As I sit writing this post, I'm watching the 2013 Grammys, so I thought it would be interesting to look back and see who won awards for music released in 1991 (presented in February 1992). The big winner for the year was Natalie Cole for the Unforgettable... With Love album and the single of the (almost) same name. Like Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" (which I mentioned in Part 1), "Unforgettable" was one of the highest-selling singles of 1991 - and it's also not among my list of favourite songs for 1991.
|Only in 1991 could a group who wanted to be taken seriously dress like this...|
Other big winners included R.E.M. (not on my list) and Bonnie Raitt (also not on my list). Interestingly (or not, you be the judge), LL Cool J won his first Grammy at that 1992 ceremony - and is onstage as host of this year's awards talking about how much he values his Grammys as I type. Anyway, enough about some awards show - let's carry on with something far more important...
Number 75 "Piece Of My Heart" by Tara Kemp
In Part 1, we saw a couple of flash-in-the-pan solo female artists from the US: Corina and Tracie Spencer. Turns out the charts were full of them in 1991, with Tara scoring two top 10 hits in the States that year (this song and "Hold You Tight", which ended up at number 163 on this list) before rapidly disappearing from the music scene completely. She won't be the last fleetingly successful pop singer on this list.
Number 74 "Live Your Life Be Free" by Belinda Carlisle
Belinda was coming off a couple of very fruitful years, so it made sense for her to stick with the formula: highly produced pop/rock songs with massive choruses. But, despite the fact that "Live Your Life Be Free", the first single from the album of the same name, was cut from the same cloth as "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" and "Leave A Light On", what had worked a treat previously didn't fare quite as well this time. The track bombed completely in the US, while it missed the top 10 in both the UK and US.
Number 73 "Love Me Forever Or Love Me Not" by Trilogy
By 1991, David Cole and Robert Clivillés (aka C+C Music Factory) were finally as famous as artists in their own right as they were for producing other acts. In fact, they'd become more successful than some acts they worked with, and while C+C were hitting the top of charts around the world with a song we'll see in Part 4, this track (originally recorded by The Brat Pack in 1990) fizzled for Trilogy, who, funnily enough, were a trio from the Bronx.
Number 72 "Now That We Found Love" by Heavy D & The Boyz
Hip-hop music still wasn't that big in Australia in 1991, with only the likes of Young MC, MC Hammer, Tone Loc and Betty Boo breaking through to score significant hits in the previous few years. The rapper born Dwight Myers joined that select group thanks to this cover version of a song originally recorded by The O'Jays, which was also on a decidedly commercial tip. "Now That We Found Love" was Heavy D's only successful track in Australia (reaching number 6) and although he racked up a few other minor hits in the US, it will be the song for which he is always remembered, having passed away in 2011.
Number 71 "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred
Here's another act who will always be associated with one song, despite, in this case, the group registering more hits over the following couple of years, especially in the UK. "I'm Too Sexy" is also another song denied a number 1 placement by Bryan Adams, this time in Britain, where it was stuck at number 2 for six weeks (a record). RSF did manage a UK number 1, but not until third single "Deeply Dippy" in 1992. What many people (myself included) would probaby find surprising is that the group (formerly a trio, now just the two Fairbrass brothers) have released eight studio albums to date - although they haven't had a hit single in over a decade, with Germany proving to be a country more willing than any other to keep buying their music into the new millennium.
Number 70 "She's A Woman" by Scritti Politti featuring Shabba Ranks
It'd been three years since the world had heard from Green Gartside and whoever else was in Scritti Politti at that point in time, but the group came bouncing back with this cute cover of The Beatles' B-side to "I Feel Fine" featuring a guest rap by Shabba Ranks, which kept the group's association with ragga music intact. The remake wasn't that successful, and neither was the follow-up, another cover - "Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me" - which might explain why Scritti Politti weren't heard from again until the very end of the decade.
Number 69 "Always There" by Incognito featuring Jocelyn Brown
Grunge wasn't the only musical genre to emerge in the early '90s, with acid jazz also finding an increasing audience thanks to the crossover success of bands like Incognito and Brand New Heavies (who we'll see in due course) in the UK. When it came to the former, this cover of a track by Ronnie Laws would take them into the UK top 10 and was the first of a string of club hits over the next few years. Featured vocalist Jocelyn Brown was no stranger to dance hits, having released the classic "Somebody Else's Guy" in 1984 and been sampled by Snap! for their debut hit, "The Power".
Number 68 "Can't Let Go" by Mariah Carey
Mentioned in Part 3
Number 67 "Right Down To It" by Damian Dame
Producers LA Reid and Babyface were so hot in 1991 that they signed the first act to their own record label, LaFace. Duo Damian Dame wouldn't be as successful as Pebbles, Karyn White, Bobby Brown or many of the other acts the production team had worked with over the previous few years, but they did release a couple of great tracks, including this second single, which struggled to number 90 in the US. "Damian" was Bruce Broadus while "Deah Dame" was Debra Hurd, although the pair never got a chance to record a second album, with both passing away by 1996 - Deah was killed in a car accident in 1994 and Damian succumbed to cancer two years later.
Number 66 "Motownphilly" by Boyz II Men
While some members of New Edition were content with a thriving music career away from the group, Michael Bivins wasn't one of them. Besides some major hit singles in 1990 with Bell Biv Devoe, he also launched boy band Another Bad Creation (number 135 on this list with "Iesha"), and managed and produced the debut album by this vocal harmony group who would go on to be one of the decade's biggest success stories. Boyz II Men are best known for their vocal acrobatic-filled ballads, but this debut single remains my favourite track by the group - and features a rap by Biv outlining the group's background story. Helpful.
Number 65 "Guaranteed" by Level 42
Now, it's time for an '80s survivors triple play, and up first is the British band who'd had international hits with "Running In The Family" and "Lessons In Love". "Guaranteed" was the title track from Level 42's ninth studio album, which saw a continuation of the band's declining chart fortunes as well as the personnel changes that had commenced in the last couple of years of the '80s.
Number 64 "Better Off Without You" by Hazell Dean
Here's a singer who had a much better run on my personal chart than the UK one - and this is another single she released that missed the UK top 40 completely. Originally recorded by Lonnie Gordon, "Better Off Without You" would be Hazell's last single produced by Stock Aitken Waterman and the final time she'd show up on my chart with a new song (a remix of "Searchin'" caught my attention, however, in 1997).
Number 63 "Something Got Me Started" by Simply Red
It wasn't all bad news for artists from the '80s. Indeed, for the group led by Mick Hucknall, the '90s would prove to be even more of a goldmine, with Stars, the album from which this song was taken, being the highest-selling album in the UK in both 1991 and 1992. Like 1989's "A New Flame", "Something Got Me Started" was the most upbeat single released from the collection - and proved again that I preferred those releases over the band's infinitely more popular ballads.
Number 62 "Street Of Dreams" by Nia Peeples
Like Tara Kemp, this singer/actress had a brief spurt of success on the US chart in 1991, with this track reaching number 12. Also like Tara, that's where the good times ended. Unlike Ms Kemp, Nia has found fame in other ways, as a star of TV series like Fame, Walker: Texas Ranger, The Young & The Restless and, currently, Pretty Little Liars. My enduring memory of Nia is watching her perform this song on Hey Hey It's Saturday when the Australian variety show filmed a special episode from Hollywood - and wondering what on Earth she thought of it all.
Number 61 "All 4 Love" by Color Me Badd
The bad haircuts. The dodgy coloured suits. The nasty facial hair. Luckily, four-piece vocal group Color Me Badd overcame possibly the worst image known to man to become one of 1991's biggest new acts. The song that made it all happen was "I Wanna Sex You Up", but it took until this second single for me to be convinced. I was also a fan of third single "I Adore Mi Amor" (which was actually the second single in the States and is at number 93 on this list) as well as the three more singles to come in 1992.
Number 60 "Don't You Wanna Be Mine (Clivillés & Cole mix)" by Denise Lopez
Here they are again - the guys from C+C Music Factory, that is - remixing a track by a female singer who wasn't even lucky enough to be as successful as Nia Peeples or Tara Kemp. Denise's biggest hit had come in 1988 when "Sayin' Sorry (Don't Make It Right)" reached number 31 in the US. Unfortunately, this track only managed number 86. I also liked another remix of "Don't You Wanna Be Mine" - the Bimbo Jones mix, which came out rather randomly in 2008. There's a link to the C+C mix in the song title, while the music video with the original version is below.
Number 59 "Do What U Like" by Take That
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 58 "Too Blind To See It" by Kym Sims
I told you there'd be many more to come... here's another American singer who not only had fleeting minor success in the States (this song reached number 38 there), but whose UK achievements eclipsed her chart fortunes back home. "Too Blind To See It" was a UK top 10 smash in the dying weeks of 1991, and would be followed by two more top 30 hits in 1992. All three were produced by legendary house pioneer Steve "Silk" Hurley.
Number 57 "On The Way Up" by Elisa Fiorillo
And here's yet another female solo artist who shone brightly in 1991 before disappearing from the charts - and, like Tracie Spencer from Part 1, Elisa was a former Star Search champ in the States. She had previously appeared on Jellybean's 1987 track, "Who Found Who", as guest vocalist but had struggled to land a hit in her own right until 1991 when, with some musical assistance from Prince, this track made its mark. "On The Way Up" was even relatively successful in Australia, making it to number 19 in 1992.
Number 56 "Love To Hate You" by Erasure
Mentioned in Part 4
Number 55 "Unfinished Sympathy" by Massive Attack
1991 was the year the Gulf War came to a head with Operation Desert Storm taking place in the first two months of the year. At the same time, emerging Bristol trip-hop group Massive Attack were poised to release what would become their breakthrough hit but, to avoid being in any way associated with the hostilities, they changed their name to Massive. The song not only gave them their first UK top 20 hit, but it also became one of the most critically acclaimed tracks of the decade. Oh, and they changed their name back to Massive Attack for the next single, "Safe From Harm".
Number 54 "Where Love Lives (Come On In)" by Alison Limerick
Next up, a British singer who released this club classic three times in the '90s - once in 1990 with no success, again in 1991 when it reached the UK top 30 and in remixed form in 1996 when it finally cracked the UK top 10. I preferred the original version, which came with its own plethora of remixes, including a Def Classic Mix by house legends Frankie Knuckles and David Morales, whose remix work was very popular throughout the decade.
Number 53 "Jump To The Beat" by Dannii Minogue
It took me a while to warm up to Kylie's little sister. I'd never watched Young Talent Time and wasn't a Home And Away viewer, so I didn't have any pre-existing fandom when Dannii launched her music career in 1990. And, it wasn't until she headed to the UK and repackaged her debut album and included songs like this that I started paying any real attention. "Jump To The Beat" had originally been recorded by Stacy Lattisaw in 1980 and was a big hit in the UK that year. Whether it was the fact the song wasn't that well known in Australia or because the public had gone off Dannii for the time being, I'm not sure - but "Jump To The Beat" couldn't get past number 48 on the Australian chart.
Number 52 "Romantic" by Karyn White
After working with LA Reid and Babyface on her debut album, Karyn turned to the other pre-eminent production team of the day - Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who she was dating at the time) - for album number two. "Romantic" was the first single released and gave her the one and only chart-topper of her career in the US. It was around this time that I discovered that the Billboard Hot 100 was calculated using a combination of both radio play and single purchases - and was pretty outraged. I'd always assumed charts were based purely on sales (as they are in the UK and Australia) and began to take notice of what songs reached the summit because radio programmers liked them and which high-selling singles didn't make the top because they didn't receive enough airplay. From memory, "Romantic" fell into the former category.
After a triumphant return in 1990 with "Don't Worry", Kim continued releasing singles from her first solo album in 1991, including this track (another top 10 for her in the UK). Subsequent singles like "If You Cared" (number 95 on this list) and "Mama" didn't do so well, and despite releasing music into the middle of the decade, Kim's popularity dried up.
On Thursday, it's back to 1988 for my regular ARIA chart recap from 25 years ago and then we'll continue the countdown with Part 3 after that.
MY YEAR-END CHARTS