Saturday, September 10, 2022

"Express Yourself" by Madonna

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3925
Date:  06/03/1989
Debut:  41
Peak:  2
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  The title track lead single from Madonna's fourth album Like a Prayer would become her first platinum seller that spent three weeks at the top of the Pop chart. The shape shifting tune and its controversial video set a new mature tone for Madonna's music and people were paying attention. To follow it up, this next track was selected for release. Its dance/funk beat and empowering lyrics, along with another striking video, helped the song catch on quickly. It debuted just a hair outside the Pop Top 40 and quickly zoomed up into the Top 10 becoming her sixteenth consecutive single to hit that mark. It would eventually spend three weeks at the #2 spot and sell well enough to go gold. The tune would also do well at Dance (#1) and AC (#12). Just as this single hit the Pop chart, the album would drop to #2 after spending six weeks at the #1 spot and already reaching the double-platinum sales level.

ReduxReview:  With "Like a Prayer" being a more serious, mature outing that courted some controversy, having this playful, empowering track come out as a follow up was the exact right move. It served as a tasty palate cleanser that was still meaty and more mature than her earlier hits. For me, Madonna had a capable and recognizable voice. She was never a diva - no one would put her chops in the same category as say folks like Streisand and Celine Dion. However, she made her songs her own and it worked. On occasion though there were tracks where she really kind of went for broke and sounded very good and I think this was one of those performances. She sounded strong and I think that helped convey the message of the song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  For many folks, if you mention "Express Yourself" images of the associated music video immediately come to mind. With themes and visual queues taken from the 1927 Fritz Lang classic film Metropolis, the video was certainly memorable. It was also at the time the most expensive music video ever made at around $5 million. It was directed by up-n-coming filmmaker David Fincher, who would later receive multiple Oscar nominations as Best Director. The video was immediately tossed into heavy rotation on MTV where for a while it would be played every hour. It would later be nominated for five MTV Music Video Awards and would win three (Direction, Cinematography, and Art Direction).  This would not be the first time that a Madonna video would be among the most expensive ever made. In 1995, her video for "Bedtime Story" would also be made for $5 million. She would then top herself in 2002 when the video for her James Bond theme "Die Another Day" would cost $6.1 million. However, those three still take a backseat to what continues to be the most expensive music video ever made, the $10 million "Scream" from Michael and Janet Jackson.


Friday, September 9, 2022

"Lay Your Hands on Me" by Bon Jovi

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3924
Date:  06/03/1989
Debut:  58
Peak:  7
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock

Pop Bits:  After scoring their fourth Pop #1 with the power ballad "I'll Be There for You," the band chose to return to their signature arena rock for this fourth single from their #1 album New Jersey. While the song faltered a bit at Rock stopping at #20, it would find it's way to #7 on the Pop chart becoming their seventh consecutive Top 10 hit. By this point in time, the album had reached the 5x platinum mark and was still lodged in the Top 20. This hit would help it sell a few more copies, but it wouldn't reach the 6x platinum mark until 1994.

ReduxReview:  The one thing I remember about the New Jersey album is that it was just loud. I mean, yeah, rock albums are supposed to be loud, but I mean loud as in big productions, lots of echo, dense arrangements, etc. This album opening track set the booming tone and it didn't really let up. Even the ballads were of the large nature. In other word, there wasn't much room for subtlety when you are making everything sound like it was done in an arena. While that worked fine for songs like this one with its sing-a-long chorus, I kinda missed the more crisp production of Slippery When Wet (both LPs had the same producer, Bruce Fairbairn). This was a good single to keep the band's Top 10 streak going and it was one of the more memorable hits from the album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Country mega-star Dolly Parton was well known for her own compositions, but also did a fair share of cover tunes along the way. Many were country covers while some like her 1983 version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" (#45 Pop/#3 Country/#12 AC) were pop tunes. But then in 1989, Parton reached over into the rock genre for covers. She would record REO Speedwagon's 1978 track "Time for Me To Fly" for her album White Limozeen. Later in the 2000's when Parton did a series of well-received bluegrass albums, she covered tunes by Led Zeppelin ("Stairway to Heaven") and Collective Soul ("Shine"). Her version of "Shine" would go on to win Parton a Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She recorded these rock tunes with a gospel slant, which put a new spin on the classics. For her 2014 album Blue Smoke, Parton reached out to Bon Jovi to ask if she could do a gospel-leaning version of "Lay Your Hands on Me." They agreed and Parton got it recorded as a gospel-ish bluegrass tune. Blue Smoke would go on to become the first Pop Top 10 album of Parton's career (#6) while reaching #2 at Country.


Thursday, September 8, 2022

"Me Myself and I" by De La Soul

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  3923
Date:  06/03/1989
Debut:  86
Peak:  34
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Hip-Hop, Rap, Funk

Pop Bits:  This trio from Long Island was made up of Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer), Trugoy (David Jolicoeur), and Pasemaster Mase aka Maseo (Vincent Mason). They began crafting songs while still in high school and were able to record a basic demo for one of their tracks "Plug Tunin'," which was near the end of '86. The demo made its way over to Prince Paul of Stetsasonic. Liking what he heard, he got De La Soul in the studio to record a proper demo record. That demo helped De La Soul get signed to Tommy Boy Records and in the spring of '88 "Plug Tunin'" was issued out as a single. While it didn't chart, the trio went ahead and began to record a debut album with Prince Paul. They would finish off 3 Feet High and Rising and push out the double-sided single "Jenifa (Taught Me)"/"Potholes in My Lawn." The track was able to reach #22 Rap. Then came this follow-up single. It would be the trio's breakthrough moment with the song reaching #1 R&B/#1 Rap/#1 Dance. All that attention helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it made the Top 40. The single would sell well enough to go gold. In turn, the album would reach #1 R&B/#24 Pop and become a platinum seller. A third single, "Say No Go," would get to #3 Dance/#33 R&B/#11 Rap. Further singles would fail to chart. The album would be critically hailed and this single would earn De La Soul a Grammy nod for Best Rap Performance.

ReduxReview:  With its mix of skits, genres, beats, humorous lyrics, and samples, the psychedelic hip-hop trip of 3 Feed High and Rising quickly became a classic and this single did a lot in leading folks to the album. The track was in sharp contrast to the gangsta rap coming out at the time and it was miles ahead of goofy rap tracks pushed out by acts like The Fat Boys and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. The trio were interested in finding new avenues in rap/hip-hop and their experimental sound was accepted and appreciated. While they didn't necessarily set out to write a hit single, it seems they were encouraged to come up with something a bit more easier to latch on to for the LP that would help draw in listeners. They came up with "Me Myself and I" and it was the right tune to accomplish the goal.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The album was highly influential at the time and hailed as a potential game changer. With the trio nixing hardcore rap and going for a more positive sound that mixed hip-hop with jazz and other genres, it was seen by many as a new direction for rap. Due to their positive outlook, their mesh of styles, and their concept of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age, which stood for "da inner sound y'all," the trio got labeled as sort of new age hip-hop hippies, which really wasn't their intent. For their next album, 1991's De La Soul Is Dead, the cover alluded to the trio wanting to put to bed their D.A.I.S.Y. Age concept with the image of a tipped over and broken flower pot that held daisies.  2) While De La Soul would only have a couple songs reach the Pop chart over the years, they returned to the Top 40 in 2005 via a collaboration. The British virtual alt rock band Gorillaz would feature De La Soul on the single "Feel Good Inc." It was the lead single from their second album Demon Days. The song would get to #13 Pop and #1 Alt Rock. It would also earn three Grammy nods including Record of the Year. It would win for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. The album would reach #6 and go double platinum.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

"Right Next to Me" by Whistle

Spotlight Alert!

Song#:  3922
Date:  06/03/1989
Debut:  89
Peak:  60
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This Brooklyn-based trio of Jazzy Jazz (Brian Faust), Kool Doobie (Garvin Dublin), and DJ Silver Spinner (Rickford Bennett) came together in '85 and got hooked up with writers/producers Howie Tee and the Kangold Kid. Signed to NYC indie label Select, the trio recorded the single "(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'." It would end up doing fairly well at R&B reaching #17 while also getting to #18 Dance. A self-titled debut album would follow. While the majority of the tracks on the LP were rap-based, there were a few that found the group actually singing including the single "Barbara's Bedroom," which made it to #31 R&B. The LP would get to #24 R&B. After a personnel changed that turned them into a quartet, Whistle returned in '88 with Transformation. For the actual vinyl LP, the group would record contemporary R&B tracks for side one and then do hip-hop tracks for side 2.  The CD added two more hip-hop tracks at the end. The first two singles were from the R&B part of the album. Both were minor entries on the R&B chart. The third single was from the hip-hop batch and it failed to chart. As a last grab for attention, this fourth single from the R&B bunch was pushed out. Although it would be another mid-charter at R&B getting to #52, the tune was able to see some action at pop radio and crossover to the chart where it would top out at #60. Despite that result, the album would fail to reach the Pop chart, however it did get to #42 R&B.

ReduxReview:  This song caught me completely off guard. To get familiar with the group I listed to "Just Buggin'" and a couple tracks from their debut album. While I knew they were moving more toward a New Edition/Boyz II Men vibe, when I put this song on it truly surprised me. For the first twenty seconds I thought I'd stumbled on a lost Commodores/Lionel Richie track. When the vocals started I knew it wasn't, but I really liked what was happening. As the song quietly unfolded I fell deeper and deeper into it. The whole arrangement of the tune was really great, but I especially loved the keyboard fills in the chorus. I liked the lead and background vocals as well. Overall, this was just such a lovely tune and it was a shame it didn't do better. Anyone who liked "Tender Love" should be all over this song. I didn't care much for Whistle's hip-hop tracks, but this song was aces. They had a couple of other nice tunes and the guys were talented. It just seems they never fully found their stride because they kept changing lanes and failed to forge their own path. Still, this song is a true lost gem of the decade. Because of that, I'm putting this in the PopRedux spotlight.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Whistle would return with a follow up album Always and Forever in 1990. For the LP, the quartet would completely leave behind their hip-hop roots and shoot for a full contemporary R&B album. Its first single, a remake of the 1977 #2 R&B/#18 Pop hit "Always and Forever" by Heatwave, would end up becoming their biggest hit reaching #9 R&B and #35 Pop. A follow up, the new jack swing "Bad Habit," would get to #40 R&B and #13 Dance. The album would top out at #34 R&B. A fourth album in 1992 would do far less well and that would be the end of the line for Whistle.


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

"Hooked on You" by Sweet Sensation

Song#:  3921
Date:  06/03/1989
Debut:  91
Peak:  23
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Freestyle

Pop Bits:  For over two years, this female vocal trio slowly gained an audience via singles from their debut album Take It While It's Hot. After three singles that couldn't crack the Pop Top 50, they finally grabbed a hit with the #14 "Sincerely Yours." With that song quickly expanding the trio's audience, their label wanted to keep momentum going. Instead of releasing another new track from the album, the label chose to push out a remix of Sweet Sensation's first charting single "Hooked on You." The song in its original form peaked at a minor #64 back in '87. The remix would end up doing much better nearly making the Pop Top 20. While the back-to-back hits helped to sell a few more copies of the album, it would still only peak at #63 and miss hitting the gold mark.

ReduxReview:  There's not a whole lot different between the original version and the remix. Some of the goofy synth sounds of the original were taken out, which helped, and some lower synth enhancements were added to give the track more depth. Overall, the remix did sound better. However, it was still the same song, which was a slightly above average freestyle track.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The trio would return with a follow up album in 1990. Love Child would feature the trio's two biggest hits. The title track lead single, a freestyle remake of the Supremes' 1968 #1 hit, would get to #13 Pop/#15 Dance. They would follow it up the power ballad "If Wishes Came True." That song would end up peaking at #1 Pop and #8 AC. A third single would fail to crack the Pop Top 40. Despite containing a big #1 hit, the album would stall at a minor #78. In 1991, a remix album titled Time to Jam would be released, but it would not chart. After that, two members would quit the group leaving only original member and lead singer Betty LeBron to carry on. Three new singers would be brought on board making Sweet Sensation a quartet. However, that lineup would not record any new material and would eventually split.


Monday, September 5, 2022

"Nothin' (That Compares 2 U)" by The Jacksons

Song#:  3920
Date:  06/03/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  77
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  The last time the Jacksons were together was for the 1984 album Victory. while that LP would reach #4 and go double-platinum, it wasn't necessarily considered a huge success especially following Michael Jackson's blockbuster Thriller. After Victory and its associated tour, Michael would choose to leave the family group and return to his solo career. He would then release Bad in '87. Brother Marlon would also choose to leave and try for a solo career. The remaining four brothers would soldier on, but it seemed their label, Epic, lost interest in the group after the departures. Still, they went on and recorded a couple of songs and presented them to the label, who finally got on board. The Jacksons would then record the album 2300 Jackson Street. In addition to writing and producing some of their own tracks, they also worked with songwriter Diane Warren, producer Michael Omartian, and the team of L.A. Reid and Babyface, who wrote and produced this first single. The song would do well at R&B reaching #4. However, it wouldn't catch on at Pop and it fizzled near the bottom of the chart. The album's title track would be the second single and it would get to #9 R&B. It would not make the Pop chart. The album would then peak at #14 R&B/#59 Pop. It would fail to reach gold level sales. And that would pretty much wrap things up for The Jacksons. They would not record another album together. In 2012, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon would reunite for the Unity Tour.

ReduxReview:  To boost their sound and credibility for the late 80s, the Jacksons got together with L.A. Reid and Babyface who supplied this new jack track. It was a good tactic and it ended up working out at R&B, but it seems pop radio just wasn't interested in a new jack song from the Jacksons. I think the problem was that the Jacksons got lost behind a wall of new jack production. Really, any pop/R&B boy band could have recorded this and it would have sounded nearly the same. There was just a lack of identity. The autobiographical "2300 Jackson Street" had a much better Jackson sound, but as sweet as the tune was, it didn't have mainstream appeal. The album was a last gasp effort for relevancy by the remaining participating Jackson brothers that just couldn't compete or even compliment their classic legacy recordings.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This single was the only one in the group's history to not feature or include Michael Jackson. For the title track song, which was about the family's childhood home in Gary, Indiana, Michael and Marlon joined in along with sisters Rebbie and Janet. It has remained the last charting single from the Jacksons.  2) As mentioned above, Marlon left the group after the Victory tour. He did go for a solo career and in '87 released the album Baby Tonight for Capitol Records. Marlon would mostly write and produce the album himself. It would get to #22 R&B/#175 Pop mainly on the strength of the #2 R&B single "Don't Go." It would end up being Marlon's only solo effort. All the brothers would record their own albums at some point in time. Obviously, Michael had the greatest success followed by Jermaine who would earn two gold albums along with six Pop Top 20 hits and five R&B Top 10s including two #1s.