Thursday, November 25, 2004

"Closer Than Close," Jean Carne (8/2/86)
This dreadful "retro"-styled dreck wouldn't even pass muster on a smooth jazz station these days. Vile balladry. D-

"Rumors," Timex Social Club (7/19/86)
How the hell did they get that "tastin' her juice" line on the radio, let alone to the top of the charts? This is the epitome of mediocrity - they were no Club Nouveau, in both bad and good ways, that's for sure. C

"Who's Johnny," El DeBarge (7/12/86)
After two previous #1s with his siblings in DeBarge, El hit the top for his first (and only solo) time with the theme from, yup, Short Circuit. I was dreading writing about this, but was shocked to realize that this isn't an awful record. In fact, it's awfully entertaining in a "Sussudio" kind of way, all all-too-perky-'80s for its own good, with somewhat bizarre lyrics. And musically, the intro and bridges are perky in a good way. Not great by any means, but likely not as bad as you think you remember. B-

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)," Billy Ocean (6/28/86)
I've said that Ocean could do better and worse than "Caribbean Queen." This would be the worse. D+

"Nasty," Janet Jackson (6/14/86)
Jimmy "Jam" Harris and Terry Lewis may never top Control. Why? Because it's so fucking good, as "Nasty" (completed by Janet's fierce, fresh vocal) perfectly exemplifies. A

"On My Own," Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald (5/17/86)
This one's got two major things going for it: one, the what-genius-thought-of-this? pairing of LaBelle and McDonald, and two, that "no we're up to talkin' divorce/and we weren't even married" lyric. "On My Own" resonated for its breakup theme, but still succeeds beyond it. Great singers + great song = A-

"I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love," Stephanie Mills (5/3/86)
There are few divas I love more passionately than Stephanie Mills, as I've discussed elsewhere. And the reason is that, frankly, most of her catalog is still fucking classic (well, that and the fact that her voice is still a wonder: check '99's "Latin Lover," produced by Masters at Work, or for that matter much of her 2004 album Born for This!). Take this, the start of one of the biggest comebacks of the '80s - though most of white America didn't notice. In the previous five years, Mills had only hit the top ten of the R&B charts once (with '84's "The Medicine Song," which only made it to #65 pop). But it all changed with "Respect," the first of five #1s she'd have over the next three-and-a-half years. On this carefully understated midtempo ballad, Mills coos, the backing girls do their thing, and - this is crucial - the bass pops like it was lifted from a Gap Band record. All of these ingredients lift up the best "I was a fool, but I learned" lyric since Diana Ross's "The Boss" back in '79. Triumphant. A

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