Monday, October 11, 2010

Music of 1990: September

Late again with this...but I promise to finish out the year. I guess I'm not really that excited about September. None of the month's #1 hits rank among my favorites from the year, although there are a few interesting hits from this month.

United States

The month's biggest hit was "Blaze of Glory," Jon Bon Jovi's solo single. It's his only #1 or even top 10 hit as a soloist. The song is from the soundtrack to Young Guns II, which, like Madonna's I'm Breathless album, features songs both "from" and "inspired by" the film. It's apparently aimed at re-creating the flavor of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive," although I think "Blaze of Glory" is better.

Wilson Phillips followed up their #1 hit "Hold On" with a second #1, "Release Me," making them the first act to score a second #1 hit in 1990 (Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey would also do so). "Release Me" is less bouncy than "Hold On," but otherwise it's similarly adult-oriented mid-tempo harmonic pop. It was actually a bigger hit at top 40 radio than "Hold On," which actually wasn't a #1 there, while "Release Me" spent 3 weeks atop the radio pop chart and 2
weeks at #1 on the Hot 100.

Also scoring their second major hit of the year was trio Bell Biv Devoe. "Do Me!" hit #2 in September, charting higher than their previous single, "Poison," although I think most people would consider "Poison" to be their bigger hit. I've actually always liked this better, despite how its overtly sexual tones sound quite immature by today's standards. This was the last major hit from the former New Edition members, who would go on to have a few more top 40 hits, but none were nearly as big as their first two.

Girl groups were a dime a dozen in 1990. Seduction, Cover Girls, Expose, En Vogue, Wilson Phillips...etc. Apart from Wilson Phillips, the only other one to score a #1 hit was Sweet Sensation. "If Wishes Came True" sounds really quite unremarkable to my ears now. I much prefer the single that preceded it, their remake of The Supremes' "Love Child," which hit #13. "If Wishes Came True" was the group's third and final top 40 single. Way to go out with a bang!

The month's final #1 hit (there were 4) was Nelson's "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," the single from the duo with the long blond locks whose sibling Tracy starred on the hit TV show Father Dowling Mysteries (a favorite in my house at the time). This is serviceable pop rock masquerading as "hair band" music. Before you label them one-hit wonders, consider that they had a top 10 hit following this, "After the Rain," (#6), plus two others that reached the top 40 in 1991.

Speaking of hairbands, here's one with a little more credibility. Poison are best known for their #1 hit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," but the band had other hits include two top 5 singles in 1990. The first of which, "Unskinny Bop," was the first single from their album Flesh & Blood, which the band recorded live. It's got a great bassline and a ridiculous although catchy lyric. I mean, just what is an "unskinny" bop? The fat dance? Poison member Bret Michaels managed to achieve quite a bit of notoriety this year due to his health scare and appearances on reality shows American Idol and America's Got Talent.

MC Hammer followed his massive hit "U Can't Touch This" with the amazingly subdued "Have You Seen Her," a rap remake of the Chi-Lites #3 hit from 1971. Most rap songs popular at the time sound a lot like dance pop, so this ballad was a bit of an outlier. "Have You Seen Her" hit #4.

Between his Batman soundtrack and the hit-filled album Diamonds and Pearls, Prince made another movie, Graffiti Bridge, a sequel to Purple Rain and Prince's fourth movie after Under the Cherry Moon and Sign 'o' the Times. The movie may have been a dud, but it produced a decent top 10 hit, "Thieves in the Temple," one of Prince's darker songs.

I imagine New Kids on the Block didn't intend "Tonight" to be a swan song, but it's really quite perfect for it, given that the song was their last top 10 hit while paying homage lyrically to many of their others: "Remember when I said girl please don't go and how I'd be loving you forever. Taught you 'bout hanging tough as long you got the right stuff." It's also a pretty unusual song, with a changing tempo that slows down for the strings-backed versuses and speeds up for the choruses. In a way, it was a pretty gutsy release as boyband singles go, certainly one of their most interesting, even if it's not remembered as one of their biggest. "Tonight" peaked at #7 and was their ninth consecutive top 10 hit. They would have one more top 20 single a few years later, "If You Go Away," their last major hit until their 2008 reunion gave them an 11th top 40 hit, "Summertime."

Also making the top 10 in September 1990 were rock band Faith No More's "Epic" and Johnny Gill's "My, My, My," his smooth R&B follow-up to his #3 hit "Rub You The Right Way." It was his last top 10 hit.

United Kingdom

Lots of songs made the top 10 in the UK in September, but I'm going to talk about a few of them.

Maria McKee's "Show Me Heaven" reached #1 the last week of September and stayed there for 4 weeks, one of eight singles to stay that long at #1 in 1990 (only Elton Johns' 5-week run with "Sacrifice" was longer). This is far and away the biggest hit for the American singer, who's never had a top 40 hit in her native country. The song is from the soundtrack to Days of Thunder, the first of several movies Tom Cruise and his ex-wife Nicole Kidman collaborated on.

Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" was a #1 hit in the US in 1974. Sixteen years later it also topped the UK chart after appearing in a Levi's commercial. In fact, it was a hit all over Europe in 1990. The song would resurface again in 2001 as a sample in Shaggy's #1 hit "Angel."

Deee-Lite hit #2 with "Groove Is In the Heart," which would also be a top 10 hit in the US later in the year, reaching #4. It was the group's biggest pop hit, paired with "What Is Love." It was also a #1 hit on the American dance chart, their first of six dance chart-toppers.

Scottish pop group Deacon Blue's EP Four Bacharach and David Song spent 2 weeks at #2 with its track "I'll Never Fall Love Again" getting the most airplay.

Other top 10 hits from the month:

Betty Boo's "Where Are Baby" hit #3.
KLF hit #5 with "What Time Is Love."
The Farm's "Groovy Train" hit #6.
Adamski hit #7 with "The Space Jungle."
Snap's "Cult of Snap" hit #8
Jason Donovan hit #9 with "Rhythm of the Rain"

And if that's not all...New Kids' "Tonight" (mentioned above) peaked at #3. George Michael's "Praying for Time" hit #6 (I'll talk about that in October for the US). Jive Bunny and the MasterMixers "Can Can You Party" reached #8. And Mariah Carey's "Vision of Love" hit #9. Whew.


Paul said...

I loved Wilson Phillips Hold On, but Release Me took it to a whole new obsession. Love how the radio edit gave it this very final abrupt ending. Was heavenly. With you also on Sweet Sensation. Love Child was the superior song. Weirdly that's remained one of my fave albums of the 90s. That and Karyn White's debut!

ww_adh said...

I agree the radio edit is better. It gets rid of the unnecessary intro too. Although I do enjoy "Release Me,"I think "Hold On" is the better song. You're probably the only person on the planet that would consider Sweet Sensation's album a '90s classic (one of the reasons why you're so awesome).

John said...

I just sat through the entire video of "Tonight". Painful.

Out of all the songs mentioned, the most memorable for me was "Groove Is In the Heart". Good grief, that was my senior year of college. Has it really been that long?

ww_adh said...

"Groove Is in the Heart" was a pretty good song, although I recently got the album, and can't say I like the whole thing.