Single Review: Olivia Newton-John “Xanadu”

Album: Xanadu Soundtrack
Year: 1980

In the movie “Xanadu,” Olivia Newton-John plays Kira, the muse of dancing who walks out of the wall after artist Sonny paints her on it. She inspires him and orchestra leader Danny (legendary actor Gene Kelly) into open a nightclub named Xanadu. “Xanadu” is sung at the end of the movie as Newton-John rollerskates and claps, in celebration of the club’s opening.

Fanatical guitars start the song. She says that the 40s/70s music combination was a buisness risk not many people wanted to take. But she found two suckers who did. She helped Danny and Sonny design the club overnight with her charms. It has lights, light everywhere. She’s elated she was able to convince her father, Greek god, Zeus to let her date Sonny. She’s going to be with forever and ever. And it all took was a Top 40 song. (“A place where nobody dared to go/The love that we came to know/They call it Xanadu/And now, open your eyes and see/
What we have made is real/We are in Xanadu/A million lights are dancing/And there you are, a shooting star/An everlasting world and you’re here with me/Eternally.”)

Foreboding drums signal it’s chorus time. And in case, listeners forgot the title, it’s repeated nine more times. It’s just enough drill it into a person’s head and for them to wish to have never heard the song. She declares nothing new. They are in Xanadu. (“Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)/In Xanadu/Xanadu – Xanadu (now we are here)/In Xanadu.”)

A dramatic Newton-John prophesizes that the club is destined to be a hit. An eager keyboard swells behind her as she says “for you, Xanadu” in the only true good moment in the single. Then, the eager keyboards become frenzied and segue into the second verse. (“Xanadu your neon lights will shine/For you Xanadu.”)

She says that people can find their dreams in the club, like Sonny and Danny did. Dreams don’t die, they live on through the sorrow and self-defeat. (“The love, the echoes of long ago/
You needed the world to know, they are in Xanadu/The dream that came through a million years/That lived on through all the tears/It came to Xanadu..”)

The pre-chorus is sung once. (“a million lights are dancing and there you are…here with me eternally.”)

The chorus is sung twice.
The noisy, unappealing strings accompany Newton-John as she sings that everyone is happy in Xanadu. The word is first stretched to five long syllables. Then, sung with a garish operatic flair. (“Now that I’m here, now that you’re near in Xanadu.”)

The tacky “Xanadu” is like eating a whole bag of shredded cheese, triple cheese pizza, and cheescake all in one sitting. It’s manufactured fun without an ounce of actual amusement.


Single Review: Teena Marie “Lovergirl”

Album: Starchild
Year: 1984

Teena Marie hits on a guy in the roguish “Lovergirl.”

Teena Marie “Whoa-eee’s” over animated guitars to open the single, leading into a long synthesizer and drum machine solo. She’s forward, if a bit self-concious when she uses her pick-up line. She admits it’s a lame way to start a conversation. However, she sensed signals indicating his interest in her. (“Coffee, Tea or Me Baby/ Touche’/My opening line might be a bit passe but/don’t think that I don’t know/what it’s doing to me/cause I got a vibe on you/ the first time you saw me”)

In the pre-chorus, she promises not to be one of those dramatic girlfriends and that she absolutely has to have him. She heard through one of her friends he likes her. She adds she’s honest and loyal. (“I need your love, and I won’t bring no pain/a little birdie told me that you feel the same/I’m for real, and for you I’m true blue/Let’s make a deal, sugar, all I want to do is/Be your one and only lover.”)

In the chorus, she says she wants to the woman he loves for all time and changes his life forever. (“I just want to be your Lovergirl/I just want to rock your world.”) The phrase “rock your world” has been around that long?

In the second verse, she says another line. She comments it’s old-fashioned phrase. She’s well aware of her feelings. It was love at first sight for her. (“Hook, line, and sinker baby/That’s how you caught me/My second verse might be a/bit old hat but/don’t think that I don’t know what/I’m feeling for you/cause I got a vibe on you the first/time you saw through me.”)

After the chorus, Teena Marie sings a hearty “hey-yayayay!” as the electric guitar has flashy solo. Then, the chorus is sung again.

A subdued keyboard appears in the bridge while the drum machines and guitar have a lively good time.

She gets seductive as she coyly dances close to him. The synthesizer beeps every three lines. (“Baby, let me groove you/Let me groove into your love/I just want to be your Lovergirl/let me groove into you/let me rock your world/I just want to be your lovergirl/I just want to rock your world/baby, me let me smooth you/let me smooth into your world/I just want to be your lovergirl/let me prove it to you/let me rock your world/I just want to rock your world.”)

The first verse is sung in a staccato tone, which works amazingly well. She gracefully slides down the notes and doesn’t parrot them like a robot.

At the end of the song, Teena Marie has a spoken section. She says “when the push comes to shove/when you need a little love/let me put some rock into your world/call me up, don’t be shy/my love won’t make you cry/I just want to be your girl.”

The influential “Lovergirl” has elements of freestyle, which would later show up in Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam and Expose’s music. Marie’s brash, sly vocals also bring emotion to the otherwise average lyrics. As an early, post-disco dance song, it’s an excellent listen.


Single Review: Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam “Can You Feel The Beat”

Can You Feel the Beat
Album: Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam with Full Force
Year: 1985

Lisa Lisa tries to show her boyfriend their relationship is worth saving in the moody “Can You Feel the Beat.”

A drum is tapped and an acapella Lisa Lisa asks if her boyfriend knows if she still cares for him.(“Can you feel the beat within my heart/Can you see my love shine through the dark/Can you feel the beat within my heart/can you feel my love shine through the dark/Can you see that you must be a part of that beat in my heart/that beat within my heart.”) A downcast tone is created with the low hum of the instruments in the background.

An urgent drum machine and synthesizer solo occurs for nearly a half minute. She “whoa-whoa-ha’s” several times.

A mighty drum accompanies her in the verse. They’ve been together for a long time now and are starting to drift apart. She threw his ties out the window out of frustration and anger. She couldn’t believe she did it. She has denied that their relationship is no longer working and decides to talk the incident through with him. She tells him she doesn’t him to leave. If he stays, they will move past the rut and be more in love with each other than before. (“After all that we’ve been through/I just can’t seem to face the fact that boy I’m losing you/I threw away your ties through those venetian blinds/I looked and saw my heart just overruled my mind/And I tried not to let it show/Now I don’t know what to do/I tell myself I’m lying/So let’s just not let it go/
My heart does double beats for you/Now you know my love won’t grow cold/Oh this love will turn to gold if we stay in love/Oh, my love.”)

After the chorus is another urgent drum machine and synthesizer solo.

She can’t ignore her feelings for him and believes he’s her true love. When she thinks of him, she imagines kissing and touching him. Her heart pounds for him. She tried to hide the strength of her emotions from him and thought it wasn’t real. She longs for him to have the same strong feelings for her. (“It’s like trying to touch the sky but overlook the sun/That’s why reality keeps telling me that you’re the one/Just the very thought of you gets me aroused/And I can feel my heart beat right through my blouse/And darling I tried not to show/Now I don’t know what to do/I tell myself that I’m lying/So let’s just not let it go/My heart does double beats for you, baby/
And I hope you feel the same/Cause I do know for sure, baby/That sure as my name/Oh baby I know that you’re the cure/Now you know my love won’t grow cold…oh my love.”)

After the chorus is repeated twice, the drum machine solo is tweaked some. The keyboards have her repeat forcefully “that beat” multiple times. Then, “can you feel the beat” phrase is manipulated. Her vocals go from high-pitched to normal then back.

A male member of the group then asks “can you feel the beat.” Lisa Lisa’s muffled “aahhh” follow.

Lisa Lisa sings the last section of the verses: “now you know my love won’t grow cold/oh this love will turn gold if we stay in love.”)

Lisa Lisa singing “my love” multiple times ends the single.

Dance music is typically upbeat. However, the Full Force and the Cult Jam turn the it into a brooding dark house single. “Can You Feel the Beat” is dance classic due to bending the cliche mood of the average fare.


Single Review: Whitney Houston “So Emotional”

So Emotional
Album: Whitney
Year: 1987

Although Whitney Houston has a boyfriend, she’s attracted to another guy in the bright “So Emotional.”

Kittenish drums and hyper synthesizers accompany Houston as she comments she’s likes the guy for some unknown reason. She then vocalizes “woo hoo” ( I don’t know why I like it/I just do/Woo hoo hoo/hoo hoo.”) A zippy electric guitar then jumps with excitement.

She’s been imagining lying next to him. She looks a photo she took with him every night which she put on her nightstand. She can’t stop thinking of him and what they would do together. She gave him her phone number and anticipates talking to him. She scolds herself for liking the guy when she has a boyfriend. It must not be serious if he’s unaware of the photograph. (“I’ve been hearing your heartbeat inside of me/I keep your photograph beside my bed/Livin’ in a world of fantasies/I can’t get you out of my head uh/I’ve been waiting for the phone to ring all night/Why you wanna make me feel so good/I got a love of my own babe/I shouldn’t get so hung up on you.”)

In the sparkly synthesizer laden pre-chorus, she says a casual, friendly touch is enough to make her smile. (“I remember the way that we touch/I wish I didn’t like it so much uh.”)

The drum machines take over for the chorus. Houston notes she gets easily affected as she thinks of the day they spent hanging out together or how he laughs a certain way. (“I get so emotional baby/Every time I think of you/I get so emotional baby.”)

The zippy guitar returns for the last section of the chorus. Houston comments that love has an unexpected aspect to it. (“Ain’t it shocking what love can do/Ain’t it shocking what love can do/Ain’t it shocking what love can do (hee.”)

In the second verse, she’s rapt in his graceful movements. She can’t concentrate when he speaks. She thinks of kissing him with his pouty lips. (“I gotta watch you walk in the room baby/
I gotta watch you walk out (noo noo)/I like the animal way you move/And when you talk I just watch your mouth.”)

After the second time the chorus is sung, there’s a dance break. The synthesizers jingle nervously. Then, the electric guitars roar. Houston laughs at the end of it.

After the last chorus, Houston adlibs “hey yeah baby baby” and grunts. She repeats again “ain’t it shocking what love can do” and continues with a few more “yeah baby’s” to close the single.

Whitney Houston’s influence on Mariah Carey’s early sound is evident here in the stunning “So Emotional.” Full vocal power is used in the choruses. The adlibs of the chorus. The high notes saved until the end. A fantastic dance single worthy of imitation.


Single Review: Go-Go’s “We Got The Beat”

We Got The Beat
Album: Beauty and the Beat
Year: 1981

Belinda Carlisle, lead singer of the Go-Go’s, thinks people move to a natural rhythm without even realizing it in the sock hop rock of “We Got the Beat.”

Eager, bouncy drums open the single followed by nonchalant keyboards. It sets a social, bustling tone. Carlisle observes people taking walks in her neighborhood. She notices after a while they all walk the same way, making their own dance. (“See the people walking down the street/Fall in line just watching all their feet/They don’t know where they wanna go/But they’re walking in time.”)

In the chorus, she cheers that they have rhythm (“They got the beat/They got the beat/They got the beat, yeah/They got the beat.”)

Carlisle watches as the teenagers leave the high school. They are obsessed with being trendy. A little after midnight, they will all scatter home to meet their curfew. However, they’re movements will bounce off each like a dance. (“See the kids just getting out of school/They can’t wait to hang out and be cool/Hang around ’til quarter after twelve/That’s when they fall in line.”)

In the chorus, she replaces the two last “they’s” with “kids” (“They got the beat/They got the beat/Kids got the beat, yeah/Kids got the beat.”)

The guitars and drums go retro for a solo, invoking 60s surfer rock.

Carlisle and her friends listen to house. Go-go music, according to Washingtonian Online, is “live house music meant to keep an uninterrupted, down-home groove going on the dance floor.” It originated in Washington. A modern equivalent would be Junior Vasquez’s remixes. They also like to hang out and do early 60s novelty dances like the pony and the watusi. The pony began Chubby Checker. In “Pony Time,” he told to get a partner and form a line. Then, you turn the left and then the right. In the “Wah Wah Watusi” by the Orlons, people dance close together. It’s the “dance made for romance.” (“Go-go music really makes us dance/Do the pony puts us in a trance/Do the watusi just give us a chance/That’s when we fall in line.”)

Carlisle says she and her friends have their own individual rhythm. (“‘Cause we got the beat
We got the beat/We got the beat, yeah/We got it.”)

The guitars are silent as the red-blooded drums and animated hand claps accompany Carlisle. She says they have the moves. She then tells everyone to get off their couches and groove with them. (“We got the beat/We got the beat/We got the beat/Everybody get on your feet/We got the beat/We know you can dance to the beat/We got the beat/Jumpin’ get down/
We got the beat/Round and round and round/We got the beat/We got the beat.”)

The playful “We Got the Beat” pays homage to the numerous novelty songs during the 60s. However, they put their own spin it by not creating a specific dance. They reason that everyone already has moves they are comfortable with. They stress creativity and not moving the way song tells the person to.


Single Review: Belinda Carlisle “Love Never Dies”

Love Never Dies
Album: Heaven on Earth
Year: 1988

Belinda Carlisle cannot move on from a former lover in the aching “Love Never Dies.”

Glum strings and a wistful flute open the single, setting a reflective tone. Carlisle remembers the day they broke up. It was a frigid afternoon in winter. Despite the tension between them, she hoped it wouldn’t lead to a break-up. But she saw gray shadows in the distance and felt the winter air shoot through her bones. She knew it was over. (“I never knew how long a day could be/It was winter and the sun was shining/Beyond the shadows I could see/It was winter and the wind was blowing.”)

In the chorus, she comments that the feelings of love do not dissipate. It lingers on as the flowers begin to bloom and the months pass. (“Love never dies/I know that true love never dies/The seasons end/And time moves on/But true love never dies.”)

She kept a Polaroid of him that she took a couple weeks earlier before they broke up. She feels a chill throughout her body as it takes her back to the winter day. She’s tried getting past the relationship but nothing has worked. She still loves him. (“I look at a picture I took of you/Now it’s winter and the color’s fading/I just sit here while the wind blows through me/No matter how hard I try/Can’t stop this feeling.”)

The chorus has a slight change. She notes days instead seasons as a passage of time. (“Love never dies…A day comes to end/And time moves on…never dies.”)

Three years have passed and she cannot stop weeping at the thought of him. (“Now I don’t want to be wanting you/It’s been three winters and my heart’s still crying.”)

The chorus ends the single.

Carlisle’s vocals are top-notch. She is downhearted without being melodramatic. During the chorus, she uses the roughness in her voice to convey her pain. The searching “Love Never Dies” finds Carlisle clinging to whatever she can (a photo, memories) to keep her belief alive. Without her belief about love, she would fall apart.


Single Review: Bananarama “I Heard A Rumour”

I Heard A Rumour
Album: Wow!
Year: 1987

Gossip is spreading quickly in Bananarama’s group of friends about their former crush in the sassy “I Heard A Rumour.”

Flashy synthesizers open the single which leads to the first verse. One of the girls (for instance, Keren Woodward) had a A friendship with a crush went sour. He didn’t return call her like he said. Woodward’s girlfriends had warned her about him, saying he would only mess around with her heart. When she confronts him to talk about the gossip, she is certain to tell him she’s glad it didn’t work out. (“Who needs friends who never show/I’ll tell you what you want to know/I could have saved a broken heart if I found out long ago/I’m just thinking about those lonely nights/when I waited for your call/’Til I found out all my friends were right/I didn’t know you at all.”)

It turns out her crush is now telling their mutual friends that she hurt him. (“I heard a rumour/they say you got a broken heart/I heard a rumour (yes, I did boy.”)

Her girlfriends said he’s not the same guy he was before. She tells him she doesn’t want to get her hopes up and thinks he’s only a playing a game. If anything, she wants him to learn a lesson from it. She’s not convinced he’s changed and rejects his offer for a date. She can’t pretend to the last couple months didn’t happen. (“Now it seems they’re telling me/you’ve changed your wicked ways/But should I give you a second chance/baby, I’m too afraid/So you realize what hurt you made and the love you threw away/How can I forgive or soon forget/it’s never gonna be the same.”)

After the chorus, the part of the first verse is sung again (“I’m just thinking about those lonely nights…I didn’t know you at all.”) The chorus is sung one more time to end the single.

“I Heard A Rumour” finds Bananarama leaving behind their social message pop music behind for a sleek Stock-Aiken-Waterman sound. However, Bananarama bring intelligence and personality to the light material.