Sunday, October 3, 2021

"Heart Don't Fail Me Now" by Holly Knight

Song#:  3632
Date:  09/03/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Holly Knight's career as a songwriter took off in the 80s with artists like Animotion, Aerosmith, Tina Turner, Scandal, and Heart earning Top 10 hits from her compositions. While that success was lucrative and rewarding, it seems Knight still had ambitions to not only write the music, but to perform it as well. She previously gave it a go as a member of two bands that each got a Pop Top 40 entry; Spider with the 1980 #39 "New Romance (It's a Mystery)," and Device with the 1986 #35 "Hanging on a Heart Attack." Still, that wasn't quite enough and so in '88 Knight decided to give a solo career a try. She got a deal with Columbia Records and set out to write and record a self-titled debut album. After finishing the LP with producer Chris Lord-Alge, this album opening track was selected to be the first single. It got on the Pop chart, but it didn't get very far peaking in the bottom half. A second single didn't generate any interest and due to those results, the album failed to chart and disappeared quickly along with Knight's solo career. It would be her only attempt at a solo album. Knight would then focus on her day job and continue to supply material for other artists. Oddly, with a solid list of hits to her name, none have resulted in a Grammy nomination for Knight.

ReduxReview:  So here's the problem with hit songwriters trying for a solo career. They obviously have a knack for coming up with great tracks for other artists, but what they fail to do is hold back at least a couple of their best songs for themselves. They are in the business of selling their works, so their best material will usually fall in the hands of an established artist and that leaves in their hands songs that they personally like, but perhaps wouldn't get picked up by anyone. Also, writing for yourself is different from an assignment where you are requested to write something specifically for an artist. Without that inspiration, you may not have come up with that one hit. Some songwriters made the transition, such as Carole King, but just as many fail and Knight was one of them. She had a couple of things going against her; the lack of a solid hit and a voice that was capable, but underwhelming. This single was arguably the best song on the LP and it was a good composition. However, it wasn't quite strong enough to cut through the competition and Knight's vocal didn't provide any power. Oddly, this sounds like a song that might have been a middling Top 40 hit back in the early 80s for someone like Jennifer Warnes or Karla Bonoff. I like the song, but it just wasn't going to be the one that could make Knight into a hit making solo star.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Does the male voice singing in the background of this song sound familiar? It should. It belongs to Daryl Hall. Around the time that Knight was recording her debut album, she had the opportunity to co-write a song with Hall for the '88 Hall & Oates album Ooh Yeah! The song "Soul Love" would appear on the album and would become the b-side to the #29 single "Missed Opportunity." Hall's vocal appearance on "Heart Don't Fail Me Now" was most likely a thank you for working on "Soul Love."  2) Also on Knight's debut LP was a remake of a hit she co-wrote with Mike Chapman for Pat Benatar. Knight would do her own take on "Love Is a Battlefield," which Benatar first recorded and took to #5 in '83. The song would earn Benatar her fourth consecutive Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Knight's take on the tune was different from Benatar's assertive rock version. Knight relaxed the tempo a bit and gave it a more strict 4/4 feel. She and Chapman originally wrote it as a ballad, but Benatar and her husband guitarist Neil Giraldo changed it to an uptempo synth-rock track. Knight's take doesn't take the tune all the way back to its ballad origins, but the mid-tempo rock arrangement was certainly different from Benatar's hit.


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