Monday, August 23, 2021

"The Right Stuff" by Vanessa Williams

Song#:  3591
Date:  07/23/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Williams first gained national attention when she won the Miss America crown in 1984. In doing so, she became the first African-American woman to take the title. Then as the end of her reign approached, she was involved in a scandal where Penthouse magazine decided to run nude pictures of Williams, which forced her to give up the crown. It was a huge to-do that became fodder for the news, tabloids, and even a few song lyrics (John Mellencamp's "You've Got to Stand for Somethin'"). The scandal made Williams a punchline for many and she was subject to shaming and bullying. It would take years for her to overcome the life altering event, but even before that she had to forge ahead and try to carve out a career. Singing was her forte and she had even won the talent portion of the Miss America competition, so she chose to start a recording career. The Mercury Records sub label Wing took her on and work began on a debut album. Several producers would be involved including Exposé Svengali Lewis A. Martinee, but Williams mainly worked with Rex Salas who co-wrote and produced this album title track and debut single. Of course, some folks showed up to see what was going on with the former Miss America, but in the end she began to win some fans and the single topped out at #4 on the R&B chart while reaching #1 at Dance. The tune crossed over to Pop, but it fell just short of making the Top 40. A second single, "(He's Got) The Look," would make it to #10 R&B, but fail to make the Pop chart. However, a third single would firmly establish her as a viable recording artist and it helped to get Williams' post-scandal life kicked off in a positive way.

ReduxReview:  I think Williams taking a shot at a singing career was a good decision after all that had happened. She had the vocal skills and listeners who heard and liked the song on the radio without knowing the artist first would give her a fair shake, which I think for the most part they did. The tune was good enough to break Williams on the R&B chart and once that happened, she had an opportunity to concentrate and move forward. I bought this single back in the day and thought it was a solid track to kick off her career. It was a smart, funky choice that made Williams sound current and hip. There were shades of the Minneapolis sound along with new jack and it fit her voice quite well. It really should have done better on the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Rex Salas and Kipper Jones with Salas producing. Salas and Jones had gained some music business experience as members of the R&B/funk band Tease. The band began sometime in 1977 under another name, but by 1979 settled on being Tease. They spent a few years honing their performance and writing skills before finally getting signed by RCA in 1982. The following year they issued out a self-titled debut album, but it went nowhere. It was back to the drawing board and a couple of years later Epic Records picked them up. They released a second self-titled effort in 1986 and the results were a bit more positive with three singles making the R&B chart including the #11 "Firestarter." A third album, Remember, came out in '88, but it didn't perform well. The band then decided to call it a day. Around the time of their third album, the band's keyboardist Rex Salas got the opportunity to branch out and work with Vanessa Williams. He would produce six tracks for Williams' debut LP while co-writing four. Two of those tracks he co-wrote with Tease lead singer Kipper Jones. Salas would continue to write and produce for other artists and would later become musical director for tours including ones for Robert Palmer, Janet Jackson, and TLC.


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