Hi-Five – I Like the Way (The Kissing Game) (1991)
I’m not sure about this song.
For one thing, I’m not sure why I have this cassingle. I do remember “I Like the Way (The Kissing Game)” (download), as I’m sure do many of you, but every part of me strains against the notion that I would have purchased it. This song sounds like Structure sweaters and Beverly Hills, 90210, two things I’ve never had much patience for, but I have the sinking feeling that if I could travel back in time to the summer of 1991, I’d catch myself leaving the store with this, Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It for You),” and Steelheart’s “I’ll Never Let You Go (Angel Eyes)” — 1991, clearly, was the year of the parentheses — and I would need to kick my own ass.
On the other hand, there’s something undeniably charming about “summer love” numbers — they offer instant nostalgia, and nostalgia, like cocaine, is a helluva drug; it’s what enables every woman I know, even today, to accept John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as singing, dancing high school students. Hi-Five must have known this; it’s the best explanation for the Ferris wheel motif in the song’s video. And it worked — “I Like the Way” went all the way to #1 on the pop and R&B charts.
Not that anybody cares, or cared even then, but here are a few facts about Hi-Five:
1. They came from Waco, before Waco was synonymous with religious sects and death.
2. One of the group’s original members was named Roderick “Pooh” Clark.
3. This single, like much of the album it came from (although not the B-side, “Sweetheart” [download]), was produced by Teddy Riley — who, in 1990, was at the peak of his powers, and able to take five androgynous-sounding kids from Texas and send them to the top of the charts.
4. Hi-Five is — you guessed it — still around. In 2005, at least a decade after the group disbanded, founding member Tony Thompson recruited four new members to round out the current version of Hi-Five. Thompson, whom you might recall from his charmingly titled solo album Sexsational, issued a new Hi-Five album via his own N’Depth label last year. For some reason, it was not a hit. (It can’t have helped that, when it came time to hire a publicity team, Thompson selected folks with grammar skills rarely seen outside your spam folder. I love this gem from the Hi-Five MySpace page: “Being able to stand the test of time Tony Thompson; once again portrays superior vocal ability, not as a teenager, but as a grown man with a point to prove.”)
Still, though, you’ve got to be impressed with the official Hi-Five website.
All kidding aside, it’s got to really suck having to sing this song at every gig you do — particularly 16 years after the fact, when you’re probably stuck playing bingo emporiums and cattle-branding festivals, and especially since, with every passing year, “The Kissing Game” sounds just a little bit creepier, like something a gross uncle or priest in a made-for-TV movie would want to play (and yet, still better than Sexsational). Let this be a lesson to all you wannabe stars and starlets out there: Put down the hairbrush, step away from the mirror, and do your goddamn homework. Sometimes, kids, a college education is better than a #1 single.