Saturday, December 17, 2022

"Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by Rick Astley

Song#:  4004
Date:  08/19/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Astley's second album, Hold Me in Your Arms, was not matching the success of his #10 double-platinum debut. The LP peaked at #19 thanks mainly to the #6 single "She Wants to Dance with Me," but after a second single just barely scraped the Top 40, the label was looking for a third single that would breathe life back into the album This cover tune was selected for release, but it did not get the job done. While the tune would do okay at AC getting to #16, it was a dud on the Pop chart disappearing after a quick three weeks. The results didn't spark album sales and it would only be able to go gold.

ReduxReview:  In the UK, the Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting/production era was in full swing and remaining popular. In the US, audiences were getting tired of the trio's cookie cutter tracks so instead of releasing the SAW song "Take Me to Your Heart" in the US (#8 UK) the label perhaps thought that this cover tune would suit tastes better. It wasn't a bad tactic, but the problem was this mid-tempo take on the Motown hit was a bit sleepy, especially for a single. Astley sounded like he put his all into the tune and luckily he didn't desecrate the classic. However, there was just nothing exciting or engaging about the track.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by The Temptations. Written by Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland (produced by Whitefield), the 1966 single would be the group's fourth R&B #1 while also getting to #13 Pop. The only other artist besides Astley to reach the Pop chart with a version of the song was The Rolling Stones. They covered the tune for their 1974 album It's Only Rock and Roll. It was released as the second single from the LP and it would get to #17 Pop.  2) After his second album didn't meet expectations, Astley decided to move in a new direction. First, he chose not to work with the Stock Aitken Waterman songwriting/production team, who had supplied tracks for Astley's first two albums including his first #1 Pop hit "Never Gonna Give You Up." Then he chose to change his image and update his sound focusing on a more mature soul-leaning direction. In 1991, Astley would release his third album Free. He would write/co-write the majority of songs on the album and produce them all with Gary Stevenson. The LP's first single was the ballad "Cry for Help." It would be a success reaching #7 Pop and #1 AC. It would also get to #7 in the UK. While the hit would provide a bit of validation for Astley's new approach, other singles failed to ignite and that left the LP peaking at #31. Astley's fourth album, 1993's Body and Soul, would supply him with one last Pop Top 40 entry with the #28 "Hopelessly" (#4 AC). Unfortunately, the album didn't sell and it stalled at a very minor #185. After that result, Astley would take an extended break from music. He would return to the biz starting in 2001 with an album only released in Germany, followed by a 2005 covers album that got wider distribution. However, he would make a big splash in the UK in 2016 with his album 50. It was released to coincide with Astley's 50th birthday. The LP was a surprise hit reaching #1 in the UK. Follow-up albums in 2018 and 2019 would both crack the UK Top 10.


Friday, December 16, 2022

"Let Go" by Sharon Bryant

Song#:  4003
Date:  08/19/1989
Debut:  98
Peak:  34
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Bryan first got attention when she became one of the lead singers in the R&B group Atlantic Starr. Starting in 1978, she would make five albums with the band and sing the lead vocal on their first Pop Top 40 hit in 1982, "Circles" (#38 Pop/#2 R&B/#9 Dance). However, after the band's fifth album failed to break the band wider, Bryant chose to leave for a solo career. It seems she initially tried to stay on with the band's label A&M, but when that failed she moved on to work as a session singer before finally landing a deal with Wing Records. Bryant would then work on a solo album to be titled Here I Am. She would co-write five tracks for the album while co-producing seven, including this first single that was written by Darryl Duncan. The song would do well at R&B getting to #2. It would be able to cross over to the Pop chart where it cracked the Top 40 doing slightly better than her Atlantic Starr hit "Circles." The song would help sell a few album and it would reach #27 R&B/#139 Pop.

ReduxReview:  Bryant had a terrific voice and she elevated this standard late-80s R&B/dance-pop tune. The production was also on point, but in the hands of a lesser vocalist, I think this song wouldn't have had a chance. Bryant had all the makings of a solo star and this song wasn't a bad beginning. However, I think she needed stronger material to really take her over the finish line. I think Jam & Lewis could have done that for her, but unfortunately that didn't work out (see below). Still, this was a good track that at least earned her a #2 R&B hit.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Stories have circulated that songwriters/producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis presented some of their songs to Bryant for a debut album, but that she rejected them. Then those same tracks would later appear on Janet Jackson's Control album. According to an interview with Jimmy Jam, that wasn't quite the case. With Bryant and Jam & Lewis hooked up with A&M Records, Jam & Lewis were offered the chance to record an album with Bryant following her departure from Atlantic Starr. Jam & Lewis did play some material for her (although it is not clear what exactly they presented), but it seems what they had wasn't what she was looking for and both parties went their own ways. After the album with Bryant fell through,the A&R rep at A&M sent a roster of artists over to Jam & Lewis and asked them if there was anyone on the list they wanted to work with. One name stood out - Janet Jackson. That led to Jam & Lewis collaborating with Jackson on her huge breakthrough LP Control. Jimmy Jam mentioned in the interview that had they got to work with Bryant, it would not have been like the Control album as they try to specifically tailor songs to the artist. Therefore, it was after first meeting Jackson that Jam & Lewis got a feel for what she wanted and began working on material specific to her. When she arrived in Minneapolis to work with the pair, they first played "Control" and it was exactly what Jackson was looking for. From then on, she collaborated with the team and came out of it with a career defining album.


Thursday, December 15, 2022

"Don't Shut Me Out" by Kevin Paige

Song#:  4002
Date:  08/19/1989
Debut:  99
Peak:   18
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This Memphis-born singer/songwriter/drummer spent time working in a few local band before making the attempt to go out on his own. He attracted the attention of Chrysalis Records and after signing up with them, work began on a debut album. Paige would write all but one of the tracks on the self-titled LP and would serve as the main producer. When completed, this first single was issued out. After a low debut on the Pop chart, the song started to slowly catch on. In its fifteenth week on the chart, it reached a peak of #18. A second single, "Anything I Want," would be able to sneak inside the Pop Top 30 at #29. The two songs helped sell a few albums and it would top out at #107. Paige also got the opportunity to tour with Debbie Gibson. It seemed like a positive result for Paige that would lead to a second album, but for whatever reason he would not get the chance to record again for Chrysalis.

ReduxReview:  When this tune came along, the title and artist were not familiar to me at all, but once I heard the chorus it all came flooding back. The chorus with its stuttering "duh-duh-don't" apparently lodged itself way back in a teeny corner of my brain and it got freed when I heard the track for the first time in 30+ years. This was a solid dance tune with great late 80s production and a nice vocal from Paige. I'm kind of surprised I didn't buy this single way back when. It seems to be a completely forgotten Top 20 hit from the 80s. Paige had talent and the knack to write and produce snappy dance-pop tunes, so I'm not sure why he either left or got dropped by the label.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After his brief moment in the national spotlight, it seems Paige retreated to be behind the scenes. He continued to co-write songs and get a few recorded including ones by teen idol Aaron Carter, country singer Jimmy Wayne ("I'll Be That," #46 Country, 2009), and short-lived UK boy band twen2y 4 se7en ("Hide," #42 UK, 2004). Paige performed for many years in the house band at the Memphis venue Alfred's on Beale along with his wife Bethany. Both have also served as musical directors for area churches.


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

"Lovesong" by The Cure

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4001
Date:  08/12/1989
Debut:  58
Peak:  2
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  The Cure kicked off their eighth album Disintegration with the single "Fascination Street." It was a big hit at Modern Rock spending seven weeks at #1. That attention helped the song cross over to the Pop chart where it peaked just outside of the Top 40 (#46). To follow it up, this next track was selected. It would result in a somewhat unexpected smash hit for the band becoming their first and only single to crash the Pop Top 10 nearly topping the chart. It also got to #2 Modern Rock, #8 Dance, and #27 Rock. Although the album had already peaked at #12 in June, this hit helped album sales and in October it would be certified platinum. The Cure went from being a popular cult band to a major mainstream act thanks to the success of this single.

ReduxReview:  Filled with riffs and hooks, this became an instantly memorable song. The quiet groove and Robert Smith's plaintive vocal set an emo-goth tone that was still relatable and radio-friendly. Add to that a popular MTV video and this song was bound to go Top 10. While The Cure have had other songs that were certainly Top 10-able (but somehow didn't get there), this seemed to be the one that a larger swath of folks took to. Surprisingly, the song was only a major hit in the US. In their UK homeland it only got to #18 while faring even worse in other European countries. Luckily for The Cure, it was the right song at the right time to break them through in the US in a big way.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Band leader and songwriter Robert Smith wrote this tune as a wedding present for his soon-to-be wife Mary Poole. The pair were married in 1988. They had met in a drama class while in their teens. Fifteen years later, they would finally tie the knot.  2) Several artists have covered this song, but thus far only one has been able to reach the Pop chart with a version. The alt rock band 311 was commissioned to cover the tune for the 2004 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore rom-com 50 First Dates. Released as a single, the band's version would reach #59 Pop/#1 Alt Rock. The soundtrack album consisted of 80s cover tunes mainly done in a reggae style. It would reach #30 and go gold. The film received mixed reviews, but was a box office hit. Singer/songwriter Adele notably covered "Lovesong" for her Grammy-winning 2011 album 21. While it was not released as a single, her string-laden version became a popular album track that got to #18 on the Smooth Jazz chart.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

"Don't Look Back" by Fine Young Cannibals

Song#:  4000
Date:  08/12/1989
Debut:  76
Peak:  11
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, this trio's second album The Raw & the Cooked, had spent seven weeks at #1 and spawned a pair of #1 Pop hits including "Good Thing." To keep the momentum going, the band issued out this next single. It would do well, but stop just shy of the Pop Top 10 at the dreaded #11 spot. It would also get to #5 Modern Rock and #38 Rock. Just prior to this song debuting on the Pop chart, the album was certified double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  The one thing I can say is that FYC didn't rely on one trick or sound. Tracks on their album pulled from various influences and genres and this third hit showed yet another side. This time around, it seemed the trio was aiming for a more retro rock sound that was in a similar vein to The Traveling Wilburys. It worked out well for them with the tune just getting shut out of the Top 10. It really should have dipped in for at least a week or two. I liked this song better than "Good Thing," but it still didn't make me a fan of the trio. The song didn't have the legs that their two previous #1s did so you don't heard it anymore, which is too bad.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Prior to the trio finally finishing off The Raw & the Cooked, band members Andy Cox and David Steele worked on a small side project of their own. The pair would record a couple of house music tracks along with Graeme Hamilton under the name of 2 Men A Drum Machine And A Trumpet. The songs would be released as a single in 1988 with the a-side being "Tired of Getting Pushed Around." In the UK, that song would make it to #18. The single was pushed out by I.R.S. Records in the US and it would end up reaching #3 on the Dance chart. It would be the only release from the trio. However, Cox and Steele under the name 2 Men And A Drum Machine would appear as the featured artist on a single by the UK rap duo Wee Papa Girl Rappers. That duo was made up of twin sisters Sandra and Samantha Lawrence. Steele co-write the song "Heat It Up" with the twins while Steele and Cox produced the track. Released as the second single from the rap duo's debut album The Beat, the Rhyme, the Noise, the song would reach #21 in the UK and hit #6 on the US Dance chart. The duo's next single, "Wee Rule," would be their biggest hit reaching #6 in the UK. It did not chart in the US. After a second album, the sisters brought an end to Wee Papa Girl Rappers.


Monday, December 12, 2022

"It's No Crime" by Babyface

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3999
Date:  08/12/1989
Debut:  84
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  Babyface (Kenneth Edmonds) and his business partner L.A. Reid had been having success writing and producing songs for other artists since doing well as members of The Deele ("Two Occasions," #4 R&B/#10 Pop, 1987). Along the way, Babyface would step out for a solo career and would push out a debut album titled Lovers in 1986. It would peak at #28 R&B thanks to the #8 R&B hit "I Love You Babe." Neither would make the Pop charts. After leaving The Deele and gaining more experience as a hit songwriter/producer, Babyface would work on his second solo album. Tender Lover would be finished in the summer of '89 and this first single would be pushed out. It would be a big hit at R&B reaching #1. It was Babyface's second solo chart topper following a duet with Karyn White, "Love Saw It," that was released earlier in the year from her debut album. "It's No Crime" would be Babyface's mainstream breakthrough with the tune becoming his first to make the Pop chart. It would end up in the Top 10 while also getting to #5 Dance. The hit helped the album reach #1 at R&B while initially peaking at #25 Pop. It would also go gold. However, thanks to a couple more singles, the album would rebound to a new high on the Pop chart while extending its stay at #1 on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  I didn't remember this song at all and certainly had no idea this was Babyface's first Pop Top 10. I'm sure I would have heard it back in the day, but none of it sounded familiar. It's a pretty good new jack track with mainstream appeal. The verse kind of reminded me of Duran Duran's "I Don't Want Your Love." Obviously it wasn't all that memorable for me when it was first released. This time around it might stick in my ears a bit longer, but the tune still wouldn't rank among the best new jack songs of the era.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For the "It's No Crime" single, an instrumental version of the song was created for the b-side of the 45 and for the 12" single. It would end up getting a Grammy nod for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. In that same Grammy cycle, Babyface would receive three other nominations. One for Producer of the Year and two for Best R&B Song (Karyn White's "Superwoman" and Bobby Brown's "Every Little Step"). All three of those nods also included L.A. Reid with Daryl Simmons included on "Superwoman." Babyface would walk away empty handed, but three years later he would earn his first two Grammys, which included one for Producer of the Year.