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.