Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam”

“Pump Up the Jam” was the lead-off single for Technotronic’s album of the same name. The single was released in 1989, and it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1990.

The song was a very catchy dance number, and it definitely sounds like a product of its time. Honestly, I can see why it performed so well at the time. While it didn’t age well, I have to admit that I still enjoy listening to it. It definitely still ranks up there as one of my favorite dance songs that came out while I was in the ninth grade.

Of course, we can’t get into a discussion of this song without getting into the controversy that arose. At the time the song was released, it was credited as being by Technotronic featuring Felly; also, the album was originally given this same credit. Felly is the woman who appeared in the “Pump Up the Jam” video and on the album cover. It came out that Felly didn’t actually sing or rap on the album; she was simply a model who lip-synched in the video.

I have to admit that I kind of suspected that something was up when I was listening to Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 one week, and Felly was interviewed during it. She didn’t speak a word of English and needed to have a translator in order to do the interview. Admittedly, the lyrics in “Pump Up the Jam” are rather simplistic and a non-English speaker could have learned how to perform it, but that interview bothered me at the time. Not too long after, my suspicions were proven to be correct. After it was discovered that Felly wasn’t an actual performer, the artwork for the album was changed, and the “featuring Felly” credit was removed as well. This lip-synching controversy ended up only being the tip of the iceberg for these kinds of scandals; later in 1990, the infamous Milli Vanilli scandal broke, and a short time later, Martha Wash accused C&C Music Factory, Seduction, and Black Box of using her voice on their recordings and not giving her credit.

The music video for “Pump Up the Jam” was definitely a product of its time. It’s a very late-1980′s club video, and there’s a lot of flashing lights, bright colors, cheesy text, etc. This video aged even worse than the actual song did. The video is about 25 years old, and watching it now can be a rather painful experience.

For those who are brave enough to watch it, I’ve embedded the video below. I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Jody Watley – “Everything”

“Everything” was the third single from Jody Watley’s second album, Larger Than Life. The single was released on August 22, 1989, and it peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

I was in the ninth grade when this single was released, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well Jody could sing a ballad. The previous two singles from Larger Than Life (“Real Love” and “Friends”) were dance numbers, as were all the singles from Jody’s first album. Even though I myself hadn’t been through any romantic relationships at that point in my life, I could still sense the sincerity that Jody put into her delivery of the song. Even though it’s been about 25 years since this song came out, I still think it’s just as good today as when it was released in 1989.

The music video basically shows Jody on the road, as well as footage of her performing “Everything” on stage. There’s also some performance footage cut in that obviously didn’t come from a performance of this song, since she’s seen dancing in them. It’s not bad for the type of music video it is, but I always wished that there could’ve been some kind of story-based video made for the song. I have to guess that at the time a video would’ve been made for “Everything” that Jody was out on tour and couldn’t fit time into her schedule to actually a shoot a music video. Even with all that said, I’m grateful that “Everything” even got a music video, since there were some singles that came out in the late 1980s and 1990s that never had music videos.

I am embedding the video for “Everything” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Rod Stewart – “Downtown Train”

“Downtown Train” was a song originally recorded by Tom Waits in 1985. In 1989, Rod Stewart recorded a cover of the song and included it on the Storyteller – The Complete Anthology: 1964-1990 release. “Downtown Train” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January of 1990.

This song was released when I was in the ninth grade, and I fell in love with the song instantly. There was just something about the sound of it musically that grabbed me, and Rod’s vocal performance sounded like he really meant what he said. At the time, I had no idea that it was a cover song; that was something I learned a little later. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I haven’t had the opportunity to hear the original Tom Waits recording in order to compare the two of them.

To this day, I still love Rod’s rendition of “Downtown Train,” and it still ranks as one of my favorite Rod Stewart songs of all-time.

The video isn’t anything terribly fancy, but it does provide a kind of story that ties in with the lyrics of the song. It’s a good video for what it is, and I still enjoy watching it over 20 years later.

I am embedding the music video below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view it due to region blocking.

Billy Joel – “We Didn’t Start the Fire”

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” was the lead-off single for Billy Joel’s 1989 album, Storm Front. The single was released on September 27, 1989. The song ended up spending two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 9 and 16, 1989.

“We Didn’t Start the Fire” is basically a history lesson, with names of historical figures, references to historical events, and pop culture references for the decades that this song covers. The song begins in 1949, the year Billy Joel was born, and goes through 1989, the year the song was written and recorded.

I was in the ninth grade when this song was released, and I thought it was fascinating. Admittedly, there were quite a few of the references I didn’t understand at the time the song was released, but I was still fascinated by the song. Over the years, I’ve come to learn more about the references that I didn’t know back in 1989, and my appreciation for this song has only grown because of acquiring that knowledge.

I’ve always liked the music video, too. Quite a bit of the video focuses on the evolution of a family. It begins with a newlywed couple moving into their new home, followed by the wife’s pregnancy and birth of their first child. There’s a skip in time to the baby, a son, going through his toddler and elementary school years. Then the focus changes to his younger sister, and we see her going from playing with Barbie dolls to being in high school and getting ready for a formal dance, to her burning bras while her older brother burns his draft card. Near the end, we see that the husband has died and then we see the wife with who I believe would be either her adult children or her grandchildren in a demolished house. In addition to seeing the family change, we also see the décor of the house change and the family members’ clothing styles change as the song goes through the various decades that it covers.

Not only did I acquire knowledge about some of the references in the song as I got older, I now understand a visual reference in the video that didn’t make sense to me for many years. At one point, the daughter is playing violin very badly and the mother is holding her hands over her ears. Then we see the mother take out a pill bottle, take a couple of pills, and then she’s playing the violin and looking zonked out. Several years later, I was exposed to the Rolling Stones’ “Mother’s Little Helper,” and I now understand that this is a visual reference to the popularity of valium (diazepam), the mild tranquilizer that was being prescribed to housewives in the 1960s.

Another thing I’ve come to realize about this song is the fact that, musically, it doesn’t really sound that dated. The only thing to truly date the song is the fact that the lyrics ends with references from 1989. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” is a song that I still really enjoy nearly 25 years after its initial release. My kids also seem to like it, too.

I’m embedding the video for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Lou Gramm – “Just Between You and Me”

“Just Between You and Me” was the lead-off single for Lou Gramm’s second solo album, Long Hard Look. The single was released in North America on October 28, 1989, and it peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

This was another song that was released during my freshman year of high school. This AOR track also had a very strong pop hook to it, and it’s one of those songs I fell in love with rather quickly after hearing it for the first time. I just love how the music and Lou’s voice convey the emotion of the lyrics. It’s a song I really liked at the time, and it’s a song that’s really withstood the test of time. I enjoy it just as much now as I did when it first came out almost 25 years ago.

The music video to accompany the song was in black and white, and it features shots of Lou Gramm lip-syncing the song with shots of a couple going through both good and bad times in their relationship. I always thought that the “story” of the couple really helped to illustrate the song in the video.

I am embedding the video for “Just Between You and Me” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Taylor Dayne – “With Every Beat of My Heart”

“With Every Beat of My Heart” was the lead-off single for Taylor Dayne’s second album, Can’t Fight Fate. The single was released in the United States on October 10, 1989, and it peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

When I first heard this song on the radio back in 1989, it caught my attention immediately. While it was still dance pop like a lot of the material on her first album, there was something about the arrangement that made it sound a little tighter and it sounded very pop accessible. Now that I’m older and listening to the material from Can’t Fight Fate now, I realize that the material on this album was pop material with a dance lean. With her first album, Tell It To My Heart, the material tended to be dance material with a pop lean.

“With Every Beat of My Heart” is a nice, upbeat song I enjoy listening to, but it’s not my favorite single from Can’t Fight Fate. I’m planning on covering my favorite single off the album a little further down the line.

I watched the video for “With Every Beat of My Heart” on YouTube after not seeing it for a number of years. After seeing it, I was like, “Wow, this is video is just so random.” It’s basically shots of Taylor Dayne intercut with very random images (like an old guy dancing in his underwear, a Dalmatian walking across a room, a bride and groom getting drenched with water, a vase of flowers falling over… I think you get the picture). I really like the song, but the music video… not so much.

I’m embedding the video for “With Every Beat of My Heart” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to watch it due to region blocking.

Michael Bolton – “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”

“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” was released as the second single from Michael Bolton’s 1989 album, Soul Provider, on December 29, 1989. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Bolton co-wrote the song with Doug James, and the song was first recorded by Laura Branigan in 1983, and appeared on her album, Branigan 2. Branigan’s version only managed to peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in early October of 1983.

When Michael Bolton released his version in 1989, I was not familiar with Branigan’s 1983 recording. Considering I only would have been eight years old when Branigan’s version was released, I’m not surprised that I wasn’t familiar with it.

I have to admit that prior to “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” I hadn’t been too terribly interested in Michael Bolton. I have vague memories of hearing his cover of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and not being terribly impressed with it. Because of not caring for that song, I didn’t give “Soul Provider” a true chance when it was released as the lead-off single for Soul Provider, and I basically ignored it. But the first time I heard “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” the emotional intensity of the song grabbed me instantly. After this song, I started paying attention to Michael Bolton. At the time, I thought nothing could top “How Am I Supposed to Live With You,” but another song Michael Bolton released a few months later would prove me wrong…

“How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” is definitely one of the memorable songs to be released when I was in the ninth grade.

Admittedly, the music video for “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” isn’t anything terribly different or earth-shattering, but it works for the song. I’m embedding the music video below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation”

“Rhythm Nation” was the title song for Janet Jackson’s 1989 album, Rhythm Nation 1814, and it was released as the second single from the album on October 24, 1989. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

I was 14 years old and in the ninth grade when this single was released. I really loved this song when I heard it on the radio and saw the video on MTV, because it had such a different sound to it, and I also appreciated its message of racial unity among people of all races and cultures and putting a stop to social injustice. I’m almost willing to go all the way and say that “Rhythm Nation” was a “call to arms” for my generation to fight against injustice and prejudice, as well to work at finding a better way of life.

At the time, though, I hadn’t realized that it contained a sample of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” because I hadn’t been exposed to Sly and the Family Stone yet. So when I heard the Sly and the Family Stone song a few years later, I instantly recognized it from “Rhythm Nation.” And now that I know a lot more about various types of music, I realize just how many different styles were incorporated into this song; no wonder I had thought it had such a different sound back in 1989!

The music video for “Rhythm Nation” was taken from the black and white Rhythm Nation 1814 Film, which received airplay on MTV before the album was released. The “Rhythm Nation” portion of the film was set in a post-apocalyptic warehouse setting, with Janet and her dancers wearing black military garb. The choreography for the video was also rather incredible. The combination of all of these elements created a rather unforgettable music video.

I am embedding the music video for “Rhythm Nation” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

Phil Collins – “Another Day in Paradise”

“Another Day in Paradise” was the lead-off single for Phil Collins’ … But Seriously album; the single was released on October 9, 1989. I was in the 9th grade when this song came out, and it was one that resonated with me. In fact, when I think back to when I was in the 9th grade, this is one of the first songs that I think of and associate with that point in my life.

The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 23, 1989, and remained at the number one spot for four weeks. So not only was “Another Day in Paradise” the final number one hit of the 1980s, it’s also the first number one hit of the 1990s.

The 1980s definitely saw a rise in songs that touched on social issues. The most obvious was USA for Africa’s “We Are the World,” which tackled the famine problem in Africa. Madonna also released “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song about teen pregnancy. “Another Day in Paradise” is another song with a social message; in this case, the topic is homelessness.

During the verses, Phil focuses on a homeless woman. In the first verse, she calls out for help from a passing gentleman, but all he does is ignore her and pretend she doesn’t exist. In the second verse, she calls out to another passing gentleman; this time, he notices her and sees how downtrodden she is. The final verse gives a description of the homeless woman. The chorus itself reminds the listener to think twice, because it’s another day in paradise for them when compared to life the homeless lead.

Sadly, “Another Day in Paradise” is just as relevant of a song today as it was when it was released over 20 years ago.

The music video combines footage of Phil Collins performing the song with images of people living on the streets. The visuals press the point of the song home to the viewer.

I am embedding the music video below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.

My Favorite Song of All-Time

The question of which song is the best of all time is a hard one to answer, because it is such a subjective question.  I certainly don’t know every song that has ever been written or recorded in history.  So, I have to answer this question with my favorite song of all-time, which would be “If You Leave” by Orchestra Manoeuvres in the dark.

“If You Leave” was featured on the soundtrack for the 1986 film, Pretty in Pink.  The song peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that same year.  I remember hearing this song the radio when I was in sixth grade, during the 1986-1987 school year, and falling absolutely in love with it.  It’s a song that grabbed me, and over twenty years later, it hasn’t let go.

When you first hear the song, it just sounds like a typical mid-1980s synthpop track, both musically and vocally.  But as you listen to the song, you realize the lyrics are about loss and heartbreak.  As the song progresses, both the music and vocal delivery increase in intensity, and it all finally explodes right at the end.  I think it’s this sense of drama and buildup that really caught me initially.  And as I got older, I could relate more and more to the lyrics of the song.

The lyrics for “If You Leave” that have really stood out for me over the years are: “If you leave, I won’t cry / I won’t waste one single day / But if you leave, don’t look back / I’ll be running the other way / Seven years went under the bridge / Like time was standing still / Heaven knows what happens now / You’ve got to – you’ve gotta say you will.”  There’s just something about the imagery of the bridge that really captures my interest when I hear this song.  Also, there is something about the “seven years” connected with the bridge imagery that also grabs me whenever I hear the song.

I guess my choosing a song from the 1980s as my all-time favorite song isn’t surprising, since I’m a child of the 1980s.  This is a song that reminds me a lot of my youth, and of a time before my childhood innocence came to an end.  And while I know many people won’t agree with my answer as to what the best song of all time is, I hope that they are at least willing to agree to disagree with me.

I am embedding the music video for “If You Leave” below, and I apologize in advance to any of my readers who are unable to view the video due to region blocking.