If Stevie B. really loved us, he would never have recorded this song, which parked itself at #1 for four weeks as 1990 bled into 1991, and became the #1 song of the year. Yes, folks. In a year that brought us “Nothing Compares 2 U”, “Vision of Love”, hell, even “Ice Ice Baby” and “Step by Step”, the biggest dog of them all was a treacly ballad made by a guy who had trouble staying in tune. When we get old and grumpy and start talking about how shitty music is now, we should probably stop and think about this for a second.
Before Stevie B. became known to the world at large for his lone Top 10 hit, he was already a superstar in the New York area. Back in the day when there were actually regional hits, Stevie B. was a regional hit machine in New York City (as well as Los Angeles, Miami, and other dance music-friendly markets.) Starting with the dance-rific “Party Your Body”, in 1988, Stevie (born Steven Bernard Hill) scored smash after smash, culminating (pre-“Because I Love You”) with “Spring Love”. This song was played damn near on the hour every hour on two of New York’s biggest stations, Z-100 (Top 40 giant) and Hot 103 (which was the dance-centric station). I’ve actually grown to like that song over the years, but when it was popular, oh man. Every time I heard Stevie whining “Spring love/Come back to meeeeeeee…”, I wanted to smash the radio in with a hammer.
“Spring Love”, however, was “Smells Like Teen Spirit” next to “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)”. This gauzy piano ballad was sappier than anything Michael Bolton released around the same time, and whether you liked Bolton or not, at least the dude could sing. In the days before Auto-Tune (and before pitch correction software got really good), there wasn’t a way to cover up your shortcomings at the mic. Stevie could rock OK with a fast or midtempo song, but throw a slow jam out and you could practically hear dogs howling in the background at Stevie’s strained notes.
For some reason (probably because the people at Warner Music Group would like to spare all our ears), the audio track from the video is not available, so if you’re not familiar with the song, you’re just gonna have to settle for this live version. Thank me later.
Fortunately for us, “Because I Love You” was Stevie’s one and only dalliance with the top of the charts. Coming at the end of the freestyle era that birthed Stevie as well as artists like The Cover Girls and Sweet Sensation, Mr. B soon found himself banished from the charts and scored only a couple more minor hits before vanishing from pop radio completely. Strangely, it appeared to be his jump from a small indie label (LMR) to a major (Epic) that proved to be the death knell for his career.
Stevie still tours frequently. As 80s and 90s nostalgia has reached a fever pitch, Stevie has been packing them in on package tours and radio station festivals. He was most recently in the news for getting locked up following a child support payment snafu (see! It’s not just rappers!). I couldn’t get through more than about 30 seconds of the live version linked above (which is more than I can say for the studio person), but judging from the screams I heard, there are still tons of folks out there who think differently of “Because I Love You” than I. Or maybe they are screams of terror.
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