Dave: “Never trust a big butt and smile.” Has there ever been a statement so true? And this coming from three dudes that sang “Mr. Telephone Man.” I love the fact the Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe pushed themselves into a new genre, getting rid of the squeaky clean New Edition lyrics and coming out hard. There were so many generic New Jack Swing artists that it was exciting to hear someone really extend the genre a bit.
Will: And yet it bears remembering that while New Edition graduates Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant were able to make solo careers for themselves, these three guys needed to team up to create a viable musical product. And the key word here is definitely “product,” since no-one in the trio had the first thing to do with writing this song. Instead, they turned to new jack swinger-for-hire Elliot Straite, who would soon go on to provide another band (Color Me Badd) with their signature song (“I Wanna Sex You Up”).
Dave: Tick-tock, you donâ€™t stop, do you, Will? If this is what you are defining as â€œproductâ€ then Bobby Brown and Ralph Tresvant wouldnâ€™t have had careers either. Tresvantâ€™s hit â€œSensitivityâ€ was a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis track and last time I checked they were still recycling the same old Rhythm Nation sound. And Babyface and L.A. Reid wrote a nice chunk of Bobbyâ€™s hits as well. You canâ€™t really blame them for going and getting a hit record now, can you? What makes â€œPoisonâ€ so fresh sounding in the New Jack Swing genre is that Teddy Riley didnâ€™t write it. And what makes a solo career so much better than a group? Bobby and Ralph were the cute lead singers of New Edition so they were naturals to go solo. Ronnie, Ricky and Mike were clearly the 3, 4 & 5 â€“ so they had a much better chance together. Besides, both Ronnie and Mike are weird looking dudes â€“ at least Ricky gave them something for the ladies to look at. Iâ€™d do the same exact thing if I could lay low, getting paid and laid like the East Coast Family.
Will: Oh, was Ricky the one the ladies were looking at? And all this time I thought they were looking for a mellow fellow like DeVoe. My bad.
Will: In 1989, Alice Cooper was coming off a pretty rough period of his career, at least as far as his popularity was concerned. If it wasnâ€™t for the moderate success of his theme song for Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives, â€œHeâ€™s Back (The Man Behind The Mask),â€ his mid-â€˜80s albums on MCA would likely only be remembered for the bit of trivia that Cooperâ€™s bassist at the time was none other than Kip Wingerâ€¦and, man, when the most memorable thing about your record is Kip Winger, thatâ€™s just sad. In 1989, however, Cooper â€“ not exactly the least likely person to sell his soul to the Devil â€“ decided to team up with the one and only Desmond Child, and after presumably signing a contract in blood, the two joined forces with John McCurry and composed the song that would tie with â€œSchoolâ€™s Outâ€ as the most successful single of his career. Itâ€™s an unabashedly commercial track, but itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s that much change to Aliceâ€™s vocal methods; Cooper sneers his way through the verse in his inimitable manner, and the harmonies in the multi-key chorus positively kick-ass. Say what you want about Child, Mr. Steed, but he did right by Cooper on this number.
Dave: I give you props for pointing out that Kip Winger played with him in the ’80s. Once you bring that up, anything after it looks like it’s dipped in gold. But handle “Poison” with care because inside that gold is still diarrhea searching for a crack. I fully admit that trying to picture the girl with the black lace and lips so hot gives me a slight chubb here, so the song has something going for it, but to me this is still a track from a man that’s lost himself. There’s no grit, no edginess, no rawness to this or any track on his album Trash. I’m sure it was tough for Alice to go almost a full decade unnoticed but this is just throwing his arms up and telling people to buy him a new career. It’s so far from “School’s Out” or “I Love The Dead” that it feels like a joke. If this was the debut record from Cooper, I probably would have thought it was solid, but compared to his early work he’s just going through the motions at this point.
Will: Iâ€™m not suggesting that listening to â€œPoisonâ€ is a life-changing experience for those whoâ€™ve already had their world rocked by Billion Dollar Babies, but Iâ€™m always understanding of those who discover a classic artist late into the artistâ€™s career, and this song welcomed a whole new generation to Aliceâ€™s nightmare. (On a related note, my 2-year-old recently watched Cooperâ€™s appearance on â€œThe Muppet Show: Season 3â€ and totally dug it.) Plus, getting a new audience gave Cooper the chance to continue recording, producing such classics asâ€¦well, actually, this isnâ€™t the appropriate forum for me to defend â€œFeed My Frankenstein,â€ so I guess thatâ€™ll have to wait for another day.
Last episode, Jeff Giles and Jon Cummings faced off in the Tunnel of Love, and Jon was the one to emerge with lipstick on his collar, as Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love” seduced 61% of the voters. Join us again in two weeks, as Zack Dennis confronts his darker half on the subject of Evil Twins.