Saturday, June 1, 2013

#6: From the Top to the Bottom To the Top

But when she left
Gone was the glow of 
Blue velvet

- "Blue Velvet", Bobby Vinton

Stanley Robert Vinton, Jr. scored big with his cover of this sentimental tune, hitting #1 on the Top 100 in '63 well after its double debut by The Clovers and Tony Bennett:

This son of a bandleader was ready to play any instrument in his band as well as sing, and it seems like the workings of fate that he shared a birthplace, deep in the rust belt, with Perry Como, and appeared on Guy Lombardo's television show on his way to the top. He's also one of that handful of top artists dramatically shadowed by the British Invasion; his last #1 hit, "There! I've Said It Again" was supplanted by "I Want To Hold Your Hand." But he was destined for sustained success in any case, cashing in on songs with "Lonely" in the title, and even getting some more mileage out of the syrupy "Sealed With a Kiss" well after Brian Hyland's hit version.

One of the more remarkable projects of the "Polish Prince" ended up being the only American hit with Polish lyrics, "My Melody of Love."

(A quarter century later at this slot we find the ubiquitous Whitney Houston doing a dance tune, "So Emotional." One obsession of the time was electronic drums, a fairly new item, and the percussion sound here is similar in particular to the Bee-Gee-tinged, been-there-done-that Fine Young Cannibals hit "She Drives Me Crazy.")

Nigga, I just think it's funny how it goes
Now I'm on the road, half a million for a show

- "Started From the Bottom", Drake

Part of the disproportionate representation of Canada in the flow of popular music, since Joni Mitchell and Neil Young (and before), is Aubrey Drake Graham, who chose to go by his middle name on the way to the top. He is a little unusual among those  who achieved fame in hip hop in breaking into acting on the way there, and having had a Bar Mitzvah on the way there.

And his song is a little unusual in that genre as well, because it suggests a different (and to me welcome) direction for rap motifs. I think it's arguably not rap, or rap-related; all of the vocals have a chartable melody rather than the knowing monotone that was the enforced motif of performers in this realm. He goes yet further into what could be called, relatively to the softening center, an experimental direction here:

Another interesting facet of this song is that it's the only one of its top ten, as far as just song length, that would have passed muster fifty years before, since it is the only one under three minutes. But it's also the first we've encountered on our march to #1 that would probably have been categorically rejected for use of the word "nigga" as well as prohibited vulgarity.

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