwriter Dennis Lewin and Bassist Bill March. They started to come together in 1983 when Tommy Amato was working on some tracks in a studio and a few other folks like Lewin dropped by to hear what he was working on. Lewin offered to write a couple of songs for the project and it wasn't long before a band began to form. While seeking a formal name, the group went by the title Pop Opera and proceeded to record an EP of songs. Eventually they settled on the name Beau Coup and released their self-titled EP in 1984 on the indie Agora Records label. Thanks to local radio supporting their songs, the EP sold well and that led to them getting picked up by the Scotti Bros. imprint Rock 'n' Roll Records. A single was released, but it seemed the label was dragging their feet on the band. Finally, they decided to take off and sign up with Amherst Records. Three years after their initial EP, the band was finally able to release a full-length debut album titled Born & Raised (On Rock & Roll). This first single was released and it got a little bit of attention, but not enough to help it get out of the basement of the Pop chart. In turn, the album failed to chart. The band stuck together for a while, but basically dissolved in the early 90s. However, they still occasionally get together and perform in the Cleveland area.

ReduxReview:  This is pretty much pure midwest pop/rock and much like their fellow Cleveland-area native Michael Stanley, it played much better in their home region that it did nationally. It was a good pop/rock song with a solid hook that kind of got them near Journey territory. Where it lacked was in production and arrangement. The cheezy synths cheapened the track and the guitars seemed to be in their own world. However, the vocals were solid and helped the song along. For indie midwest rock, it's not bad, but it was missing that spark that might have made it more appealing to a larger audience.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This band went through several drummers along the way, but their first one went on to greater fame with a legendary rock band. Cleveland-born Eric Singer got one of his first professional gigs as the drummer for the band that would become Beau Coup. Singer would leave the group to take a touring job with hard rock singer Lita Ford in 1984. Other work followed including a stint in Black Sabbath with whom he recorded a couple of album. But it was a spot in Kiss' Paul Stanley's solo touring band that led to Singer's most high profile job. Late in 1991, Kiss drummer Eric Carr died from heart cancer. The band needed a new drummer and thanks to the Paul Stanley connection, Singer got the job. He would stay with the band until 1996, but would rejoin them for a year in 2001, and then again in 2004. As of this posting, he is still the drummer for Kiss.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

"We've Only Just Begun (The Romance Is Not Over)" by Glenn Jones

Song#:  3315
Date:  10/31/1987
Debut:  89
Peak:  66
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, Jones got his first taste of the music business as a teenager when he became lead singer for the gospel group The Modulations. They issued out a couple of albums on the Savoy label in '78 and '80. Around the time of the group's second album, Jones met Norman Connors, an R&B/jazz fusion drummer who used various vocalists to sing on his albums. Connors got Jones to do the lead vocals on "Melancholy Fire," a track from Connors' 1980 album Take It to the Limit. The song became the LP's second single and it reached #20 at R&B. Jones then toured with Connors and it wasn't long before RCA Records offered Jones a solo deal. A 1983 EP, Everybody Loves a Winner, generated a couple of minor singles on the R&B chart and that encouraged RCA to flip for a full album. Finesse came out in '84 and it featured Jones' first R&B Top 10 hit, "Show Me" (#3). A second LP for RCA was less successful and Jones then found himself over on Jive Records. He would then record a self-titled LP that featured this first single. The song became a smash hit over at R&B getting to #2. It would also make the AC chart at #36 while making a little headway at Pop. The album would be his best charting reaching #16 R&B and #94 Pop. Unfortunately, both the song and the album would be Jones' only ones to reach the Pop chart. Another album for Jive would generate a second R&B Top 10 (the #6 "Stay"). Jones would then move over to Atlantic Records for his fifth full-length studio album, 1992's Here I Go Again. The title track would become Jones' first and only song to top the R&B chart. After one more R&B Top 10, Jones' fortunes began to wane. Jones would continue to record and perform over the years in the R&B, gospel and smooth jazz fields.

ReduxReview:  I was just writing about songs with the same title in a previous post and here is another one, although subtitled. I'm pretty sure they added the subtitle to make sure folks knew this was not a remake of the 1970 #2 Carpenters hit. This track falls in line with others by late-80s R&B crooners like Freddie Jackson and Gregory Abbott. It was a good song that had similar crossover appeal as tracks by the previously mentioned artists, but for some reason it couldn't make a bigger dent at Pop. Jones was a terrific singer and he was totally on and engaged in his performance, even tossing in some nice, high falsetto. While the production was about right for this style of song at the time, it sounds weak and a little cheap these days, but the actual song and Jones' vocals still shine.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The person that took Jones from gospel to R&B music, Norman Connors, had some good success in the mid-70s. His sixth album, You Are My Starship, featured the title track single that got to #4 R&B and #27 Pop. The hit, featuring vocals by Michael Henderson, would help make the album a gold seller (#5 R&B/#39 Pop). Henderson, who wrote the song, would go on to grab a couple of R&B Top 10 solo hits himself in the late 70s/early 80s.  2) Jones' 1990 hit "Stay" would later be covered by the British girl group Eternal. It served as their debut single in 1993 and became the first of twelve Top 10 hits in the UK. Unfortunately, the group wasn't as successful in the US. The song would make it to #19 (#12 Dance/#13 R&B), but it ended up being their only one to reach the US Pop chart.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

"Pop Goes the World" by Men Without Hats

Song#:  3314
Date:  10/31/1987
Debut:  91
Peak:  20
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This Canadian band earned a major worldwide hit with the quirky "The Safety Dance," a track from the band's debut LP Rhythm of Youth. It would reach the Top 10 in many countries including the US where it got to #3 in 1983. It would help the album attain gold level sales in the US. It looked like they might turn into a one-hit wonder with follow-up singles from the album and their next effort, 1984's Folk of the 80s (Part III), getting little attention, but then this bouncy ditty came along. It was the lead single from the band's third album of the same name and it ended up doing well just making the US Pop Top 20. It would also get to #27 at Dance. The song helped the album reach #73. In their Canadian homeland, this track would be their biggest hit getting to #2 while the LP would make it to #8. Unfortunately, it would be their last song to reach the US Pop chart. A follow-up song, "Moonbeam," would barely make the US Dance chart at #47.

ReduxReview:  I remember buying the 45 of this song without hearing it. I saw that it was shaping up to be a hit in Canada and since I had loved the band's "Safety Dance," I thought I'd just spent a buck to give it a listen. When I first played the tune, I thought "this is gonna go nowhere here!" It sounded like some nursery song dressed up in synthpop clothes. It was quirky and nearly laughable. Yet somehow the dang thing caught on. I was completely shocked that it actually made the Top 20. However, the more I heard the tune, the more I realized how memorable and infectious the melody was. Although the song was utterly dorky, there was something quite endearing about it that just made you want to bop along. It was like those simple, catchy schlager songs that everybody sang along to in Europe. Somehow, against the odds, this song caught on in the US. Of course this tune has always gotten overshadowed by "The Safety Dance," but it also rightfully earned a spot on the list of the quirky/fun synthpop hits of the decade.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The song's simple, infectious melody would later get picked up and used by football (soccer) fans in various countries. Different words would be used for each team, but the popular melody stayed the same. The melody was also adapted and used as a chant during the 2019 social/economic protests in Chile.  2) After this, the band quickly cooled off everywhere except for in Canada where their next album yielded one last Top 10 hit with 1989's "Hey Men." In 1991, they released the more guitar-driven rock album Sideways, which couldn't even chart in Canada. With that result, the band broke up. Lead singer/songwriter Ivan Doroschuk would then release a solo album to little notice in 1997 titled The Spell. He would then reform Men Without Hats over the years with various lineups and release a couple of albums.


Monday, November 9, 2020

"System of Survival" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Song#:  3313
Date:  10/31/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  60
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  EWF's synth-leaning 1983 LP Electric Universe was the band's first to not at least reach gold level sales since 1972. It was also their first album since then to not generate a Pop Top 40 entry. It seemed that the band was having a difficult time navigating the waters of early 80s music, so band leader Maurice White decided a break was needed. Over the next four years, White and other EWF members like Philip Bailey would do other projects that included solo albums and production work. When '87 rolled around, White thought it was time to get the group back together. They convened in the studio to record their fourteenth album Touch the World. For the LP, White brought back EWF's horn section, which had been eliminated on Electric Universe in favor of synths. This first single got things started and it was welcomed with open arms at R&B where the song reached #1, their eighth and final one to top that chart. It also got to #1 on the Dance chart. However, the news wasn't so good over at Pop where the single stopped before reaching the halfway point. Still, the album did better than their previous one by making it to #33 Pop and #3 R&B. It would return them to gold level sales, but unfortunately it would be their last LP to do so. 

ReduxReview:  I guess this is sort of a message song. It basically talks about how crappy politics and human beings can be, but you just got to keep on surviving - by dancing, of course! The track has a Jam & Lewis feel, so Maurice White was certainly keeping a close ear to trends of the day. It still leaned heavy on synths like their previous album, but you could kind of hear that there was a band underneath it all. I can't say that if I heard this on the radio I'd know it was Earth, Wind & Fire, but it was better than some of their previous singles. At least they sounded more vested and engaged. The break did them good and it resulted in a #1 R&B hit, however it wasn't as mainstream-friendly as their earlier hits and it couldn't get a leg up at Pop. It was a pretty good return to form even though the tune wasn't one that was going to rank alongside their best tracks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  EWF's 80s albums included more contributions from outside writers than their multi-platinum 70s output and Touch the World continued that trend. It received assistance from hit songwriters like Robbie Nevil, Allee Willis, Danny Sembello, and Glen Ballard. This particular track was written by a guy that went by the singular name of Skylark. Not much can be found about him, but it seems that he was born in the Netherlands to a US service man and a Dutch woman. He was mainly a bass player that worked with several bands in the 70s. He also began writing songs and somehow his "System of Survival" made it over to the EWF camp. The #1 R&B/Dance hit raised his profile and it led to him writing/producing for other artists like Deniece Williams, The Whispers, and the jazz fusion band Hiroshima. In 1995, Skylark became the bass player for The Doobie Brothers. He remained with them until a stroke sidelined him in 2010.


Sunday, November 8, 2020

"Is This Love" by Whitesnake

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3312
Date:  10/24/1987
Debut:  53
Peak:  2
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This British band led by David Coverdale broke through in a big way with the #1 hit "Here I Go Again." It was a remix of a song that appeared on their self-titled seventh album. For a follow-up, this power ballad was released. The mainstream-leaning track would be another winner nearly topping the Pop chart while getting to #13 Rock and #38 AC. By this point in time the album had already peaked at #2 and gone triple-platinum, but this hit helped the album keep selling and by January of '88 it would reach the 5 million mark. Eventually it would sell over eight million copies.

ReduxReview:  For a band known for their hard rockin' tracks, this soft ballad was a little unusual. Other hard rock bands at the time were doing well with power ballads, but this one was different. It was a pop song lightly wrapped in 80s glam rock production. It was on par with other mainstream lite-rock ballads like Heart's "These Dreams." The fact that the song made the AC chart certainly set it apart from anything the band had done previously. Still, even though some of the band's core fans didn't like the slick track, it went a long way in making the Whitesnake album sell over 8 million copies. I thought it was a terrific single. It was well-written with a production job that made it ready for radio.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Back when David Coverdale was beginning to write tunes for the Whitesnake album, someone over at EMI contacted him and asked if he might have something good for Tina Turner. Coverdale didn't have anything readily available, but decided to try and write something specifically for Turner. As he began coming up with the tune, the band's guitarist at the time, John Sykes, joined in. Between the two they came up with "Is This Love." However, after it was finished it seems that the song never made it over to Turner. Coverdale and Sykes decided to keep it for Whitesnake. Coverdale was a little apprehensive in recording the song as an actual ballad as the intent was to give it a rock arrangement, but after label head David Geffen heard the song, he encouraged them to keep it as a power ballad. It was a good move with the band scoring a big #2 hit.  2)  The lyrics in the chorus of this song go "Is this love that I'm feeling." Does that sound familiar? It should. That line along with the title was used two years prior in the #9 hit "Is This Love" by Survivor. Could the writers of the Survivor song (Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan) have sued Coverdale and Sykes over the same title/line? Most likely not. First, musically the songs are vastly different. Second, common phrases like "I love you" have been used in different songs over the years. Many songs have also shared the same title. For someone to have a dispute over lyrics, the words need to be very specific and considered a distinct, new creation by the artist. Music and melody could also come into play. "Is this love that I'm feeling" isn't all that unique or creative. If it was, then both of the Whitesnake and Survivor songs would have been in trouble because back in 1978, Bob Marley released his song "Is This Love," which included the exact same line in its chorus.