Friday, January 20, 2023

"Congratulations" by Vesta

Song#:  4032
Date:  09/09/1989
Debut:  74
Peak:  55
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Born in Ohio, Vesta Williams got her start in music after her family moved to L.A. in the 60s. While there, she and her two sisters appeared on a TV show as The Williams Sisters. The family would relocate back to Ohio where Vesta picked up work in a band, but the draw of a solo career took her back to L.A. She got work as a backup singer for some top tier artists. Eventually, that session work would lead to a recording contract with A&M Records. Going by the singular name Vesta, work began on a self-titled 1986 debut album. Her first single, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" (an original, not a cover of the Ian Hunter/Great White song) would be a hit at R&B getting to #8. The album would then reach #43 R&B. Neither would make the Pop chart. For her next LP, '88's Vesta 4 U, Vesta would co-write nearly every track. Its first two singles would make the R&B Top 10, but once again she was shut out of the Pop chart. Then this third single came along. It would be her fourth R&B Top 10 (#5) and her first to make the Pop chart where it got close to the halfway point. It would end up being her only Pop chart entry. The album would get to #26 R&B and #131 Pop.

ReduxReview:  Vesta had a huge four-octave voice that was nearly too big for recording. Getting a powerful voice under control can be a trial for both the singer and producer, but it seems her early backup vocal work helped Vesta to understand dynamics and how to keep things under control while still showing off her skills. The first few tracks on her Vesta 4 U  album were well-produced slammin' tunes that showcased Vesta's voice. Then this AC-leaning ballad took things in a different direction. It was a bit more old school R&B, but you could tell that Vesta was all about it. She sang the crap out of it without going overboard. The arrangement sounds dated now with that standard late 80s tinkling keyboard, but I kind of forget about that once Vesta starts singing. She really should have been a bigger crossover star, but at least she did well at R&B earning a total of six Top 10s.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  1) Somewhere somehow, a rumor started that Vesta came up with the idea for "Congratulations" because of what happened between her and actor Bruce Willis. According to the rumor, Vesta and Willis had been dating for a long while, but then Demi Moore came into the picture, swooped up Willis and married him leaving Vesta in the dust. In turn, Vesta wrote about the experience in the song. Well, according to interviews with Vesta and with co-writer Tena Clark, it's all a pack of lies. In a late 80s TV interview, Vesta is asked about dating Willis and she stated she had never even met him before. Then in an interview with Clark and Vesta, Clark revealed that when the two started writing together, Vesta asked Clark if she had an ideas for a song and Clark said she had been thinking about the word "congratulations" and the concept behind what would become the lyrics. So it appears the rumor is all bunk, which is also supported by the fact that no image of Vesta and Willis together can be found.  2) In 1990, Vesta would get a fifth R&B Top 10 single as the guest vocalist on the Najee track "I'll Be Good to You." She would follow it up with her biggest hit, the #2 R&B "Special," which was the title track from her third album (#15 R&B). However, after a fourth album failed to do much, A&M dropped Vesta. She would then do background vocals and jingle work while also dabbling a bit in acting. She would release three indie albums over the years but it all came to an end when Vesta unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart in 2011.


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