Note from Jason: As mentioned earlier this week, this week’s CHART ATTACK! wasn’t supposed to be a guest post, but I foolishly didn’t cover my bases for what has turned out to be one of the busiest weeks of the year for me. Thankfully, somebody volunteered to jump in at the last minute.
Back in October of 2005, I caught wind of this site called Jefitoblog by way of Stereogum. I read the linked post – his Idiot’s Guide to Toto – and it was on that day that I came up with the idea for what to do with jasonhare.com. Coincidence? Hardly. Jeff’s ideas, musical taste and writing style have been the #1 influence for this site since then. I am thrilled and honored that he’s stepping in this week, especially since I know he’s extremely busy himself. (I’m also a little worried: as he sent me his first few brilliant chart entries, he commented, "I’m just letting my fingers do the talking now. I don’t even know where this stuff is coming from." Jeff, on behalf of music bloggers everywhere: suck it.)
Enough talking: observe as Jeff hits the ground running and attacks March 31, 1990!
10. Here and Now – Luther Vandross Amazon iTunes
9. Get Up ! (Before The Night Is Over) – Technotronic Amazon iTunes
8. Keep It Together – Madonna Amazon iTunes
7. Escapade – Janet Jackson Amazon
6. Don’t Wanna Fall In Love – Jane Child Amazon iTunes
5. All Around The World – Lisa Stansfield Amazon iTunes
4. I’ll Be Your Everything – Tommy Page Amazon iTunes
3. I Wish It Would Rain Down – Phil Collins Amazon iTunes
2. Love Will Lead You Back – Taylor Dayne (do your worst!) Amazon iTunes
1. Black Velvet – Alannah Myles Amazon iTunes
10. Here and Now – Luther Vandross
Here’s the conventional wisdom regarding "Here and Now," which went on to become the official soundtrack to all slow dances around the world in 1989:
After a decade of R&B hits, Vandross finally crossed over to Top 40 and AC stations with "Here & Now," a new recording tacked onto his first greatest hits compilation.
This is technically correct. But it leaves out an important detail, which is this: He may not have been a crossover sensation prior to "Here and Now," but by pretty much any other definition of the term, Luther Vandross was a huge fucking deal. (And hey, quit it with the fat jokes.) The compilation in question, The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love, spanned two discs and 20 songs, and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, consider that aside from his own hits, Vandross had already produced successful albums for Dionne Warwick and Aretha.
Still not impressed? Such was Luther’s might that he recorded a duet with Gregory Hines and turned it into a #1 R&B hit.
Having given credit where it’s due, I can safely point out that this song is awful. It makes me die. In fact, I suspect it was not diabetes, but being forced to repeatedly perform this song, that killed Vandross in 2005.
(Extra fun fact: After leaving the group Change in 1981, Vandross was replaced by James "Crabs" Robinson.)
9. Get Up ! (Before The Night Is Over) – Technotronic
One of several "bands" of the era that mined platinum by mixing clattering house beats with lip-synching models, Technotronic was huge (according to their Wikipedia entry, the "band" has sold the extensively amended, yet still staggering, sum of "approximately 14 million albums and singles worldwide") just long enough for people to realize that every single goddamn one of their songs sounded exactly the same.
Seriously. Five bucks to the first person who can, from memory, point out a single musical difference between "Pump Up the Jam" and "Get Up! (Before the Night Is Over)."
As it so often happens, the story of the "band" is much more interesting than anything it recorded; Technotronic was founded by a guy calling himself Jo Bogaert (his mother named him Thomas de Quincy — six of one, half a dozen of the other), who ditched America (and a career as a philosophy professor) for the burgeoning Belgian house music scene.
(Just kidding. Beyond Technotronic, there really wasn’t much of a Belgian music scene, house or otherwise — but hey, they did sell approximately 14 million albums and singles worldwide.)
Technotronic’s lyrics, which were mainly just repeated exhortations to get up, move, shake that body, etc., were handled by Ya Kid K; early on, however, the video lip-synching was handled by a model named Felly. (Felly, tragically, didn’t speak English, and didn’t understand a word of Technotronic’s lyrics.) When word got out, Bogaert admitted Felly had been hired to create an "image" for the "band"; there wasn’t really much of a scandal, but one can imagine Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus being pretty pissed.
You’d think an outfit like Technotronic would run out of things to say about halfway through its first album — and you’d be very right — but the "band" continued to linger, fartlike, for several years; as the AMG notes in its bio, "The 1995 Technotronic comeback attempt Recall was not a success."
8. Keep It Together – Madonna
If there’s one thing that participating in Kurt’s Week in Rock roundtable has taught me, it’s that even the geekiest of music geeks can be surprised by what has managed to chart. Personally, I had no idea this had even been a single.
Sure, okay, I spent the ’80s maintaining an impressively staunch level of disinterest in Madonna’s music, but still, you couldn’t really escape her singles unless you happened to be living in a quaint Midwestern burg where John Lithgow was your town preacher and had all the grown-ups believing dancing was a sin.
But, um…"Keep It Together" in the Top 10? Color me nonplussed.
7. Escapade – Janet Jackson
Show of hands: Who doesn’t wish Janet Jackson would cool it awhile with the breathy, middle-aged sex-kitten bullshit and somehow find her way back to recording irresistible pop nuggets like this one?
"Escapade" was the second of four Hot 100 chart-toppers from Janet’s septuple-platinum Rhythm Nation 1814. The album represents Jackson at her indisputed artistic and creative peak; she took her first stabs at socially conscious R&B (some of them, admittedly, pretty clumsy — "We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bound together through our beliefs, we are like-minded individuals, sharing a common vision, pushing toward a world rid of color lines" ain’t What’s Going On to say the least), but she knew enough to mix some light and catchy stuff in with the message music.
Particular credit must be given to A&M, her soon-to-be-former label, for plotting out a genius series of singles; they mixed the more strident and adventurous title track and "Black Cat" in with more stereotypically Jacksonian fare like "Miss You Much," "Alright," "Come Back to Me," and the flawless "Love Will Never Do (Without You)." The end result? No fewer than seven Top Five singles (including the aforementioned Number Ones), seven million in sales, and — according to Janet’s Wikipedia entry — "15 Billboard Music Awards, five American Music Awards, four Soul Train Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and her first Grammy Award."
I’m impressed. And I’m not even really a fan.
6. Don’t Wanna Fall In Love – Jane Child
(download) (link currently leads to silence – will be fixed Saturday, for all you big Jane Child fans)
Dear God in heaven:
Jane Child, whatever her other virtues (and I’m sure she must have at least a few), is irrefutable living proof that MTV did not make it impossible for unattractive people to have hit records.
"Don’t Wanna Fall in Love" was a big hit, and deservedly so — it was overloaded with bright splashes of early ’90s synths, had a brain-meltingly catchy chorus that I’m humming as I type this (goddamn you, Jane Child), and was delivered with aplomb by a singer with bona fide pipes. None of which changed the fact that she had a cornrowed Mohawk and a chain running from her nose to her ear, but hey, a hit’s a hit, right?
Like many one-hit wonders, Child remained on her label’s roster well past her sell-by date; her second album, Here Not There, wasn’t released until 1993, four years after Jane Child (and for the record, saleswise, the album was not here, there, or anywhere). After being dropped by Warner Bros., Child kept a low profile for awhile — according to her Wikipedia entry, she "kept herself busy working with obscure bands and Japanese projects" — ultimately resurfacing in 2002 with a self-released third album, Surge.
(She’s got an official site, and apparently has a new album on the way, but I’m not clicking on that link — I don’t want to know what the 21st-century version of Jane Child looks like.)
5. All Around The World – Lisa Stansfield (download)
If you took the luxurious soul of Barry White, removed the terrifyingly deep vocals, and placed a cute, immaculately coiffed soul diva in front of the microphone, you’d get "All Around the World." Addition by subtraction, in other words, although purists will surely shudder at that statement (I’m having a hard time with it myself, but I can’t come up with an opposing argument more compelling than "Barry White is cooler than Lisa Stansfield"; feel free to put me in my place.)
This was the first of Stansfield’s several hits, and undeniably her biggest; it was also so overplayed that for fifteen years, I couldn’t hear more than a few bars without wanting to slap that beauty mark off her face. Hearing it now, though, I’m forced to admit it’s an extremely well-written song. Even more impressive is the fact that Stansfield’s vocals were transferred from the song’s demo, recorded on an eight-track in her apartment.
American success was rather short-lived for Stansfield; by the mid-’90s, her albums were being marketed pretty much exclusively in Europe. She eventually did what every
self-respecting pop diva past her commercial prime ends up doing — releasing the Naked Video:
Stansfield’s recent releases have sold poorly — including, disappointingly, 2004′s presumably pretty solid, Trevor Horn-produced The Moment — and aside from appearing in a London production of The Vagina Monologues, I’m not really sure what she’s been up to lately. (Presumably, all it would take to find out is a visit to her website, but I don’t really care.)
4. I’ll Be Your Everything – Tommy Page
Some interesting facts about Tommy Page:
1. The All Music Guide lists his genre as "Rock," as good an argument as any for getting rid of the All Music Guide
2. His middle name is Alden, which is Welsh for "horrible"
3. He has released ten albums — almost as many as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Janis Joplin, and Jeff Buckley combined
4. He appeared on an episode of Full House, thus providing an indestructible bridge between bad music and shitty television
5. According to his Wikipedia entry, he’s "currently working as VP of A&R in a major U.S. record label," as good an argument as any for getting rid of major U.S. record labels
"I’ll Be Your Everything" was Page’s biggest hit, at least partially due to the fact that it was a collaboration with the New Kids on the Block, and offers enduring proof that teenage girls will buy anything if it whimpers enough. When my daughter reaches her teen years and wants to know why I won’t give her an allowance, I’m going to play her "I’ll Be Your Everything" and explain that I’m only doing my part to try and prevent this from ever happening again.
3. I Wish It Would Rain Down – Phil Collins
One of approximately six hundred Phil Collins-related hit singles during the ’80s and early ’90s, "I Wish It Would Rain Down" marks the spot where America woke up after a long Collins-induced nap and decided it was no longer all that interested in hearing Phil on the radio every ten minutes. (Of course, thanks to the AC format, stations will go right on broadcasting "Easy Lover" and "Separate Lives" at regular intervals long after the human race has ceased to exist. For this, and the national debt, thank your parents.)
"I Wish It Would Rain Down" comes from …But Seriously, the album that, in theory, acted as a response to critics who’d grown weary of Collins’ incessant mugging; the idea was that he was more than just the guy who goofed around in songs and videos like "Sussudio" and "Don’t Lose My Number." The sad irony, however, ended up being that if you thought Phil Collins was annoying when he had nothing to say, hearing him go on and on about poverty and war acted as a painful, belated reminder to be very careful what you wish for.
(For the record, I’d gladly listen to "Sussudio" — or even "Who Said I Would?" — for a solid day if it meant never having to hear a single song from …But Seriously again.)
After this, the wheels started coming off Collins’ (admittedly phenomenal) solo career; 1993′s Both Sides was even drearier than its predecessor, and by the time he tried being catchy again, with 1996′s Dance Into the Light, people had pretty much stopped caring. The really sad thing about Collins’ music is that he’s a talented guy, and he’s written more than his share of good (if not great) songs, but he’ll always be remembered more for mind-numbing treacle like this than any of his more positive contributions. Then again, nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to sing "You’ll Be in My Heart."
2. Love Will Lead You Back – Taylor Dayne
If a mall could sing, it would sound like Taylor Dayne.
That sounds unnecessarily cruel, and it probably is; for all I know, many of you have fond memories of Dayne’s music. For the life of me, I can’t understand why — did America really need a female Teddy Pendergrass? — but to each his own. I know Jason is expecting me to berate you, this song, and Dayne herself, but it’s more effort than it would be worth. (You suck, Giles. – JH)
Like many terrible ballads, "Love Will Lead You Back" was written by Diane Warren, and is described in Dayne’s Wikipedia entry as follows: "The song deals with the complications surrounding a breakup, and focuses on the intense hope that love will find a way to save the relationship."
Fair enough, I guess. Personally, I always felt like the song’s title was a threat, but the beauty of art is that it’s open to interpretation.
To her credit, Dayne is still performing regularly, and supposedly has a new album in the works. Consider yourselves warned.
1. Black Velvet – Alannah Myles
Sort of a Canadian Pat Benatar with worse material, Alannah Myles was briefly, inexplicably, hugely popular all over the world (and I do mean hugely — this single sold five million copies). This song wasn’t much of anything, really; I mean, it certainly isn’t bad, but even with the benefit of seventeen years’ hindsight, it’s hard to understand exactly why people were so infatuated with it. Maybe, as this week’s chart suggests, they were starved for a little rock & roll.
I don’t know. But let it be said that, for a one-hit wonder, Myles was not fucking around. (And before Jason’s army of niggling trivia freaks comes at me with their torches and pitchforks, let me hasten to point out that yes, in Canada, Alannah Myles continued to have hits well into the ’90s; also, as everyone knows, Canada doesn’t count.) She released another album in the States, 1992′s Cutoutbin — er, I mean Rockinghorse — but as far as I know, it didn’t chart.
Still, her career is fairly snarkproof. For a scrap of passable bar rock, this song did all right for itself (I repeat: five million copies), and resulted in Myles’ catching the rheumy eye of rock legend Robert Plant, who became intimately acquainted with her personal black velvet. And the song lives on, as this recent video from the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention attests:
From Luther Vandross to anime conventions — to quote the late, great James Brown, I can’t do no more. It’s been fun, folks! Like the rest of you, I look forward to Jason’s return next week!
Thanks again, Jeff, for saving me from an empty, disappointing Friday. As usual, I’m in your debt, and your writing puts mine to shame. Thanks for reading, and with any luck, I’ll be back here next week to restart my very own CHART ATTACK!