Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #13: "Someday" by Mariah Carey

The #13 Billboard hit of 1991 was "Someday" by Mariah Carey.

She co-wrote the song with Ben Margulies and it appeared on her original demo that Mariah finagled into the right person's hands at the right time. Once her demo got in the tentacles of Tommy Matola, the songs were changed a little bit, here and there. Wikipedia said that "Carey and Margulies were forced to accept the changes that were made because neither had been allowed to co-produce. Reportedly, Carey was unhappy with the final version of "Someday" produced, because both she and Margulies thought it had been too 'polished'. "

"Someday" was her first upbeat single--having already released "Vision of Love" and "Love Takes Time". This is definitely her "kiss-off" song: "no one you find will ever be/closer to all your dreams than me". I felt highly uncomfortable doing the "rap" portion of the song--so I just sang it. It actually seems like in the video Mariah herself seems a little uncomfortable rapping (she also does a little bit of the running man).

I had a good time watching the video for this song...classic. We see a young "Mariah" (i.e. child actor bearing some resemblance to Mariah), clad in overalls, getting treated badly at school. And then older Mariah is watching on, singing "I'm the one who's keeping score!" Don't we all wish we could have said that when we were 13??

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #14: "High Enough" by Damn Yankees

Damn Yankees were one of the first hard-rock super groups. Before Velvet Revolver and Audioslave, there were Damn Yankees! D.Y. included Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw from Styx.

"High Enough" was their biggest hit and it went "high enough" in the Billboard was #14 for the year of 1991. The song was written by Nugent, Shaw and Jack Blades (formerly of the bands Rubicon and Night Ranger).

I gotta say, I find this song structure a little...strange....the pre-chorus kind of doesn't fit into the song. The verses and chorus to me sound like they are from the same era, the same idea, but then there is this crazy pre-chorus that has a totally different energy from the rest of the song. It stands out. It's like you are strolling in a quiet, serene forest. Then you are yanked out of the path by a hungry bear,who drags you over craggy rocks by your hair. And then he decides against eating you and calmly, carefully puts you back on the same serene path. It's like--what the hell just happened?

"High Enough" is saturated with power chords--it is a power chord haven! I do believe except for the first two chords of the verse, every single other chord in the song is a power chord.

The lyrics beg some questions:
1. "I just made one mistake--I didn't know what to say when you called me baby"
That qualifies as a mistake? I mean, it's not like the lady called him "Horse Breath". 'Baby" isn't that shocking. But I get the feeling the songwriter was nonplussed by the use of "baby".
2. By the second verse, being called "baby" doesn't seem like such a that point the lyric turns to "I know just what to do when you call me 'baby'". Thank goodness you figured it out!
3. "fly me over yesterday"
I will take two doses of 'fly me over yesterday', please. Thank you.

Gotta say, I kind of love the bridge to this song--it'd kind of killer heavy-metal scorcher!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #15: "From a Distance" by Bette Midler

The #15 Billboard hit of 1991 was "From a Distance", performed by Bette Midler. The song had quite a life of it's own before Bette got a hold of it. Julie Gold, an American singer-songwriter, wrote the song:

"Gold was working as a secretary at the time for Home Box Office and writing songs in her free time.[1] Gold's friend, Christine Lavin, introduced the song to Nanci Griffith who first recorded for her 1987 album, Lone Star State of Mind. It quickly became a favorite of Griffith's fans around the world. The Byrds recorded the song as one of 4 newly recorded studio tracks for their box set The Byrds released in 1990."

Also in 1990, Bette Midler recorded the song as part of her album "Some People's Lives". Like the #16 song of 1991 ("All the Man That I need" by Whitney Houston), this song very much fits into that Adult Contemporary genre.

My strongest association of Bette Midler is how Michael Shurtleff describes her in his book "Audition". He said she was such an innate artist, that she was like a "gland". That has stuck in my head since I read the book when I was 15. I love that description.

I mostly remember this song being strongly attached the the Gulf War. It came out around the same time and the video had lots of images of soldiers in black and white.

There is something about this song that feels like a folk-protest song from the 60s. I can almost hear Bob Dylan singing it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #16: "All The Man That I Need" by Whitney Houston

The number 16 Billboard hit of 1991 was "All The Man That I need" by Whitney Houston. The song was from her album "I'm Your Baby Tonight".

This song is very much in the "adult-contemporary" music genre. The production of it is very late 80's/early 90's with the loopy sax solo. And of course the gospel choir that appears at the end to give the song added oomph. Apparently the song was used by other artists before Whitney Houston--Sister Sledge (who knew?) and Linda Clifford. "All The Man That I Need" was written by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore--just did a little research and see these were the two guys who wrote some of the songs in "Fame".

Whatever one might think of the song, there is no denying the power and complexity of Ms. Houston's voice. When she was good, she was really really good. When the song modulates she just GOES for it--showing us all her bells and whistles, but somehow they don't feel like bells and whistles at all.

Just re-watched the video for the first time in forever and noticed when she is singing in the empty white house, she is wearing a blazer, emblazened with her monogram. Work it. I love the little outfit she's wearing.

As with covering Mariah, I just sort of did my best here. I am not going to pretend I can sing like this woman!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #17: "Right Here, Right Now" by Jesus Jones

The number 17 Billboard hit of 1991 was the indie-dance track "Right Here, Right Now" by the
British band Jesus Jones. The songs is about the end of the Cold War and taking down the Berlin Wall.

Some pretty radical things WERE going on in 1991 and Jesus Jones captured a very catchy way.

I didn't even really know some of the things Mike Edwards (lead singer) was singing. For instance, it wasn't 'til I learned this song just now that I found out the second lyric of the song is: "Bob Dylan didn't have to sing about this, you know it feels good to be alive". There is something about this song (I guess it's casual insistence in the lyrics) that does actually make me feel very grateful and moved my present moments. So kudos to you, Jesus Jones! Mission Accomplished.

My favorite part is when Mike Edwards goes all falsetto...."i wanna beeEEEEEE!!". Total climax of the song.

I remember he had on this painters cap with bill up in the video. This small little fashion statement seemed to perfectly fit the time.

This song comes from their 1991 album, "Doubt". I had a cassette tape of this album.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #18: "I Adore Mi Amor" by Color Me Badd


Yeah, that's a household acronym. You're down with CMB, yeah, you know me!

Color Me Badd had a bunch of hits off their first albums (conveniently titled "CMB").
The band was discovered by Kool and the Gang, so maybe they have a little cred.

Before I get to the song, I find this video hilarious and fascinating and UTTERLY CONFUSING. The CMB guys are walking along a beach. And then they find a treasure chest. With pictures of the band in it. They hang these pictures--of themselves--on clothes lines. Then they head to some rocks to urge you to 'dream away". What does it all mean, CMB?

I did my best with the Spanish verse in this song. I took French, so please pardon me if I'm saying something that is inane.

(Sidenote: the guy who sings the Spanish verse seems so uncomfortable in front of a camera. I feel so bad for him. He always trying to be occupied...drawing a stick in the sand, mugging thoughtfully, leaning in this strange manner--see the guy on your left in the yellow shirt. Poor guy).

I think the thesis of the song is:
I won't leave my lady.
You can try and sway me away and lead me astray. But I won't leave my lady.

And that is my song analysis.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #19: "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" by Janet Jackson

Janet sure was on fire in 1990 and 1991!

"Love Will Never Do (Without You)" was her seventh (seventh!!) single from her album "Rhythm Nation 1814". This song made her "the only artist to achieve seven top five singles from one album" (Wikipedia). Wow!

"Love Will Never Do..." was written by James Harris III and Terry Lewis, who wrote most of the "Rhythm Nation" album.

I remember this video as being sort of all the other videos we had seen up to that point from "Rhythm Nation" Janet was heavily clad in military jackets, thick pants and boots and structured hair. All of a sudden, we see this barely-clad Janet, her hair all loose and blonde, and probably about 25 pounds was a very fast transformation!

I think this song totally holds up as a fun feel-good pop song. The sing-along chorus at the end is super-catchy and Janet seems all spunky in it...especially when she says "What?" before the last chorus. The recording of this song has an air of spontaneity to it.

According to Wikipedia, this song was originally intended to be a guy-girl duet...they were trying to get either Prince or Johnny Gill to sing it with her. But it never happened. So in the recording booth, Jimmy Jam said " 'Sing it low like some guy would sing it.' As a result, they kept the idea of her singing the first verse in a low octave but go an octave up on the second verse"....That is a total happy accident--her singing intially low and then breaking out into her higher register gives the song a lot of momentum and drive.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Top Songs of 1991: #20: "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch

Back to my blog after a hiatus. I have already covered the top Billboard hits of both 1989 and 1990. I provided a link if you want to get caught up.

When I started this blog, I hadn't intended to go chronologically...but here I am, going chronologically. Next up, I will cover the Top 20 Billboard hits of 1991.

#20 of 1991 was "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark (aka Mark Wahlberg) and the Funky Bunch. This was Marky Mark's debut song. America was introduced to both Marky Mark and his abs.

"Good Vibrations" was written by Mark Wahlberg, his big bro'/New Kid Donnie Wahlberg, some guy named "Spice" and Dan Hartman. I did not know that it was produced by Donnie as well. Go Donnie. (Donnie was always my favorite New Kid).

The star of the black and white video has got to be Marky Mark's washboard stomach.
We see his washboard stomach dance, box and get busy with a lady behind a chain link fence. There is also a nice cameo of Boston's Citgo sign, too.

Thank goodness Marky Mark's hip hop career kind of flopped after this, because otherwise the world would not have experienced Mark Wahlberg, the actor. It's amazing to look back at his career circa 1991 and think this guy could have a great acting career and also be a great actor. But that is indeed the case.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If you are having trouble viewing the videos...

which there is def. something spotty going on with e-blogger lately.

but you can watch the videos from this link, which seems to be less fickle:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Top Songs of 1989: #1: "Look Away" by Chicago

Well, I finally reached #1. The top song in the country in 1989, according to Billboard, was "Look Away" by Chicago.

I didn't know this song very well--I knew the chorus but had to learn the verses. And pre-chorus. I like how the song builds....The pre-chorus really just has this kind of ascending feel to it, so by the time you get to the chorus, it feels like a release.

I love that Diane Warren wrote this song. She is such a star! I don't even really like her songs, but I love her story! Here is a woman, who was told she was tone deaf as a child, a woman who grew into an adult and has proclaimed that she has never been inlove! This is the woman who has written the biggest power love ballads of the modern pop era! I just kind of love the dichotomy that swarms within her.

She is the only songwriter in the history of Billboard to have "seven hits, all by different artists, on the singles chart at the same time.". Re-read that sentence again. I'm just in awe of her hit-songwriting talent. (All the info cited comes from Warren's Wikipedia page).

But I guess this entry should about Chicago, since they made "Look Away" famous. It was one of Chicago's biggest hits. "The song was uncharacteristic of earlier Chicago hits in that it did not prominently feature horns. This song was also the band's first number one hit of the eighties that wasn't sung in a tenor voice. Some members of the band have stated when they would play the song live, the audience would just look confused because they were unfamiliar with the sound of Champlin's voice." I love the idea that audience members are like--what is THIS?!

Chicago has been around forever and I'm either embarrassed or proud (depends on how you look at it) that I don't know much about them and don't know much of their music. But they did have the #1 song in 1989 and was from their album "Chicago 19".

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Top Songs of 1989: #2: "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown

Oh, Bobby Brown. How I wish you hadn't done that reality show. Let us have you in our minds as a fresh and sassy lad, just like you were with the "Don't Be Cruel" album! Now we know far too much about Bobby and it's hard to go back.
Back in 1989, Bobby Brown was a fresh-faced singer, with a lot of 'tude and also a lot of fun.

"My Prerogative" was written by Bobby Brown, Gene Griffin and Teddy Riley and the song encapsulated the "New Jack Swing" genre of music. The song was #2 in the country in 1989.

I remember my sister Jean having this cassette and I coveted it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Top Songs of 1989: #3: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison

The #3 song of 1989 was power ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by glam metal band Poison. Bret Michaels, Poison's lead singer, wrote the song after a failed love affair, in a laundromat, with an acoustic guitar (hey that sounds like the game Clue: Bret Michaels in the Laundromat with an Acoustic Guitar).

The song has a very simple structure...verse/chorus, verse/chorus, bridge, verse/chorus. Even melodically it is very simple. Maybe that is why it was such a big hit.

The video starts with Bret Michaels getting out of bed with some pretty lady and presumably putting on some clothes and picking up his guitar on a stage. There are some awesome "wow that is so 1989" moments in the video for "ERHIT"--slo-mo black and white shots of band members smashing guitars, jamming out shirtless on stage in packed arenas, head-banging in impossibly tight leather pants.

Poison never really did it for me--I liked some other hair bands but I never felt a connection with Poison in particular. Clearly, many people do not agree with me because Poison was one of the most successful bands in the late 80s and early 90s.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Top Songs of 1989: #4: "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul

Paula returns! She certainly was rockin' and rollin' in 1989.

I love the production on this song--the trumpet lick is key--"the da/dadada/dadaDAdada"...that is pretty much the hook of the song.

Things I love about the video to "Straight Up":
1. Paula's huge huge huge earrings
2. The lighting--("Fincher-ism")
3. The random man dancing behind a picket fence
4. When Paula does a modified grapevine step across the sound stage--I found out from wikipedia that Paula herself choreographed the video.
5. The presence of Arsenio

Things I enjoy about this song:
1. when Paula sings "ba-ba-ba-bye bababababyyye"
2. when she does this strange synchopated singing of ""
3. the "break-it-down" part when she sings the "you are so hard to read/you play hide and seek." Got to say, it's kind of jamming!

I would imagine that when the record execs heard this song, they knew immediately it would be a hit. It definitely has that certain "something". It's catchy, it's dance-able...."Straight Up" spent three straight weeks at the #1 position. The song also won four 1989 Music Video Awards.

David Fincher, once again, directed the video. Those two were quite the pair! "Straight Up" was written by Elliott Wolff.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Top Songs of 1989: #5: "Miss You Much" by Janet Jackson

"Miss You Much" was the #5 song in 1989, performed by Janet Jackson and written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

I could wax on and on about "Rhythm Nation 1814". I stand firm in my belief that it is a great pop album. "RN 1814" feels like one compact piece of art. There are little interludes between each songs--sometimes musical, sometimes just talking-- that directly reflects on the song that preceded really gives the album a whole feel--a whole connected feel. (the interlude idea was used later by artists like Lauren Hill, Eminem, Outkast). Janet also seems to be stretching her range as an artist at this time, too. The title track still gives me goose bumps!

"Miss You Much" was the lead single off "Rhythm Nation". Songwriters Jam and Lewis have an explosive style that is instantly recognizable as their own. And Janet really delivers her star power in this song, and throughout the song. I love it when she sings "i tell your mamamamama"--definitely a highlight of the song.

I also adore her style that she had during the first few singles of "Rhythm Nation"--the pseudo-military jackets with lots of pins, chains dangling, skinny black pants. Choreography in the video is super fun, too--I feel like she just WORKS it! I remember owning this album and just thinking she was the bee's knees.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Songs of 1989: #6: "Cold Hearted" by Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul had the #6 song in the country with "Cold Hearted". "Cold Hearted" was on Paula's debut album, "Forever Your Girl". Wikipedia said: " The album took 62 weeks to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart—the longest an album has been on the market before hitting #1". So it was a slow build for Paula!

"Cold Hearted" was written by Elliott Wolff. (I just looked him up and he also wrote a guilty pleasure of mine: "Heart of Stone" (haha-hearrrtt) which was made famous by Taylor Dayne).

The video was probably the most memorable thing about this song.
And what a video it was ! Good Lord! Paula and her dancers scare the bejeezus out of a bunch of very stiff record executives. Once again, David Fincher of "Seven" and "Fight Club" fame directed this video--his style is instantly recognizable (his stark imagery using shadows and light seem to be part of his style from day one). Between the writhing and thrusting, one can see that Paula really can dance--she has got the skillz! Plus, she raps in this song which is tremendously enjoyable.