This Week In 1994: October 16, 1994
In the UK, their chart competition was much more hotly contested, but in Australia, the battle of British boys bands East 17 and Take That had decidedly been won by the former, who had a number 1 to their name, as well as four other top 10 singles. Take That, meanwhile, had reached number 10 with "Pray" and placed two other songs in the 30s.
This week in 1994, the boy bands went to head to head, with new singles by both making their debut on the ARIA top 50 in the same week. While neither song would be among their biggest hits, the performance of each said a lot about Australia's pop preferences.
Off The Chart
Peak: number 62
A decade earlier, the original version had started Cyndi Lauper's chart career with a number 1 smash. This reggae-fied update released to promote best of Twelve Deadly Cyns... And Then Some didn't come close to repeating that.
Number 74 "Rollercoaster" by The Grid
Peak: number 59
While "Swamp Thing" held firm at number 6, this less irritating follow-up joined it on the chart, but clearly the lack of a banjo removed the novelty factor — and therefore the attention it received.
Number 70 "My Everything" by Jennifer Brown
Peak: number 51
Hoping to join the ranks of Mariah, Celine and Toni, this ballad belter from Sweden fell just short of landing a hit with this single from her album Giving You The Best.
Number 41 "Standing Strong" by Wendy Matthews
Peak: number 37
Before we get to the boy bands, the week's other new entry was a song you'd think would've done much better. The lead single from Wendy Matthews' third solo album, The Witness Tree, "Standing Strong" was an uplifting, gospel-tinged tune that was more rousing than most of what she'd released before. Maybe that was the problem — it was certainly a very different style to "The Day You Went Away", but it's a shame this pretty much signalled the end of Wendy's chart career in Australia.
Number 38 "Love Ain't Here Anymore" by Take That
Peak: number 38
Up until now, Take That's success in Australia, such as it was, had come from two uptempo cover versions and a re-release of mid-tempo song "Pray", which took them into the top 10 in the wake of a promotional visit to our shores. But in the UK, they'd enjoyed quite a bit of success with ballads like "A Million Love Songs", "Why Can't I Wake Up With You" and British chart-topper "Babe", none of which even got a single release locally. In fact, as it would turn out, writing ballads was kind of Gary Barlow's forte, and "Love Ain't Here Anymore" was Take That's epic weepie from the Everything Changes album.
But perhaps the boy band's Australian record company had been wise to ease off on the ballads, since "Love Ain't Here Anymore" dropped out of the top 50 after arriving with a splash here at number 38. It would poke its head into the top 50 for one more week, but it was hardly what you'd call a major hit. Still, it out-performed previous single "Everything Changes", which hadn't even breached the top 50. For me, the song isn't one of my favourite Take That tunes, especially the pained falsetto at the dramatic climax, but the group would perfect the art of the ballad in 1995.
Number 19 "Steam" by East 17
Peak: number 18
Unlike Take That, East 17 had been embraced with open arms by Australian fans from the outset and, with the notable exception of "Gold", which missed the top 100, everything they had released here had reached the top 10. Although it looked like the quartet were set to maintain their strike rate with this title track from their second album, "Steam" only progressed one more spot up the chart, hovering between 18 and 20 for the first five weeks of its chart run. Fair enough — like "Love Ain't Here Anymore", it wasn't one of their best songs. Still, the sexy swagger of "Steam" was much more in line with Australia's boy band tastes which, Boyz II Men excepted, had tended to skew more towards party jams and new jack swing tracks than power ballads. Naturally, East 17's next single, which would restore them to the top 10, would be one of the year's most epic pop ballads...
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1994:
Next week: the return of one of music's most controversial performers with a song that wasn't actually the most shocking new hit of the week. Plus, a dance track that sampled the quintessential grunge song.