(This week, Ye Olde CHART ATTACK! is being taken over by none other than Robert Cass, my co-Managing Editor here at Popdose. Seems like it was only last year that Robert was attacking the early ’90s with stories of internal monologues about Vanessa Williams and awkward pictures of Dick Cheney — oh wait, it was last year. Can Robert entrance us all again the way he used to? Will he include more pictures of Mr. Vice-President? Will David Caruso fans adore this post, too? Only one way to find out! Take it away, Cass! —Jason Hare)
This is Jason’s house, and I’m just visiting, so I’ll try not to rearrange anything too much, though I’d love to replace those hyphens below with em dashes, and I’d definitely decapitalize the first letters of all those articles and prepositions in the song titles, and that intro Jason wrote could use some pruning, so maybe I’ll just— … What am I doing? Focus, boy, focus! You’re wasting time on trivial matters when you need to be discussing trivial music! Hurry up and start this week’s attack!
Alright, here we go …
10. Here We Go – C+C Music Factory Presents Freedom Williams & Zelma Davis Amazon iTunes
9. Cry For Help – Rick Astley Amazon iTunes
8. I Like The Way (The Kissing Game) – Hi-Five Amazon iTunes
7. Rico Suave – Gerardo Amazon iTunes
6. Sadeness Part 1 – Enigma Amazon iTunes
5. Joyride – Roxette Amazon iTunes
4. Hold You Tight – Tara Kemp Amazon iTunes
3. I’ve Been Thinking About You – Londonbeat Amazon iTunes
2. Baby Baby – Amy Grant Amazon iTunes
1. You’re In Love – Wilson Phillips Amazon iTunes
10. Here We Go – C+C Music Factory Presents Freedom Williams & Zelma Davis (download)
… and here we stop. This was not a good week for the top ten! Was Casey Kasem still responsible for picking the songs in ’91? Or was the diabolical Shadoe Stevens in charge? I don’t even remember some of these songs, and I was still listening to the radio in ’91 as I neared the end of ninth grade. Maybe I was listening to the R&B hits on Foxy 100 in Macon, Georgia, more than I was listening to 99 WAYS’s Top 40 rotation, but … you know what? It doesn’t matter. I may not have picked the top ten’s best week, but I promise to make these ten songs dazzle! Here we go — again …
Is it just me, or does “Here We Go” sound a lot like C+C Music Factory’s first hit, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”? I’ve never been good at identifying copycat singles by the same artist, e.g. “Together Forever,” Rick Astley’s follow-up to “Never Gonna Give You Up,” until someone points out the similarities to me. C+C add some electric guitar and pay tribute to the forefathers of rock in the lyrics to “Here We Go,” but those are just distractions — C+C, you can only have one dance song in your canon that will be played at sporting events long after all of us are dead. Trying to have two is just greedy (unless you’re Queen, but their two biggest sports-stadium anthems, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” aren’t dance songs anyway).
Zelma Davis, who lip-synched to Weather Girl Martha Wash’s vocals in the video for “Gonna Make You Sweat,” actually sings on “Here We Go,” and she’s not bad, but she’s no Martha Wash. Her vocals just aren’t as … full-bodied? I swear I’m not trying to make a fat joke, but that extra weight did seem to provide Wash with the oomph that makes her belting so memorable. As for Freedom Williams, if he hadn’t gone shirtless in C+C’s videos or had that ponytail, I bet he would’ve gotten more respect as a rapper. Oh wait, I also have to consider his dance moves in those videos — dancing is one thing, but shirtless dancing is another. So never mind. But Williams did contribute a nice cameo to Chris Rock’s Puff Daddy parody “Champagne,” a “skit” on his 1997 album Roll With the New, which is one of the best comedy albums I’ve ever heard.
“Here We Go” peaked at #3. C+C followed it up with “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm…,” my favorite of their trio of top-ten hits, but they didn’t have another song crack the Top 40 until “Do You Wanna Get Funky” in the fall of ’94. It peaked at #40.
9. Cry For Help – Rick Astley
Oh my goodness, it’s Rick Astley! Why, I was just talking about you! Are your ears burning? Are they? C’mere and lemme warm my hands next to them, ya little scamp!
Sorry about that, Rick. I didn’t mean to treat you like a child. But you look like such a cutey-patootie wittle boy in the video for “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the weapon of choice of many recent “RickRolls,” which, as Jason pointed out recently, are “so March ’08.” But Rick, I can’t help it — you remind me of that scene in There’s Something About Mary where Ben Stiller says to Cameron Diaz’s dog, “Are you the little guy making all that big noise?” No offense, but no one expected an Oliver Twist like you to sound like Michael McDonald. Then again, no one expected Michael McDonald to be Caucasian when they first heard him.
Nevertheless, “Never Gonna Give You Up” is a good song. It holds up as sturdy ’80s pop. I’m not crazy about Astley’s other Top 40 hits, like “Cry for Help,” which goes a little nuts with the gospel-choir backing vocals, but the man does have a voice that commands attention. “Cry for Help” was Astley’s last top-ten hit, but he reached the Top 40 one last time in the fall of ’93 with “Hopelessly,” which landed at #28.
Since “RickRolls” are now out of style, may I introduce another red-headed sensation for your YouTube-linking pleasure?
You have officially been CarusoColdCocked. And for the month of May I propose that we all send our friends a sampling of Simply Red videos under the guise of a HucknallHoax.
8. I Like The Way (The Kissing Game) – Hi-Five (download)
According to Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits (which just about covers the extent of my research for this Chart Attack!), teenage vocal group Hi-Five had three top-ten hits and five Top 40 hits altogether, including one written and produced by R. Kelly, who coincidentally likes his sexual conquests to be high and five. Okay, fine, five multiplied by three, but any older than that would constitute a lowering of the superstar’s standards.
Five Top 40 hits. How serendipitous for Hi-Five, and isn’t it nice that their first hit, the Teddy Riley-produced “I Like the Way,” went all the way to #1? I do remember this song from ninth grade, and though the group sings about a summer romance, “I Like the Way’s” light-as-air chorus made it ideal for a springtime run up the pop and R&B charts.
Hi-Five’s lead singer, Tony Thompson, died last year at the age of 31, and he was apparently still leading a new lineup of Hi-Five at the time of his death, most likely in the direction of state fairs and package tours of early-’90s R&B acts. But they’ll always have “I Like the Way.”
7. Rico Suave – Gerardo
After all these years, it’s still fun for me to say “Rrrrrrrrico … swah-vay” in my most tongue-trilling faux-Latin-lover accent. I seem to recall the video for Gerardo’s big hit becoming popular on the Jukebox Channel in the fall of 1990, so it must’ve taken six more months for radio to catch on. “Rico Suave” (translation: “rich and smooth,” but too smooth to include an “y” in the middle of “rico” and “suave,” apparently) wasn’t the only Spanglish rap song to hit the Top 40 in the early ’90s, though — anyone else remember Mellow Man Ace’s “Mentirosa” from the summer of 1990?
Gerardo Mejía was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but raised in Glendale, California, and if you first saw Dennis Hopper’s 1988 film Colors after “Rico Suave” fever swept the nation, you probably did a double take during Gerardo’s scenes and said, “Wait a second … is that the guy who said he eats the female species raw like sushi?” It sure is! (He was also in 1987′s Can’t Buy Me Love, according to Joel Whitburn’s book.) Gerardo brought his waxed chest back to the Top 40 in the summer of ’91 with “We Want the Funk,” a pseudo-cover of Parliament’s “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker,” but he never had another hit the size of “Rico Suave.”
Gerardo wasn’t stupid — he continued to record into this decade, but he made performing his sideline career as he became an A&R executive at Interscope Records. (His Wikipedia entry says he helped launch Enrique Iglesias in the U.S. during the Latin-music explosion of 1999, and he signed Athens, Georgia’s Bubba Sparxxx.) Smart move, Gerardo. Now you’re probably richer than you would’ve been if you’d just continued making albums. Probably smoother, too, if you moisturize.
6. Sadeness Part 1 – Enigma
Maybe this top-ten list isn’t so bad after all. For one thing, it’s worldly, as we move from Gerardo’s Spanglish to the Gregorian-chantin’ monks and French-language whispers of Enigma’s “Sadeness Part 1.” This is certainly one of the more unexpected songs to reach the Top 40, but variety is the spice of life — and radio playlists — so I hope you enjoyed your time in the spotlight, Enigma, whose name is a pseudonym for Romanian producer Michael Cretu; that’s his wife, Sandra, providing the French whispers in “Sadeness.”
Enigma returned to the Top 40 three years later with “Return to Innocence,” and 1994 was also the year that the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Milos briefly became pop stars with their triple-platinum album Chant. Coincidentally, Jesus Christ made his second coming that same year, but no one noticed since he returned as a rapper, missing the Hot 100 altogether with his Death Row Records single “I’m Back (Aw Yeah).” No new recordings have surfaced, at least on this plane of existence, since then.
5. Joyride – Roxette
Popdose’s Jeff Giles and Jon Cummings have good memories of “Joyride,” but it never made an impression on me. Neither did Roxette, but I was in the minority — these Swedes were huge for a while, racking up four #1 songs from 1989 to ’91, including “Joyride,” and two that peaked at #2. I’m sure 1989′s “Listen to Your Heart” and 1990′s “It Must Have Been Love” are still in heavy rotation on adult-contemporary stations throughout the land.
I like how the male half of Roxette, Per Gessle, name-checks the group at the end of “Joyride” after he runs out of lyrics. Why not add “Copyright 1991 EMI Records, all rights reserved,” Per? If Napster had existed back then, I’m sure that sweetly sung legal reminder would’ve deterred all potential music pirates.
4. Hold You Tight – Tara Kemp
If Jeff hadn’t dug this song out of the Cassingle Vault last year at Jefitoblog, I wouldn’t even know who Tara Kemp is. “Hold You Tight” completely passed me by in ’91, as did Kemp’s follow-up, “Piece of My Heart,” which also reached the top ten. Jeff guessed that crafty marketing, or possibly payola, had something to do with Kemp hitting the upper reaches of the Top 40 twice in ’91 and then dropping out of sight soon after. All I know is that “Hold You Tight” wasn’t on my radar in ninth grade, and it’s not making an impression on me 17 years later, although Kemp’s voice isn’t bad for a blue-eyed soul singer along the lines of Teena Marie. And luckily there isn’t a new-jack-swing-era rap in the middle of the song to gum up the works, although maybe that would’ve made “Hold You Tight” at least a little easier to remember …
Girl, just let me hold you tight
I’ll tuck you into bed late at night
And once you’re 15 maybe we can get together
I’ll help you graduate to chains and leather
Whips, that is, or do you think I’m bluffin’
Girl, I can’t wait to put my mouth on your muffin
Whaaaaaaaa?! How dare you, R.! I gave you control of this Chart Attack! for 30 seconds so you could write a radio-friendly rap, and look what you did! Go to your closet right now. I’ll let you know when dinner’s ready.
I really am sorry about that, everybody. Mr. Kelly is staying with me here at my apartment in Chicago while his new palace in the Gold Coast neighborhood is being finished. Apparently some of the gold in his throne only had 23 karats and had to be sent back to the Gold Store (their motto: “We sell gold”) for an upgrade.
3. I’ve Been Thinking About You – Londonbeat
Fine Young Cannibals … are … back!!!
Wait, no they’re not. But it sounded like they were for about a minute, didn’t it? Like that group, Londonbeat was based in England, though two of its members were American and one was from Trinidad. “I’ve Been Thinking About You” went to #1, but along the lines of Gerardo’s career, Londonbeat was a one-hit wonder with only one other Top 40 hit that no one seems to remember. I do like their one hit’s surf-guitar solo and the chorus’s “sha-bow-bow!” coda, though.
As for Fine Young Cannibals, I’m pretty sure they never officially broke up, just like the Police, so I’m hoping they’ll announce a world reunion tour, just like the Police, any day now. Some of you who read Chart Attack! on a regular basis wouldn’t give a kidney or even your best-looking testicle to any of the Cannibals. I know Jason wouldn’t. There’s some real hate for these guys, and I’m not sure why. Was it frontman Roland Gift’s falsetto? Or was it his high voice? Maybe it was his upper register? The list of possibilities goes on and on …
2. Baby Baby – Amy Grant (download)
It took a while to find an undeniably great pop single on this list, but here it is — Amy Grant’s #1 hit from her album Heart in Motion. (She first reached #1 in ’86 with “The Next Time I Fall,” a duet with Peter Cetera.) Everything about this song works, from the have-it-both-ways lyrics — Grant says it’s about her daughter Millie, who was born in 1989, but it is a pop song, so you’re not crazy if you think it’s about romance ‘n’ love ‘n’ stuff — to the synthesizer-heavy production to the sparkling “stop for a minute” part in each verse that glides the listener into the chorus. The last minute of the song mellows out a tad thanks to some nice Michael McDonald-ish backing vocals.
“Baby Baby” was recently discussed in Chartburn, and I wrote about Grant’s “Good for Me” in my first Chart Attack! last year. She squeezed five singles out of Heart in Motion, four of which went top ten. Does that sort of thing happen anymore? I know there’s lots of gloom ‘n’ doom being predicted these days about the future of the album as a delivery format for music, but I already miss the days of albums that were loaded with hit singles. That era won’t come back, but last September when I bought Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, it was nice to remember a time when artists like Janet and her brother (I refuse to say “no, not Tito” here) and George Michael could produce one great single after another, making their albums look like ready-made greatest-hits collections. Even an album like Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., which wasn’t constructed to be a hit factory, cranked out one top-ten hit after another over the course of a year and a half.
We haven’t reached the #1 song yet on this list, but I’m going to go ahead and declare “Baby Baby” the best song in the Top 40 for the week of April 20, 1991. You wanna challenge that statement? Go ahead — Amy Grant and I have God on our side.
1. You’re In Love – Wilson Phillips
Yep, I was right — “Baby Baby” is much better than this song. But “You’re in Love” does have a nice sentiment, much like Bill Withers’s “I Wish You Well” or the Spinners’ “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” which are the first songs of this lyrical kind that come to mind. The sentiment, loosely translated, is: “Hi, ex-boyfriend, it’s been a while since we last talked. What’s that? You’re dating again? Oh … oh, wow … I mean, good for you. No, seriously, that’s great. I’m really happy for you. And you say you’re in love with this girl? I see. Youwereneverinlovewithmeyousonofa— No, I’m not muttering under my breath. Can you hear me now? Bad connection, I guess. Well, I’m really happy for you, because everyone should fall in love, and even though it didn’t work out between us all those years ago, I always wanted you to be happy. So, how did you meet this girl? … At a high school football game? Wait, how old is she? … Fifteen?!”
R. Kelly, you are incorrigible! “You’re in Love” was Wilson Phillips’s third #1 single and fourth top-ten hit from their 1990 self-titled album (“The Dream Is Still Alive” made it to #12 in the summer of ’91). These days Wendy is a mother of four, Carnie’s a lot thinner, and Chynna still has to deal with Caddyshack II being on her acting resumé. Hold on for one more day, Chynna, and maybe IMDB will accidentally erase it from your page!
Thanks for letting me house-sit, Jason. By the way, I’d be happy to come back and fix some commas here and there if you don’t mind— … or not. Whichever. I’ll go now. Bye, everyone!