Saturday, June 5, 2021

"Paradise" by Sade

Song#:  3515
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  95
Peak:  16
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Soul, Sophisti-Pop

Pop Bits:  Over the course of two albums, Sade's blend of international sophisti-pop mixed with soul and jazz resulted in a pair of #5 Pop hits including the 80s classic "Smooth Operator." Each LP would eventually sell over four million copies. For the band's third effort, Stronger Than Pride, they didn't change their winning formula too much and it resulted in another set of songs that was well-received. This first single got things kicked off and although it didn't reach the Top 10 like her previous two lead-off singles, it did get inside the Pop Top 20. The tune did much better at R&B where it became their first and only #1. It also got to #3 AC and #21 Dance. The hit would drive the album to #7 Pop and #3 R&B. The LP also got on the Contemporary Jazz chart at #21. A follow-up single, "Nothing Can Come Between Us," would reach #3 R&B and #21 AC, but fail to make the Pop chart. The third single, "Turn My Back to You" would top out at #12 R&B. Overall, the album would not be quite as popular as the first two, but it would still be a triple-platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  While Sade Adu and her band didn't necessarily move in a new direction with the new album, they did make one that was slightly more soul-leaning. This first single hinted at that with its steady, singular groove and bluesy vocal inflections from Adu. This track was slightly odd as it just established a 2-measure pattern that just continued to repeat with little variation over the entire song. The verse and chorus played out over the exact same groove. Sometimes when I hear this tune I think, "man, that bass player must be bored as hell on this song," because they play the exact same riff the entire. At least the keyboard player gets to add one little transfer chord near the end. Despite it being a bit repetitive, the verse and chorus were written well enough to make it seem like things were changing. Overall, it wasn't quite as engaging as her previous two Top 10s, but it was a cool, sleek, memorable track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  It would be four years before Sade would release a fourth LP. Love Deluxe would come out in 1992 and would be another 4x platinum seller getting to #3 Pop and #2 R&B. It featured the single "No Ordinary Love," which got to #28 Pop, #9 R&B, and #14 AC. It also won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. After that success, the band took a break. It would be eight years before their next effort, Lovers Rock, would come out. It nearly replicated the success of their previous album getting to #3 Pop and #2 R&B while going triple-platinum. It would win the Grammy for Best Pop Album. Another hiatus followed, this time for ten years. Sade's fifth album, Soldier of Love, would be released in 2010. It would be their second LP to reach #1 at both Pop and R&B. The effort would also earn them a fourth Grammy (Best R&B Performance). Once again, Sade set music aside for a long while. As of this posting date (May 2021), the only songs the band has released have been for soundtracks. They contributed "Flower of the Universe" to Disney's 2011 flick A Wrinkle in Time and "The Big Unknown" for the 2018 heist thriller Widows.


Friday, June 4, 2021

"Just Got Paid" by Johnny Kemp

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3514
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  10
Weeks:  21
Genre:  New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This singer from Nassau, Bahamas, made the move to New York just before the 80s began. A couple of years later, Kemp found himself writing songs and singing backup for the NYC band B.B.&Q. Band. He also wrote songs/sang for other groups including Change. Along the way he would pursue a solo career and he was finally able to get signed to Columbia Records. He would release a self-titled debut album in 1986. It featured the #14 R&B/#26 Dance track "Just Another Lover." Near the end of '87, he would release his second LP Secrets of Flying. This first single was issued out and it became a #1 smash hit at R&B and Dance. It would then cross over to the Pop chart where it just barely cracked the Top 10. The single sold well and it would be certified gold. The hit would send the LP to #4 R&B and #68 Pop. Later on, the tune earned Kemp and Keith Sweat (see below) a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song. Two other singles would be released from the LP. "One Thing Led to Another" would get to #40 R&B while "Dancin' with Myself" would reach #5 R&B/#12 Dance. Neither would make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  Who back in the day didn't finish the work week and sing "just got paid, it's Friday night!" It was a great jam to kick off the weekend. Riley and Kemp's toss-in-the-kitchen-sink production drove the tune. It was loaded with synth pad hits, which back in the day sounded cool, but now sound dated and overwhelming. They was used way too much. Kemp and Riley were using the effect like a kid with a new toy - more, more, more!  Still, it remains a fun NJS track that rarely gets heard these days.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Keith Sweat and Johnny Kemp. Sweat had written the music with an eye towards using the track for his 1987 debut album Make It Last Forever. He tossed the tune over to Kemp for some lyrics. Once it was finished, Sweat decided that it wasn't right for his LP. Kemp then recorded a demo of the tune thinking that another artist would pick it up. However, needing songs for his own debut album, Kemp chose to keep the track for himself. It was a wise decision as it became a gold-selling #1 hit. It was produced by Kemp along with Teddy Riley. In 2000, Riley would revive the tune with *NSYNC. He would produce a version for the boy band's third album No Strings Attached. It was not released as a single.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

"Something Just Ain't Right" by Keith Sweat

Song#:  3513
Date:  05/14/1988
Debut:  97
Peak:  79
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Sweat made quite the impression with his first single "I Want Her." It would be a gold selling #1 R&B/#5 Pop hit. It was taken from his debut LP Make It Last Forever. For a follow-up, this next track was selected for release. It would do well at R&B reaching #5, but it just couldn't gain any ground at Pop and it stalled near the bottom of the chart after a few short weeks. Still, the album continued to sell and by the end of the year it would go double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  This album opener was a good tune, but it just didn't stand out like "I Want You." That hooky track grabbed your attention with its early New Jack Swing style. This song leaned more toward soul and that worked for the R&B chart, but I think folks at pop radio were looking for another groovy NJS track and this one didn't fit the bill.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1992, Sweat would marry Lisa Wu, a backup dancer who performed with several rap groups including Public Enemy. Wu would eventually be part of a rap group called 19. They apparently were offered a label deal, but it seems that Wu decided it wasn't what she wanted to do and ditched the project. Sweat and Wu would have two childen, but then would divorce in 2002. She later gained fame as a reality show cast member. Wu was on the initial two seasons of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which began in 2008. At that time she was married to pro football player Ed Hartwell. They had one son prior to divorcing in 2011. Wu would also act in several films and in 2014 was featured on another reality show, Hollywood Divas. She would appear in the first three seasons of that show.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

"Dirty Diana" by Michael Jackson

#1 Alert!
Song#:  3512
Date:  05/07/1988
Debut:  53
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Since Jackson's 1982 album Thriller bore seven Pop Top 10 hits, his follow-up LP, Bad, was created with an eye towards replicating or even surpass that record-making run. It was certainly headed in that direction with the album's first four singles all getting to #1. That in itself surpassed the two #1s that Thriller had generated. Could a fifth #1 happen? Jackson gave it a go with this next single. Indeed, it would reach #1 on the Pop chart (#8 R&B). In doing so, it gave Jackson a new music milestone/record. Bad became the first album in history to have five singles reach #1 on the Pop chart. The hit would continue to help album sales and by June of '88 it would reach the 6 million mark. Although at the time of its run on the Pop chart, the single did not sell enough to reach gold level sales. However, in 2018 the digital version would be certified platinum.

ReduxReview:  Since Thriller had the rock track "Beat It," it was inevitable that Bad was going to have one as well and this tune about a groupie filled that requirement. The problem was that it wasn't nearly as good. There were positive things about the track such as its mysterious feel, the soft/loud aspects, and Steve Stevens' work (see below). However, there were slight failures as well including the repetitive palindromic verse, which got annoying, the painfully slight chorus, and the fact that he had sort of trod the groupie storyline already with "Billie Jean," just in a more misogynistic way. In the end, this song was more about sound/tone/feel rather than melodic/lyric content. That's not necessarily a bad thing (it was a Bad thing, so to speak...), but there has to be some good bones to the tune regardless and I don't think this song had them. I really liked the track when it first came out, but over time it hasn't held up well in a lot of ways and it has definitely descended on my list of favorite Jackson songs.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) From 1987 to 1990, six albums would spawn four #1 hits. In addition to Bad, albums by his sister Janet, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Paula Abdul, and Mariah Carey would all reach that mark. None were the first though. The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever would be the first in 1977, however, it took two artists to do it; three were by the Bee Gees and one by Yvonne Elliman. Jackson would solely hold the new record of five #1s for over twenty years. Then in 2010, Katy Perry came along and scored five #1s from her album Teenage Dream. She tried to break Jackson's record with a sixth single, but it stalled just shy at #3. Oddly enough, that single was titled "The One That Got Away." In 2012, Perry added new tracks to the album and reissued it as Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection. Two further singles were released with "Part of Me" hitting #1. However, since the album was repackaged and given a new title, that #1 did not count towards her record-tying total.  2) Since Jackson's rock-oriented "Beat It" featured a guitar solo by a special guest, Eddie Van Halen, Jackson and Quincy Jones sought to get another hot guitarist for "Dirty Diana." Songwriter/producer Ted Templeman, who had earlier recommended Van Halen for "Beat It," suggested Jones use Steve Stevens. Stevens had been working with Billy Idol since '82 and had just been signed to a solo deal with Warner Bros. Templeman just happened to be producing tracks for Stevens' debut LP (1989's Atomic Playboys). Jones and Jackson got Stevens in the studio and he was able to rip out a hot guitar solo for the track.


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

"Lost in You" by Rod Stewart

Song#:  3511
Date:  05/07/1988
Debut:  76
Peak:  12
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The 80s were a bit up-n-down for Stewart. Of the five albums he had released between '80 and '86, one would be double-platinum, one platinum, and one gold. The other two were bumps in the road that failed to go gold and that including the last one, 1986's Every Beat of My Heart (#28). Needing a boost in the right direction, for his next effort Stewart worked with Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and Bernard Edwards of Chic (both were members of The Power Station as well). The resulting album, Out of Order, would get kicked off with this lead single that was written by Taylor and Stewart. It would be a hit at Rock getting to #3. Over on the Pop chart, it would also do well getting close to the Top 10. It wasn't a major hit, so the future of the album would hinge on the next singles. Luckily, they would perform just as well or even better and that set the LP up to be one of Stewart's most successful of the decade.

ReduxReview:  "Lost in You" was nearly lost on me. Talk about a blast from the past. I had completely forgotten that this song existed. It is also one that rarely appears on any of his hits compilations. The song was just right for the time it came out, but in the long run, it wasn't one of Stewart's most memorable or enduring hits. Still, it was a good song and it got Stewart back to a rock-rooted sound. The tune was guitar driven, which was a nice change from the 80s synth-led tracks he had been doing. The mandolin was a nice add and kind of came off as a throw back to some of Stewart's earlier hits. The soft chorus was also an interesting choice following the anthematic verse. The near-Top 10 is now overlooked in his catalog and it is kind of too bad as it was a quality track that kicked of a string off hits for him.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following the guitar solo of the song, you hear Rod Stewart say "I miss you, baby." There is a female response of "I miss you too." The female voice was supplied by Stewart's then-girlfriend Kelly Emberg. Born in Houston, Emberg began a career in modeling in her teens. She got picked up by NYC's Elite Modeling Agency and appeared in many ads and fashion magazines. She also appeared in several of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and was on the cover in 1986. She began a relationship with Rod Stewart in 1983. The pair would have a daughter, Ruby, in 1987 (she was Stewart's fourth child). By 1990, the relationship was over. According to Stewart, Emberg ended the relationship as she had met someone else. She later sued for palimony with a settlement as an outcome. Emberg would study interior design and work for an L.A. design company. Later she developed a love for gardening and became known as "The Model Gardener." She has gotten exposure via social media and has done programs for iHeartRadio.


Monday, May 31, 2021

"Mercedes Boy" by Pebbles

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3510
Date:  05/07/1988
Debut:  77
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This singer's debut single, "Girlfriend," became a major hit reaching #1 R&B and #5 Pop. It was taken from her self-titled debut album as was this second single. It would do even better getting to #1 R&B, #2 Pop, and #2 Dance. The pair of singles brought attention to the album and it would end up being a platinum seller that got to #5 R&B and #14 Pop. A third single, "Take Your Time," would be another R&B hit reaching #3 (#41 Dance), but it would fail to make the Pop chart. A fourth single would just be a minor entry at R&B.

ReduxReview:  This was just the perfect follow-up to "Girlfriend." It was a slick, sexy jam that was different from the more in-your-face "Girlfriend," yet it was complimentary. The chorus, while subtle, was catchy and memorable and the production headed up by Charlie Wilson (lead singer of The Gap Band) was as sleek as a Mercedes. Pebbles wrote this song and it was the one that got her signed to MCA. I probably would have to had this song been presented to me. "Girlfriend" and "Mercedes Boy" would be one of the best one-two punches by a new artist in the late 80s.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Pebbles' second LP, 1990's Always, would be another platinum success (#12 R&B/#37 Pop). Like her debut album, it would feature two R&B #1's including "Giving You the Benefit," which also got to #4 at Pop and #10 Dance. It would take her nearly five years to record a third album and by that time the musical landscape had changed. The synth-driven dance-pop she had been doing wasn't really in favor, so she chose to try and keep up with the times by incorporating elements of soul, funk, and hip-hop into her tracks. The first single, "Are You Ready?," didn't fare well and could only manage to reach #38 at R&B. It seems no other singles were issued out. The LP then stalled at #43 R&B/#146 Pop. With those results, her time on MCA Records came to an end. She would not record again until 2008. By that point in time, she had become an ordained minister and had developed her own ministry. She was also going by the name of Sister Perri (Perri being her birth name). Her first gospel album, Prophetic Flows, Vol. I & II, was released in 2008 and it reached #12 on the Gospel chart.


Sunday, May 30, 2021

"I Should Be So Lucky" by Kylie Minogue

Song#:  3509
Date:  05/07/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  28
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  Although she took singing and dancing lessons as a kid, Australian Kylie Minogue's first brush with stardom came via acting. She appeared in several TV series and shows, a couple of them before she was even a teenager. Her big break came when she was cast on the Aussie soap Neighbours in 1986. It would be widely successful in Australia and the UK with Minogue and her on-screen (and off-screen as well) boyfriend Jason Donovan becoming breakout stars. When the characters got married on the show, a huge audience tuned in, much in the way that a US audience watched General Hospital's Luke and Laura's wedding. While riding high from the show, Minogue appeared at a benefit concert and sang a couple of songs. One of them was a cover of the 1962 #1 Little Eva hit "The Loco-Motion." The performance led to her getting signed to Mushroom Records and her version of "The Loco-Motion," re-titled "Locomotion," was released in Australia in 1987. It became a massive #1 hit. The track's arrangement was meant to mimic Bananarama's "Venus," which had been produced by the Stock Aitken Waterman team. So to keep her career going, Minogue was sent to the UK to work with SAW. Their first session yielded the song "I Should Be So Lucky." It would become a hit in several countries including Australia and the UK where it reached #1. An album was then called for and Minogue along with SAW finished off her debut album Kylie. By the time it was finished, a deal was struck with Geffen Records for US distribution. "I Should Be So Lucky" got a US release ahead of the album and it would do well on the Dance chart getting to #10. It crossed over to Pop and was able to crack the Top 30. It wasn't a major hit, but it got Minogue noticed and helped to make her next single a hit.

ReduxReview:  For a quick, on-the-fly written song (see below), this turned out quite good. I think it demonstrated how tuned-in the SAW team was at the time on their trademark sound and production. It was a solid vehicle for Minogue. While she could sing, she didn't necessarily have a big, powerful voice. It was a bit slight and one-dimensional at the time. However, it was vocalists like Minogue that the SAW team had a knack at producing and making them sound good. This tune was catchy and fun and it was a nice compliment to another SAW act that was riding high on the Pop chart, Rick Astley. I'm surprised it didn't do a bit better and at least go Top 20, but she was truly unknown in the States whereas at home and in the UK she was already a well-know star, which helped to kick off her music career. At least this song got her name out there and people interested.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This song nearly didn't happen. It seems that arrangements were made between Pete Waterman and Minogue's camp for her to come to London and record with the SAW team. However, Waterman got tied up with another project and neglected to tell Stock or Aitken that Minogue was in town. Minogue and her manager waited for ten days expecting to get a call from the producers to come into the studio. With their trip coming to an end, the pair finally just showed up at the studio to see what was going on. Realizing the mistake, Stock and Aitken wrote "I Should Be So Lucky" in about 40 minutes and got it recorded. Apparently, the SAW team didn't really take Minogue seriously as they thought her just a TV star making a record. They also didn't think the song was hit-worthy. That all changed when the tune got released and it shot to #1 in Australia and the UK. Realizing that they nearly missed an opportunity, Mike Stock went to Australia and apologized to Minogue for everything that happened during her UK visit. With fences mended, they went on to record tracks for her debut album. Minogue would then work with the SAW team on her next three albums.