Friday, June 10, 2022

"Soldier of Love" by Donny Osmond

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3848
Date:  03/25/1989
Debut:  73
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Between 1970 and 1978, Donny Osmond scored nine gold singles, thirteen gold albums and eleven Pop Top 10s including two #1s. While some of those were with his brothers or his sister Marie, a chunk of those were as a solo act. Along with that, Donny and Marie had their own hit TV variety show that lasted four seasons ('76-'79). And then the 80s hit. The Osmonds went from being one of the top acts in the world to being labeled old-fashioned "squares" and struggling to make their way in the new decade. The Osmonds, minus Donny, moved over to country for a pair of modest selling albums that spawned one Country hit, 1982's #17 "I Think About Your Lovin'." Marie Osmond actually did well continuing her solo career as a country artist and earned three #1 Country hits. But Donny struggled. He wanted to continue in music with a more modern, mature sound, but labels weren't interested. He tried to break into theater taking a starring role in the 1982 Broadway show Little Johnny Jones, but it closed after one official performance. He then moved his family to California and began to befriend some industry folks. After appearing in the music video for Jeff Beck's 1985 track "Ambitious," an exec at Beck's label, Epic, took an interest in Osmond and eventually got him signed. Work began on an album in England with producer George Acogney (at the suggestion of Peter Gabriel who Osmond met at a benefit concert). But as things were ramping up, changes at Epic didn't play in Osmond's favor and he was dumped by the label. Luckily, the work Osmond had already done found its way to Virgin Record (UK) who like what they heard and gave Osmond a shot. They set him up with producers/songwriters Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers and an album titled Donny Osmond was completed with Osmond co-writing five of the tracks. The LP's first single, "Soldier of Love," was issued out in the UK. It got to #29. A second single only got to #70. With those results, Virgin dropped him. That might have been the end of the story, but then through fan intervention, "Soldier of Love" got discovered in the US (see below). Suddenly, Osmond found himself signed by Capital Records. They issued out the tune and it gained traction. The song would wind its way up the Pop chart finally peaking at #2 (#20 AC). It was Osmond's first solo Top 10 hit since 1973. Capitol would release the album and it would reach a respectable #54. It was quite the comeback for the former teen idol.

ReduxReview:  I was somewhat of an Osmond fan back when I was a kid. I had a couple of their singles along with two from Donny. I even had Marie's debut album Paper Roses. I also used to watch the Donny and Marie variety show. So flash forward to the end of the 80s and the prospect of a Donny comeback. As soon as I heard this song, I knew it was a hit. It was just a strongly written and produced record that could have been a hit for most any singer, yet it ended up with Donny and it was the perfect vehicle to get him back on the chart. It was also a bit boost for the Sturken/Rogers team who would later go on to discover Rihanna and write/producer her 2005 debut album Music of the Sun and its #2 hit "Pon de Replay." Osmond's return to the Pop Top 10 was one of the most surprising comebacks of the 80s and the song still holds up well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The story on how "Soldier of Love" became a hit is a bit fuzzy, but goes something like this. Since Osmond was signed with Virgin in the UK, he had no US deal, therefore, the song and album would not be released in the US. It seems an Osmond fan in the UK sent a cassette of the song to another fan in the US for them to hear. That fan then forwarded it on, apparently without any note on the tape saying who the artist was, to a top New York radio station WPLJ. The tape hit the desk of programmer Jessica Ettinger. Liking what she heard, she contact the person who sent it and discovered that the singer was Donny Osmond. Thinking the song was a hit, Ettinger put the tune in rotation, but then came up with a promo idea where the DJs would not announce the artist and asked listeners to call in with their guesses on the identity of the singer (according to one story, three people guessed correctly). The song was a hit at the station and a week later it was not only revealed who the mystery singer was, but they brought Osmond in to appear on the air during the reveal. Labels quickly caught wind of the potential hit and made offers to Osmond. He opted to go with Capital. While his comeback on the Pop chart would only span a couple of years, it gave his career a major boost and helped to change his image.


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