Saturday, May 15, 2021

"Supersonic" by J.J. Fad

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3494
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  78
Peak:  30
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  The all-female rap group J.J. Fad began life as a quintet and in '87 they released their first indie single "Anotha Ho" on the Ruthless Records offshoot label Dream Team. Also on that single was the song "Supersonic." While the single wouldn't chart, it did sell well enough for the group to move forward, however, by that time three of the members were gone leaving just Juana Burns (MC J.B.) and Dania Birks (Baby-D) to carry on. The pair then brought in Michelle Franklin (Sassy C.) and turned J.J. Fad into a trio. This version of the group went into the studio and re-recorded "Supersonic." Initially released on the Dream Team label, the single started to sell so well that a deal was struck between Ruthless and Atlantic Records for more extensive promotion and distribution. The boost certainly helped with the single climbing the charts and reaching #10 Dance and #22 R&B. It also crossed over to the Pop chart where it just barely make the Top 30. Sales of the single far outweighed airplay and that made the single go gold. With the track doing so well, the trio were rushed into the studio to quickly make a debut album also titled Supersonic. It would reach #20 R&B and #49 Pop. By the fall it too would become a gold seller. The song would also earn the trio a Grammy nomination in the brand new category of Best Rap Performance.

ReduxReview:  Along with Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It," this song helped to break female rappers on the charts and into the mainstream. This track didn't jam out quite as much as "Push It," but it was a fun track. It was catchy and the speed rap added another dimension. These rappers definitely demonstrated their skills on the track and it paid off in a gold record. I was one who added to that tally as I ran out and got this single. It is still a fun track and one that sadly doesn't get much attention any more.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The moniker J.J. Fad was initially created by the first letters of the first names of the original quintet. After being reduced to a trio, they kept the name, but changed its original meaning to being an acronym for Just Jammin', Fresh and Def.  2) In 2006, Fergie used an interpolation of this song in her hit "Fergalicious" (#2 Pop), a single from her debut solo album The Dutchess. Instead of using a sample from the song, which is a direct snippet from a recording, the songwriters/arrangers intentionally copied/recreated compositional elements from the original song. Either method requires permission from the copied song's composers/publishers/label. It seems that Fergie and her team did get the correct permissions to copy portions of "Supersonic" for "Fergalicious." However, when money/royalties were paid out to Ruthless Records they apparently didn't forward a portion of the funds to "Supersonic" producer the Arabian Prince, who had a stake in the track. After attempts to get the money to no avail, the Arabian Prince finally filed a lawsuit. There is no indication of a trial, so it is assumed that a settlement was reached in the lawsuit and the Arabian Prince finally got paid.


Friday, May 14, 2021

"Nothin' But a Good Time" by Poison

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3493
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  82
Peak:  6
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  Poison's debut album, Look What the Cat Dragged In, had a rough start. Released in the fall of '86, its first single tanked and it left the LP and the band hanging on by a thread. A second single was finally released in March of '87 and it quickly turned things around for Poison. "Talk Dirty to Me" would become an unexpected #9 Pop hit that turned the band into stars. The album would get to #3 thanks to that hit along with the #13 "I Won't Forget You." It would eventually sell over three million copies. After a tour supporting the album, the band got back into the studio to record a follow-up that would be titled Open Up and Say...Ahh! This first single was released and thanks to their newfound popularity along with heavy MTV rotation for the video, the song moved on up to become their second Pop Top 10. Surprisingly, it became their first track to make the Rock chart where it got to #19. By June, the LP would already be certified platinum and the following month it would reach its peak of #2.

ReduxReview:  I really wasn't on the Poison band wagon at the time and this party anthem didn't do much to get me on board. I was a good boy, so this loud, raucous music by hoodlums was not in my wheelhouse. Of course things change over time and I stopped being such a prude after getting some life experience, so years later this song made a lot more sense to me and I developed an appreciation for it. The song was prime for the pop/metal crowd and had a sing-a-long hook that could shake an arena apart. It came along at the exact right time when glam metal was gaining more acceptance at pop radio. The tune was ear candy for a wide ranging audience and it was any easy Top 10'er. The band had certainly upped their game.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Poison were not shy when it came to their hard partying ways or anything that might cause a stir and for their second LP, they certainly courted controversy with their cover art selection. The original album cover featured a fiery red demonic looking woman with wild hair and green eyes. If left to just that, there probably wouldn't have been an issue. However, what pushed the image into controversial territory was that the woman had a huge, pointed tongue that she was sticking out. That along with the album's title, Open Up and Say...Ahh!, was enough to rankle some folks. In particular, those who ran large chain stores that carried music. Walmart in particular was not happy with the image and refused to stock the LP. A few other retailers followed suit. Of course most anytime when something like this gets banned, it only generates extra publicity and makes people want it more. For the band, it boosted their bad boy image, which only heightened their popularity, but there was a downfall. These major retailers were often the only place people could get records at the time, especially in rural areas so a ban on an album could certainly cut into sales. Because of that, the band and their label decided to change the cover. The new design basically put black bars across the top and bottom third of the original image so that the center strip just featured the creature's eyes. This seemed fine for retailers who then began to stock the album. It would end up being the right call because the album would eventually sell over five million copies.


Thursday, May 13, 2021

"Dreamin' of Love" by Stevie B

Song#:  3492
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  91
Peak:  80
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Freestyle, Dance

Pop Bits:  Florida-born Steven Bernard Hill, aka Stevie B, dreamed of being a singer. He played in various bands and even owned his own disco nightclub in Tallahassee while pursuing a record deal. Unable to catch a break, he eventually decided to open his own recording studio. He would work on his own music and also write/produce for other artists. In 1984, he released the single "Sending Out for Love" on his new indie label Mid-Town Records (later just Midtown). The next year he wrote/produced "Boy Toy," which was issued out under the moniker Friday Friday featuring Stevie B. He worked on more releases by other artists for Midtown while also pursuing his own career. In 1987, Stevie B released the song "Party Your Body." The freestyle track became a hit in Miami and it got the attention of the New York-based freestyle/hip-hop label LMR (Lefrak-Moelis Records), who offered a national distribution deal. The song was pushed out and it ended up getting to #40 Dance/#67 R&B. Stevie B then quickly assembled a debut album titled Party Your Body and released this second single. The track did well enough to reach #21 at Dance. It crossed over to the Pop chart where it hung on for over two months, but just couldn't break out of the bottom quarter. Still, the results were encouraging and Stevie B's star began to rise.

ReduxReview:  Around this time it was the women who were the leaders of freestyle on the Pop chart with Exposé, The Cover Girls, Company B, and Pretty Poison leading the way. A couple of guys made the chart like Noel and Jellybean, but none were truly owning the genre. Stevie B would eventually break through as the leading male freestyle artist and it started with this track. It didn't get very far, but its ten weeks circling the bottom of the chart means it slowly caught on in some markets. I think if it had better financial backing and promotion from a larger indie or major label, this would have cracked the Top 40. I hadn't heard the song before and I figured it would sound like some cheap, amateurish ditty. I was surprised that it was actually quite good. The song itself was nicely written and the production was fairly robust. Was it a knockout? No, but it was certainly steps above a lot of local, self-written/recorded dance tracks. It showed Stevie B had a handle on things and had potential. I'm a bit surprised a major label didn't latch on to him. I think they missed out.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Early in 1987, the horror flick A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was released. It was the latest installment in the franchise and at the time was the most successful of the three films. Following its success, MC A.D.E. (Adrian Hines), who was a pioneer in the hip-hop offshoot genre of Miami bass, released a track titled "Nightmare on A.D.E. St." The track imagined what might have happened if MC A.D.E. were challenged in a rap battle by Freddy Krueger. With the track being popular around Miami, Stevie B decided to do an answer (or dis) song. He came up with "Nightmare on Freddy Krueger Street," which was then told from the point of view of Freddy Krueger and what he'd do to MC A.D.E. Both were fun tracks that played on a pop culture moment, but while this was going on, Stevie B's "Party Your Body" was growing in popularity and would take him beyond the local Miami music scene.


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

"Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3491
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  2
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Metal

Pop Bits:  Def Leppard finally cracked the Pop Top 10 with "Hysteria," the third single from their fourth album of the same title. It just broke the threshold at #10. With their profile significantly raised, the band needed to unleash something even stronger to keep up the momentum and decided on this track. It ended up being the right choice. Although the song debuted low on the chart, it soon caught on and made its way to the Pop Top 10. It spent two weeks at #3 before being able to move up to the #2 spot for a week. The same week the song peaked, the album would finally reach #1 after 49 weeks on the chart. It would end up spending six non-consecutive weeks at the top. It seemed that the band had reached the peak of their career, but the next single would push them even higher.

ReduxReview:  If there ever existed a genre called bubblegum metal, this song would be listed as the example. If you tossed The Archies, Run-D.M.C., and T.Rex in a blender, pureed them, then pushed the slurry through an amp turned up to eleven, this is what may have come out. It was a loud, hooky track fully of groan-inducing innuendo that became instant ear candy. Frankly, it was just trashy fun; and I mean that in a good way. Back in the day wherever you were, if this came on folks would just smile and start rockin' out. I bet folks still do. The song had mass appeal and despite grumblings about the sexual lyrics and that Def Leppard had gone too commercial, it became a hit and a signature song for the band. It really should have hit #1, but Richard Marx's dreary "Hold On to the Nights" inexplicably leapfrogged over it to take the top spot.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Hysteria album would end up generating seven singles. All of them would go Top 10 at Rock except for one. "Pour Some Sugar on Me" wouldn't even get close stalling at a minor #25. While it is not truly known why rock radio slighted the song over the other singles, one could speculate that the pop-oriented nature of the track along with its pseudo-rap section and its goofy sex metaphors made radio programmers' eyes roll. It wasn't the Def Leppard they wanted to promote and it seems like they didn't. However, with the video all over MTV, kids demanded to hear it and it seems that pop radio took up the slack and helped to make the song a major hit.  2) This was the final track recorded for the album. It was a spur of the moment thing. Recording the album had been a long and costly process. With an eleventh song, "Armageddon It," nearly finished, the band was ready to call it a day and get the LP out, but producer Mutt Lange encouraged them to keep writing songs. On a break in the last recording session, band member Joe Elliott was toying with a tune on guitar when Lange walked in. He loved what he was hearing and wanted to expand the tune and get it recorded. Within a few days, "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was finished. The last minute add turned into a #2 hit that pushed the album to #1. Although the vinyl single would not reach gold level sales, later in 2005 the digital version of the track was certified gold, which showed the song's long-standing popularity.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"I Wasn't the One (Who Said Goodbye)" by Agnetha Fältskog and Peter Cetera

Song#:  3490
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  93
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After the breakup of ABBA in 1982, Agnetha Fältskog opted for a solo career and released her first English language album, Wrap Your Arms Around Me, in 1983. It did well in Europe and was a huge #1 seller in her home country of Sweden. In the US, it only got to #102. It spawned the #29 single "Can't Shake Loose." Two years later, she released Eyes of a Woman, which got to #2 in Sweden, but didn't do as well elsewhere and failed to chart in the US. In the fall of '86, Fältskog performed at a UN charity event in Sweden. Also there and performing was Peter Cetera, whose post-Chicago solo career had recently taken off. They met and talked about how they admired each other's work and it wasn't long before the subject of working together came up. In '87, Fältskog flew to L.A. and began to work on an album with Peter Cetera and Bruce Gaitch producing. Cetera and Gaitsch would also write what would be the title track to the album "I Stand Alone," and Cetera would be a duet partner for Fältskog on this track that was issued out as a single. The song would do well at AC reaching #19, but it couldn't get a break on the Pop chart where it spent a short three weeks near the bottom. It wasn't enough to make the album sell and it failed to reach the chart. However, back home in Sweden the LP was a massive success spending eight weeks at #1 and becoming the best selling album of 1988.

ReduxReview:  This ballad is right out of the Cetera playbook. Had he not recorded it with Fältskog, he probably would have put it on his own album with another female vocalist. Written by Mark Mueller and Aaron Zigman, it was a solid AC ballad that certainly fit both vocalists well. What might have possibly held it back from doing better was the lack of promotion. Apparently, Fältskog had a severe fear of flying, so even getting her to L.A. was a challenge. After she returned home, she didn't do anything to promote the song in the US. Cetera perhaps could have, but it really wasn't his single and he was also on the verge of releasing his third solo album. A brooding AC ballad like this was going to be a hard sell at the time so it needed all the help it could get, which apparently wasn't really there. While it is not a lost gem, it was a good track that should have done better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After I Stand Alone, Fältskog decided to step away from recording for a while and pursue other interests. After seventeen years, she decided to finally record a new album. Her 2004 LP My Colouring Book, consisted of Fältskog covering songs that she enjoyed when growing up in the 60s. The LP's first single, "If I Thought You'd Change Your Mind," originally a 1969 UK #20 by Cilla Black, hit #2 in Sweden and became her biggest solo UK hit reaching #11. The album would get to #1 in Sweden and #12 UK. It would be another nine years before she would record a follow-up. In 2013, she released A, her first LP of original material since I Stand Alone. It was well-received and went Top 10 in several countries including Sweden (#2) and the UK (#6). Surprisingly, the LP also made a brief appearance on the US chart at #186.


Monday, May 10, 2021

"Love Struck" by Jesse Johnson

Song#:  3489
Date:  04/23/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  78
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Johnson recorded his first two post-Time LPs with his new band. The second album, 1986's Shockadelica, sold fairly well thanks to the #2 R&B/#53 Pop hit "Crazay," which featured a guest appearance by Sly Stone. For his third effort, Johnson chucked the band and with few exceptions did everything himself - wrote, performed, arranged, produced, etc. The finished product was titled Every Shade of Love and this first single got issued out. It would become Johnson's fifth R&B Top 10 getting to #4. The song then crossed over to the Pop chart, but it couldn't dig out of the bottom quarter of the chart. The title track would then be release and it got to #19 R&B. It failed to make the Pop chart. The results helped sell a few albums, but not as many as his previous two. It stopped at #26 R&B and #79 Pop. After the LP, Johnson kept busy recording songs for soundtracks and producing other artists. He would return to The Time in 1990 for a brief reunion period. He wouldn't record another solo album until 1996.

ReduxReview:  This tune kept Johnson grounded in the Minneapolis sound, but this time around it sounded closer to Jam & Lewis than Prince. It was a well-produced track with a good groove and a hot guitar solo by Johnson. I enjoyed the track, but for some reason it faded from my memory quickly. I think it was running with a pack of similar songs and just didn't have that extra power to break out and take the lead. It was a nice jam from Johnson, but ultimately it wasn't one that was going to break him through to a pop audience.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The backing vocals on this track were done by Sue Ann Carwell. She has pretty much been forgotten, but Carwell has a place in Prince's history. After Prince recorded his 1978 debut album For You, someone recommended that he catch a performance by a sixteen-year-old singer named Sue Ann Carwell. Prince did and he liked what he saw. Even though he had just released his first album, Prince already had expansion ideas and he thought that he could mold Carwell into a star and use his music and productions to do so. He wanted to do demos to take to his label, Warner Bros., and got Sue Ann into his studio. They recorded four songs that were leftover from Prince's writing spree for his debut album. However, Prince's excitement about developing Carwell's career took a left turn when his control over the whole project required Cartwell to change her name to Susie Stone. That idea didn't sit well with the teen and it seems Prince saw right off the bat that the full control he wanted to have was probably not going to materialize and he lost interest in the singer. By that point, Warner may have already heard the demos and decided to sign the teen anyway. She recorded a 1981 debut album under the name Sue Ann. The project was mainly written and produced by Pete Bellotte (noted Donna Summer collaborator) and Sylvester Levay. The LP only managed to produce the #72 R&B single "Let Me Let You Rock Me," so Sue Ann was dropped from the label. Six years later, she got a second chance with MCA Records. This time around she was guided by a former member of the Prince stable of artists, Jesse Johnson. Her second LP, 1988's Blue Velvet, spawned the #54 R&B track "Rock Steady (Part 1)," a remake of Aretha Franklin's 1971 #2 R&B/#9 Pop hit It wasn't a great result, but she got to do a second album for the label (without Johnson this time), 1992's Painkiller, which featured the #46 R&B single "7 Days, 7 Nights." Again, it wasn't enough and she was left off the label. Over the years, it seems she worked as a background vocalist for many artists. Then in 2010 she reunited with Jesse Johnson and recorded the indie LP Blues in My Sunshine. And so goes the story of Prince's first protégé.


Sunday, May 9, 2021

"One More Try" by George Michael

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3488
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  40
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Michael's solo debut album, Faith, had spent six non-consecutive weeks at #1 and had spawned two #1s along with the #2 platinum hit "I Want Your Sex." Of course a fourth single had to be released due to the momentum both Michael and the album had and so his label took a chance on this nearly six-minute bluesy ballad. It surprisingly worked out very well. The tune made a splashy debut in the Top 40 and then made a quick ascent to the #1 spot where it stayed for three weeks. It would also hit #1 at R&B and AC. The single would sell well and go gold. It also made the album as popular as ever and by the beginning of May it would return to the #1 spot and stay there for six weeks. The first week it made that return to #1, the album was certified for sales of over 4 million. By the fall of '88 that number would increase to 6 million.

ReduxReview:  This shouldn't have worked. A painfully slow song with somewhat depressing lyrics that slogged along for six minutes  and didn't necessarily have a hooky chorus was definitely not a dream single for a radio programmer. Yet with George Michael arguably at his hottest point and with AC and R&B jumping on board, the tune was nearly an instant hit out of the gate. For me, the best part of the song was Michael's performance. He really delivered on the tune and expressed the feelings of not wanting to start a new relationship following a painful breakup. When he finally relents at the end and sings the song's title, you can practically feel him getting over his apprehension, but with a bit of vulnerability and caution still lingering. However, I do have to say that I got tired of this song real quick back in the day. It just bored me. It turned into a pop funeral dirge. Even today when I listen to the Faith album, I have a tendency to skip this song. It really is a very good track, but one that I listen to sparingly.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) George Michael became one of the few white male artists to have a #1 single on the R&B chart and he did it with this song. After that accomplishment, it would be nearly twenty years before another white male artist would reach the summit. Robin Thicke would hit #1 in 2007 with "Lost Without U." It was the second single from his album The Evolution of Robin Thicke. That album and Michael's Faith would both reach #1 at R&B as well.  2) This song was remade by the assembled female vocal trio Divine. It appeared on their 1999 debut album Fairy Tales. The LP's first single, "Lately," was a platinum selling #1 Pop/#2 R&B hit. "One More Try" was then issued out as the follow-up. It didn't do as well only getting to #29 Pop/#13 R&B. The LP itself did just okay getting to #40 R&B/#126 Pop. Still, with a huge #1 under their belt it would seem that they would have recorded a follow-up album, but they ended up splitting in 2000. A quick split after a sudden burst of fame usually indicates that conflicts arose, but that may not have been the case. It seems their record label suddenly went out of business and it left the trio high and dry. With the bubble burst, the three women went their own ways. One of them, Kia Thornton, tried out for American Idol in its sixth season. She made it to Hollywood, but was eliminated during those rounds.