This Week In 1991: January 20, 1991
You'd think dance acts would have wised up after what happened to Milli Vanilli. Or Black Box. Or Technotronic. But no, this week in 1991, a new club smash debuted on the ARIA singles chart and brought with it yet another vocalist cover-up.
This time, though, the dance track emerged from the US, and the resulting legal action helped changed the way singers were credited. But, unlike Milli Vanilli's spectacular fall from grace, the artists behind the record only got bigger as the year progressed.
An artist whose own fall from grace wasn't that far away held down the number 1 spot this week in 1991. "Ice Ice Baby" spent a second on top for Vanilla Ice.
Off The Chart
Number 97 "Say A Prayer" by Breathe
Peak: number 97
The British trio had enjoyed UK and US success with first album All That Jazz, but only America was still interested in follow-up Piece Of Mind. This best-performing single was remixed significantly from the album version.
Peak: number 58
It was one thing for the more serious, issue-driven music of Public Enemy and N.W.A. to struggle to find a mainstream audience in Australia. But, if any rap song was going to be a hit here in early 1991, you'd have thought it would've been cheeky ditty "Knockin' Boots". Incorporating the well-known melodic hook from "Ooh Boy" by Rose Royce and the bassline from "Tonight's The Night" by Betty Wright - and given the blessing of double hit-maker Tone Lōc (who can be heard on the song's intro) - the track was a top 10 hit in the States for Candell Manson (aka Candyman).
Peak: number 57
Here's another hip-hop track that you would've thought was poppy enough to appeal to the finicky Australian public. But, the Canadian duo comprised of Frank "Capital Q" Allert and Louis "King Lou" Robinson were slightly ahead of the curve, with a jazz rap song not breaking through on the ARIA chart until mid-year when De La Soul succeeded with a single that had a big fat gimmicky hook. "Wash Your Face In My Sink" was Dream Warriors' debut single and featured a sample from "Hang On Sloopy" by Count Basie.
Number 47 "Power Of Love" by Deee-Lite
Peak: number 47
With "Groove Is In The Heart" still in the top 20 after 15 weeks on the chart, it was pretty clear that Deee-Lite's number 1 debut was going to be hard to match. And, as history has shown, the dance trio never did come anywhere near equalling that success, despite follow-ups like "Power Of Love" and "Good Beat" also being excellent tracks. For me, this brief appearance by "Power Of Love" in the ARIA top 50 is enough to disqualify Deee-Lite as a one-hit wonder, but technicalities aside, that's the tag they've ended up being saddled with. Interestingly (or not, you decide), "Power Of Love" also peaked at number 47 in the US, while the single at least had success on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart, on which it became Deee-Lite's second consecutive number 1.
Peak: number 3
Correct me I'm wrong, but besides Deee-Lite, pretty much the only other big dance act to emerge from America - as opposed to the UK or continental Europe - in the early '90s was C&C Music Factory. And, dance tracks didn't get much bigger than "Gonna Make You Sweat...". From its introductory synth riff to Freedom Williams' rapid-fire rap to the huge wailing vocals courtesy of an uncredited Martha Wash, it was edgy enough to work in clubs but catchy enough to become a top 5 chart smash. In the US, it topped the Billboard Hot 100.
Formed by David Cole and Robert Clivillés (who would become the year's hottest producers, going on to work with Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey), C&C Music Factory did share one thing in common with their European peers - they were embroiled in a legal dispute after it emerged that Zelma Davis, who appears in the video for "Gonna Make You Sweat...", did not perform on the record. I've written previously about Martha Wash's legal battles, so I won't go into all that again, but her court actions against C&C Music Factory (and Black Box) did change the way guest vocalists had to be credited on songs - which is why we now often have cast-of-thousands credits.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: one of the year's biggest TV shows spawns a chart-topping single, plus a male artist returns with his first new music in four years and it all goes horribly wrong for a promising pop star.