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Pop CultureAugust 10, 2017

Chartlander: The NZ music charts this week in … 1991

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Welcome to Chartlander, where each week we travel back through time to land in a different year on the official New Zealand singles chart in the hopes of (re)discovering forgotten Top 40 gold. Today we go back 26 years to this day in 1991.

Welcome to the 10th of August 1991 in Aotearoa. Jim Bolger is the prime minister, Gary Whetton is the captain of the All Blacks (who today lose 21-12 to Australia in Sydney) and a lot of people are mad at finance minister Ruth Richardson after she released ‘the mother of all budgets’.

Meanwhile, on the official New Zealand singles chart

☝️ Number One

Aaron Neville – ‘Everybody Plays the Fool’

With a singing voice that saw him nicknamed The Human Oboe, Aaron Neville’s exquisitely smooth ‘Everybody Plays the Fool’, from his solo album Warm Your Heart, has warmed the hearts of New Zealanders to become this week’s #1. The music video features a fantastic double denim outfit of jeans and a sleeveless jacket, with a variety of folks ‘playing the fool’ while Aaron Neville hangs out on a stoop. New Zealand was the only country in which this song got to #1.

Cover alert: The original version of this song was released in 1972 by The Main Ingredient, an R&B group whose members included Cuba Gooding Senior.

???? Best Bets

#14 Father MC – ‘I’ll Do 4 U’ (ft. Mary J Blige)

Father MC’s wholesome rap about being a good boyfriend is disproportionately popular in New Zealand – it went all the way to #1 earlier in 1991, compared to a peak of #20 on the US singles charts. The Bronx rapper was one of the first artists signed by up-and-coming record executive Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs for Uptown Records. His second single, ‘I’ll Do 4 U’ is most notable for being the debut appearance of R&B icon Mary J. Blige.

Sample alert: This song gets its bounce from Cheryl Lynn’s 1978 disco classic ‘Got to Be Real’.

#16: Seal – ‘Crazy’

Seal’s first and arguably best single, ‘Crazy’ has already been in the charts for 13 weeks at this stage, having peaked at #8. Cutting edge production from the maestro Trevor Horn makes it sound way ahead of its time – most other artists wouldn’t catch up to this kind of thing until at least 1996. Seal briefly plays a bass in the music video and looks extremely cool doing so.

#39 (new): Lenny Kravitz – ‘It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over’

This is Lenny Kravitz’s first ever appearance on the New Zealand singles charts and it’s a heck of a tune. If all you know of Kravitz is his later run of retro rock singles (‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’, ‘American Woman’ et al), ‘It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over’ is a revelation – a perfect pastiche of ‘60s-’70s soul, complete with an elegant string section hook and the Phenix Horns also in the mix. Kravitz played all other instruments, including the sitar in the second half of the song.

???? Major Artist, Minor Hit

#27: Rod Stewart – ‘The Motown Song’

Rockin’ Rod gets all sentimental over his old Motown records on this underrated and seemingly forgotten cut from the Vagabond Heart LP. It’s got The Temptations on backing vocals and half of Toto as the session musicians, and a crack-up animated video that skewers pop flavours of the month like Madonna and MJ. Peaked at #23.

Cover alert: The original version of this song was written and performed by Larry John McNally and appeared on the soundtrack to Kevin Bacon movie Quicksilver in 1986.

???? Wildcard

#30: LaTour – ‘People Are Still Having Sex’

“Have you noticed that people are still having sex? All the denouncement had absolutely no effect. Parents and counsellors constantly scorned them. But people are still having sex and nothing seems to stop them.” This song has the best lyrics on the whole chart and their deadpan spoken word robot voice delivery make this sound like a classic Triple J Hottest 100 novelty. But ‘People Are Still Having Sex’ is also a big political statement made in the midst of AIDS hysteria; it holds up surprisingly well and would absolutely go off if you DJed it at a trendy bar in 2017.

Sample alert: The “Hello, lover” sample is from the movie Evil Dead 2.

Censorship alert: The line “The safe thing’s not working” was originally “This AIDS thing’s not working.”

???? Erotic Expo

#3 Color Me Badd – ‘I Wanna Sex You Up’

No beating around the bush from Oklahoma City’s Color Me Badd who have produced this week’s most sexual track with the New Jack Swing classic ‘I Wanna Sex You Up’. Lead singer Bryan Abrams sports one of the most distinctly unsexy moustaches you will ever see in the music video.

Sample alert: This is one of the many songs that samples Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh’s ‘La Di Da Di’

???? Trendwatch

Long hair on men

This weeks charts are absolutely crawling with long-haired men. Still a month from the release of grunge gamechanger ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, the hair metal era is hanging on for dear life – notorious longhairs Extreme are #2 this week with soppy acoustic ballad ‘More Than Words’ and Guns N’ Roses’ ‘You Could Be Mine’ is #4. Alice Cooper (’Hey Stoopid’) is in the top 20 while Shihad, The Black Crowes, Michael Bolton, Push Push and Skid Row are also using more than their fair share of Pantene.

Extreme…ly long hair on these men

???????? Kiwi Flagbearers

Total this week: 4

Weird to think there was a time when ‘Why Does Love Do This To Me?’ was new – it’s always seemed like it’s existed forever, like ‘Pokarekare Ana’ or the national anthem – but here the Exponents classic is just 14 weeks old, still going strong at #10. Crowded House’s ‘Chocolate Cake’ is at #15 and Shihad’s noisy debut EP Devolve is a strong showing at #20. Push Push round out the Kiwi count this week with ‘Trippin’ at #33.

???? Cover Art of the Week

Rod Stewart – ‘The Motown Song’

Amazing cartoon of Rod Stewart and his dog, almost looks like it could be a cell from the ‘Paranoid Android’ music video. The Marvin Gaye LP tucked under his arm is the pièce de résistance sealing ‘The Motown Song’ as our Cover Art of the Week for the 10th of August, 1991.

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