Sunday, December 05, 2010

Music of 1990: November

United States

Proving she wasn't a flash-in-the-pan, Mariah Carey followed up her August #1 hit, "Vision of Love," with a second #1 in November that was just as big. The single was a more conventional pop ballad, and spent 3 weeks at #1. Of course, pop music history followed, with two more #1 hits from her debut in 1991, plus a fifth #1 hit, the first of her second album, "Emotions." Since then, Carey has become the most successful charting female pop artist in history with an impressive total of 18 #1 hits to date.

November's other #1 hit was a bit of a novelty, although if you were in junior high at the time (like me), you'd have not thought that, since teens (at least white suburban teens) were devouring "Ice Ice Baby" like it was the best thing of the year. Vanilla Ice really was the flash-in-the-pan of the moment, with this David Bowie-sampling single now remembered as one of the '90s worst guilty pleasures. Don't call him a one-hit-wonder though: the follow-up single, "Play that Funky Music," was a top 5 hit in early 1991. He even got some play time with Madonna, appearing in her 1992 picture book, Sex.

MC Hammer scored his third and highest-charting hit single with "Pray," which spent 2 weeks at #2. I liked this single a lot, especially the remix that was also frequently played on the radio. I wish I could find it for sale, but alas, only the original version is on iTunes (hear the remix in the video clip below). Hammer would score two more top 10 hits from his second album released a year later ("2 Legit 2 Quit" and "Addams Groove"), but after that he faded away fast.

Canadian hair band Alias had their first and only major hit in November, hitting #2 with ballad "More than Words Can Say." Despite this fairly limited success, the members of the band were no strangers to the spotlight. Two of its members came from the then-defunct band Sheriff, which had disbanded in the mid-'90s, but generated renewed interest when, in 1989, their 6-year-old single "When I'm with You" became a #1 hit. Taking advantage of the moment, two members of Sheriff teamed up with some former founding members of Heart to create Alias.

New York dance act Deee-Lite were dance club fixtures in the early '90s, scoring several #1 dance hits. One of those singles, "Groove Is in the Heart," was a also a major pop hit, reaching #4 in November. It was also a #2 hit in Britain. Although officially a double-A side release with "What Is Love," only the former was a true pop hit. They would have none others.

Also reaching the top 10 in November were hip-hop act Candyman with "Knockin' Boots," hair band Warrant with "Cherry Pie," and R&B trio Tony! Toni! Toné!, who scored their first of four top 10 hits with "Feels Good." They'd have their biggest hit a few years later with "If I Had No Loot," followed closely by "Anniversary," but wouldn't score their most recent top 10 hit until just 6 years ago when they appeared on Alicia Keys' single "Diary."

United Kingdom

Last month I wrote about The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" in the US. It was an even bigger hit in the UK, spending the entire month of November at #1. Although it was the biggest song to make a return to the charts in November 1990, it wasn't the only one. Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" was a #1 hit in the US in 1986. Although a great song, the fact that it was featured in the hit movie Top Gun helped it along. In the UK; however, it wasn't a big hit, with the single hitting #52 in 1998. Then in November 1990, Top Gun aired on television, prompting the single's return to the chart at a much higher position, peaking at #3.

Kim Appleby had been one half of Mel & Kim with her sister Mel Appleby in the late '80s, scoring four top 10 hits including #1 "Respectable." Sadly, the duo never got to follow-up its success, since Mel contracted cancer and died in early 1990. Her sister Kim, however, embarked on a solo career, which, while not as big, generated two top 10 hits, including #2 single "Don't Worry." Although it sounds like Stock/Aitken/Waterman, it is actually not produced by them. After a decade-long hiatus, Appleby released a few more singles in the last 10 years, although none were hits.

Speaking of S/A/W, they did have a top 10 hit in November with Kylie Minogue's "Step Back in Time," the follow-up to her #2 spring hit "Better the Devil You Know." "Step Back in Time" preceded the November release of Rhythm of Love, Minogue's third album. The single hit #4, becoming Minogue's 11th consecutive top 10 hit, all of which were actually top 4 singles. Two more top 10 hits from Rhythm of Love would follow in 1991, before her streak of top 10 hits was broken by the first single from her fourth album, "The Word is Out," which peaked at #16 in September 1991.

Two songs with similar titles were hits. Whitney Houston hit #5 with "I'm Your Baby Tonight," the first single from her third album of the same name. It was her 8th top 10 hit. And Robert Palmer and UB40 hit #6 with "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," the first British single from Robert Palmer's album Don't Explain ("You're Amazing" was chosen instead as the first US single).

Black Box had another top 5 hit with "Fantasy," one of their singles from this time that was a hit in Britain but not the US. In the UK, the group hit #1 in 1989 with "Ride on Time" and #4 in 1990 with "I Don't Know Anybody Else," whereas in the US, their top 10 hits were "Everybody Everybody" and "Strike It Up."

Belinda Carlisle's US chart fortunes dried up in 1990, after "Leave a Light On" was only a modest hit, reaching #11, and it's follow-up, "Summer Rain," a disappointment, peaking at only #30. It was a shame actually, as I was a bit of a Belinda Carlisle fan (I still love her second solo album, Heaven on Earth). Overseas, the picture was a bit different. "Leave a Light On" hit #4 in the UK in 1989, beginning a string of six singles from Carlisle's third album, Runaway Horses. While none of the intervening singles where big hits, the album's 5th single, "(We Want) The Same Thing," hit #6, becoming her 5th top 10 hit ("Summer Rain" was released as the album's 6th single in late 1990). The song was remixed significantly for the single version, giving it a heftier pop production. Pity this wasn't released in the US. It might have turned her career around, as it's a great pop single.


A1 said...

ahhh Black Box had all 5 top 2 hits with me!! Fantasy being the biggest,and the #1 of the year!

KIm Appleby's Don't Worry was also lovely and a #1 for me!:)

John said...

Have you ever played a song so much that, years later, you find out it wasn't a hit and you're shocked? That's how I felt when I read that "I Don't Know Anybody Else" wasn't a hit here in the US.

ww_adh said...

I agree. I think "I Don't Know Anybody Else" was their best song, yet it peaked at only #23, while "Everybody Everybody" and "Strike It Up" both hit #8.