Saturday, November 20, 2021

"Live It Up" by Gardner Cole

Song#:  3680
Date:  10/15/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  91
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Gardner Cole first started to make a name for himself as a songwriter. In 1984, he struck a publishing deal with Warner Bros. and became a staff writer for the them. By September of '88, six songs that he wrote or co-wrote had reached the Pop chart including Madonna's "Open Your Heart" (#1 Pop), "Strange But True" by Times Two (#21 Pop), and "Another Lover" by Giant Steps (#13 Pop). The clout he built up from penning the hits allowed Cole to sign on with Warner Bros. as a solo artist. He would then write and produce his debut album, Triangles. (Note that while the LP title was pronounced and sometimes written as Triangles, the actual title was represented by a triangle symbol followed by a plural tag.) This first single was issued out and it would do well in clubs with the song topping out at #13 on the Dance chart. The action there led to the song reaching the Pop chart, but it would only be for a few short weeks. A second single failed to do anything and with those results the album failed to chart. Cole would get a second chance in 1991 with the album It's Your Life, but it disappeared quickly. Cole would then return to his songwriting/production career working with artists like Jody Watley, Michael McDonald, Amy Grant, and Tina Turner.

ReduxReview:  These days it is nearly a prerequisite for an artist to start as a songwriter, get a publishing deal, and then after they secured hits with other artists go on to be stars themselves. It has happened quite a bit, especially in the country market. Back in the 80s it seems successful songwriters had a tougher time trying to break out on their own. I'm not sure why that was. They certainly could pen a hit, so why couldn't they write one for themselves? I can only speculate that they pushed their best material to other artists and when it came time for them to record, they may have had a few leftover songs that no one picked up and then under pressure just couldn't write that standout hit. I think most songwriters will tell you that writing for yourself is different from writing for someone else. Each has a goal, but the way there is different. As a staff writer, you are thinking of tailoring your songs for a particular artist or focusing on making something that will sell. Writing for yourself is more personal and reflects who you are as an artist. It seems Cole wrote for himself and the resulting LP most likely represented who he was as a writer/artist. Unfortunately, he just didn't write a surefire hit for himself. This track was probably the best of the bunch. It was a good tune, but it just didn't have the same memorable hooks as his hits mentioned above. In fact, I think it sort of sounds like an updated leftover Madonna track that didn't make the cut. Cole's vocals are solid, but unremarkable so that didn't help either. The tune is fine, just not outstanding or anything that was going to cut a path up the Pop chart. While his solo career didn't pan out, Cole still maintained a successful songwriting career.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The only song Cole did not solely write for his album was this lead-off single. He co-wrote it with Danny Sembello. If that name kind of sounds familiar, that is because he was the brother of Michael Sembello of "Maniac" (#1 Pop) fame. Like his brother, Danny was also a songwriter and his tunes began to get picked up by artists in the early 80s. His first significant hit came in 1984 when he co-wrote "Don't Stop" for Jeffrey Osborne (#6 R&B/#44 Pop). Right on the heels of that success came his first Pop Top 10 with The Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance" (#6 Pop/#4 Dance/#13 R&B). He would then earn two more R&B Top 10s with Patti LaBelle and Pebbles. He would continue to supply songs for artists like Sheena Easton, Boy George, Cyndi Lauper, Backstreet Boys, and others. Sadly, in 2015 Sembello would drown in the Schuylkill River outside of Philadelphia while attending a music festival.


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