If you happen to be somewhere near Uncasville, CT tonight, and you have absolutely nothing better to do with your time, then you’re free to join us. Michael and I are bringing our wives, so if you spot two ladies in the casino weeping about the cruelty of marriage, you know we’re right around the corner. If you can’t make it (lucky you!), you can follow me on Twitter and read my up-to-the-minute recounts of what is sure to be the event of the century evening. I promise to tweet at the very second a tear falls down Jeff’s cheek.
Anyway, on to the chart! Two weeks ago, we covered a summer week in 1974, and I received some very nice comments from people reminiscing of their childhoods. So this is the week where I completely ruin all that nostalgia and hit a current year — well, current for this series, anyway. Here we go, attackin’ August 1, 1992!
10. Wishing On a Star — The Cover Girls Amazon iTunes
9. Giving Him Something He Can Feel — En Vogue Amazon iTunes
8. End of the Road — Boyz II Men Amazon iTunes
7. Life Is a Highway — Tom Cochrane Amazon iTunes
6. November Rain — Guns N’ Roses Amazon iTunes
5. Just Another Day — Jon Secada Amazon iTunes
4. Achy Breaky Heart — Billy Ray Cyrus Amazon iTunes
3. Baby-Baby-Baby — TLC Amazon iTunes
2. This Used To Be My Playground — Madonna Amazon iTunes
1. Baby Got Back — Sir Mix-A-Lot Amazon iTunes
10. Wishing On a Star — The Cover Girls
Here’s the first of three covers on this week’s chart. “Wishing On a Star” was originally recorded by Rose Royce in 1978, though it had very little success in the US — it was the Cover Girls version that has seen the most chart action, peaking at #9. Since then, it’s been covered by a number of artists, most notably BeyoncÃ©. And I don’t understand it at all, because I really find this song terribly boring. If you don’t remember it, don’t worry about it; you’re not missing anything. Besides, everybody knows the Cover Girls’ best song was “Show Me,” followed closely by “Because of You.” These two songs are still played on NY radio all the time. (By the way, that clip of “Show Me” looks like it’s from a local public-access cable channel. Worth watching at least 30 seconds just to see if Robin Byrd is going to show up.)
9. Giving Him Something He Can Feel — En Vogue (download)
I don’t miss most of the artists on this Top 10. I’ll be just fine if I never hear from the Cover Girls again, as well as…hang on, let me count…at least five of the other artists on this chart (unless Sir Mix-A-Lot comes up with something brilliant). But I genuinely miss En Vogue — specfically, I miss En Vogue hanging around on the charts. They’re still together, although you need some kind of graduate degree to figure out the complicated soap opera of who left, who stayed, who re-joined and who didn’t. I can’t think of a popular En Vogue song that I don’t like (though I could do without the “Who’s Loving You” opening to “Hold On,” but that’s a story for another chart). Each of the women had phenomenal voices and impeccable harmonies, and I’m assuming from the live clips I’ve seen that they did most of it without a lot of fancy studio tricks.
“Giving Him Something He Can Feel” is a cover of a Curtis Mayfield song from 1976, composed for the movie Sparkle. Here’s the original from the film, sung by Sister & the Sisters, with Lonette McKee on lead vocal, and Irene Cara and Dwan Smith on backing vocals.
On the soundtrack, however, the song was performed by Aretha Franklin, who took it to #28. En Vogue brought their beautiful version to #6, produced by the group’s creators, Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster, who had previously been members of Club Nouveau and had produced for Timex Social Club and Tony! Toni! TonÃ©!, to name a few.
8. End of the Road — Boyz II Men
Boyz II Men: Great singers, extremely tight harmonies, great feel for R&B, can’t get arrested these days. I don’t know what happened, exactly, although it seems like Motown essentially buried them after conflicts between the label and the group. But back to better times: “End of the Road” was a massive, massive hit. It spent 13 weeks at #1, which broke a record held up until that point by Elvis Presley. Of course, Whitney Houston beat it by a week just two weeks later with “I Will Always Love You,” but Boyz II Men tied it with “I’ll Make Love to You” shortly after. So yeah. Massive hit. It was written by the powerhouse team of Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons, intended for a specific scene in Eddie Murphy’s Oscar-winning Boomerang. (Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.) Babyface considered keeping it for himself, but instead gave it to the guys, who recorded it in under four hours. Reid and Babyface also produced the song, but that doesn’t help me figure out who to blame for the two things that drive me nuts here:
1) The ad-libs. I want to know who specifically approved the ones that come in over the second chorus, somewhere around the three-minute mark. Was Babyface like “You know, just go ahead and sing whatever you’d like over this pretty chorus that I wrote. Sing your laundry list, I don’t care.” But honestly, they’re not really ad-libs, because they’re repeated verbatim in the final chorus. But the ad-libs are going by so fast that I can’t exactly hear who’s saying what and I just become a distracted mess. The only thing I can hear is the “OhmuhGod! Oh my God!” ad-lib, which just strikes me as completely inappropriate.
2) The “spoken word” section. Listen to me carefully, guy with the low voice in Boyz II Men: there is only one man in the entire world who gets to open an ad-lib with a deep “Girl,” and that’s Barry White. I knew Barry White. (Okay, not really, but I saw him in concert and it was awesome.) You, sir, are no Barry White. And have you actually looked at your lyric sheet? Do you see what you’re saying? Here, let me point out a few lines for you.
All those times of night when you just hurt me and just ran out with that other fella…baby, I knew about it. I just didn’t care.
Okay. “Fella”? This isn’t 1935! Why didn’t you start off this section with “dollface” instead of “girl,” then? That’s first. Second, you knew about her cheating but you just didn’t care? This is R&B, guy with the low voice! This isn’t Mellow Gold! Get back to your own genre! And era!
So yeah, that’s what bothers me, and now I’m all worked up and don’t know how I’m going to get to sleep tonight. Here, watch the video while I go get myself a glass of warm milk. OhmuhGod.
I just read the following in their Wikipedia entry: “In 2009, Boyz II Men announced plans for a new cover album, that covers ‘artists I don’t think people would expect us to cover!’ according to Shawn Stockman.” Can Popdose get in on this? Can we make a list of songs for Boyz II Men to cover? Because I want to start with “Detachable Penis” and just go downhill from there. Any Gwar fans in the house? Can we get Boyz II Men to cover some Gwar? OhmuhGod!
By the by, you know what song knocked this one off its #1 perch? “How Do You Talk to An Angel” by The Heights. Har!
7. Life Is a Highway — Tom Cochrane (download)
You will never get me to not like this song. No matter what you say, no matter what you do, it’s not going to change the fact that I think this song is awesome. It does exactly what it sets out to do, which is just be a kick-ass driving song. And I refuse to believe you if you tell me that you’ve never driven down the highway on a summer day and sung the first line of the chorus to yourself. I will be listening to it on the way to Mohegun Sun this afternoon, and I guarantee it’ll be the most rocking I get all day. Which I guess says less about Cochrane than it does about Jack Wagner, but whatever.
If you’re reading this from somewhere in the United States, then this probably is the beginning and end of everything you know about Tom Cochrane. And that makes sense — his only other solo song on the Hot 100 was an appearance at #88 with a song called “Washed Away.” If you’re reading this from Canada, then you probably feel differently. He is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, which is the highest honor a Canadian citizen can receive. He was named an Honorary Colonel by Canadian Air Force. He has an honorary doctorate from Brandon University in Manitoba. He’s received the Canadian Music Industry Humanitarian Award. In September, he will receive a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, and shortly after, he will replace Stephen Harper as the Prime Minister of Canada, and I swear to you that this last fact is the only one I invented out of whole cloth.
So I was doing my research and, after finding out all this information, I couldn’t help but think: “All this for ‘Life Is a Highway’?” (Which is a totally American way to think, but I digress.) No, the man actually has had quite a career in rock n’ roll as the lead singer and frontman for the band Red Rider, a position he has held on and off since 1978. Red Rider made a few dents in the US charts, most notably the Mainstream Rock chart, reaching #11 with “Lunatic Fringe” and “Human Race”, #9 with “Big League,” among others, and I’m sure Dave Steed will be covering their #48 Hot 100 single “White Hot” in a future Bottom Feeders segment. I link to all these songs because I think that if you’re a fan of ’80s AOR rock, you’re probably going to like Red Rider.
I could continue about all the amazing awards Cochrane has won, or talk about his charity work that’s earned him some of the previously mentioned accolades, but instead, I’m going to go listen to “Life Is a Highway” again. You should, too.
6. November Rain — Guns N’ Roses
Here are all the words that Axl Rose rhymes with “rain”: restrained, same, change, pain, refrain, remain, blame, and Lorraine. Wait, not that last one, although if you go back through GN’R history, you’ll find that the song was, at one point, entitled “Sweet Lorraine” and can be found listed as such on a number of mid-’80s vinyl bootlegs. Tracii Guns has claimed that the song was around back when the the two of them were in L.A. Guns together in 1983. Although members of the band (most notably Slash) have commented that the epic song (and subsequent video) represented just how excessive GN’R life had become, I have a hard time arguing against it because I think the song is truly phenomenal. (In my opinion, the definition of excess in this GN’R era is their awful cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” that repeats the chorus approximately 43 times.) After hearing some earlier versions of the song, I’m glad Axl waited until this point in their career to release it, and I think it always deserves to be played in its damn-near-nine-minute version. (Although an edited version was often played on the radio, this song still earns the distinction of being the longest song to reach the Top 10 on these charts.) It’s beautifully arranged and produced. Yes, it’s hard to compare this song — or even this iteration of the band — to most of Appetite, but I still think this song — and maybe “Sweet Child O’ Mine” — remains the ultimate proof of Axl’s power as a writer, and Slash’s power as a virtuoso guitarist.
If you’re interested in finding out more about “November Rain,” you can check out a six-video (!!) series about the making of the song (the first part includes the famous, $1.5 million video), or you can watch the first time they played the Use Your Illusion version live, which is sloppy, but somewhat interesting — if I understand the comments at the end of the video correctly, Slash is pissed at Axl for throwing the band “a fucking curveball” by even playing it in the first place. Or you can watch this version of the song from the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, featuring Elton John for no apparent reason and a chalice on Axl’s piano. A chalice. Forget what I said before, I’m agreeing with Slash; this is excess to the point of stupidity.
My good friend Dori is a huge GN’R fan. I asked her to look through her collection for a good version of “November Rain.” She provided me with this live performance from Japan. It’s almost 15 minutes long (and 17 MB), but it’s great quality. Thanks, Dori!
Guns N’ Roses — November Rain (Live in Japan) (download)
5. Just Another Day — Jon Secada
Jon Secada is boring. I can’t find a damn thing wrong with him. No gay rumors, no racial slurs, no sex videos. The man is just completely inoffensive. Think of any of his hits: “Just Another Day,” “Do You Believe In Us,” “Angel” or “If You Go,” and there’s really nothing wrong with any of them. They’re not bad, they’re just…pleasantly there. And I really can’t tell any of them apart, which is a problem I also have with Gloria Estefan’s ballads. I’m not just randomly mentioning her because she’s another Cuban-American singer — she jump-started Secada’s career when she hired him as a backing vocalist in the late ’80s. He wound up writing a number of songs with her, including her comeback single “Coming Out of the Dark,” and during her subsequent tour, Estefan gave him the spotlight each night to sing one of his solo songs. This just goes to prove my ongoing theory on why Gloria Estefan is so awesome; she’s not only sexy, but she’s generous as well.
But back to this song, I really just can’t find anything wrong with it. Okay, it’s bland, and Secada punches the harmony a little too hard in the chorus when he sings the words “without you,” but I’m nitpicking. It’s Lite-FM crap, but it’s smooth enough.
I’m not quite sure what happened to Jon Secada. Like Boyz II Men, he was huge for a while there, and now, he’s got nothin’ going on. His last album was released in 2007. It was entitled A Christmas Fiesta and holy cow, why have Jeff and I not covered this during Mellowmas? It’s totally on the list for next year.
Here’s the video for “Just Another Day.” Careful, it’s an earworm!
4. Achy Breaky Heart — Billy Ray Cyrus
Who among us didn’t feel some sort of exasperation when noting this song was on this chart? Or, put another way, did any of you go, “Oh, awesome!” when you saw it? Yeah, I didn’t think so. And that’s fair. You are completely justified in hating this song. It brought back line dancing, for crying out loud. But honestly, without all the hype, the song really doesn’t deserve all the hate, nor does Cyrus. Unlike other annoying artists, I don’t feel like Cyrus did anything to intentionally invite criticism. Yeah, there’s a bit of posturing in the video (not embedded here — you’re welcome), but he just comes off as an unintentionally goofy guy pretending to be a sex symbol. I can’t even fault him for the mullet. He just looks like, “…but I didn’t know.” So I’m going to take a surprising route here and leave Cyrus alone. It’s just a stupid, catchy country song that got hyped to all hell.
Unconvinced, huh? Think my defense is full of it? Well, here’s the clincher: March 23, 1993. Bruce Springsteen takes to the stage at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. He plays a solid set, and halfway through, rips open his shirt and busts into “Achy Breaky Heart.” After the show, he says, “Everybody gets a giggle out of it, but that tune is just damn good.” So all of you who worship at the feet of the Boss: suck it!
Cyrus was the second artist to record “Achy Breaky Heart,” after the Marcy Brothers, who released it as “Don’t Tell My Heart” in 1991. It was originally intended for the Oak Ridge Boys, who supposedly rejected it because they didn’t like the words “achy breaky,” which is astonishing for a band who sang “giddy-up-a-oom-papa-oom-papa-mow-mow.”
3. Baby-Baby-Baby — TLC
I admttedly don’t know much about TLC, except that just about every one of their singles are suitable for sexin’ somebody up. “Baby-Baby-Baby” was the second and most successful single from their debut album Ooooooohhh…. On the TLC Tip, and like the Boyz II Men single that kept it from reaching the #1 spot, it was written and produced by Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons. I specifically like the prechorus and the fact that Left Eye doesn’t rap on it. Here’s the video, which is very colorful. That’s all I have to say about this song.
2. This Used To Be My Playground — Madonna
It may be pretty, but this song ties with “Wishing On a Star” as the most boring entry on this chart. It says all it needs to say within the first minute or so, then continues rehashing the same theme; as a result, the song just drags along. I know that it was written specifically to fit in with the film A League of Their Own, and that it’s meant to evoke the feeling of a song from the ’40s, but there were indeed songs released in the ’40s that weren’t boring. (Glenn Miller, anyone?) The only thing I find interesting is that the song, written by Madonna and Shep Pettibone, was one of the last ones recorded during the Erotica sessions. See, I think this song would have been much more interesting if it was accompanied by a video where Madonna slowly thumbs through the pages of her Sex book — like she’s all nostalgic about her time spent with Vanilla Ice. Now that goes somewhere!
1. Baby Got Back — Sir Mix-A-Lot
There’s a story I want to tell here, but it’s vulgar, and I’ve been trying to curb my potty mouth (unsuccessfully) recently, so I shouldn’t tell it.
Okay, I’m going to tell it.
So the details of this story are a little vague, but as I remember, it was a summer in the mid ’90s and my buddies and I were all sleeping over a friend’s house. My friend was the only one of us who had access to the Playboy Channel. We all gathered around to do what many teenage boys do: uncomfortably watch softcore adult cinema together. And there was a show featured on the channel that — how am I going to put this so my mother can still read it? — gave, um, instruction on how to, um, please a female in a certain way. (This is really awkward.) The show, if I remember correctly, was called “How to Something Something” (help me out and use your imagination), and the host was Sir Mix-A-Lot. He was featured holding a fork and a knife and was wearing one of those bibs you get when you order lobster, except instead of a picture of a lobster on the front of the bib, there was a picture of a…I can’t finish this story. All I can tell you is we laughed our asses off. I’ve tried to find supporting evidence of this show on the Internet, and I’m coming up empty, so you’ll either have to take my word for it, or just accept that this story is hugely exaggerated. Either way, I think the bib makes the story, don’t you?
Hang on, my mom’s on the phone. She says I’m grounded. I’m sorry if I offended any of you. I’ll talk about the song now.
With “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-A-Lot joined artists and groups like Fresh Prince, Tone Loc, and Young MC in the “We Make Rap Safe for White People” category. I’d be willing to bet the rap songs performed most often at karaoke bars across the world are “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina,” “Bust a Move,” and “Baby Got Back.” (Whereas I busted out “It’s Tricky” last Friday.)
Mr. Lot (really? Is this what I’m going with?) might be a one-hit wonder (I don’t count his #70 or #97 singles), but this song is so incredibly clever that he deserves more credit than most one-hit wonders.Â Rhyming “Honda” and “Fonda” with “anaconda” is just inspired, in my book. And I think there are enough smart and funny lyrics in this song that you’ll find everybody has a different favorite. I’m actually partial to the spoken “36-24-36? Ha ha, only if she’s 5’3″!” line. And believe it or not, Sir Lot (I’m reaching here) wasn’t really in favor of it being released as a single — he credits his manager and Def American’s Rick Rubin with pushing for it. The video was briefly banned by MTV, which of course, made radio flock to it, and brought the single to #1 for a full five weeks. So you can thank Rick Rubin, Master Lot! And you too, Jonathan Coulton!