Thursday, September 23, 2021

"The Rumour" by Olivia Newton-John

Song#:  3622
Date:  08/20/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Newton-John's 1985 album Soul Kiss was a disappointing follow-up to her 1982 #6 double-platinum hit Physical. The LP could only manage to spawn one charting single, the #20 title track, and therefore stalled at #29. It still managed to be certified gold, but that was a big drop from her previous effort. It was a signal that perhaps her hit making days were waning. After a hiatus in which she gave birth to her daughter Chloe, Newton-John got back to the studio to hopefully revive her chart presence. For her fourteenth album, Netwon-John decided not to work with producer John Farrar, who she had been working with since her 1971 debut album. Instead she worked with several producer and the result was The Rumour. The title track would be the first single yet despite a prominent guest vocalist/writer (see below), the song failed to impress. It peaked in the bottom half of the Pop chart while only getting to #33 at AC. A second single didn't chart at all. With those results, the album halted at #67 and didn't get close to gold level sales. While "The Rumour" wouldn't be Newton-John's last time on the Pop chart, it did bring a close to her hit making years, which began in 1971 and consisted of fifteen Pop Top 10 hits including five #1s.

ReduxReview:  Although I kinda liked the Soul Kiss album including its sultry title track, it was a major misstep. She took the whole good-girl-gone-bad thing a step too far and it just didn't work. It was time to get her image back in order and she made an attempt with The Rumour. While the LP had highlights and overall wasn't a bad effort (in fact, I think it is a little underrated), it just didn't have the right material for the Pop chart in '88. I liked this bouncy title track and it had a fun video as well, yet I knew it wasn't going to be a hit. The pairing of the Johns (see below) was a great idea, but the resulting song wasn't going to revive Newton-John's career. I think she needed to go all-in with a hot production/writing team or completely change things up by doing an album of country classics or pop standards. She may not have secured a hit by doing covers, but I think the album would have sold far better. Sadly, The Rumour ended Netwon-John's time in the pop sunshine.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "The Rumour" came about when Newton-John asked another superstar, Elton John, to write a song for her. Not expecting that he actually would, Elton along with his writing partner Bernie Taupin surprised Newton-John by writing "The Rumour" for her. She liked the song and wanted to record it for her next album. As it happened, Elton thought the song was quite good and offered to produce the track. Newton-John jumped at the chance to work with Elton and they got in the studio right away. In the end, Elton would co-produce the track (with James Newton Howard), play piano, and do background vocals. On paper it seemed like a can't-miss hit, but sadly it was a tune that just couldn't complete with the Whitneys, the Tiffanys, or the Debbies of the day.  2) After The Rumour, Newton-John would leave her long-time label MCA for Geffen. Her 1989 LP Warm and Tender was a concept album that focused on children's lullabies mixed with a few pop standards. It only got to #124 and was her sole LP for Geffen. Then a 1992 hits package titled Back to Basics was released. It featured four new tracks including the singles "I Need Love" (#96 Pop) and "Deeper Than a River" (#20 AC). Her last Pop chart single came in 1998 when she remade her own 1974 #1 hit "I Honestly Love You" for her more country oriented LP Back with a Heart. The remake featured background vocals by Babyface and it would get to #67 Pop and #18 AC. She would continue to record various concept LPs over the years including two of duets with other artists and three Christmas collections (one of them with her ol' Grease pal John Travolta). She also recorded several LPs with themes of hope, healing, and gratitude. These came after her diagnosis and battle with breast cancer in 1992 with several of them benefiting cancer related charities.


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