Saturday, January 15, 2022

"The Only Way Is Up" by Yazz and the Plastic Population

Song#:  3727
Date:  11/26/1988
Debut:  99
Peak:  96
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Yazz, not to be confused with UK duo Yaz (US)/Yazoo (UK), is British singer Yasmin Evans. After a stint as a model Evans turned to singing and in '83 joined the dance music trio The Biz (with Austin Howard and Suzette Smithson). While they had a couple of songs that got some attention in the clubs, they didn't really break through and Evans moved on. In '88 she hooked up with the electronic duo Coldcut and was featured (credited as Yazz and the Plastic Population) on their song "Doctorin' the House." Released as a single, it became a #6 hit in the UK. It also got to #3 on the US Dance chart. With that boost, Yazz was able to secure a record deal. To test the waters, this first single was recorded (with Coldcut producing) and released in the UK in the summer of '88. Credited to Yazz and the Plastic Population, the song became a smash hit in the UK reaching #1 and staying there for five weeks. It then made its way over to the US where it reached #2 on the Dance chart. That led to the song crossing over to the Pop chart, but it would only spend a brief month near the bottom. With that success, Yazz would then toss out the Plastic Population part of the name and record her debut solo album Wanted. A second single, "Stand Up for Your Love Rights," would reach #2 in the UK while going to #5 US Dance. The album would do well in the UK reaching #3, but it would fail to make the US chart. A third single would make the UK Top 10. After that, a couple singles came out in anticipation of a second album, but it seems Yazz had label issues. They shelved the album and she left. She wouldn't get to record another album until 1994 and by then her momentum had slowed with her singles only being mid-charters. A third album would come in '97 that didn't do much to revive her career. After spending time reevaluating her career and life, Yazz would emerge in 2008 as a Christian artist.

ReduxReview:  I found this song years (actually probably decades) after it initially came out via a British 80s hits compilation. It quickly got my attention because it was a fun, catchy club track that featured a nice vocal performance. It did well in US clubs, but for whatever reason the track could not catch on in a more mainstream way. That was too bad as it deserved a better fate in the US than its piddly #96 peak. Otis Clay's original (see below) should have also done a lot better, but at least it found a home in Northern Soul clubs.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is actually a remake of a song originally recorded by soul singer Otis Clay in 1980. Written by George Jackson and Johnny Henderson, the song was issued out as a single, but it failed to reach any chart. It would later become a popular song in the UK's Northern Soul clubs, which is perhaps it was heard by Coldcut and/or Yazz. They then recorded the tune and made it a #1 hit. Otis Clay was a popular performer in the US, Europe, and Japan, but he never was able to secure that one big hit that would take his career to the next level. He recorded for several labels in the 60s and 70s, but none of his singles would get close to the R&B Top 10. His best known effort came in 1972 when he recorded the song "Tryin' to Live My Life without You." That single would be his best showing at R&B reaching #24 (it bubbled under at Pop at #102). The song would later be made more famous in a live cover version by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band (#5 Pop, 1981).


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