A little ditty about John Mellencamp…well actually just a post. I’ll leave the songwriting to him. The musician turns 70 today and over the years he has cranked out hits like “Jack & Diane”, “Hurts So Good”, and “Pink Houses”. He’s a true American rocker. Happy Birthday, Cougs!
Glitter was an epic disaster that nearly destroyed Mariah Carey’s career. That’s a dramatic statement, but it’s true. Up until 2001, Mariah was on top of her game, releasing one multi-platinum album after another and racking up fifteen #1 singles. Then she decided to try her hand at acting. Glitter (originally titled All that Glitters) is A Star is Born-like story about Billie (Carey), an aspiring singer in 1980s New York, who meets Dice (Max Beesley), a DJ who helps to propel her career as his own is flailing. There’s romance, drama, and lots of great music from the era. Good idea in theory, but horribly executed. The movie bombed and shortly before its premiere Mariah suffered a very public breakdown. The press had a field day roasting her downfall. The one good thing to come out of this mess was the soundtrack to Glitter. Unfortunately, it was released on 9/11 and was pretty much ignored. But it’s still a great album that just happened to get overshadowed by a bad movie. Hopefully people can appreciate it all these years later and see how ahead of the curve Mariah was by revisiting the 80s in the early 2000s.
11. Don’t Stop (Funkin for Jamaica)
You know what this song needs more of? Mariah. It’s Mystikal rapping for two verses while Mariah sings the hook. Yes, she comes in strong near the end, but it’s not enough. The original version, “Funkin for Jamaica”, is much better.
10. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
Similar to “Jamaica”. I could have done with less Busta Rhymes. At least Mariah sings more here. Nice bass line too.
She wrote “Twister” about her friend who committed suicide. It’s a beautiful tribute.
8. Want You
You’re enveloped by powerful synthesizers and layered vocals on this r&b jam. Plus, Eric Benet is a good match for her musically.
7. Reflections (Care Enough)
Billie’s song lamenting being abandoned by her mother, as a child. A lovely sad melody
6. Never to Far
A big sweeping ballad with an amazing belting note at the end. Loooooooove! Billie sings this after Dice is killed…sorry for the 20 year old spoiler.
5. If We
Mariah collaborates with Ja Rule and Nate Dogg on this seductive track. A winning trinity. It should have been a single, but there was drama behind the scenes. More on that later.
4. I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On
Mariah is living her pop dance diva fantasy on her cover of Cherelle’s 1984 hit. She’s flirty and coquettish, enticing you to get on the dance floor. But, she’s not to blame if you get turned on.
3. All My Life
Rick James wrote “Life” and you can hear him all over it. You would think it came from his Street Songs album. He brings out a certain spicy sexy side to her that you don’t usually hear. A Mariah Jane girl.
2. Lead the Way
Mariah shows some restraint on the first two verses, but when the bridge comes along she takes off. She scales the high notes with her vocal agility, leading the way for every “female entertainer” that comes after her. Simply gorgeous.
1. Loverboy (Original & Remix)
When Mariah initially recorded “Loverboy” she sampled an obscure song called “Firecracker”. Unfortunately, her ex-husband, Sony Chairman Tommy Mottola, heard the track and stole the sample for Jennifer Lopez’s song “I’m Real”. Mariah had to scramble to remake “Loverboy”, ultimately choosing Cameo’s “Candy” as the basis for the song. Mottola took his douchebaggery up a notch when he hired Irv Gotti to produce a track for JLo and Ja Rule, just like what he’d done on Mariah’s “If We”. That became the “I’m Real (Remix)” which was an enormous hit and thus made it so Mariah couldn’t release her own duet with Ja Rule.
Having heard both versions of “Loverboy”, I’ll say the Cameo sample works better. It takes you back in time and the addition of Ludacris and Da Brat on the remix brings in a modern hip-hop flair. “Loverboy” wouldn’t reach #1 on the charts, but it came in at a strong #2. It was the biggest selling single of 2001, proving you can never count Mariah out. Or as Da Brat raps, “Hate on me much as you want to. You can’t do what the fuck I do. Bitches be emulatin’ me daily.”
Today marks the 40th anniversary of An American Werewolf in London’s release and appropriately a full moon is on the horizon. Back in the 80s, the Jonathan Landis horror comedy brought a new perspective to the werewolf genre. The movie tells the story of two American friends who encounter a werewolf while backpacking through England. Jack (Griffin Dunne) is violently ripped apart while David (David Naughton) is attacked but survives. Later in the hospital, an undead Jack (who’s stuck in limbo) warns David that the bite turned him into a werewolf and he’ll have to kill himself to end the curse. David thinks it’s just a bad dream, until the killings start happening.
What sets London apart from similar films made up until that point is the comedy that Landis infuses into his script and direction. You go from being scared of this menacing werewolf to laughing at the crazy situations David gets thrown into. Like waking up naked in a wolf den at the zoo, post-transition, and having to get back home. Who knew a bunch of balloons could provide such coverage. And good on Landis for including full frontal male nudity here. You weren’t seeing much of that in 1981. Naughton is a natural comedic actor. He easily jumps into the physical aspects required of the role. Dunne brings a lot, as well, with his character’s dry wit.
The special effects and makeup are fairly revolutionary. We get to see David transform into his werewolf self, complete with expanding limbs and hair growth. No wonder the film won the innagural Oscar for Best Makeup. It’s smart that Landis waits until the tail end of the movie to show the transformation and a full view of the wolf. The audience can only imagine what the beast looks like, which can sometimes be scarier than the actual thing. There isn’t a ton of gore either. Subtlety definitely makes for better horror and London still holds up all these years later.
Since today is Friday the 13th it’s a good time to take a look at the horror movies inspired by the “holiday”. Even better that it’s the 40th anniversary of Friday the 13th Part II this year. It’s one of the best movies in the series and a huge part of that is because of Ginny (Amy Steele). The final girl/child psychology major/camp counselor is a formidable opponent for serial killer Jason (Warrington Gillette). She really shines towards the end of the movie, specifically in that endless chase scene. Here’s a breakdown in 13 parts.
1. Ginny and Paul (John Furey) come back to camp after a night out in town. The lights are out and none of the other counselors are around. Eerie. Oh and Jason is waiting for them in the dark. Look out Paul! A scuffle ensues. Jason, wearing his sack mask with the one eye cut out (just as unsettling as a hockey mask) pops up and scares the hell out of Ginny.
2. She runs to the bathroom, which doesn’t have a lock on the door. How can you pee safely in there? When she’s convinced Jason isn’t going to come in she goes for the window only to see his hand break through it. That bathroom really isn’t secure.
3. Ginny gets to the kitchen, which actually has a lock. Go figure. She stands by, armed only with a small knife, as Jason attempts to force his way in. When his pitchfork pierces the door, she finally scrambles out the open window.
4. She flees to her VW bug, the shitty one that never starts up, where Jason pitchforks his way thru the soft top roof. Don’t bring your bug to a horror movie, people.
5. Ginny manages to get away and dashes to the woods where she hides behind a tree. When Jason runs past she kicks him in the nuts. Good aim.
6. Around another bend, Jason suddenly leaps out, barely missing her. I may have screamed the first time I saw that scene in the movie. Possibly the second and third times too.
7. After a lot of running, Jason enters one of the cabins. Ginny has decided to crawl under a bed because why not choose the most obvious hiding place. Well, obvious to everyone except Jason who doesn’t even look. If it weren’t for Ginny peeing herself, causing a river of urine to flow from under the bed, he would have left. She believes he’s gone and comes out, nearly getting impaled on his pitchfork.
8. Ginny grabs a chainsaw from the closet. Whoa, wrong horror franchise. She scares Jason with it until it runs out of gas. So she just throws the saw at him and breaks a chair over his back. He’s down. Rather then finish him, she runs off again. Oh, girl.
9. Deeper in the woods, Ginny comes upon Jason’s shack. He follows. She barricades herself in the backroom where she finds Mrs. Voorhies (Betsy Palmer) severed head and shrine.
10. It’s time for some child psychology. Ginny puts on Mrs. V’s moldy sweater and stands in front of her head. When Jason breaks down the door, she goes into mommy-mode and pretends to be her. Jason falls for it until Ginny moves to hack him with a machete and he sees his real mother’s head. Uh-oh.
11. Paul arrives in the nick of time and saves Ginny. A struggle ensures. Ginny grabs the machete and brings it down on Jason’s shoulder. He falls to the ground. For now.
12. Paul and Ginny stumble back to one of the cabins. They hear something outside and fear the worst, but it’s just Muffin, the little dog. Whew. And then a deformed still-alive Jason crashes through the window behind Ginny. The most shocking jump scare of the movie. Slam to black.
13. It all ends with the cops and paramedics swarming the camp. A confused Ginny is loaded into the back of an ambulance. Where’s Paul? Where’s Jason? Most importantly, is Muffin ok?
On this day in 1986, One Life to Live supercouple Tina (Andrea Evans) and Cord (John Loprieno) got married for the first time. There would be three other trips down the aisle. The couple was always experiencing some sort of drama that tore them apart. Typically it had to do with Tina’s lies and schemes. But there was also a crazed mother-in-law, jail time, baby switches, interlopers, and a presumed death or two. Thankfully the writers got them back together before OLTL went off the air. We had to have one last Tina & Cord wedding.
Never to Young to Die poses the question: what if James Bond had a son who was also a secret agent? The answer: they’d make an incredibly bad movie about him. To be clear, NTYTD isn’t supposed to be 007 Jr., but c’mon. You have a former Bond actor (George Lazenby) playing a spy, a Bond girl (Vanity), and a dastardly villain (Gene Simmons) with a sinister plot. Plus the dramatic title that sounds like it could be a legitimate entry in the series. Director Gil Bettman knew where he was going with this. It’s just that getting there went completely left. And shitty.
While on a secret mission, Drew Stargrove (Lazenby) is killed by the evil Velvet Von Ragnar (Simmons). After the funeral, Drew’s son Lance (John Stamos, pre-Uncle Jessie) discovers his father’s spy past. This prompts the college student/gymnast to leap into action (on his little motorbike) and avenge his father’s death. Along the way, Lance teams up with his father’s associate, agent Danja Deering (Vanity). They aim to take down Velvet before she can carry out her plan to poison the city’s water supply.
The movie is truly ridiculous from the get go. We’re supposed to believe Lance can instantly become a super spy? That he can fight off Velvet’s Mad Max-like henchmen with ease? Those are some wacky action sequences, btw. But most importantly, that he can save the world? Mmmmk. Then there’s Danja (spelled how Whoopi would pronounce it). Vanity was clearly brought in to sex up the movie. Cue topless scene. Ultimately her character is flat and one-note. Adding to the blandness is the lack of chemistry with Stamos. Yes, they’re both hot, but it doesn’t translate into anything exciting. Let’s not even get into their bizarre love scene where she hoses herself down and he devours an apple. It’s the furthest thing from erotic.
Velvet is another story. A confusing one. In the film’s summary she’s described as a he/she. That’s offensive. Other reviews claim she’s a hermaphrodite. But at times she seems like a drag queen. Or possibly trans. Anyway you slice it, the character is problematic, even by 80s standards. It doesn’t help that Simmons is dialed up to a 30, on a 1-10 scale. It’s like Bettman said, “just go batshit crazy”, and he really leaned into it, creepy-flicking-tongue first.
NTYTD barely eeks into the “so good it’s bad” category because a majority of it is plain horrible. But it’s also entertaining in a weird way. The movie holds your attention with all the WTF moments, cheesy special effects, and unintentional comedy. For all of that, it’s worth checking out.
“The Lady in Red” danced (cheek to cheek) onto the soft rock scene 35 years ago this month. Chris de Burgh was inspired by seeing his wife across a crowded room looking gorgeous in a red dress. But it’s not just an ode to a pretty woman. It’s about cherishing an important person in your life and not taking them for granted. His voice and the synths come together to make a beautiful song, so it’s not surprising that this was a huge hit. You’ll never forget the lady in red.
Luther Vandross would have turned 70 today. We lost the phenomenal singer/songwriter too soon, but his velvet voice lives on. This year also marks the 40th Anniversary of his solo debut, Never Too Much. The album gave us the instantly recognizable title track and his cover of Dionne Warwick’s “A House is Not a Home”, which completely lives up to the original. I believe in the power of Luther.
Shannen Doherty is one of my favorite actresses who has played two of my favorite characters in my all-time favorite movie and TV show. That’s a lot of love there. But it’s well earned. She’s a great actress who can do both drama and comedy effortlessly. She illustrated this in the 80s cult classic Heathers, playing the envious Heather Duke. And, again, when she took on the role of Brenda Walsh in the synonymous-with-the-90s series Beverly Hills 90210. She made each character memorable and fun to watch. Since then she’s had a steady career with acting, producing, and directing. Of course, I was happy to see her come full circle by playing a heightened version of herself in the BH90210 reboot two years ago. Outside of entertainment, Shannen continues to inspire as she wages a battle against breast cancer. She’s a survivor and icon. Happy 50th Birthday, Shannen!
Back in 1986, “That’s What Friends Are For” was named the #1 single of the year by Billboard. But the history of the track actually goes back a little further. Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager wrote “Friends” in 1982. At the time, Rod Stewart recorded it for the movie Night Shift. He did an ok job with it, but something was missing. That something being Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight.
The quartet got together to record their own version in 1985 as a charity single to benefit AIDS research. Adding their energy and retooling the arrangement made the song infinitely better. Dionne starts it off with her distinctive vocals, Stevie brings in the harmonica, Elton’s on the piano, and Gladys wraps it up strongly. Their voices and styles mesh really well together. It’s not surprising that this was a huge hit, winning the Grammy for Song of the Year. And even better, it raised much needed funds for a worthwhile cause. Keep smiling, keep shining.