Friday, March 24, 2023

"Crossroads" by Tracy Chapman

Song#:  4083
Date:  10/28/1989
Debut:  95
Peak:  90
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Contemporary Folk, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Chapman's first single, "Fast Car," was not your typical pop single. The quiet story song didn't really fit among the hair metal and dance-pop hits of the day. Yet the tune intrigued listeners and it became an unexpected Grammy-winning hit that reached #6 on the Pop chart. Its success helped Chapman's self-titled debut album get to #1 and go triple platinum (years later it would reach the 6x platinum mark). After that major accomplishment, Chapman had the difficult task of following it up. What made it all harder was that Chapman's music wasn't necessarily mainstream fodder, so odds were good that she'd end up a one-hit wonder. Nevertheless, Chapman soldiered on and emerged in the fall of '89 with her second effort Crossroads. This first single was issued out and while it would do well at Modern Rock getting to #7, it didn't capture people's attention like "Fast Car" and the song stalled near the bottom of the Pop chart while only getting to #26 Rock and #41 AC. Further singles failed to chart. Despite not having a significant single, folks still showed up to buy the album and it would reach #9 and go platinum. It would earn a Grammy nod for Best Contemporary Folk Album.. Although the LP wasn't necessarily a failure, it did seem to indicate that Chapman could indeed become a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  The chances of Chapman writing another song that would capture everyone's ear like "Fast Car" was slim to none. She was a coffee shop folk artist and her style wasn't something that continually lit up the Pop chart. Still, anything remotely popular would help to maintain the large audience she gained with her first album. Unfortunately, this song wasn't it. The jangly opening seemed promising, but in the end the tune just moved along verse after verse with little in the way of hooks, an interesting storyline, or even a chorus. Obviously, this is fine for a folk tune, but not for a pop radio single. It wasn't shocking that this song didn't get anywhere, but luckily many who showed up for her first album gave the second one a go and sales were good. It seemed like Chapman's days in the pop sun were over, but then eight years after 'Fast Car" hit, a little crowd-pleasing blues number she came up with put her back in the spotlight.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Chapman's third album, '92's Matters of the Heart, saw her mainstream audience dwindle further. No singles charted and that left the LP peaking at #53 and only reaching gold level sales. It seems like Chapman would go on to be a successful niche market artist after scoring one left-field hit. But then the unexpected happened. She did it again. Late in '95, Chapman released her fourth album New Beginnings. Its first single, the bluesy "Give Me One Reason," was also issued out. The song wasn't getting anywhere, but the album was selling fairly well. As more folks bought the LP, the single began to pick up some traction and was able to get on the Pop chart. Oddly, just a couple weeks prior to the single debuting on the Pop chart, the album would reach gold level sales. The song then kept gaining attention and eventually it would get to #3 Pop/#3 AC and go platinum. It eclipsed the success of her breakthrough hit "Fast Car." In turn the album would make it to #4. Eventually it would sell over 5 million copies. "Give Me One Reason" would receive four Grammy nods including for Record and Song of the Year. It would win for Best Rock Song giving Chapman her fourth Grammy. The song's success was as unexpected as Chapman's first hit and it quashed the one-hit wonder tag. Chapman's mainstream career would cool off again with her next LP, 2000's Telling Stories, getting to #33 and going gold. Chapman would continue to record and perform over the years and she would earn another Grammy nod in 2010 for her album Our Bright Future in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category.


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