Hello, everyone, and welcome back as we begin a new year of CHART ATTACK! In truth, I only really missed one week, as the Billboard charts don’t publish the last week of the year. Yeah, yeah, no excuse, I know. So let’s cut right to the chase, and check out the charts from January 5, 1991!
10. I’m Your Baby Tonight – Whitney Houston Amazon iTunes
9. The First Time – Surface Amazon iTunes
8. Sensitivity – Ralph Tresvant Amazon iTunes
7. Love Will Never Do (Without You) – Janet Jackson Amazon
6. Impulsive – Wilson Phillips Amazon iTunes
5. Tom’s Diner – D.N.A. Featuring Suzanne Vega Amazon iTunes
4. High Enough – Damn Yankees Amazon iTunes
3. From A Distance – Bette Midler Amazon iTunes
2. Because I Love You (The Postman Song) – Stevie B. Amazon iTunes
1. Justify My Love – Madonna Amazon iTunes
10. I’m Your Baby Tonight – Whitney Houston Nearly three years had passed between Houston’s second and third albums (brilliantly titled, respectively, Whitney Houston and Whitney). The first two had been massive, massive hits – her second album was the first by a female artist to debut at #1, and featured a then record-breaking seven #1 hits – and the pressure was on Houston to not only deliver a matching third album, but an album that featured more of an R&B flavor than her lightly-criticized previous two pop records. Enlisting L.A. Reid and Babyface to produce the entire record, I’m Your Baby Tonight definitely had an R&B feel (albeit light R&B), and the title track did reach #1 – thankfully for Houston – but the record didn’t match expectations, with only three singles reaching the Top 10. Luckily, Houston bounced back the following year with The Bodyguard soundtrack. Time will tell if 2007 becomes another comeback year.
9. The First Time – Surface Talk about light R&B: it doesn’t get any lighter than this, although to be fair, it’s no different from the other R&B songs on the charts (including this top 10) at the time. I don’t even recall this song being a hit. The only Surface song I remember is "Shower Me With Your Love," also in the "let’s sound really sensitive and maybe we’ll get laid" vein. You wanna hear sensitive? Check out the lead line in the chorus: "The first time I looked into your eyes, I cried." Now picture Ol’ Dirty Bastard releasing that as a single. Still, let’s give credit where credit is due: "The First Time" stayed at #1 for two weeks, which beats out "I’m Your Baby Tonight."
8. Sensitivity – Ralph Tresvant Speaking of sensitive…damn, these songs are R&B Mellow Gold, fer chrissakes. Despite having a fantastic voice, Tresvant has been one of the least successful New Edition graduates. (That’s him singing lead on songs like "Candy Girl" and "Cool It Now.") Clearly unsure about what success might follow outside New Edition, hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis essentially held Tresvant’s hand through his eponymous solo debut. They did great work, as "Sensitivity" peaked at #4 and topped the R&B charts. Two other R&B charters followed, but nobody could accuse the man of being prolific: he released his second album in 1994, and 12 years passed until the release of the third.
7. Love Will Never Do (Without You) – Janet Jackson We spoke briefly of the massive success of Rhythm Nation 1814 back in CHART ATTACK! #6, when we covered the lead-off single, "Miss You Much." This time, we’re covering the end of this specific reign, as this single was her seventh and final top-five hit from the album. While it seems second-nature to view Jackson as a sex symbol, remember that in this point of her career, she was still an innocent. Her previous album included the abstinence ballad "Let’s Wait Awhile," and RN 1814 was an album that spoke more of societal problems within the world. I don’t think anybody would hear this song and think it’s "sexy" – it’s more "fun" like previous hits "When I Think Of You" and "Escapade" – but yet, it became the first time she was publicly viewed as an artist embracing her sexuality. You can thank the late, great photographer Herb Ritts for that one, who created a beautiful video featuring both sides of her persona – the fun and the sexy.
6. Impulsive – Wilson Phillips Let’s give it up for Wendy Wilson – the hottest member of the group, IMHO – singing lead on this one. Oh, let’s also give it up for yet another Wilson Phillips song that’s a terrible earworm. What, am I the only one who heard this one too many times and wound up singing it without realizing it? Just be thankful I’m not offering it for download. You’d be pissed. "Impulsive" peaked at #4, but I think the only reason it didn’t hit #1 is because the buying public liked the blonde one better.
5. Tom’s Diner – D.N.A. Featuring Suzanne Vega (download) I pride myself on knowing this song well before the remix became a hit. Around the time of its initial release (on Vega’s 1987 release Solitude Standing), a syndicated radio program entitled "Kids America" would play it all the time. I was a big "Kids America" fan, who would often play the parody version "Jeannie’s Diner" immediately following Vega’s version.
The D.N.A. version was a mashup of "Tom’s Diner" and the drum sample from Soul II Soul’s "Back To Life," and was an unofficial (and illegal) underground release. As the song gained popularity, A&M (Vega’s record label) made an unprecedented move: instead of suing the artists for copyright infringement, they embraced the version and released it on their label. It’s hard to imagine that a record label could be so fucking smart, isn’t it? The D.N.A. version went on to become a massive hit, peaking here at #5 and essentially becoming Vega’s biggest-selling hit. In 1991, Tom’s Album was released, containing 13 tributes to the tune. You can hear a number of them in Coverville 131: Tom’s Coverville.
There are a couple of additional interesting facts about "Tom’s Diner," which I won’t get into here, but can be found via the following links: Tom’s Diner Day, which uses
scary, stalker-like brilliant deduction to conclude that the song must have been written on November 18, 1981, and Suzanne Vega: Mother of the MP3, which reveals that audio engineer Karlheinz Brandenburg used "Tom’s Diner" repeatedly to fine-tune the audio quality involved in the MP3 compression scheme.
4. High Enough – Damn Yankees (download) YES! (pumps fist triumphantly.) I loved this song from the minute I heard it – and when I heard it, I knew nothing about the group or its history. You know, how Damn Yankees was a supergroup consisting of Jack Blades from Night Ranger, Tommy Shaw from Styx, Ted Nugent from…um…"Wang Dang Sweet Poontang," and some random drummer. Okay, it was Michael Cartellone, who now plays with Skynyrd and apparently once recorded with Freddie Mercury (which is interesting, since most of Freddie’s solo stuff used drum machines, but whatever). But back to the point: I didn’t know anything about them. Here’s what I thought as I eagerly plunked down my money for the cassingle:
1) Great verse!
2) Wow, great lead-in to the chorus, too!
3) Awesome chorus!
4) Hey, isn’t this Nelson?
5) (Looking at Shaw’s haircut) This IS Nelson!
The late ’80s/early ’90s were the defining years of the rock power ballad (the monster ballad, if you will), and "High Enough" is a classic. It’s got acoustic guitar, a great duet vocal, strings, and an anthemic chorus. Plus, there’s The Nuge rippin’ it on electric guitar. And what about that video? Nearly everybody’s in sunglasses (except the drummer, because who cares) that are unique yet equally unfashionable today, and there’s big hair. Shaw’s perm (with bangs!) front and center, y’all![youtube]cmOi87Hd440[/youtube]
I love Nuge in the video. All he cares about is chewing gum. You can tell he’s not behind the project, he just wants to rock. (Hmmm…kind of like Shaw after Kilroy Was Here?) There’s also some plot to the video, but I ignored it. Also, I was blinded by Nuge’s ski glasses.
I like saying Nuge. Nuge, Nuge, Nuge.
Thanks to a great song, a frequently-played video and some patriotism surrounding the band due to the Gulf War, "High Enough" peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was enough for Shaw to say "Take THAT, you Styx pussies!"…at least until "Show Me The Way" matched it 2 months later.
On a side note, did anybody go to see Charlotte’s Web? I hear Tommy Shaw has a cameo. I’m serious. It’s on the Internet. It must be true.
3. From A Distance – Bette Midler If you’re around your late 20s/early 30s, then there’s a good chance you sang this in your school chorus. What? You didn’t? Oh, lucky you. Because we sang this one for what seemed like months and months. A "From A Distance" marathon. (Mike, who shared in the suffering, insists we also did "Just Once," but I don’t remember it – which is a shame, because that would have rocked.) This was quite a successful time for Midler, as I’m sure you remember: "Wind Beneath My Wings" (a cover) was her first #1 in 1989, and "From A Distance" (a cover) reached #2 in the last few weeks of December. Like "High Enough" before it, it was released at the perfect time: wartime! Hooray!
2. Because I Love You (The Postman Song) – Stevie B. You’re forgiven if you don’t remember Stevie B. But I bet you remember this song. I was going to offer it for download, but it’s three minutes of your life you’d never have back, and I don’t want you to blame me for that. You can listen to a sample, as always, in the Top 10 above.
For a man with only one real smash hit to his name, Stevie B. has certainly been prolific: he’s had 13 songs in the Hot 100, including three Top 20 singles. I still maintain, however, that if you’re going to remember anything, it’s this short, sappy pop/R&B ballad. The first line of the song is: "I got your letter from the postman just the other day/and so I decided to write you this song," which apparently was enough for him to subtitle it "(The Postman Song)." The postman, the letter, or the U.S. mail get no further mentions. I don’t understand people sometimes.
1. Justify My Love – Madonna This song? Nothing special. It was written by Lenny Kravitz, Ingrid Chavez and Madonna, although Chavez did not have a credit at the time, supposedly since she was having an affair with Kravitz. (Chavez later sued and received a substantial out-of-court settlement as a result). It has a good beat, and it’s interesting in that Madonna speaks the entire lead vocal, but I don’t think it’s anything spectacular.
However, certainly you remember the controversy over the video being too hot for MTV. One of the few high-profile videos banned by the station, certainly it was the MTV publicity (as well as an appearance on "Nightline") that helped propel this to the top of the charts. Madonna did the smartest thing possible, and released it as a video single. I remember the video being stocked at our local corner store, but on the top shelf, above the porn magazines. Well, if you’ve never seen it, now’s as good a time as any.[youtube]_zuoEnf7fto[/youtube]
My favorite version of the video still remains the Saturday Night Live "Wayne’s World" version, which I remember seeing live, and being astounded that they actually landed Madonna for the vignette. I still think it’s amusing, although if you haven’t seen it before, you’ll have to forgive the dated catchphrases.[youtube]_YL5M-TsguA[/youtube]
And that brings us to the end of another Billboard-tastic week! Have a great weekend, and see you next week for another CHART ATTACK!