This Week In 1991: July 7, 1991
New jack swing. Hip house. Grunge. Techno. With all the new genres infiltrating the top 50, how was an old fashioned pop/rock band supposed to compete?
This week in 1991, one such group that'd topped the singles chart in 1985 (and followed it up with a number 2 hit) struggled to fit in to the music scene. At the same time, two acts from emerging genres charted with songs that would go all the way to the top 10.
"The Grease Megamix" had demonstrated one way that old songs and artists could fit into the chart, and spent its fifth and final week at number 1 in the process. Unfortunately for Paula Abdul, who'd spent the previous three weeks waiting patiently at number 2 with "Rush Rush", someone else would ascend to the top the next week.
Off The Chart
Number 82 "Peace" by Colour Blue
Peak: number 82
Not to be confused with the later identically named hit by Sabrina Johnston, this "Peace" was a slice of funk/soul from a long-forgotten Sydney band.
Peak: number 79
Striking while the iron was hot, Jesus Jones debuted with their follow-up to "Right Here, Right Now", which peaked at number 35 this week. In the UK, "International..." went top 10.
Peak: number 51
While British bands like EMF and Jesus Jones had crossed over in Australia with relative ease, there were plenty of others that failed to find success here with songs that'd been big hits back home. Case in point: The Wonder Stuff, who'd steadily built an audience in the UK since 1987. They'd finally cracked the UK top 5 with their 11th single, but "The Size Of A Cow" was possibly too quirky for Australian tastes. The Wonder Stuff would enjoy a hit locally in early 1992, but it'd take a cover version for them to do so.
Peak: number 55
When Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen in 1985 as the replacement for departed singer David Lee Roth, it'd been business as more or less usual. The hard rock band's sound didn't change dramatically from 1984 to 5150, and the chart hits continued. Three years after they reached number 23 with "When It's Love" from OU812, Van Halen returned with the just-as-punningly titled For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and lead single "Poundcake", both of which marked a return to their less synths, more traditional rock sound of old (well, as traditional as it can get when a power drill is used on a track). Seems some people missed the synths.
Peak: number 6
While "Here We Go, Let's Rock 'N' Roll" had felt like a pale imitation of "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)", the third single from C+C Music Factory showed they weren't a one-trick dance act (and returned them to the top 10). Featuring the most quotable rap since "Bust A Move", "Things That Make You Go Hmmmm..." recounted four tales of cheating partners - 1) the friend's girlfriend who didn't want to chill baby, baby chill baby, baby wait; 2) the friend who ruined your life, slept with your wife; 3) the girlfriend who'd been playin' tic tac toe and 4) the guy who came home late smellin' like perfume. A great showcase for the group's resident rapper, Freedom Williams, the song also proved yet again that Australia's taste in hip-hop definitely sat at the poppier end of the spectrum.
Number 48 "I Wanna Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd
Peak: number 4
So far, Australia's taste in new jack swing had pretty much been limited to the work of Bobby Brown. That changed with the top 5 success of this single, the debut of four-piece vocal harmony group - and mustard-coloured suit fans - Color Me Badd. Taken from the soundtrack to film New Jack City, the sample-ridden track sexed its way up charts around the world, reaching number 2 in the US and topping the UK chart.
Number 46 "Future Love Paradise" by Seal
Peak: number 46
When Seal was announced as a coach on the first season of the Australian version of The Voice in 2012, I thought it was a bit of a coup. Then, someone I worked with said, "But he's only had one hit." My colleague was wrong, of course - Seal's actually had two top 40 hits in Australia - but it did make me realise that my perception of Seal's success is skewed by the fact that I like more of his songs that your average Australian. One such song was "Future Love Paradise", with the follow-up to "Crazy" progressing no further than this entry position. An under-rated tune.
Peak: number 40
Here's the group that'd enjoyed great success in the '80s (including number 1 single "The Power Of Love") but found the charts less welcoming in the '90s. The last time Huey Lewis & The News had reached the ARIA top 50 was with "Perfect World", which became their eighth top 30 single of the decade. Three years later, "Couple Days Off", the lead release from the Hard At Play album, could only climb as high as number 40. Why? Well, in 1991, Huey Lewis & The News's brand of good-time MOR rock had become dated and, as Van Halen discovered, clinging on to a sound that'd once worked for you wasn't generally regarded as a good thing.
Number 40 "Monkey Business" by Skid Row
Peak: number 31
As if to prove my point, here's another American rock band that, unlike Huey and friends, did move with the times. For their second album, Slave To The Grind, Skid Row adopted a harder metal sound in lieu of the generic late '80s hard rock of their debut self-titled album. Sure, "Monkey Business" didn't scale the same chart heights that "I Remember You" had in 1990, but it did at least venture higher up the chart than either Van Halen or Huey Lewis & The News managed. Even so, like those two other bands, Skid Row would never return to the top 50, although Sebastian Bach would be back in the spotlight over a decade later with a recurring role in Gilmore Girls, so that's something.
Listen to this week's new entries on my Spotify playlist of all the top 50 hits from 1991:
Next week: the return of the band that'd changed the sound of rock in the late '80s, while another rock band changes their sound and scores their biggest hit with a tender ballad. Plus, Indigenous Australian music meets dance beats in one of the year's most popular homegrown singles.