Sunday, October 16, 2011

Music of 1991: October

Last year, I did a monthly series looking at the hits from the same month 20 years prior. It was a lot of fun, and although I haven't been writing about 1991 this year, I've been listening to songs from each corresponding month as the year's gone by. So I decided I might resurrect this feature.


Mariah Carey had the month's biggest hit with "Emotions," the lead single from her second album of the same name. It was Carey's fifth #1, leaving little break between it and her previous #1, the last single from her self-titled debut, "I Don't Wanna Cry," which was a #1 hit in May and June. Although most of Carey's singles to date had been ballads, she chose an uptempo track to introduce emotions, with production courtesy of dance pop powerhouse duo David Cole and Robert Clivilles, the men behind the C&C Music Factory that had scored a #1 hit earlier in the year with "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."

Mark Wahlberg is best known as the Oscar-nominated star of acclaimed and hit films like The Fighter, The Departed, Boogie Nights, and Planet of the Apes. But 20 years ago, he was the hard-bodied, pants-dropping, little brother of New Kids on the Block's Donnie Wahlberg, who, with his own act, Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, scored a #1 hit with "Good Vibrations." The track is frothy dance pop with rapped verses by Wahlberg and a chorus comprised of a sample of Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation" (so much so that she was given a featured credit). Although the sound is unmistakably 1991, the idea has a lot in common with the current trend of blending electronic dance pop production and rap. The video effectively showed off his body, and while it's pretty silly, in 1991, I thought he was totally hot (and I know what wasn't alone there, not by a long shot). Marky Mark had another top 10 hit with "Wildside," and even released another album a year later. Following the music career, Wahlberg capitalized on his penchant for showing off his tightie-whitie briefs by becoming a Calvin Klein underwear model. He made his film debut in the 1994 Danny DeVito film Renaissance Man.

Natural Selection was never a household name, but they did have one big hit, "Do Anything, "which spent 3 weeks at #2 in October. For this song, the Minneapolis-based trio employed the vocal talent of Niki Haris, best known as one of Madonna's longstanding backup singers at the time. The track is a laid-back mid-tempo R&B/pop sound, kind of like a mellow New Jack Swing. The group would have another minor top 40 hit, "Hearts Don't Think (They Feel)."

Light rockers Extreme scored their second major hit, "Hole Hearted," the follow-up to their #1 debut hit "More than Words." In contrast to that song's slow tempo, "Hole Hearted" was upbeat, slightly folksy, but showcased the same blend of guitar and harmonized vocals. "Hole Hearted" peaked at #4 and was the group's last top 40 hit.

Bonnie Raitt had been making albums since the early '70s, but didn't achieve massive success until 1990, when she broke through to mainstream consciousness by winning the Album of the Year Grammy Award for Nick of Time. Capitalizing on that success, she followed that album in 1991 with Luck of the Draw, which gave the singer her first top 40 singles, the bigger of which was the top 5 hit "Something to Talk About." The following year, Raitt would win the Grammy Award for Female Pop Vocal Performance for this song, which was also a Record of the Year nominee.

Martika, who scored a number of top 40 hits in 1989, including #1 single "Toy Soldiers," had her only other top 10 hit in October, "Love...Thy Will Be Done," which peaked at #10. This wasn't something I was particularly into back then, but I really like it now. It's a gorgeous song, with a pretty static rhythm that builds a bit with some strings but mostly reaches its stirring climax because of Martika's vocal. It was written and produced by Prince, who found the time to do this despite having his own album coming out at the time. The song was a hit in many other countries, including Australia, where it hit #1.

Rapper Heavy D had appeared on Janet Jackson's #4 hit "Alright" the previous year, but scored his first major hit on his own with "Now that We Found Love," which hit #11. I remember really like this song at the time, which is propelled along at good clip by its dance pop rhythm. The track is a remake of a song by the O'Jays, although it was not a single for them.

Prince had a huge hit in 1991 with "Cream," which became a hit so fast it basically buried what had been Diamonds & Pearl's first single, "Gett Off," which peaked at #21 in October. As good as "Cream" is, I've always been partial to the dirty grind of "Gett Off." Given its suggestive lyrics and racy video--not to mention his butt-baring MTV performance--it's no wonder the record company released "Cream" just 6 weeks after "Gett Off," rightly sensing it was too hot for radio (it did not reach the top 40 at pop radio). "Cream" eclipsed "Gett Off" after just 3 weeks, but "Gett Off" was still climbing the chart, an unusual occurrence for an artist to have two singles climbing within the top 40 at the same time.

When it comes to her singing career, actress and former Miss America Vanessa Williams is best known for her hit ballads--songs like "Colors of the Wind" and "Love Is." But she had some uptempo releases too, of which "Running Back to You" was the biggest. It was the first single from her second album The Comfort Zone, which in 1992 would give the singer her landmark #1 hit "Save the Best for Last."

British alternative group Siouxsie and the Banshees had only one top 40 hit in the US, "Kiss Them for Me," which reached #23 on the Hot 100 (which surprisingly wasn't a big hit for them at home, hitting #32 in the UK). It was the first album from the group's 10th album.


Prince & the New Power Generation - Diamonds and Pearls. This was Prince's 13th album and first with his band The New Power Generation, which he also used for his 1992 album, Prince logo.svg. Prince's popularity wanted in the '90s, but at this early point, he was still really hot. Diamonds and Pearls was his biggest hit album of the '90s, scoring two major hits--"Cream," which hit #1 and the title track, which reached #3, plus minor top 40 hits "Gett Off" and "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," as well as "Insatiable," which hit #3 on the R&B chart. The album cover was notable for its 3D image.


Chris B. said...

I would welcome the return of the pants-dropping Mark Wahlberg.

ww_adh said...

Indeed! Didn't we get a bit of that in Date Night?

Chris B. said...

Oh right! Probably the highlight of an otherwise lackluster movie.