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.

My Favorite Music Videos

To me, the best music videos are able to communicate a story, and in many cases, also utilize the technology of its time to create something visually stunning.

My all-time favorite music video is for a-ha’s “Take on Me”. I have always enjoyed the rotoscoping used in it to make it appear that the main female character entered a comic book world. Admittedly, the video looks rather cheesy today, since it’s now over 20 years old; however, for its time, it was a rather innovative and visually stunning piece of work.

Metallica’s first music video, for their song “One,” is also one of the best music videos I’ve seen. This is in reference to the version that utilizes the movie footage, not the “jamming version” (where all you see is the band performing). In the movie footage video, the director was able to effectively utilize footage from the 1971 film, Johnny Got His Gun. It was a video that really captured my attention when it first came out in 1989, and it’s still one that makes an impact on me when I see it today.

Over the years, Madonna has also had some visually stunning videos that told a story. My two favorites both came from the Like a Prayer album: “Express Yourself” and “Oh Father”. “Express Yourself” was based on the silent film, Metropolis; it was also the most expensive video ever made back in 1989. You can tell how much money was spent on the video by simply looking at it. And the “Oh Father” video not only tells a story, but it’s loaded with a lot of imagery and symbolism.

Aerosmith’s video for “Janie’s Got a Gun” also falls into this category. Director David Fincher created a visually stunning piece of work that helps tell the story of the song. The visuals leave an impact with the viewer. For me, one of the most memorable visuals is seeing Janie spelling out the word “LOST” with the pieces of china that she broke a little earlier in the video.

In more recent years, one of my favorite videos would be TLC’s “Unpretty”. I like how the director came up with several mini-stories to convey the message of the song. The most compelling of these would be Chili’s story about getting breast enhancement; the scenes at the plastic surgery clinic are some of the most compelling in the whole video.

Finally, Backstreet Boys’ “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” is another powerful video that not only tells a story, or, in this case, multiple stories, but the technical aspects used in the video to help tell these stories are simply stunning and visually interesting.

Music Video Review: Michael Jackson – “Thriller”

I can still remember the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.  It was in the early 1980s, and I was about eight years old at the time.  I was over a friend’s house, and they had MTV going on the TV.  The “Thriller” video came on while I was there, and I have to admit it really scared me at the time.  Of course, now that it’s been over twenty five years since I first saw it, the video doesn’t frighten me anymore.  I have also come to realize just how much of a milestone the “Thriller” video was for both MTV and the music video industry.

When MTV was playing a marathon of Michael Jackson videos in his memory, I saw both versions of the “Thriller” video (the full-length and a shorter edit).  Being able to really see the video so many years later, I could really take it in.  By today’s standards, the effects seem really cheesy.  However, for the early 1980s, the effects looked rather impressive, especially for the then-fledgling music video industry.

The full-length video opens with what the audience believes to be Michael Jackson and his girlfriend out on a date; judging by the outfits, they look like they should be in the 1950s or the early 1960s.  After Michael turns into a werewolf, we discover what we’ve been watching is actually a movie.  In reality, Michael Jackson and his date, who looks an awful lot like the girlfriend in the movie, have an argument in the movie theater because his date isn’t enjoying the movie.  She leaves, and he follows.  Michael busts out into song, and soon, zombies start rising out of the graveyard.  Michael and his date are cornered by the zombies, and Michael himself turns into a zombie.  Then, Michael and the zombies launch into the famous zombie dance.  Michael’s date runs into an abandoned house, and just when all seems lost, Michael’s date wakes up, and she is in a nice-looking house.  But at the end of the video, Michael turns his head back to the camera, and he has yellow eyes.  The video ends up leaving the viewer with the question: was it really just a dream or not?

“Thriller” was a revolutionary video for its time, because most videos released in the early 1980s were simply a kind of “performance clip”.  There were very few music videos that had much of a storyline to them.  Of course, Michael didn’t simply release a music video with a storyline.  He made sure the video was a kind of “mini movie”; in the full-length version, there is an ending credits roll like you would see at the end of a movie.  In the wake of the “Thriller” video, you started to see music video directors being more willing to use the music video as a medium to tell a story, and incorporating storylines into music videos.  “Thriller” proved that the music video could be a storytelling medium, in addition to selling a song and an artist.  After the release of “Thriller,” music videos would never be the same again.

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

Top Albums of the 1990s

To me, the albums represented in this piece are the top albums due to the impact that these albums had on the music industry during the 1990s.

I think the first album that was not only a big seller, but helped to define the early 1990s, was Metallica’s 1991 self-titled album; this is better known as The Black Album. From the rocking “Enter Sandman,” to the melancholy “The Unforgiven,” to the power ballad “Nothing Else Matters,” this album was really the last of the “1980s rock sound” to be successful in the mainstream in the 1990s.

Just a few short months later, Nirvana’s Nevermind came out of nowhere and changed the course of popular music for the next few years. Nevermind and its lead-off single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” kicked the door wide open for the Seattle “grunge” scene, as well as the college alternative scene, to become very successful in the mainstream for a few years.

Meanwhile, for the rap and hip hop community, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic was released in 1992. It opened the doors for “gangsta rap” to gain acceptance in the mainstream.

The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness proved that a double-album could still be a big seller. Not only that, but this album helped to mark the transition in alternative music from the “grunge” sound to a more “pop” sound. “1979″ and “Tonight, Tonight” were standout tracks on this album.

A couple of years later, the Spice Girls burst onto the scene with their debut album, Spice. This album, along with lead-off single, “Wannabe,” ushered in the teen pop scene of the late 1990s.

That same year, Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing album was also released, which opened the doors for the female singer/songwriter scene in pop and alternative in the late 1990s.

The last album I would truly consider to be a “top album” of the 1990s would be the Backstreet Boys’ 1999 album, Millennium. It was a huge seller out of the gate, and it was able to maintain its relevance into the next decade.

My Favorite Elton John Songs

I first heard Elton John’s music back in the mid-1980s.  While my initial exposure to him was his 1980s material, I was able to hear Elton’s earlier material when I was older.  It was rather hard for me to whittle this list down to my personal ten favorite songs, because there’s some worthy material that I ended up not including.  This list is done in alphabetical order, because it’s too hard for me to rank these as an actual top ten.

“Can You Feel the Love Tonight” is one of the songs that Elton contributed to Disney’s The Lion King film.  While this song may have done well due to its connection the film, it’s also a strong song that can stand on its own.  It’s also a song that listeners can identify with.

“Candle in the Wind” is a song written about Marilyn Monroe.  I tend to prefer the 1980s live version of this song done with the Melbourne Symphony orchestra over the original recording from the 1970s.  This is probably due to the fact that I heard the live version on the radio a lot when it was released as a single.

“Daniel” is a song about loss and the death of someone close to the speaker.  I remember hearing Wilson Phillips doing a cover of this song for an Elton John tribute album in the early 1990s.  When I heard Elton’s original, I realized how good of a song it was.  While Wilson Phillips did a decent rendition, I think Elton’s version is stronger.

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is a classic, fun, upbeat duet with Kiki Dee.  When Elton John re-recorded the song with RuPaul in 1993, I found I didn’t like that rendition nearly as much as the original.  There’s just something about the Elton and Kiki version that the later RuPaul duet lacked.

“I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” is a great song, and really utilizes the piano as a percussion instrument.  When it was released as a single, it really stood out from the other songs being released at the time.  The music video for this song was also very well-done, and this is one of those songs where I can picture the music video when I hear it.

“I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” is one of the earliest songs of Elton’s that I have memories of hearing as a kid.  It’s one of the songs that I gained a better appreciation for as I got older and experienced more in the way of life and relationships.  It’s another one of those songs where the listener can identify with the lyrics.

“I Want Love” came out in 2000, after Elton’s pop success had started slowing down.  This song definitely sounded like a return to the “classic” Elton arrangements of the 1970s, but you could still hear the more modern sound in it.  Elton’s vocal performance is full of passion in this song, and you can really believe that he means what he’s singing.

“I’m Still Standing” is another one of the earliest Elton John songs I heard as a kid.  At the time, the upbeat sound of it would have attracted me.  While the music video is rather strange, my appreciation for the song has grown over the years as I came to understand the message of the lyrics more.

“Tiny Dancer” is one of Elton’s songs from the 1970s, and it’s a song I heard for the first time in the late 1990s/early 2000s.  One thing about this song that really stands out to me is the simplicity of the arrangement.  Anything more complicated would have weakened this song.

“Your Song” is one of Elton’s earliest songs.  It has an arrangement and a message that is simple, and the lyrics are easily accessible to listeners.  This is a song that my husband and I both enjoy, and it was even played at our wedding reception.

Elton has recorded other wonderful songs during his career, but they just didn’t quite make the cut for my personal top ten list.  Those songs would include: “Believe,” “Circle of Life,” “Club at the End of the Street,” “Healing Hands,” “The Last Song,” “The One,” and “Sacrifice.”