11 Songs That Were Perfectly Appropriate to Have Been #1 on Valentine’s Day

My colon is clean. I don’t have two-shits to give about Valentine’s Day but since I woke up this morning with a sudden, uncontrollable desire to revisit Celine Dion‘s love songs compilation (and have been merrily screeching along to all the top notes), I started to wonder what songs happened to have been #1 on Valentine’s Day over last 30 years or so.

February 14th is such a major date in the marketing calendar and no “””holiday””” has been better constructed with the sole purpose of exploiting romance and loneliness quite like this one, so it actually made sense to look back on what records were being pushed to death around this time of the year.

For every strategically timed single release that failed to top the charts, (Hi ya, Victoria Beckham ‘A Mind of Its Own’ circa 2002!) there were plenty who hit the mark and either had us all giddy with euphoria or weeping into a tub of Häagen-Dazs.

Here are 11 perfectly spot on Valentine’s Day chart-toppers:

Whitney Houston ‘How Will I Know’ (1986, US)

Believe it or not Whitney‘s first banger was actually a Janet Jackson reject. This joyous, fluorescent pop tune brings all my favourite elements of 80s pop, yearning and sentimental lyrics with really vibrant synths, big drums and big vocals. It doesn’t matter where in the world I am, I’ll feel instantly at home at any gay dive bar that plays this.

Cher ‘Believe’ (1999, Australia)

Speaking of gay dive bars! I guess we are where we are. I’m picturing a sea of blonde highlights in cargo pants in a heaving nightclub, green laser lights catching the sweat on heavily plucked brows. Everybody here is picturing someone they’d love to sing these words to. A survivalist dance anthem like ‘Believe’ and ‘I Will Survive’ really only comes around once every 10, 20 years or so – if we’re lucky. It took less than two months for this to become the biggest-selling hit of 1998 in the UK, and the excitement soon poured over internationally the following year when Australia made ‘Believe’ it’s Valentine’s Day anthem of 1999.

No Doubt ‘Don’t Speak’ (1997, Australia)

A gut-wrenching and quintessentially 90s rock break-up classic. I’m surprised to learn that despite this being the most played song on radio in 1996 in America, it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 because ‘Don’t Speak’ was not released as an actual commercial single there. The single did however hit #1 in several international charts including Australia when we were all nursing heartbreaks that year to Gwen Stefani‘s aching tones.

George Michael ‘Careless Whisper’ (1985, US)

I get chills every time I hear that sax intro. Seriously, what a bloody god-sent masterpiece. ‘Careless Whisper’ topped the US charts in February 1985, six months after it was already a huge #1 hit in the UK. George would go on to have another Valentine’s Day #1 two years later with Aretha Franklin in ‘I Knew You Were Waiting For Me’.

Kylie ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ (1988, UK)

We all know the story behind this career-launching hit that almost wasn’t to be. But all I can say is thank god for Kylie sticking around the Stock Aitken and Waterman lobby and not storming out in a huff when those guys completely forgot she was scheduled to work with them, because the few minutes they had to scramble something together for her became ‘I Should Be So Lucky’. Who knew 30 years later it’d remain such a bittersweet and persistent metaphor for our perpetually unlucky in love pop princess?

Toni Braxton ‘Un-Break My Heart’ (1997, US)

Did I ever tell you guys that my father was obsessed with this song? Like capital ‘O’ obsessed. Like, Beyoncé playing a woman dressed by Target Obsessed. He had the Secrets album on cassette and would literally only rewind back to this song every single time. Then when CDs became popular, I think he went out and bought the album on CD because it was easier to keep the track on repeat in this format.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert ‘Same Love’ (2013, Australia)

A beautiful and political declaration of equal love that very much reflected the cultural shift of the time. It’s so beautiful to see that this was #1 in Australia where sadly, the fight for marriage equality still continues. It’s actually odd looking back and seeing how much Macklemore was killing it at the time. Through all the years I’ve looked back on Valentine’s Day #1s, I’ve not come across one artist who had total dominance on US, UK and Australian charts like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis did in 2013 (‘Thrift Shop’ was #1 in US and UK that week).

Atomic Kitten ‘Whole Again’ (2001, UK)

I will never not have time for Atomic Kitten. It’s just one of those things. I won’t even call it a guilty pleasure because I don’t feel any way guilty for liking it, and neither should you. I literally screamed when I found out ‘Whole Again’ was #1 this week… 16 years ago! To think these girls were hanging onto their record deal barely by the tips of their acrylic nails before the label agreed to release ‘Whole Again’ is ludicrous. They had ‘Whole Again’ the whole time but chose to release four other tracks, which got virtually zero-cares from everyone. Thank god common sense prevailed!

Sinead O’Connor ‘Nothing Compares 2 U (1990, UK)

It’s been seven hours and fifteeeeeeen days… DEAD. I am dead. I forgot Prince actually wrote this one. This is may be a Prince song but it is a Sinead O’Connor classic, you feel me? The super chilling and despondent ballad was a massive fuck-off global hit for the Irish singer, shifting platinum sales in the UK and becoming the biggest selling single of 1990 in Australia. Part of me wishes Prince had written more break up songs for other people.

Jennifer Lopez ‘All I Have’ (2003, US)

That scene in the video where J.Lo is wiping her nose and lugging all her shit through the snow is literally what comes to mind every time I picture myself in post-break up glamour!     2002-2003 was the era where J.Lo was literally killing everybody in the game. She was dominating the box office with films like Maid in Manhattan, she had launched a successful fragrance collection, the tabloids were lapping up her Hollywood fairytale romance with Ben Affleck, she was massive on the radio with hits like ‘Jenny From The Block’ and this one… we didn’t quite catch it at the time but we were witnessing the building of one of America’s most enduring pop entertainers and media moguls with an empire that would keep expanding 15 years on. I’m literally too embarrassed to ask myself what I’ve done with my life in that time.

Whitney ‘I Will Always Love  You’ (1993, US and Australia) 

An appropriate and painfully obvious Valentine’s Day chart-topper. It spent a mind-blowing 14 weeks at #1 on the US Billboard chart. Oh yes… all through Christmas, Boxing Day sales, Hanukkah, NYE messiness and New Year’s resolutions that were broken before she came back for the big final chorus. The iconic song made a return on sadder terms this time five years ago after Whitney’s death. The surge of emotional purchases saw ‘I Will Always Love You’ top the iTunes charts and return to the US Billboard Hot 100 for the first time in 20 years.

Here is a playlist of 40* best Valentine’s Day #1 hits. All in one convenient music streaming receptacle. *’Nothing Compares 2 U’ is not on Spotify though….  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Carelessly whispering on Twitter as always – @feedlimmy.

 

 

 

A Rose is Still A Rose: Checking for Aretha Franklin’s 90s and 00s material

OG diva and “the undisputed Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin announced earlier this week she was hanging up her microphone after one final album of originals this year, which will be produced by another influential music legend no less, Stevie Wonder.

For a generation that didn’t grow up with Aretha topping the charts and being a mainstay in the spotlight, she is probably better known for that wig-snatching gif and various viral moments. There’s the iconic Inauguration Hat memes and that time we gagged at Cissy Houston rolling her eyes and half-arsing her way through Aretha’s performance of ‘Rolling In The Deep’. The internet has also kept a catalogue of her shadiest moments like when she snatched her arm away from Patti Labelle when the singer tried to congratulate her and let’s not forget that masterclass in top shelf shade when Aretha was asked her opinion on Taylor Swift and only offered: “Okay… um. Great gowns. Beautiful gowns.”

In a time where ‘icon’, ‘diva’ and ‘queen’ titles are thrown at anyone with a big enough Gay Twitter following, I like to think that individuals of cultural impact on Aretha’s stratosphere (of which there aren’t many) are still regarded with a special, untouchable kind of status.

When we think of Aretha Franklin, we think ‘Empress Diva of Soul with zero fucks to give’, we think of ‘Respect‘, we think of ‘Think‘, we think of the 98’ VH1 Divas Live concert (which also featured other greats like Mariah, Celine, Shania, Gloria Estefan and Carole King). But we don’t seem to check for the latter part of her career as much. Sure she’s not as active as she was in her hey-day but Aunt ReRe was definitely still putting down some moments in music over the last 20 years or so.

So, in light of this retirement announcement, I’ve decided to sift through some of her original records from the 90s onwards and see what we might’ve missed.

‘A Rose Is Still A Rose’ (1998)

A poetic feminist jam written and produced by Lauryn Hill especially for Aretha’s 1998 album of the same name. Now, I actually remember this one because there was a time where MTV played music videos and there was a time where music video stations played the latest hot hit by Aretha Franklin.

Looking back, this video is like the most amazingly 90s thing I’ve ever seen. Those massive bomber jackets that were a staple in mainstream R&B music videos, and Queen Aretha posted up in some of the best wigs of her career, looking like Earth Mother draped in luxurious fabrics, trilling life advice by the piano in some kind of synthetic Garden of Eden in the projects? I live.

The album, which also featured songs written by Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, Jermaine Dupri and Dallas Austin, was a remarkable exercise in modernising the diva’s sound and reconnecting her with a younger audience. It remains Aretha’s most critically acclaimed and best-selling album of the 90s.

 

‘Never Gonna Break My Faith’ with Mary J. Blige (2006)

A stirring gospel anguish written by Bryan Adams for the Bobby soundtrack. This Golden Globe-nominated song is a powerful meeting of two of America’s most prominent female soul singers. It also showed us that while demand for a full album of Aretha’s originals were at an all time low, you could still 100 per cent count on her to deliver that one king-hit performance. One big performance is all it takes. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am!

 

‘Don’t Waste My Time’ – Mary J. Blige with Aretha Franklin (1999)

From Mary J. Blige‘s critically-acclaimed album Mary, this hefty, angst-filled duet where a larger-than-life Aretha urges Mary to move on from a deadbeat relationship is mostly the former diva hollering over the latter. But for lovers of this kind of over the top and gospel-derived style of singing, it really doesn’t get any better than this. The pair even picked up a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo. It really makes me yearn to see more female artists coming together and showing solidarity and sisterhood in songs.

‘Put You Up On Game’ with Fantasia (2007)

I’ve always enjoyed the back-and-forth kind of duets Aretha’s done in her career. Check the sassy and brashly 80s pop shakedown with Whitney in ‘It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be‘. Here the OG diva plays a nosy, older woman giving a young and seemingly naive-in-love Fantasia some relationship advice on a modern R&B ballad format, produced by The Underdogs.

Fantasia is without question one of the most brilliant and under-appreciated old school soul singers we have today. She is part of a dying breed and I fear almost daily that she’ll never achieve the mainstream recognition she deserves. The ad-libs at the end of this song gives us just a hint of what could have been had these ladies been able to perform this live and just jam with no restrictions.

‘Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool’ (2003)

A pensive ballad, written and produced by Janet Jackson‘s hitmakers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, where Aretha shakes off a shady frenemy who constantly pokes at her relationship, questioning if she knows where her man’s been and what he’s up to etc. LOL. Sounds like a scene straight out of Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Despite appearing blind to his bullshit, Aretha reasons, “a little bit of my man’s sweet love is a whole lot better than none of it”. Queen of Drama and Real Talk.

‘Mary Goes Round’ (1991)

Aretha’s brief and poorly-received foray into New Jack Swing is probably best left in the crypt of the 90s but this What You See Is What You Sweat (I know right?!) album track is nonetheless an interesting showcase of what happens when you infuse her style of spirited soul with the exuberant, dominant dance music style of the time. Here ReRe manages to throw everything at you, from deep growls to even a hint of vampy dance captain realness in the spoken word bits (“Turn the corner right! Turn the corner left!”). Very much a product of its time, as they would say.

 

Until next time, you can catch me tweeting here at @feedlimmy.