Saturday, June 10, 2023

"Right and Hype" by Abstrac'

Song#:  4145
Date:  12/23/1989
Debut:  93
Peak:  89
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This vocal trio from NYC consisted of Mary Brown, Marsha McClurkin, and Topaz Del Bettis. Formed via Teddy Riley (Guy, Bobby Brown) and Gene Griffin, the trio got signed to Reprise Records and work began on a self titled debut album. Griffin would co-write and co-produce the majority of the album with Riley doing some side work. This first single would be issued out. It would be a minor hit at R&B reaching #23. The tune would cross over to Pop, but only spend a few weeks near the bottom. In turn, the album would get little attention and disappear quickly. Afterwards, Del Bettis would depart the trio leaving Brown and McClurkin to carry on. The pair would rename themselves M&M and record an album titled Get Ta Know Ya Betta for Atlantic Records. The title track would scrape the bottom of the R&B chart and that would be it for the duo.

ReduxReview:  While female vocal groups were more entrenched in freestyle at the time, there was potential for one to break through on the new jack scene and Reilly gave it a go with Abstrac'. The song was catchy, the production solid, and the vocals good. However, it just didn't have that little extra something needed to make it a memorable, standout track. I've read that Reilly and Griffin may have been going through a breakup of their partnership at the time and that may have affected the progress and promotion of artists they were handling like Abstrac'. The trio had potential, but in the end it just didn't work out.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Abstrac' member Mary Brown would step out of the limelight after M&M failed and begin working behind the scenes as a background singer and songwriter. Although prior to 1998 Brown would sell songs to a few artists including SWV, it would be a song that she co-wrote for a new vocal group that would truly kick off her career. Brown co-wrote "No, No, No," which would be the first single released by Destiny's Child. It would be a hit getting to #1 R&B and #3 Pop in 1998. The track would appear on the group's self-titled debut album. Although it would be her biggest hit as a writer, songs that she co-wrote would appear on albums by Diana Ross, Wyclef Jean, Kelly Rowland, Patti LaBelle, Queen Latifah, and others. In between she would provide background vocals for artists such as LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige, TLC, and Michael Jackson.


Friday, June 9, 2023

"Dangerous" by Roxette

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4144
Date:  12/16/1989
Debut:  65
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The Swedish duo scored their second #1 US Pop hit with the power ballad "Listen to Your Heart" (#2 AC). It was the third single from their album Look Sharp! and to keep the ball rollin', this next single was issued out. It would just miss out on becoming the duo's third #1 at Pop (#21 AC), but they would rectify that with their next single. Meanwhile, the album would turn platinum after peaking at #23.

ReduxReview:  This was another catchy track from the duo. It didn't have as long of legs as their other big hits as you never hear it these days, but it was still a quality pop tune. The album had plenty of gems mainly supplied by duo member Per Gessel. With both Look Sharp! and Joyride he was really at the peak of his powers dishing out well crafted pop tracks. It came to an end in the US when the more conceptual Tourism didn't spark interest. Still, the duo certainly made their mark in the US with six Pop Top 10s including four #1s.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While on a hot streak, Roxette was tapped to contribute a song for the soundtrack to the upcoming rom-com film Pretty Woman starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Instead of writing a brand new song, Roxette reached back a couple years to a Christmas themed song they released in Sweden in 1987. Titled "It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted)," the single got to #4 in Sweden. For the Pretty Woman soundtrack, the duo would alter the lyrics to take out any Christmas references and give the track a remix. Roxette's track would be the second single lifted from the soundtrack and it would be a #1 Pop/#2 AC gold seller. Of course it didn't hurt that the film became a huge box office success with Julia Roberts later winning a Golden Globe and getting an Oscar nod for her role.  2) Roxette would return with a new album in '91 titled Joyride. It would be another platinum success that reached #12. That was thanks to a pair of hit singles, the #1 title track and the #2 "Fading Like a Flower (Every Time You Leave)." Unfortunately, the duo's luck faded quickly after that album. Their next effort, '92's Tourism, would scrape the chart at #117 with none of its singles able to make the top half of the Pop chart. They would get two more minor singles on the Pop chart and that would be it for them in the US. However, Roxette would remain very successful in Europe and especially in their home country of Sweden. In 2002, one-half of the duo, Marie Fredriksson, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was successfully removed. Roxette would be put on hiatus and during that time period she and duo partner Per Gessel would release successful solo albums. They would reunite in 2009 for performances, which led to a new album and tour. They would continue to record an perform over the years, but that would end in 2016 when she could no longer perform due to her health condition after battling cancer stemming from the brain tumor. She died in 2019.


Thursday, June 8, 2023

"Here We Are" by Gloria Estefan

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  4143
Date:  12/16/1989
Debut:  68
Peak:  6
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Estefan's first official solo billed album Cuts Both Ways quickly went platinum thanks in part to the #1 gold selling lead single "Don't Wanna to Lose You." The second single, "Get on Your Feet," did well, but stalled at #11 Pop. Estefan would return to the Top 10 with this third single. The ballad would make it to #6 while becoming her first solo #1 at AC. The hit would help sales of the album, which would go double platinum in the summer of '90. Eventually it would go triple platinum. Two further singles from the album would miss out on the Pop Top 40, but the album's title track would become another #1 AC hit for Estefan.

ReduxReview:  While the Miami Sound Machine had success with upbeat tracks, when Estefan started to branch out on her own, it was her ballads that turned into hits for her. That was not a bad thing, but it may have started to put her in a more AC light with the kids moving on to newer, hipper artists. Estefan would score one more major hit (a ballad, natch), but then besides a #13 remake of "Turn the Beat Around" in '94, her Pop chart singles were middling affairs. However, she'd score fourteen solo Top 10 hits at AC, so really that format kept her going (and helped album sales). This track was the first of three #1s at AC and it was just right for that format. It was a pretty ballad that was well written and performed by Estefan. It wasn't quite as memorable as her other ballad hits, but it was a quality tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In March of '90 while on tour supporting the album, Estefan's tour bus was involved in a crash with a semi during a snowstorm near Scranton, PA. The accident left Estefan with a fractured spine. She would go through months of recovery and therapy. Along the way she would still find a way to write and record and in January of '91 she would release her second solo effort Into the Light. It was preceded by the single "Coming Out of the Dark" along with a triumphant return to the stage performing the song on the American Music Awards. The single would reach #1 Pop/#1 AC/#60 R&B. It would end up being Estefan's last Pop Top 10 hit. The album topped out at #5 and would be a double platinum seller. Estefan would continue to have a successful recording career scoring platinum and gold selling LPs, which included Spanish language albums that would earn her three Grammy awards and five Latin Grammys.


Wednesday, June 7, 2023

"Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul (Duet with The Wild Pair)

#1 Alert
Song#:  4142
Date:  12/16/1989
Debut:  72
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Abdul's debut album Forever Your Girl was showing only a few signs of slowing down. In October of '89, more than a year after it first reached the chart the LP finally made it to #1 after spawning four Pop Top 10 hits including three #1s. With the iron still hot, Abdul's label gambled on this sixth single. To boost it along, an inventive video was created for MTV. The ploy worked and Abdul would end up with her fourth #1 Pop hit (#3 R&B). It made her only the fourth artist at the time to generate four #1 songs from one album (Whitney Houston, George Michael, and Michael Jackson attained that mark previously). The hit would close out that album, which would reach the seven million sales mark in July of '90 to become one of the most successful debut albums ever.

ReduxReview:  This was the last song to debut on the Pop chart in '89 that would go on to become a #1 hit in 1990. I can't say it was a good one, but it gave Abdul another chart topper. I wasn't a fan of the song when it came out and it is still not one of my favorites among Abdul's hits. I think it was the video, which was kinda cool at the time, that pushed this one over the top. I mean, the track was fine, but the whole you-like/I-like concept had been done before and I didn't find it as fun or catchy as some of her other hits. Abdul's next LP was a bit of a mess, but it had a few keepers. "The Promise of a New Day" comes up in a couple of my playlists. Let's face it - Abdul was not a good singer, but with her debut she set a goal and had just the right songs and videos in place to capture an audience. You knew it couldn't last (and it didn't), but she certainly made a mark.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This single was billed as a duet with The Wild Pair, which consisted of Bruce DeShazer (aka Tony Christian) and Marvin Gunn. The pair were formerly members of the Minneapolis R&B/funk band Mazarati, who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label. Their self-titled '86 debut album would spawn the #19 R&B single "100 MPH." The Wild Pair would do background vocals on a couple of Abdul's tracks while take a turn at the lead for this tune. For single release, the label requested a remix with a rap and so producer Oliver Leiber collaborated with Derrick "Delite" Stevens and came up with the new version. Then there was the video. Inspired by an animated/live action dance sequence in the 1945 Gene Kelly musical Anchors Away, the video had Abdul doing a duet/dance with the animated character MC Skat Kat (voiced by The Wild Pair). It proved to be very successful and would go on to win a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. The MC Scat Kat would prove to be so popular that the character would be spin off as a recording artist. With Derrick Stevens providing the vocals, MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob would be released in 1991. The LP's first single, "Skat Strut," would get to #80 Pop/#94 R&B. The album would not chart and with that MC Skat Kat would pretty much disappear.  2) The difficult thing about having a wildly successful debut album is following it up. Abdul gave it a go with her '91 effort Spellbound. For it, she pretty much ditched her cohorts from her debut and mainly worked with Peter Lord and V. Jeffrey Smith who were from the NYC R&B/soul band The Family Stand. They would write and produce the majority of the album with Abdul joining them as co-writer on four tracks. Abdul also did a John Hiatt cover tune with producer Don Was and recorded one Prince song that was produced by folks in his Paisley Park stable. The LP started off well with its first two singles, "Rush, Rush" and "The Promise of a New Day," both hitting #1. Another Top 10 arrived with the #6 "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" followed by a couple of Top 20s. The album would spend two weeks at #1 and sell three million copies. Overall, it was a good result, but it couldn't get close to the success of her debut. After a break, Abdul would return in '95 with Head Over Heels. None of its singles would crack the Pop Top 30 and the album would stall at #18 and only go gold. To-date, Abdul has yet to release a fourth studio album. Her career floundered for a bit, but then in 2002 she got a major revival when she became a judge on the hugely successful reality competition show American Idol.


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

"I Will Survive" by Sa-Fire

Song#:  4141
Date:  12/16/1989
Debut:  80
Peak:  53
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Dance-Pop, House

Pop Bits:  Sa-Fire's self-titled debut album did fairly well. It peaked at a respectable #79 while spawning the #12 Pop/#4 AC hit "Thinking of You." A follow up LP was in order, but prior to that Sa-Fire would be assigned by her label to record a song for the soundtrack to an upcoming film. She would perform the cover tune "I Will Survive" for the Meryl Streep/Roseanne Barr comedy flick She-Devil. It would be released as a single, but it didn't quite catch fire. The tune would stop short of the halfway mark on the Pop chart while topping out at #30 Dance. Without a better boost the soundtrack then failed to chart.

ReduxReview:  You know a song is quality when it can be performed in various styles and it still sounds good. Sa-Fire's house-leaning take served the song well especially for the time period. I could do without the rap section, but again, it was right for the late 80s. If the arrangement sounds like something that Paula Abdul would do that is because it was produced by Oliver Leiber, who helmed hits for Abdul including "(It's Just) The Way You Love Me." It might have been nice to have this single touch the Pop Top 40, but I don't think it could have gone much further. It was a nice, timely take on a classic.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a cover of a song originally recorded by singer Gloria Gaynor. Written by Freddie Perrin and Dino Fekaris, the tune was meant to be the b-side to "Substitute," a song Gaynor's label wanted as a single. Gaynor knew "I Will Survive" would be a hit and tried to take the label into making it the a-side, but they refused and pushed out "Substitute." That tune barely scraped the R&B chart at #78, however "I Will Survive" started to become very successful in discos and it wasn't long before the song started climbing the charts. It would reach #1 Pop/#1 Dance/#4 R&B/#9 AC in 1979 and would become a platinum seller. It was Gaynor's second and final Pop Top 10 hit. The tune would go on to become a classic disco track and gay anthem. It would also be the one and only song to win a Grammy for Best Disco Recording as that category would exist for only one year. The song would be covered by many artists. The first charting cover of the song would be in 1979 when country artist Billie Jo Spears would take it to #21 on the Country chart. Sa-Fire would be the second artist to make the Pop chart with the tune. In 1996, a Diana Ross cover would get to #37 Dance. That same year, singer Chantay Savage would do a version that would get to #24 Pop/#5 R&B/#35 Dance. The following year alt rock band Cake would record the tune and it would get to #28 on the Modern Rock chart. Then of course the cast of the TV show Glee would do a mashup version of the tune along with Destiny Child's 2001 hit "Survivor." That medley would get to #51 Pop.


Monday, June 5, 2023

"Foolish Heart" by Sharon Bryant

Song#:  4140
Date:  12/16/1989
Debut:  90
Peak:  90
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This former Atlantic Starr vocalist was finally able to issue out a debut solo album five years after leaving the band. A single from the LP, "Let Go," would become a hit at R&B reaching #2. The tune would also do fairly well at Pop where it got inside the Pop Top 40 (#34). Next up for release was this follow up single. Again, it would crack the R&B Top 10 peaking at #7. The ballad would get on the Pop chart, but it would end up peaking where it debuted and would disappear after a few weeks. Another single, "Body Talk," would only get to #38 R&B. The album was able to reach #27 R&B and #139 Pop. Despite scoring a couple of R&B Top 10, it seems it wasn't enough for her label, Wing Records, to keep her on the roster. Bryant would then move on to work as a background singer on record an on tour with many artists including Celine Dion, Mary J. Blige, Seal, and Vanessa Williams, who was Bryant's labelmate at Wing Records.

ReduxReview:  This was an interesting choice for a cover and it worked out quite well. With its 80s quiet storm arrangement, the track was quite different from the original's soft rock sound (see below), which I think benefited the song. I also liked Bryant's vocal take. She didn't overdo it and knew the right times to give a little zest. Overall a very nice cover that should have done a lot better at Pop and also should have been promoted at AC.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Journey frontman Steve Perry. Released as the fourth single from Perry's 1984 double platinum solo debut album Street Talk (#12), the song would become a #2 AC/#18 Pop hit. The tune was co-written by Perry along with Randy Goodrum.