Blisterd

Next 10 are up…and we’re getting closer to the top (duh…)

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90. Roses Are Red by The Mac Band featuring the McCampbell Brothers (1 week at #1, July ’88)

The Mac Band were one of the greatest R&B one-hit wonders of the ’80s. How’d they get their only hit? One word: Babyface.

“Roses Are Red” came in the summer of 1988, when L.A. and ‘Face were picking up a full head of steam-“Rock Steady,” Two Occasions” and “Girlfriend” were all recent hits, and “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Knocked Out” were also on the radio. Featuring an immediately catchy chorus, and a vocal reminiscent of The Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson, its #1 status is well-deserved, although it got barely any pop attention and most people probably don’t even remember who sang it anymore.

89. Girl I Got My Eyes On You by Today (1 week at #1, April ’89 | Amazon)

Today was Motown’s attempt to recapture the magic of The Temptations and The Four Tops in a contemporary context. It didn’t take-as Today disbanded after two albums, but they did create two new jack swing classics. “Him Or Me” wasn’t a #1 hit, although its probably more easy to place than “Girl I Got My Eyes On You.” Today’s usual lead singer, Lee “Bubba” Drakeford, took a back seat on this track, which required a more airy, less traditionally soulful vocal and…ah, who cares?

The real star of this song is Teddy Riley, who produced the track. His fingerprints are all over “Girl I Got My Eyes On You,” even though he got dicked out of an actual production credit thanks to Suge Knight prototype Gene Griffin, who was Teddy’s mentor/manager at the time.

Proof that Teddy was the man in the late ’80s/early ’90s; anyone could’ve sung “Girl I Got My Eyes On You” and had a hit with it. Also proof that Teddy was the man: Full Force basically took the framework of this song, added a Cheryl Lynn sample, and came up with “Ain’t My Type of Hype,” which anyone who’s watched House Party must remember fondly.

88. Slow Down by Loose Ends (1 week at #1, March ’87 | Amazon)

Loose Ends pretty much had one trick, but they did it quite well. Their best song, “Slow Down,” had an icy cool groove and the immortal lyric “is this the part; you take my heart to wipe your feet on?” That’s fucked up.

87. How Will I Know by Whitney Houston (1 week at #1, March ’86 | Amazon)

Here’s something that’s always sort of bugged me. Play this song. Then play Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.” The songs are damn near identical musically. Narada Michael Walden’s a talented dude. He could’ve mixed it up at least a little bit. But you can damn near superimpose the melodies onto the other songs. That’s lazy production. Somewhat improbably, both songs are good, if not legendary.

Here’s a little trivia for you: “How Will I Know” was originally written for Janet Jackson. I could picture a girlish Janet circa 1983 giggling through this song, but by the time Whitney made it a hit in early ’86, JJ was just about to bust out with Control, and all I can think of is a teased-hair Janet, dressed in all black, sitting with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis laughing hysterically at the notion that someone would want her to sing a song like this.

Then again, listen to “He Doesn’t Know I’m Alive” on Control. Ladies & gentlemen, this is what we in the biz call hedging our bets.

86. Everything I Miss At Home by Cherrelle (1 week at #1, December ’88 | Amazon)

At it’s heart, “Everything I Miss At Home” is a perfectly good ballad. Not as good as…say, “Can You Stand The Rain” or “Crying Overtime,” but a decent second-tier Jam & Lewis slow jam. Two things elevate “Everything I Miss” to “A” level. One is the lyric. Not sure whether it was written by Jimmy or Terry, but together, the twosome did a really good job communicating the real life reasons for an affair (“he gives me everything I miss at home,”) and still making the character seem sympathetic. Number two is Alexander O’ Neal’s appearance about 2/3 of the way through the song. I liken it to when Michael Jackson appears on “Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin'”. The vocal changes the mood of the song from black and white to color. One of the many reasons I’d like to interview Jimmy/Terry/Alex/Cherrelle would be to find out why an Alexander & Cherrelle duets album never materialized–they could’ve done some serious Marvin & Tammi-like damage.

85. Me, Myself & I by De La Soul (1 week at #1, June ’89 | Amazon)

“Me Myself & I” is an important De La Soul song for many reasons. One, it provided Pos, Dave and Maseo with their highest-charting single and biggest pop hit. It was also only the second rap song to hit #1 on the R&B charts, and the first on an indie label (Tommy Boy.) It was also the most cohesive statement explaining De La’s ne0-hippie ethos. As such, it later became the bane of their existence. Much like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Nirvana and “Creep,” to Radiohead “Me, Myself & I” became an albatross, the only song that De La’s pop fans wanted to hear. That was a shame because not only did they have much better material that deserved a fair hearing, but also, like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Creep,” “Me Myself & I” is an excellent song that the artists who made the song seem to have little use for.

Man, what a video. I love the fact that De La gave hip-hop such a hard kick in the balls, and that the trio is still ripping up stages a quarter century later (not looking like they’ve aged at all.)

84. Save The Overtime (For Me) by Gladys Knight & The Pips (1 week at #1, May ’83 | Amazon)

When “Overtime” hit in the spring of ’83, Gladys & the Pips were almost a decade removed from their heyday. They’d even briefly split into separate entities in the late Seventies, due to some legal issues with their label, Buddah. By 1980, they were Columbia Records artists, and they went on to release two albums that weren’t especially successful. 1983’s Visions found them updating their sound a bit, working with upstarts Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, as well as proven hitmaker Leon Sylvers III, who helmed this slamming jam for them. As good as “Overtime” is, most people will remember this song for the video. An early favorite on BET and New York-area video shows, the clip shows Gladys & The Pips hanging out on a stoop slightly reminiscent of one you’d see on an episode of Sesame Street. There were no Muppets involved here, though…only breakdancers. It was one of America’s first looks at a phenomenon that, at that point, was an NYC staple.

83. Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me) by The Gap Band (2 weeks at #1, Feb. ’81 | Amazon)

You’ve got to hand it to Charlie Wilson. He remains a relevant force in R&B over thirty years after The Gap Band’s initial blush with success. Quiet as kept, he was always something of a musical/cultural chameleon. The Gap Band was best known for hard, danceable funk. However, songs like “You Dropped A Bomb On Me” and “Burn Rubber” had a slight rock influence, they had a knack for poppy catchphrases and melodies, and the brothers looked like they walked out of your local honky-tonk bar, with cowboy hats and lots of fringe. That might have been why GAP was pretty much the premiere funk group of the early ’80s.

The bridge of this song might be where the rapid-fire sing-rap style of vocalizing originated.

82. She’s Strange by Cameo (4 weeks at #1, April ’84 | Amazon)

Cameo was one of the few funk bands that successfully made the jump to the synth-R&B era. Lead singer Larry Blackmon was also an astute businessman & a bit of a fashionista in addition to knowing how to write and play a catchy song. “She’s Strange” utilized a thunderous bassline and a catchy chorus to great effect. Blackmon was also ahead of the curve when it came to seamlessly integrating hip-hop into his funk/rock mix, something he’d exploit to greater effect just two years later.

Might “She’s Strange” be the only #1 R&B hit that mentions Eva Peron? I’d bet on that. I’d also bet on this song marking the debut of Blackmon’s trademark “ow.”

81. You Give Good Love by Whitney Houston (1 week at #1, May ’85 | Amazon)

Whitney’s debut album might be one of the most overrated in history. I guess how much you like it can be determined by your level of comfort with treacly ballads. “All At Once” and “Greatest Love Of All” are intolerable to me, a designation made worse by the fact that both songs seemed to alternate with one another on the radio. “You Give Good Love,” Whitney’s first solo hit, is a different animal entirely. It’s got a smooth, sinuous groove, and Whitney doesn’t overmodulate vocally until we get to the bridge. And then, she’s only a little screechy. More than any other song on Whitney Houston, “You Give Good Love” has held up over the past thirty (!) years.

In case you missed ’em:

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