Wednesday, November 3, 2021

"Talkin' bout a Revolution" by Tracy Chapman

Song#:  3664
Date:  10/01/1988
Debut:  90
Peak:  75
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Chapman exploded on the music scene with her first single "Fast Car." The narrative folk-pop tune made it to #6 Pop/#7 AC and helped propel her self-titled debut album to #1. It was a major coup for a folk-based artist and her label tried to keep up the momentum by releasing this second single. The more political leaning tune didn't catch on as well and it stalled near the bottom of the Pop chart while reaching #22 Rock, #24 Alt Rock, #45 AC, and #78 R&B. Despite the low results, the album kept selling and by March of '89 it would be certified triple platinum. Eventually, the LP would sell over six million copies.

ReduxReview:  When it comes down to it, "Fast Car" was a bit of a fluke. Yeah, it was a great song and it ended up playing well on radio, but message-y folk pop was not common among the other sounds of the day. So following it up was going to be difficult. Same thing kind of happened with Suzanne Vega and "Luka." Neither Chapman's nor Vega's albums were geared for multiple singles and that also made follow-ups a real toss up. This second single from Chapman wasn't too bad of a choice, but it was going to be a hard sell with its political lyric content. The song had a sort of 10,000 Maniacs feel, which served it well, but in the end few folks wanted to hear it on the radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In an interview with The Guardian, Chapman revealed that her debut album nearly didn't happen. After she signed on with Elektra, she was set to work with producer Alex Sadkin (Duran Duran, Simply Red, Robbie Nevil), but sadly he ended up dying in a car crash before sessions could begin. The label then assigned Chapman a low-level producer with little experience. According to Chapman the recording sessions were a mess. Unhappy with what was happening, she went to the label asking for them to do something, but they told her to just stick it out. After a second complaint that fell on deaf ears, Chapman finally told the label she was going to walk away. Eventually, the label stepped in and hooked Chapman up with producer David Kershenbaum (Joe Jackson, Duran Duran). He understood what Chapman was looking for and the pair ended up creating a Grammy-winning #1 album.


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