For the cool in you: the best of Babyface


A response to Alfred’s post, this might be the fastest I’ve thrown an ordered list together; it helps that I already had a 73-track ‘Face mix in my iTunes. As producers, I’d rank Quincy Jones and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis ahead of Babyface, but as a songwriter, I’m not sure there’s anyone more consistent — or his equal — over the past 30 years. And while he’s written great songs for both women and men, he has a certain gift for writing for female singers, both lyrically and musically: just think of the bulk of Toni Braxton’s career, or the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, good God. And Alfred’s right about 2014’s Love, Marriage & Divorce, which I increasingly think may be the best album of this decade.

  1. Damian Dame, “Right Down To It” (1991)
  2. Babyface, “For the Cool in You (Quiet Storm Vocal Mix)” (1993)
  3. Bobby Brown, “On Our Own” (1989)
  4. TLC, “Red Light Special” (1994)
  5. Toni Braxton, “Seven Whole Days” (1993)
  6. Whitney Houston, “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (1995)
  7. Toni Braxton & Babyface, “Hurt You” (2014)
  8. Mary J. Blige, “Not Gon’ Cry” (1995)
  9. After 7, “Ready or Not” (1989)
  10. Bobby Brown, “Roni” (1988)
  11. Babyface, “Whip Appeal (The Ultimate Whip)” (1989)
  12. Karyn White, “Superwoman” (1988)
  13. Johnny Gill, “Fairweather Friend” (1990)
  14. The Mac Band featuring the MacCampbell Brothers, “Roses Are Red” (1988)
  15. Pebbles, “Giving You the Benefit” (1990)
  16. Johnny Gill, “My, My, My” (1990)
  17. TLC, “Diggin’ on You (L.A.’s Live Edit)” (1995)
  18. Aretha Franklin, “Willing to Forgive” (1994)
  19. Toni Braxton, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home” (1993)
  20. After 7, “Heat of the Moment” (1989)
  21. Karyn White (duet with Babyface), “Love Saw It” (1988)
  22. Whitney Houston, “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (1990)
  23. Tevin Campbell, “Always In My Heart” (1993)
  24. Tevin Campbell, “Can We Talk” (1993)
  25. The Deele, “Two Occasions” (1987)
Posted in lists, R&B

Pop top 40: 4/13/85


1 2 WE ARE THE WORLD –•– USA For Africa – 4 (1) — It vaulted up the Hot 100, 21-5-2-1, which in the US charts in the ’80s was insane. But of course, everyone wanted this, the American version of Band Aid with, arguably, even bigger stars. I mean, Michael-Lionel-Bruce-Tina-Cyndi: that tidily sums up the superstars of ’84, with the glaring exception of Prince. (But you all know that story, right?) Yes, “We Are the World” is a little syrupy, I get that — but I also get that co-writers Richie and Jackson were going for maximum, cross-generational impact, which doesn’t generally lend itself to brilliant works of art. That said, I highly recommend you listen to the demo version of the song, with Richie on piano and Jackson singing: it’s a bit softer, and much prettier, a bit more “Man in the Mirror” when you can really listen to what MJ is singing, rather than playing the “Who’s That Singing?” parlor game. The worst thing you can say about it is that it’s one of Quincy Jones’s least inspiring productions. And hearing this constellation of stars all on one record is still entertaining, to my ears at least.
2 1 ONE MORE NIGHT –•– Phil Collins – 10 (1) — Did you know that there were only four singles released from No Jacket Required? It’s true, probably because surrounding them Phil had his #2 duet with Philip Bailey, “Easy Lover,” and a pair of soundtrack #1s, “Against All Odds” and “Separate Lives” (the latter with Marilyn Martin). “One More Night” was the first single from Jacket; it’s my least favorite of the singles from the album. (It was followed, of course, by “Sussudio,” “Don’t Lose My Number” and “Take Me Home.”) This is Phil at his schlockiest: supersoft pop does not really become him.
3 4 CRAZY FOR YOU –•– Madonna – 7 (3) — However, Madonna’s first ballad to be released as a single does become her. She’s still got a bit of street grit in her voice (I’ll say until I’m dead that her Evita-era voice lessons really took something from her — we don’t listen to Madonna for perfect vocalization), and Jellybean Benitez (!) gives it a surprisingly sensitive production job. A key, I think, is that it was cut on live instruments, not banks of synths. And you wanna know how hot Madonna was in ’85? This had the strength to, after three weeks stuck at #2, knock “We Are the World” out of #1. On the heels of “Like A Virgin” and “Material Girl,” this was a very smart single choice.
4 7 NIGHTSHIFT –•– Commodores – 12 (4) — Their only post-Richie hit was an adult contemporary ode to the late Marvin Gaye — one of two such songs in this week’s top 10, neither particularly very good.
5 3 MATERIAL GIRL –•– Madonna – 10 (2) — Nile Rodgers doesn’t get enough credit for how fucking great Like A Virgin sounds. The drums on this go thwack!, the keyboards bounce, and Rodgers knows to just let Madonna do her thing. There’s so much personality in her vocal it’s ridiculous. This is likely better than you remember it to be.
6 8 I’M ON FIRE –•– Bruce Springsteen – 9 (6)
7 9 RHYTHM OF THE NIGHT –•– DeBarge – 9 (7) — My distaste for this Diane Warren hit is well-documented elsewhere; this slab of perkiness could be a 1981 record by the Kids from Fame. This so desperately wants to be liked. Good vocal by El, though.
8 5 LOVER GIRL –•– Teena Marie – 18 (4) — Good-not-great Teena Marie. She rarely recorded anything bad, but she recorded plenty of things that were better.
9 14 OBSESSION –•– Animotion – 12 (9) — Out of over 2,000 comments on YouTube, the top one on this video is “This video is the most eightiesest eighties that ever eightiesed.” While that may be true, don’t overlook the fact that Holly Knight and Michael Des Barres wrote a great song, which received the production it deserved from John Ryan, and the vocals it deserved from singers Bill Wadhams and Astrid Plane. It’s urgent. (Thanks, cocaine ’80s!)
10 13 MISSING YOU –•– Diana Ross – 20 (10) — Slushy.

11 18 DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME –•– Simple Minds – 8 (11) — I hate this song.
12 19 ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK –•– Murray Head – 8 (12) — I love this absurdly over-the-top — even for a musical about chess written by Tim Rice and Benny and Björn from ABBA — song. That the man who played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar should have a top 10 single in 1985 is one of those things that exemplifies why the ’80s were such a glorious, crazy time for pop music.
13 6 CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING –•– REO Speedwagon – 13 (1) — Uptempo, they were occasionally tolerable. At ballad tempos, they were not.
14 11 SOMEBODY –•– Bryan Adams – 11 (11)
15 20 ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS DANCE –•– Don Henley – 8 (15) — This just sounds unpleasantly nasty, like four minutes of Henley sneering at you.
16 12 JUST ANOTHER NIGHT –•– Mick Jagger – 10 (12) — It will not surprise those who know me well to learn that I love Mick’s debut solo album She’s the Boss. It’s garish and slick as oil, and occasionally ridiculous, and the fact that it was produced in halves, by Nile Rodgers and by Bill Laswell, makes it that much weirder. Mick spends much of the album giving in to all of his vocal tics and, essentially, making songs around/out of them. The Stones, this ain’t. “Just Another Night,” which couldn’t even crack the top 10 in the US (and didn’t even crack the top 30 in the UK), is the sound of piles and piles of wasted money, and I love it dearly.
17 24 SOME LIKE IT HOT –•– The Power Station – 5 (17) — Speaking as I was of Nile Rodgers’ production brilliance, how about Bernard Edwards? I have forever loved the sound of the Power Station’s album. This is a silly rockstar gangbang, but it’s so much greater than the sum of its Edwards + Robert Palmer + 2/5 of Duran parts.
18 21 ALONG COMES A WOMAN –•– Chicago – 8 (18)
19 15 HIGH ON YOU –•– Survivor – 12 (8)
20 10 TOO LATE FOR GOODBYES –•– Julian Lennon – 12 (5) — Perkier than “Valotte,” at least.

21 25 THAT WAS YESTERDAY –•– Foreigner – 5 (21)
22 28 SMOOTH OPERATOR –•– Sade – 7 (22) — She certainly is.
23 17 THE HEAT IS ON –•– Glenn Frey – 19 (2)
24 16 PRIVATE DANCER –•– Tina Turner – 13 (7) — My single most favorite Tina Turner single. It’s her delivery, it’s that sax, it’s the pathos of the lyrics (which I still cannot believe were penned by Mark Knopfler).
25 36 DON’T COME AROUND HERE NO MORE –•– Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – 5 (25) — Speaking of ridiculous ’80s production, step up Mr. Dave Stewart!
26 32 SOME THINGS ARE BETTER LEFT UNSAID –•– Daryl Hall & John Oates – 5 (26) — A slow burn.
27 34 ROCK AND ROLL GIRLS –•– John Fogerty – 5 (27) — I will never, ever understand what people see in this asshole, but even Fogerty partisans have gotta admit that this one’s just gross.
28 29 RADIOACTIVE –•– The Firm – 10 (28)
29 35 NEW ATTITUDE –•– Patti Labelle – 9 (29) — I’m not saying Patti Labelle ever did cocaine. But if she did do cocaine, it was probably prior to recording this song.
30 38 EVERYTHING SHE WANTS –•– Wham! – 4 (30) — Now, this is how you do midtempo. But truth be told, there was nothing that George Michael couldn’t do, and the 1-2 punch of this and “Careless Whisper” proved it without question.

31 37 FOREVER MAN –•– Eric Clapton – 6 (31) — I’ll take Phil Collins’ whipsmart production of Clapton over just about any other Clapton.
32 22 KEEPIN’ THE FAITH –•– Billy Joel – 12 (18) — This song could make the most devout Catholic renounce God.
33 30 LUCKY –•– The Greg Kihn Band – 9 (30)
34 43 EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD –•– Tears For Fears – 5 (34) — Producer Chris Hughes is the key; he puts just the right spin, and amount of gloss, on it. My favorite TFF song is the b-side, “Pharaohs,” which is a slowed-down take on the “World” instrumental paired with a shipping forecast from BBC Radio 4. I find it incredibly soothing.
35 27 CARELESS WHISPER –•– Wham! Featuring George Michael – 17 (1) — Unimpeachable genius.
36 42 THE BIRD –•– The Time – 8 (36)
37 41 VOX HUMANA –•– Kenny Loggins – 4 (37)
38 44 SUDDENLY –•– Billy Ocean – 4 (38)
39 52 AXEL F –•– Harold Faltermeyer – 3 (39)
40 23 ONLY THE YOUNG –•– Journey – 12 (9) — Steve Perry’s voice makes grown men cry, because it’s so beautiful and perfect. This is a perfect example.

Posted in 1980s, charts

Meme madness: singles/years of my life


1970: Aretha Franklin, “Call Me”
1971: Joni Mitchell, “River”
1972: Aretha Franklin, “Wholy Holy”
1973: Barry White, “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up”
1974: Lou Rawls, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”
1975: Judy Collins, “Send in the Clowns”
1976: Linda Ronstadt, “Someone To Lay Down Beside Me”
1977: Steely Dan, “Deacon Blues”
1978: Marvin Gaye, “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You”
1979: Marianne Faithfull, “Broken English”
1980: George Jones, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
1981: Inner Life, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (The Garage Version)”
1982: Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing”
1983: Shannon, “Let the Music Play”
1984: Sheila E., “The Glamorous Life”
1985: Grace Jones, “Slave to the Rhythm”
1986: Prince, “Kiss”
1987: Janet Jackson, “The Pleasure Principle”
1988: Public Enemy, “Bring the Noise”
1989: Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”
1990: Madonna, “Vogue”
1991: The KLF, “America: What Time Is Love?”
1992: Curve, “Faît Accompli”
1993: Suede, “The Drowners”
1994: Warp 69, “Natural High (Global Communications Remix)”
1995: Underworld, “Born Slippy (NUXX)”
1996: Mark Morrison, “Return of the Mack”
1997: Erykah Badu, “Tyrone (live)”
1998: Stardust, “Music Sounds Better With You”
1999: Everything but the Girl, “Temperamental (Wamdue Project Mix)”
2000: Smashing Pumpkins, “Stand Inside Your Love”
2001: Aaliyah, “Rock the Boat”
2002: Osymyso, “Intro-Inspection”
2003: Freeway featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel, “What We Do…”
2004: Morel, “The Stoning of Steven”
2005: Snoop Dogg, “Let’s Get Blown”
2006: Ciara, “Promise”
2007: UGK featuring Outkast, “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”
2008: Hercules and Love Affair featuring Anthony, “Blind (Frankie Knuckles Remix)”
2009: The Presets, “Talk Like That (CFCF Remix)”
2010: Fenech-Soler, “Lies (Alex Metric Remix)”
2011: Diddy—Dirty Money featuring Swizz Beats, “Ass on the Floor”
2012: Underworld featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie, “And I Will Kiss”
2013: Ciara, “Body Party”
2014: Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé, “Part II (On the Run)”
2015: Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town, “Smokin’ and Drinkin’”
2016: Miranda Lambert, “Vice”


Posted in lists

Meme madness: albums/years of my life

Favorite album of each year of my life; meme started by Nate Patrin.
Some artists are missing because one album beat them in a given year: Prince and the Smiths are my two favorite artists of all-time, but their best albums got beat by other albums in individual years. But that said, for example, The Queen Is Dead would’ve won plenty of the years on here, just not 1986, as it happens.
Also: no greatest hits, no comps of old material (which kept Journey Into Paradise: The Larry Levan Story out of 2006 — it would’ve won easily — and prevented at least one of Dylan’s Bootleg Series from showing up). Year is year of US release.
1970: Velvet Underground, Loaded
1971: Aretha Franklin, Aretha Live at Fillmore West
1972: Miles Davis, On the Corner
*so close: Aretha Franklin, Amazing Grace
1973: Daryl Hall & John Oates, Abandoned Luncheonette
1974: Bob Dylan/The Band, Before the Flood
1975: Smokey Robinson, A Quiet Storm
1976: Marvin Gaye, I Want You
1977: Steely Dan, Aja
1978: Chic, C’est Chic
*so close: Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear
1979: Tom Browne, Browne Sugar
1980: Diana Ross, diana
1981: Grace Jones, Nightclubbing
1982: ABC, The Lexicon of Love
*so close: Daryl Hall & John Oates, H2O
1983: Madonna, Madonna
1984: Rush, Grace Under Pressure
*so close: Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain; Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Welcome to the Pleasuredome
1985: Amy Grant, Unguarded
1986: Anita Baker, Rapture
*so close: Prince and the Revolution, Parade; the Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
1987: Pat Metheny Group, Still Life (Talking)
*so close: Alexander O’Neal, Hearsay; the Smiths, Strangeways, Here We Come
1988: Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
*so close: Morrissey, Viva Hate
1989: Sandra Bernhard, Without You I’m Nothing
1990: Kitchens of Distinction, Strange Free World
*so close: Sonic Youth, Goo
1991: Electronic, Electronic
*so close: John Mellencamp, Whenever We Wanted
1992: Mary J. Blige, What’s the 411?
*so close: Madonna, Erotica
1993: Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Plantation Lullabies
*so close: Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
1994: Various Artists, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool
*so close: Various Artists, Rhythm, Country and Blues; Madonna, Bedtime Stories
1995: PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love
1996: Everything But The Girl, Walking Wounded
*so close: Manic Street Preachers, Everything Must Go; Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Peace Beyond Passion
1997: Nuyorican Soul, Nuyorican Soul
1998: Various Artists, Paris Is Sleeping, Respect Is Burning Vol. 2
*so close: New Radicals, maybe you’ve been brainwashed too.
1999: Mary J. Blige, Mary
*MJB is the only artist with two albums on this list.
2000: D’Angelo, Voodoo
*The only year that felt like a “default” pick; I simply couldn’t find an album from 2000 I liked better.
2001: Daft Punk, Discovery
2002: DJ/rupture, Minesweeper Suite
*so close: Me’Shell Ndegéocello, Cookie: The Anthopological Mixtape
2003: The Postal Service, Give Up
*so close: Richard X, Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1
2004: Various Artists, DJ-Kicks: Erlend Øye
2005: Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd, Music from the Film Mysterious Skin
*so close: Billy Corgan, TheFutureEmbrace; Lee Ann Womack, There’s More Where That Came From
2006: Roll Deep, In at the Deep End
*so close: Jerry Lee Lewis, Last Man Standing
2007: Jay-Z, American Gangster
2008: Zomby, Where Were U in ’92?
2009: Dam-Funk, Toeachizown
2010: Diddy – Dirty Money, Last Train to Paris
2011: Destroyer, Kaputt
2012: Lone, Galaxy Garden
2013: Kanye West, Yeezus
2014: Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce
2015: dumblonde, dumblonde
*so close: Carly Rae Jepsen, EMOTION
2016: Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep
*so close: Solange, A Place at the Table
Posted in lists

Pop top 40: 3/15/87


Radio analyst Sean Ross wrote a great piece this week about why top 40 radio’s ’80s boom ended so abruptly, as the mid-’80s started inching towards the late ’80s. He suggests that part of the reason was that superstars were releasing uninspiring product (and it was product moreso than music). Another aspect was that nascent soon-to-be-called rhythmic top 40 stations were peeling off a lot of would-be R&B and dance crossovers, leaving mainstream top 40 with a lot of slushy ballads and things that got playlisted because of the name attached, not the sound of the record. And as you’ll see, there is a lot of mediocrity on this chart, 30 years ago this week.

1 2 JACOB’S LADDER –•– Huey Lewis & The News – 9 (1) — Sean Ross: “The superstar semi-hits took up real estate that could have gone to something more exciting. We waited for a new Huey Lewis & the News and we were stuck with ‘Stuck with You.'” The Sports follow-up Fore! is fairly derided as a bland-ish retread, but something about its (and the News’s) final #1 (total payola, IMO) has always attracted me. I give at least some of the credit to the song itself, co-written by Bruce Hornsby and his brother; it’s a bit more lyrically and musically complex than your average News single. I also appreciate that it’s not just another Huey Lewis “I like the hot girl” song/video. But to be honest, if I never heard this song again, I doubt I’d miss it much.
2 4 SOMEWHERE OUT THERE –•– Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram – 13 (2) — Future Titanic songsmith James Horner wrote this with the hacky Mann/Weill, and it sounds like it. Ronstadt and Ingram try valiantly to get it over, but you can’t get blood from a turnip, as my grandmother always said.
3 10 LET’S WAIT AWHILE –•– Janet Jackson – 9 (3) — This ballad came late in the Control album cycle for the reason you might guess: it’s slushy.
4 1 LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER –•– Bon Jovi – 14 (1) — At least this ooga-chucka pop metal sounded like something.
5 12 LEAN ON ME –•– Club Nouveau – 5 (5) — Words cannot adequately express how much I loathe and despise this horrible remake of a song I was never that fond of to begin with.
6 9 MANDOLIN RAIN –•– Bruce Hornsby & The Range – 9 (6) — Well, hello again, Mr. Hornsby! Think about it: 1987 was a time when records like this were top 10 singles. (And played frequently on MTV, no less!). His best single, BTW.
7 5 RESPECT YOURSELF –•– Bruce Willis – 9 (5) — But 1987 was also a time when shit like this clogged up the top 10. No amount of TV fame can justify this, not even the presence of the Pointer Sisters (on essentially duet vocals).
8 8 BIG TIME –•– Peter Gabriel – 16 (8)
9 3 YOU GOT IT ALL –•– The Jets – 18 (3)
10 13 NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW –•– Starship – 7 (10)

11 7 (YOU GOTTA) FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT (TO PARTY!) –•– Beastie Boys – 13 (7) — I still don’t understand how this got to top 40 radio, even with wall-to-wall MTV airplay. But even though I’m not a huge fan, I appreciate (and appreciated) the fact that this is like a bunch of nitrous hits in the middle of this countdown.
12 16 TONIGHT, TONIGHT, TONIGHT –•– Genesis – 5 (12) — The height of Beer Commercial Hits (TM).
13 19 COME GO WITH ME –•– Expose – 8 (13) — Still magical. Shannon opened the door for freestyle, but Expose truly took the sound of Miami (and, less so, NYC) nationwide. Producer/songwriter Lewis Martineé is a genius.
14 15 I WANNA GO BACK –•– Eddie Money – 13 (14)
15 17 BRAND NEW LOVER –•– Dead Or Alive – 16 (15) — Speaking of brilliant producers of dance music in the late ’80s, hello Stock Aitken Waterman. The key to the marvelousness of Dead or Alive’s best singles is simple: they always had guitar solos, and that makes them stand out. Well, and Pete Burns, of course (RIP). On “Lover,” there’s also a whomping bassline.
16 6 KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF –•– Georgia Satellites – 17 (2) — The would-be ’80s Skynyrd made it to #2 with this! And then, nothing.
17 20 THE FINAL COUNTDOWN –•– Europe – 8 (17)
18 14 I’LL BE ALRIGHT WITHOUT YOU –•– Journey – 15 (14) — This song, this glorious song. As the fourth single from Raised on Radio, it matched its two immediate predecessors by making the top 20 but not the top 10; the times were moving past Steve Perry and the boys, and their brand of pop AOR was increasingly out of fashion. (See also: the career arcs of their late ’70s/early ’80s comrades Foreigner, Styx, and REO Speedwagon.) This was their last top 40 hit for almost a decade, and what a note on which to go out. The ache of this song, exemplified not just by Perry’s gorgeous vocal, but also that Neal Schon guitar coda: I can listen on repeat for hours. And marvel in the fact that the live video for the song actually features live audio. And Randy Jackson in some unfortunate spandex.
19 11 WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME? –•– Chicago – 18 (3)
20 23 DON’T DREAM IT’S OVER –•– Crowded House – 9 (20) — It’s not a dream.

21 24 LET’S GO –•– Wang Chung – 8 (21) — On its way to a #9 peak almost entirely on the back of the execrable #1 single that you know, this is about 50x better, and more of a piece with the rest of their discography than that gross #1.
22 22 CANDY –•– Cameo – 12 (22) — The follow-up to “Word Up” is better, too. As I said on Rock Me Tonight, this funks and swings.
23 31 I KNEW YOU WERE WAITING FOR ME –•– Aretha Franklin & George Michael – 4 (23) — Even a hack gets it right from time to time, and that’s what happened for Narada Michael Walden here. This is the epitome of El Lay R&B, and I love it. Aretha and George have genuine vocal chemistry, too.
24 29 MIDNIGHT BLUE –•– Lou Gramm – 7 (24)
25 32 WHAT YOU GET IS WHAT YOU SEE –•– Tina Turner – 6 (25) — The closest thing Tina ever did to a return to “Nutbush City Limits,” with a Clapton guitar solo.
26 34 THAT AIN’T LOVE –•– REO Speedwagon – 7 (26) — Some bands don’t know when, or how, to exit gracefully.
27 33 AS WE LAY –•– Shirley Murdock – 9 (27)
28 18 BALLERINA GIRL –•– Lionel Richie – 15 (7) — C’mon, Lionel.
29 21 TOUCH ME (I WANT YOUR BODY) –•– Samantha Fox – 20 (4) — A trio of top 10 singles (both in the US and UK) for a former “Page 3” topless model? Crazy. Even crazier: they were actually pretty great pop trash. This is no “Naughty Girls,” but it gets the job done.
30 41 THE FINER THINGS –•– Steve Winwood – 6 (30) More Beer Commercial Hits (TM).

31 25 LOVE YOU DOWN –•– Ready For The World – 16 (9) — How in the world this made it into the pop top 10 I have no clue: a sleazy-sounding ode to loving an older woman (“I can do what guys [older than me] can do,” Melvin Riley opines). The sleaze, which I mean in a complimentary fashion, comes from both Riley’s vocal and that magnificently cheap-sounding Linn drum.
32 45 WALKING DOWN YOUR STREET –•– Bangles – 5 (32)
33 42 THE HONEYTHIEF –•– Hipsway – 8 (33)
34 28 AT THIS MOMENT –•– Billy Vera & The Beaters – 22 (1) — Blame Michael J. Fox.
35 59 SIGN O’THE TIMES –•– Prince – 2 (35) — Like nothing else he’d done before, and like nothing else around at the time, and utterly brilliant in its sound.
36 35 WE CONNECT –•– Stacey Q – 14 (35)
37 48 STONE LOVE –•– Kool & The Gang – 6 (37)
38 49 DOMINOES –•– Robbie Nevil – 5 (38) — They all fall down, y’know.
39 43 SKIN TRADE –•– Duran Duran – 7 (39) — After “Notorious” scaled to #2, this barely made the top 40, peaking right here at #39. A shame, because it’s one of my favorite Nile Rodgers non-Chic productions, the essence of slinky.
40 27 OPEN YOUR HEART –•– Madonna – 15 (1) — One of her finest singles ever, this punches you in the face, steals your wallet, and yet leaves you proposing eternal devotion. Credit every element: the songwriting, the production (by Madonna herself, with Patrick Leonard), but most of all, her vocal, which leaves nothing to chance. She’ll make you love her, alright, or die trying.

Posted in 1980s, charts

Pop top 40: 2/25/84

Peak early ’84, prior to the emergence of the year’s holy trinity of Tina/Bruce/Prince. That said, the first tentative steps of the Turner’s comeback can be seen slowly climbing into the 30s. BTW, Madonna’s “Holiday” fell out of this week’s chart; Like A Virgin was still almost 10 months away.

1 2 JUMP –•– Van Halen – (1st week at #1) – 7 (1) — Might as well.

2 1 KARMA CHAMELEON –•– Culture Club – 13 (1) — Sure, it’s catchy, and their biggest US hit, but I’ve never much cared for it.
3 4 99 LUFTBALLONS –•– Nena – 12 (3) — It’s funny how their record label felt the desperate need for an English-language version, when I pretty much always heard the German version on both my local top 40 station, and American Top 40.
4 9 GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN –•– Cyndi Lauper – 11 (4) — A year later she’d win the Grammy for Best New Artist, deservedly — over Corey Hart (?!), Frankie Goes to Hollywood (!!), Sheila E (right on), and the Judds (at the time, a rarity to see a country artist up for this award, but they certainly deserved the nod). Somehow, eternal overplay has not dulled the appeal nor the sparkle of this song: it’s a great big piece of cubic zirconia, and it still looks awesome.
5 7 THRILLER –•– Michael Jackson – 3 (5) — Talk about a video-driven phenomenon: the seventh (and final) single from Thriller made it into the top 5 in just three weeks. MTV had, of course, been hammering the video hourly, literally, for weeks. The song itself is ebullient but not great, definitely second-tier Thriller. But we’ll never forget it.
6 3 JOANNA –•– Kool & The Gang – 17 (2)
7 12 NOBODY TOLD ME –•– John Lennon – 6 (7) — Unexpected and a little odd, in a good way.
8 10 LET THE MUSIC PLAY –•– Shannon – 16 (8) — Only one of the greatest singles of the 1980s, and quite likely the first signpost of freestyle, making an excruciatingly market-by-market slow rise into the top 10 months after topping the dance charts.
9 14 WRAPPED AROUND YOUR FINGER –•– Police – 8 (9) — Best single from Synchronicity.
10 13 AN INNOCENT MAN –•– Billy Joel – 11 (10)

11 6 THAT’S ALL –•– Genesis – 14 (6)
12 26 SOMEBODY’S WATCHING ME –•– Rockwell – 5 (12)
13 21 I WANT A NEW DRUG –•– Huey Lewis & The News – 7 (13) — Not even the moderately attractive Lewis in his boxer shorts could make me enjoy this.
14 5 TALKING IN YOUR SLEEP –•– The Romantics – 21 (3) — All-American new wave AOR at its finest.
15 24 HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN –•– Eurythmics – 5 (15)
16 22 NEW MOON ON MONDAY –•– Duran Duran – 7 (16) — They did like their claptrap lyrics, didn’t they?
17 11 RUNNING WITH THE NIGHT –•– Lionel Richie – 14 (7)
18 15 THINK OF LAURA –•– Christopher Cross – 12 (9)
19 8 OWNER OF A LONELY HEART –•– Yes – 17 (1) — Blame Trevor Horn. (And that’s a good thing.)
20 20 YAH MO B THERE –•– James Ingram & Michael McDonald – 12 (20) — Blame Quincy Jones. And Rod Temperton. (Both very very good things.) (Also, this song is SO WEIRD: it’s like an ode to Jesus! In the top 20! By a pair of yacht rock titans! In 1984!)

21 25 GOT A HOLD ON ME –•– Christine McVie – 5 (21)
22 32 FOOTLOOSE –•– Kenny Loggins – 5 (22) — DO NOT CUT.
23 28 THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE –•– Dan Fogelberg – 4 (23)
24 19 MIDDLE OF THE ROAD –•– Pretenders – 11 (19)
25 30 THIS WOMAN –•– Kenny Rogers – 7 (25) — The sound of the Gibb well running dry.
26 16 PINK HOUSES –•– John Cougar Mellencamp – 12 (8)
27 35 AUTOMATIC –•– The Pointer Sisters – 5 (27) — Still smokes.
28 33 GIVE IT UP –•– K.C. – 10 (28) — Oh god, I love this song so much. It’s so weird, too: KC, a couple years post-disco, attempting to re-invent himself doing — Hi-NRG, essentially? #1 in the UK in ’83, top 20 in the US in ’84.
29 17 BREAK MY STRIDE –•– Matthew Wilder – 24 (5)
30 34 ALMOST OVER YOU –•– Sheena Easton – 12 (30)

31 43 ADULT EDUCATION –•– Daryl Hall & John Oates – 2 (31) — Ridiculous and fucking awesome, as well as one of their harder rocking (or, “rocking”) singles. Top 10 bound, as it was in the midst of their Imperial Phase.
32 18 I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES –•– Elton John – 18 (4) — I can’t hate this song. I even like Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo.
33 37 THE POLITICS OF DANCING –•– Re-Flex – 14 (33) — Lightly communist-fearing, and more than a little appropriate for today’s political climate. Also a super-tough new wave cut that was justifiably huge in the clubs.
34 38 LET’S STAY TOGETHER –•– Tina Turner – 6 (34) — The backing band here is essentially Heaven 17; think about that for a minute.
35 40 BACK WHERE YOU BELONG –•– .38 Special – 4 (35) — They got softer as they got bigger.
36 39 RUNNER –•– Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – 6 (36)
37 23 SO BAD –•– Paul McCartney – 10 (23)
38 44 NEW SONG –•– Howard Jones – 6 (38)
39 49 HOLD ME NOW –•– Thompson Twins – 3 (39)
40 46 LIVIN’ IN DESPERATE TIMES –•– Olivia Newton-John – 3 (40)

Posted in 1980s, charts, pop

The 20 best singles of all time.

My personal, definitive list. 
It might be different next week, but most of these are pretty constant.

"Bring the Noise," Public Enemy (Def Jam 1988)
"Fight the Power," Public Enemy (Motown 1989)
"Strings of Life," Rhythim Is Rhythim (Transmat 1987)
"Ain't Nobody," Rufus and Chaka Khan (Warner Bros. 1983)
"The Pleasure Principle," Janet Jackson (A&M 1987)
"Always on My Mind," Pet Shop Boys (EMI-Manhattan 1988)
"Sexual Healing," Marvin Gaye (Columbia 1983)
"Easy for You to Say," Linda Ronstadt (Asylum 1982)
"So May It Secretly Begin," Pat Metheny Group (Geffen 1987)
"Natural High (Global Communications Mix)," Warp 69 (Flagbearer UK 1994)
"For the Good Times," Ray Price (Columbia 1970)
"The Glamorous Life," Sheila E. (Warner Bros. 1984)
"I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," Daryl Hall & John Oates (RCA 1981)
"I Would Die 4 U," Prince & the Revolution (Warner Bros. 1984)
"Music Sounds Better With You," Stardust (Virgin 1998)
"Cool Night," Paul Davis (Arista 1981) 
"Tales of Taboo," Karen Finley (Pow Wow Art International 1986)
"Say It Isn't So," Daryl Hall & John Oates (RCA 1984)
"Two Hearts," Stephanie Mills with Teddy Pendergrass (20th Century Fox 1981)
"Live for Life," Jack Jones (RCA Victor 1967)
Posted in lists, personal