Tuesday, February 28, 2012

(If You're Not In It For Love) I'm Outta Here! - Shania Twain

Shania Twain
(R.J. Lange, S. Twain)


Chart Entry: 10th November, 1996
Highest Position: #5
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 103,604
From the album "The Woman In Me".


Shania Twain's career in the world of Country music was off to a slow start in 1993 with the release of her self-titled debut album. The cover depicting a very rugged up Shania next to a wolf and an arctic fire was quite different to the "sexy" Shania we would come to know half a decade later. Maybe the music buying public couldn't be swayed, but producer Robert "Mutt" Lange heard the songs and was instantly impressed. The producer of such great rock acts as AC/DC, Foreigner and Def Leppard during the 80's mellowed to help Bryan Adams, The Corrs and Michael Bolton to their own hits during the 90's. He offered to help Shania write songs for her second album, but not before tying the knot with her by the end of 1993.

The resulting The Woman In Me was either written or co-written entirely by Shania and Robert, impressing record executives with the fresh take on Country music they had created. It was a major hit in her native Canada, accredited 2xDiamond for sales in excess of 2 million copies. The album contained no less than six Canadian Country #1 hits, a vast improvement on the two minor hits her debut had given her. Success like that spilled over to the US Billboard charts topping the Country Albums chart and peaking at a respectable #5 in the mainstream chart, adding 12 million sales to an already impressive total.

Country music success in the Australian charts was an recurring phase that had previously exploded in 1992 with Billy Ray Cyrus, but female success in the genre was seemingly dead, the last major hit coming from Dolly Parton in the early 80's. A 13 year old LeAnn Rimes re-booted the female interest in the genre, but Shania Twain took it to heights that would eventually overshadow Dolly's efforts. "(If You're Not In It For Love) I'm Outta Here" was the first of five Top 5 hits for Shania here, spending a quarter of the year in the Top 10 alone despite a #5 peak. Both "I'm Outta Here" and The Woman In Me set up a chart domination that saw her follow-up album, Come On Over, become one of the biggest selling albums in Australian history.

Shania Twain's career stalled in Australia somewhat during the early 2000's with the 2002 album, Up!, which remains her last studio album to date. Robert Lange again helmed the release, but a confusing three version release was a little too imaginative for the majority of Shania's Australian audience. The modest 2xPlatinum accreditation for the short-lived #1 album was a drastic shortfall from Come On Over's 15xPlatinum haul. However, Shania scored her third successive Diamond album in the US anyway, Up! still managing to move 20 million copies worldwide.

So Shania left her career on the Up? Well, kinda, but an alleged affair between Robert and Shania's best friend put her personal life into turmoil. Shania was certainly "outta here" with the finalisation of their divorce coming through in 2010. Shania wasted no time to announced her return to music in 2011, working with producers David Foster and Nathan Chapman for the new material. So I guess it would be the sweetest revenge for Shania to come out of her musical hiatus with a hit without the aid of her now ex-husband. Fingers crossed.


Chart Run: (32 weeks) (ARIA Top 100)

Monday, February 20, 2012

I've Been Thinking About You - Londonbeat

(J. Chambers, J. Helms, G. Chandler, W. Henshall)


Chart Entry: 13th January, 1991
Highest Position: #1
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 103,544
From the album "In The Blood".


"I've Been Thinking About You" was all ready to go for Londonbeat's debut album, Speak, released in 1988. The band was advised by various record companies to hold off the singles' release in favour of establishing themselves in the industry and find their target audience, so it was a two year wait before the band could enjoy their worldwide hit when it finally surfaced on 1990's In The Blood.

Londonbeat were deceptively named as only multi-instrumentalist, William Henshall, can lay claim to the British tag. Americans Jimmy Helms and George Chandler joined the line-up while Jimmy Chambers, from Trinidad, added a third layer to the multi-culteral band. And just to further confuse everyone, Londonbeat actually started their career in The Netherlands where their first hit, "There's A Beat Going On", hit the Top Ten.

"I've Been Thinking About You" returned some much needed pop to the top of the Australian charts early 1991, after a run of rap, 60's nostalgia and Aussie rock tied up the #1 position for three months. And it was a welcome return, Londonbeat enjoying a four week run at the top which also spread throughout Europe in The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. But the crowning glory of Londonbeat's success was a solitary week on top of the US Billboard charts during April 1991, also converting to a top spot berth on their Dance Club Play charts.

With all their success, Londonbeat became more and more established in England, eventually vying to represent the country in the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest. They didn't quite make it through the heats, but the guys enjoyed a nice consolation with a comeback to the Australian charts with the aptly named, "Come Back", hitting our Top 20 and accredited Gold by the end of 1995.

"I've Been Thinking About You" came out of the 90's as one the best pop delights from a decade that saw almost every genre of music top the charts. After almost a decade out of the limelight, Londonbeat re-grouped in 2003 to release Back In The Hi-Life featuring re-recordings of their #1 hit and the follow-up, "A Better Love". Another album came the following year in the form of Gravity which rounded off Londonbeat's release schedule, however, members of the band have popped up here and there on various releases since.


Chart Run: (20 weeks)
(ARIA Top 100)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sukiyaki - 4PM

(H. Nakamura, J. Johnson)


Chart Entry: 5th March, 1995
Highest Position: #3
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 103,541
From the album "Now's The Time".


After forming in 1991, it took four years for 4PM's Larry McFarland, Martiz Ware, and brothers Reney Pena and Roberto Pena, Jr. to score a major hit with "Sukiyaki", and then just as quickly they faded away to hiatus after just two albums. The vocal group renamed themselves from IV Real, to 4PM, an acronym of "Four Positive Music", which promised the guys would deliver music without explicit lyric, violent themes, or degradation of women.

"Sukiyaki" was certainly a choice song to uphold those values. It was originally released by Kyu Sakamoto in 1961 as "Ue o Muite Arukō", topping the Popular Music Selling Record chart in Japan's Music Life magazine for three months. Music executive, Louis Benjamin, heard the song while traveling in Japan and quickly recorded an instrumental version with his group, Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen, renaming it "Sukiyaki" for commercial purposes. The fact that sukiyaki is a one-pot dish of beef, tofu, vegetables and noodles, and had absolutely nothing to do with the lyrical content of the song, didn't seem to phase the music buying public at all. "Sukiyaki" went on to top the US Billboard charts for three weeks, almost repeating that feat in Australia when it topped the Kent Top 20 for two weeks.

There was still quite a bit of translation to go before "Sukiyaki" became the hit that it was for 4PM. In 1963, a Brazilian group called Trio Esperanca released a Portuguese version; Dutch band, The Diamonds released their own version; while a French version was delivered via Canada's Claude Valade. An English version finally hit the shelves when Jewel Akens' "My First Lonely Night" was included as part of his 1965 double A-side release with "Mama, Take Your Daughter Back". "My First Lonely Night" is probably the closest lyric translation from the original Japanese hit which told of a lonely man whistling to keep his tears from falling. Jewels' version tells a similar story of a man walking alone after losing his love.

In 1981, A Taste Of Honey released their own English version of "Sukiyaki", the translation provided by Janice Johnson, one of the female members of the group. When translating the original Japanese lyric, Janice found that she could go in three thematic directions while being true to the language. "Ue o Muite Arukō" could potentially tell of a man on his way to his execution, or an optimist in the face of life's challenges, or the story of a love affair that has ended. Being the hopeless romantic she was, Janice opted for love gone wrong, but really, who would be interested in purchasing a song relating to the other two themes? A Taste Of Honey reached #3 on the US Billboard charts and a credible #24 on the Australian Music Report.

Everyone had their own way of bringing "Sukiyaki" to life, but 4PM opted to simply release a cover of A Taste Of Honey's version, which had previously been the most successful re-imagining of the hit. In Australia, despite not reaching #1, 4PM's "Sukiyaki" would become the most successful version of all time, enjoying a ten week run in the ARIA Top Ten that saw it become the 21st biggest hit of 1995. The group's #3 peak in Australia was one of the strongest in the world, 4PM also hitting #5 in New Zealand and #8 in the US, but it would be in Japan where the group really found substantial long term success.

4PM's first two albums, Now's The Time and Light In The Dark went Gold in Japan, but not enough to hold the group together, forcing them into hiatus for a few years at the end of the 90's. They reformed in 2000 minus Martiz, and continue to release albums under the Japanese Pony Canyon label. The trio still tours regularly throughout Japan, their most lucrative market place.


Chart Run:
(24 weeks) (ARIA Top 100)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Take A Bow - Rihanna

(T.E. Hermansen, M. Eriksen, S. Smith)


Chart Entry: 12th May, 2008
Highest Position: #3
Accreditation: Platinum
Points: 103,463
From the album "Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded".


The "Reloaded" Good Girl Gone Bad album turned out to be quite a little money spinner for Rihanna as "Take A Bow" bulleted into the Australian Top Ten just as three other tracks from the original release had done. The follow up single, "Disturbia", followed suite, and by the time the whole campaign had finished, Rihanna had clocked up five Top Ten singles, including two #1's, and a worldwide sales total of 7 million copies. It was the album that saw Rihanna cement herself in the A-list of music royalty, giving that "Queen of Pop" tag a little tug.

Rihanna's career has been built around selecting the hottest writing teams around to provide her with enough hits to rival even Madonna. "Take A Bow" was yet another hit for the Stargate team of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, who collaborated with Ne-Yo on the track. Stargate came into prominence during the late 90's after producing a couple of big hits for S Club 7, continuing their success for some of the biggest British acts such as Billie Piper, Blue and Hear'Say. A lull in their success saw the team concentrate on American acts such as Beyonce, Chris Brown and Ne-Yo, and soon the team was once again the hottest production team in the business.

The guys hit a goldmine when Rihanna joined in on the action, her first hit with them, "Unfaithful", hitting #2 on the Australian charts in 2006. Since then, Rihanna and Stargate could almost release a Greatest Hits compilation of their own as the two forces have collaborated on four #1 hits during her ever increasing successful career.

Of course, with so many hits coming out of the Stargate factory, it was only a matter of time that the critical knockers would have their say, exposing "Take A Bow" as a carbon copy of an earlier hit they produced with Beyonce, "Irreplaceable". It was also criticised that such a "standard" track would be the first release from the rejuvenated Good Girl Gone Bad album, many feeling "Disturbia" would have been a better choice, and more deserved of a higher level of success after stalling in the charts and paling in comparison to "Take A Bow".

But, with all the nitpicking surrounding Rihanna's success, there would have been little time for the Barbadian singer to notice what was going on around her anyway. In just three years since the success of "Take A Bow", she has released another three albums that have spawned an amazing amount of hits. Each single becomes just another needle in the haystack of Rihanna hits, making her quite simply, the biggest star in the world today.


Chart Run: (33 weeks) ARIA Top 100