Hello again, everybody, and welcome to the final CHART ATTACK! of 2009! In case you haven’t noticed, Popdose has been pretty much taken over by horrible, horrible holiday music, and I’m smack in the middle of it. Therefore, I’ll be taking the rest of the year off so I can spend some quality time trying to get all of those crappy tunes out of my head.

So what’s on the table for this week? Well, let’s just say that I already know a few of you aren’t going to like this chart. See, one of my earliest CHART ATTACK! posts covered a week right around this one (featuring three of the songs from this chart), and many considered it to be a terrible week in music. I don’t necessarily agree, but I think it pretty much comes down to age. I was 12 years old when this chart came out, and while I agree that not all these songs are fantastic, most of these are the ones I just found myself surrounded by, both on the radio and on MTV, and so I wound up with a fondness for many of them. Let’s see if you agree or disagree, as we take on December 2, 1989!

10. Poison — Alice Cooper null
9. When I See You Smile — Bad English null
8. Don’t Know Much — Linda Ronstadt (featuring Aaron Neville) null
7. Back to Life — Soul II Soul null
6. Another Day in Paradise — Phil Collins null
5. Love Shack — The B-52’s null
4. Angelia — Richard Marx null
3. (It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me — Paula Abdul null
2. We Didn’t Start the Fire — Billy Joel null
1. Blame It On the Rain — Milli Vanilli null

10. Poison — Alice Cooper

You may be wondering how Alice Cooper managed a comeback on the charts in 1989, seeing as he hadn’t made a dent in the Top 40 since 1980, hadn’t reached the Top 10 since 1977, and had almost died about six times in the ’70s alone. Two words explain the whole thing: Desmond Child. Child is the songwriter behind a million songs that you know like the back of your hand, for better or worse: “Livin’ On a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” are just two of the many hits he’s written (or co-written) for Bon Jovi, but he also wrote smash singles for Aerosmith (“Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” “Brand Tyler is a Very Viable Brand”), Kiss (“I Was Made For Loving You”) and even Ricky Martin (“Living La Vida Loca”). Cooper called on Child to help him produce, co-write and record his first album for Epic, which pretty much explains why the album features Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and everyone in Aerosmith except for Brad Whitford. Poor Brad Whitford. He should start a band with James “J.Y.” Young from Styx.

Peaking at #7, “Poison” was the only single to make any real dent in the charts; two others placed outside the Top 40. It’s a good enough hard rock single, carried by Child’s production (it’s certainly not carried by Cooper’s voice) and I can see how it did well during the late ’80s — however, I have absolutely no recollection of hearing it on the radio at all in 1989 or 1990. In fact, shamefully, enough, the first time I heard the song was at my gym, where they regularly play the cover version by Groove Coverage, a German trance group. That’s the kind of thing I probably shouldn’t be admitting in public.

9. When I See You Smile — Bad English

Speaking of things I shouldn’t admit in public: I love this song. I love it despite the fact that it was written by Diane Warren and that the video features John Waite with an awful, awful haircut. I know it was the style at the time, but man, the late ’80s were not kind to him.


In fact, despite knowing what John Waite looked like from the oft-played “Missing You” video, I found him completely unrecognizable here, and didn’t actually know he was the lead singer of Bad English until sometime this decade. But never mind John Waite and his horrible fashion sense; I still love this song. I think it’s everything a power ballad should be: big keyboards, big drums, big hair (on everybody except John Waite) and, of course, a rockin’ guitar solo (though it’s way too short and doesn’t feature enough shredding). It’s awesome enough that they got away with making the second verse only two lines. Who needs more when you have a kick-ass prechorus on the horizon? And that’s what makes it this week’s Song of the Week!

I’ll mock Diane Warren for a million things, but man, this song said everything I wanted to say to my seventh grade girlfriend. So basically what I’m saying is that if you don’t like this song, you were too old when you first heard it.

8. Don’t Know Much — Linda Ronstadt (featuring Aaron Neville)

In the interest of time, is it okay if I just make this post one word? Because I’m thinking “Blech” might suffice. The song was written by three prolific songwriters: Tom Snow (co-writer of Selena’s “Dreaming Of You” and the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy,” among others) and the husband-wife team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (James Ingram’s awesome “Just Once,” Sergio Mendes’ “Never Gonna Let You Go,” and with Phil Spector, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”). They also co-wrote “Somewhere Out There,” which makes me wonder if that’s how Linda Ronstadt got her hands on it. I’m just looking for someone to blame.

And here’s the worst part: this is a cover! Mann first recorded it himself in 1980, Bill Medley recorded it in 1981 and Bette Midler recorded it in 1983. None of those versions are any good, but I still think this one is the worst, for a few reasons. First of all, it’s so Adult Contemporary that it makes me sick. I wonder if Lite-FM program directors knew they’d be playing this song for 20 goddamn years. Second of all, when did we decide Aaron Neville needed a comeback? And third of all, who thought it was a good idea for him to start a song by singing “Look at this face”? Who wants to look at Aaron Neville’s face? Or for Linda Ronstadt to stare at him and sing “look at these eyes”? DON’T MENTION EYES, LINDA! HE HAS A GIGANTIC MOLE OVER HIS RIGHT ONE! Of course she’s looking at those eyes! What the hell else could she look at? She’s only human!

I normally wouldn’t force you to hear this song again, but I think this video is worth watching. Ronstadt may have won a Tony in 1981, but her acting skills went out the window the day she had to sing “I know I love you” to Aaron Neville. Poor Aaron is doing everything he can to stay fixated on her, and yet she keeps looking away — to the left, to the right, to the camera, to the audience. In Aaron’s defense, he may have just been transfixed by that awful choice of lipstick.

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7. Back to Life — Soul II Soul (download)

Technically, Billboard has the song title incorrect here — “Back to Life” is an acapella song released on Soul II Soul’s first album, Club Classics Vol. 1. Following the surprising success of their previous single “Keep On Movin'” which reached #11, the acapella track was remixed twice — the first simply adds instruments to the acapella version, and the second actually features different lyrics and a new chorus. In order to differentiate it from the album track, “(However Do You Want Me)” was added to the song’s title. So I guess I can’t rail on the parentheses here, huh?

I love this song and think it’s a damn shame that the U.S. didn’t get to hear more from Soul II Soul. I don’t know if I can put my finger on exactly what it is, but I remember finding this track just completely different from all the other dance tracks on the radio. Part of this most likely had to do with the talents of the group’s founder, Jazzie B, and his rotating group of other musicians — including Caron Wheeler, who sings lead on “Back to Life.” The group started as a sound system, and if you’re white and lame like me, you may have no idea what a sound system is. Wikipedia says that a sound system is “a group of DJs and engineers contributing and working together as one, playing and producing music.” So does this make them, like, a group of people who get together and jam? Or does one person bring the turntables and another brings the glow sticks? My lameness knows no bounds.

6. Another Day in Paradise — Phil Collins

Hey everybody, it’s the brand new single from Phil Collins! Good ol’ fun Phil Collins! The man who brought us “Sussudio” and “Don’t Lose My Number” and that awesome “Take Me Home” video where he’s in the limo! He’s so fun! What’s he got up for us next?

Wait, it’s a song about homelessness? BOO!

And who sings backup? David Crosby sings backup? BOOOOOOOO!

Well, maybe it won’t be so bad, ’cause the opening sounds a bit like “In the Air Tonight,” but…wait, those keyboards…crap, it’s Adult Contemporary! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I kid, I kid. “Another Day in Paradise,” though heavy-handed, was a great example of Collins using his megasuperstar status for good and not for evil (that would come with “Dance Into the Light” seven years later). Collins wrote it not only because he had strong feelings about the plight of the homeless, but because he felt it was different than his previous singles and would help shed any preconceived notions the public had about him (y’know, like that he was an Adult Contemporary artist…whoops). He noted that the song was not so much about the homeless but about the public’s willingness to just ignore the problem. Speaking of, I’m not saying Phil Collins is a bad person, but it seems like the logical choice would have been to donate all proceeds from this single to a homeless charity — and as far as I know, that didn’t happen. Huh. Maybe I am saying Phil Collins is a bad person.

The demo of this song was entitled “Homeless” (you don’t say!) and is kind of interesting in its variation — it’s in 6/8 time, and has a stark, ethereal feel.

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“Another Day in Paradise” hit #1 on December 23rd, giving him the last #1 single of the decade, and stayed at #1 until January 13th, giving him the first #1 single of the next decade. It remains his most successful single, winning the Grammy for Record of the Year.

5. Love Shack — The B-52’s

Am I right in thinking that this whole song begins with an unfinished thought? First line of the song: “If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says 15 miles to the Love Shack!” Okay, then what do I do? And don’t try to tell me that it’s connected to the next line, “I’m headed down the Atlanta highway looking for the love getaway,” because then that supposes that every time I see the faded sign, you’re headed down the highway. And that just simply cannot be true. What if I’m looking at the faded sign at 4 AM on a Tuesday in March? Are you suddenly heading down the highway? No, you are not. I cannot make you head down the highway just by looking at a sign. Now, I have a friend who yesterday tried to convince me that what he’s trying to say is “If you see a faded sign by the side of the road, that says 15 miles to the Love Shack!” I don’t buy it. The inflection on the word is incorrect. And if they wanted to tell us that that’s what the sign said, they probably would have used “it.” Plus, my friend is Ukranian, so what the hell does she know about English. Therefore, this song begins with an unfinished thought. I’ve proved my point. (I think these thoughts so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.) Also, while I’ve got your interest piqued (“why the hell has he spent so much time dissecting ‘Love Shack’?”), I’d like to point out that I can totally hear one of the girls screw up right before the breakdown. She starts to sing the word “love,” then catches herself and shuts up — and they didn’t remove it in the studio. Hear it?

If I know my audience, and I think that I do, two of you are impressed and the rest of you are shaking your heads. You only have yourselves to blame; you should know by now this is the kind of stuff I excel at.

Last time I talked about “Love Shack” on CHART ATTACK!, I said I thought the song sucked. And yet since then, I’ve realized that whenever I hear it, I don’t turn it off — despite the fact that I’ve probably heard it at every DJ’d party I’ve ever attended. I almost always sing along, and people always seem to love singing along as well. So maybe I don’t hate this song after all. It’s impossible to hate on the B-52’s. How can you hate on Fred Schneider? He’s the Paul Lynde of music. Plus, the awesome video features Ru Paul, the kick-ass Sara Lee on bass and Zach Alford on drums. Here it is, and by the way, this video is ABSOLUTELY IN ACCORDANCE with fair use standards (Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act).

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4. Angelia — Richard Marx (download)

Do you remember “Angelia”? With six previous singles reaching one of the top 3 spots on the charts, it was Richard Marx’s least successful single to date — and though it sat on the Top 10 for a month, it didn’t even make the year-end Top 100 for either 1989 or 1990. It was a sign that his two-year chart success was starting to fade; he wouldn’t reach the Top 10 again until 1992. That’s not to say he was a slouch, though: with “Angelia,” Marx became the first solo artist to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5.

I know I have a reputation for being a big fan of Richard Marx, so it probably isn’t going to help matters when I tell you I love this song. I like his chord choices, and I especially love the chorus. Granted, a song with this kind of production in 2009 wouldn’t stand a chance (not to mention that cheesy, softcore porn-esque sax solo), and every single person in the video below should be shot, but I’ll still put it up there with my favorite Richard Marx songs. Yes, I have many. Do you have a problem?

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3. (It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me — Paula Abdul

Dammit, this is the second song this week that actually uses parentheses for a valid reason. The song, as it appears on Forever Your Girl, is entitled “The Way That You Love Me.” The “(It’s Just)” was added when the song was remixed and released as her second single, following “Knocked Out.” However, the song bombed on the charts, peaking at #88. However, after “Straight Up,” “Forever Your Girl” and “Cold Hearted” all hit #1, Virgin re-released the single in its original form — and it peaked here at #3. Two videos were released, too, both directed by David Fincher. The first one has lots of heavy-duty choreography and Abdul singing into what appears to be a lectern microphone.

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The second one just features shots of Abdul looking seductive, back when that particular skill was in her wheelhouse (although for my money, her most seductive video is the one for “Promise Of a New Day”), and uses a lot of visuals that Fincher would later mimic in his video for Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love.”

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By the way, if you owned a specific Casio keyboard in the early ’90s, there’s a chance that the demo song was “(It’s Just) The Way That You Love Me.” And tireless researcher that I am — all for you, friends — I found an mp3 of the demo. Seriously. I did. Wheee!

2. We Didn’t Start the Fire — Billy Joel

It wasn’t until I hit my 20s that I figured out that Billy Joel is not universally adored. Growing up middle class on Long Island, one does not have a choice when it comes to Billy Joel: you like his music and you like the fact that he’s likely to shout out the name of a town you know in one of his songs. So I didn’t know of anybody who thought Billy Joel sucked, and I certainly didn’t know anybody who hated “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” And as a 12-year-old, I had a calling — nay, a responsiblity — to my friends, family and community to learn every single word of this song. Whenever I went to someone’s Bar Mitzvah, there was a 95% chance this song would be played, and that the DJ would pass the microphone through the crowd so the kids could sing along. I was one of the few who knew all the lyrics. Again, being a clueless child, I had no idea that this was not a cool thing to do. (And, being a clueless adult now, I still think it’s kind of cool that I knew all the words to both this and the McDonald’s Menu Song. Okay, maybe not “knew.” I still know them all.)

I understand why people don’t like it. I understand that people find it to be just a stupid list of events, separated by Joel renouncing himself and his generation from any blame regarding the problems of the world. All I know is that I still think it’s impressive he came up with all those rhymes, and I know for a fact that I’d still probably have no idea about Walter Winchell, Panmunjom or the Starkweather homicides. Think I’m ignorant? Hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t start the fire. See how I did that?

I’ve always loved Billy Joel’s sense of humor, and he’s a great raconteur to boot. Here are two different interviews where Billy talks about writing “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The first one is more humorous, and the second one goes into more detail about his specific inspiration for the song, followed by a live performance. If you’re not a Billy Joel fan, you can skip down, but be warned, you’re only skipping to Milli Vanilli. Might as well just listen and stick it out, ’cause it’s only going downhill from here.

Billy Joel — History Through Music (live, Princeton University 1994) (download)

Billy Joel — We Didn’t Start the Fire (live, VH1 Storytellers) (download)

1. Blame It On the Rain — Milli Vanilli

Well, I’ve proclaimed my fondness for at least three other largely unpopular songs on this chart, I might as well go the distance and put my vote behind “Blame It On the Rain” as well. It’s not my favorite song and it’s not going on any of my ’80s playlists, but honestly, all the Milli Vanilli songs were pretty well-constructed synth/dance/pop tunes. And if you need further convincing, I have a copy of The Remix Album that I’d be happy to send you (sent to me by none other than my jerkface Editor-in-Chief). “Blame It On the Rain” hit #1 on November 25th, replacing “When I See You Smile” — and both were written by Diane Warren. Warren became the first female solo songwriter to have back-to-back #1 hits. Only one person before her had two solo songwriting back-to-back #1 singles — anybody want to take a guess?

When I hear this song, I recall a parody on the Z100 Morning Zoo, entitled “Blame It On Hussein.” One of the lyrics was “He’s a towelheaded dildo,” and I remember even then being absolutely appalled that they were getting away with saying such a thing on morning radio.

Two weeks ago, Jon Cummings popped in to offer his excellent commentary on “Disco Duck” and its place in pop culture. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that he’s also done an in-depth analysis on the rise and fall of Milli Vanilli, taking special note to cover the (real) group’s career before Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan became MTV darlings/outcasts. Read all about it in Popdose Flashback: Milli Vanilli and the Triumph of Substance, which sounds like it should either be a book or a movie. I’m not sure who’d go to see it other than the people currently reading this post, though.

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…and just like that, we’re at the end of the last CHART ATTACK! for 2009! I know I say it every two weeks, but I really appreciate you taking the time to read my silly posts. It means the world to me. As mentioned, you can find me here every day until Mellowmas; I’ll also be reviewing a few DVDs, appearing on the Popdose Podcast, and offering up some of my favorite (for real!) holiday songs in a couple of weeks. Have a wonderful holiday season and see you in 2010!