Wednesday, January 12, 2022

"Killing Me Softly" by Al B. Sure!

Song#:  3724
Date:  11/19/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  80
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Al B. Sure's debut album In Effect Mode would become a #1 R&B/#20 Pop platinum seller thanks to a pair of #1 R&B hits including "Nite and Day," which also got to #7 Pop. A third single, "Rescue Me," would keep his hit streak going at R&B getting to #3, but the song was unable to reach the Pop chart. The label then went ahead and issued out this fourth single. It got near the R&B Top 10 making it to #14. This time around, the tune was able to get Al B. Sure! back on the Pop chart. It hung around for nearly three months, but the best it could do was reach #80. A fifth single, "If I'm Not Your Lover," would be released. It would do very well at R&B reaching #2, but it would miss the Pop chart. That single would wrap up things for In Effect Mode, which would eventually sell over two million copies.

ReduxReview:  This song started out fine with an interesting samba-like feel, but then once Al B. Sure! and the programmed drums kicked, it went downhill real quick. The drum parts were so loud and distracting that they overshadowed anything else that might have been good about the song. I was also not a fan of the vocal choices by Al B. The ad libs were out of place and I hated the way he ended the chorus with "song" being weirdly stretched out. While the song was not a complete disaster, it wasn't very good either. Al B. might have had something really cool had he eliminated the loud drums, kept that samba feel throughout the tune, and dialed back his vocals. It could have been a groovy, smooth, sophisticated take on the tune. Instead, some arrangement/production choices nearly derailed the classic song.
ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by singer/songwriter Lori Lieberman in 1972. Her single version would not chart, but a 1973 remake by Roberta Flack would become a major #1 hit that would win the Grammys for both Record and Song of the Year. The well-known story behind the song is that in 1971 Lieberman attended a concert by Don McLean at the Troubador in L.A. Taken by his performance, as he began to sing his song "Empty Chair" Lieberman began to write poetic lines on a napkin. She then shared what she wrote with Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, a pair of writers she had recently gotten hooked up with in a publishing deal. What Liebman wrote reminded Gimbel of a song title idea he had written down and from there he wrote the lyrics to "Killing Me Softly." Fox then wrote the music. While Gimbel was inspired by and even formed some lyrics around Lieberman's musings, she did not get a writing credit on the song. In the late 90s, for whatever reason Gimbel and Fox (Lieberman had left the partnership in the late 70s on negative terms) began to state more or less that Lieberman had nothing to do with the song. However, newspaper interviews with Gimbel were dug up from the early 70s with quotes from him that supported the Lieberman origin story. It was perhaps a case of soured feelings as Lieberman and Gimbel had an affair back then (Gimbel was married at the time) and after their relationship ended and Lieberman left the publishing trio, old wounds on both sides surfaced in various ways that kept the three at odds. Regardless, "Killing Me Softly" became a classic thanks to Flack's version. Many artists have covered the song, but besides Al B. Sure! the only other artist to reach the chart with a version was one by Fugees in 1996. It was a major hit reaching #1 R&B, #2 Pop, #30 AC, and #48 Dance. It would earn Fugees the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.


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