Wilson began her career with a huge backing group dubbed the “Wilsations”, including three male background singers who had the nelliest, campiest choreography ever. Mari notched a couple chart hits in the U.K. and MTV put the “Just What…” video in light rotation, where I sat waiting to see it for hours and hours, alongside the video for Tears For Fears’ “Pale Shelter” after my best friend Brandon claimed he saw once and I refused to believe him (he was right, by the way). There, tucked between such videos as Planet P “Why Me?” and Rod Stewart “Baby Jane” came Mari, all sixties girl group glam and lush production, belting a Bacharach-ish tune with electronic drums. Heaven.
Wilson’s “Show People” album was packed with such treasures, but the highlight was probably her version of “Cry Me a River”, where she very nearly ditched all the camp novelty aspects of her act and gave a stirring, moody performance. It’s quite lovely and pointed toward her future career as a smooth-jazz performer. A few more singles, a cameo in the Soft Cell video for “What!”, a record label dispute and one final jazzy album in 1991 followed, then the quiet life until this month, when Mari released her first album in 15 years, “Dolled Up”.
VH1 Classic rolls the “Just What I Always Wanted” video here and there, so if you get the chance, definitely check it out.
You can find some more recent Mari Wilson CDs here, and one compilation of her new wave era songs, but don’t have a coronary when you see the price tag.
”Just What I Always Wanted” failed to chart in 1983.
“Cry Me a River” was not released as a single in the U.S.