Monday, February 11, 1991

Massive Attack “Unfinished Sympathy” released

Unfinished Sympathy

Massive Attack

Writer(s): Grant Marshall, Andrew Vowles, Robert Del Naja, Shara Nelson (see lyrics here)


Released: February 11, 1991


First Charted: February 23, 1991


Peak: 13 UK, 95 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 0.4 UK


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 42.0 video, 77.43 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Massive Attack formed in 1988, pioneering “a new style of dance music, commonly termed ‘trip-hop.’” XFM Their debut album, 1991’s Blue Lines, was released “to widespread critical acclaim and has gone on to be hugely influential.” XF The album’s “standout track,” XFM is “Unfinished Sympathy,” which is “recognized as a pioneering song in the development of British dance music.” WK

They released the song as a single in February 1991, although they temporarily scrapped the name Massive Attack in favor of the less controversial “Massive.” The term “massive attack” had been deemed unpatriotic by the BBC in light of the Gulf War and the band risked the song being banned by radio. WK They also didn’t want to be seen as supporting the Gulf War. XFM

It is “one of the most moving pieces of dance music ever written. It begins with a simple slow beat before bursting into life with percussion and strings. Shara Nelson’s vocals define the track, with a wonderfully rich and emotive voice that sounds like it would be more commonly found on a soul track coming out of Detroit rather than a dance track from Bristol.” XFM Lyrically the song “finds Nelson longing for her companion, but wary because she has been hurt before.” SF

The use of a string section and other orchestral elements was considered innovative in the electronic dance genre. SF It was originally played on synthesizers, but band member DJ Mushroom said it “sounded too tacky, so we thought we may as well use real strings. The orchestra definitely changed the feeling of the song, making it heavier and deeper with more feeling.” WK

The video, directed by Baillie Walsh, was one of the first to use a continuous shot following singer Shara Nelson as she walked through a Los Angeles neighborhood oblivious to her surroundings. WK It has been copied many times since, perhaps most notably by The Verve with “Bittersweet Symphony.” XFM


Resources:

  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia
  • XFM Mike Walsh (editor) (2010). The XFM Top 1000 Songs of All Time. Elliott & Thompson Limited: London, England. Page 266.


Related Links:


First posted 10/26/2021.

Saturday, February 9, 1991

C + C Music Factory “Gonna Make You Sweat” hit #1

Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)

C + C Music Factory

Writer(s): Robert Clivilles, Frederick Williams (see lyrics here)


First Charted: November 17, 1990


Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 7 GR, 3 RR, 11 RB, 3 UK, 6 CN, 3 AU, 10 DF (Click for codes to charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.2 UK, 5.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 120.3 video, 121.71 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

C + C Music Factory were formed by David Cole and Robert Clivill├ęs in 1989. The pair met at an underground club in Times Square in 1985. FB They remixed songs by Natalie Cole (“Pink Cadillac”), Fleetwood Mac (“Big Love”), Janet Jackson (“The Pleasure Principle”), and New Kids on the Block. They also produced for the Cover Girls and Stacey Q, and assembled the girl group Seduction. Their mix of house music, new jack swing, and hip-hop was a direct descendent of disco. Hits in that format such as “Pump Up the Jam” and “The Power” were “reliable, energy-bursts” that became “utterly inescapable” at sporting events. SG

Their first single was “so distinct and memorable that they immediately bulldozed their way into the mainstream consciousness.” SG The beat is “a relentlessly giddy attack. Drums fall all over each other. Bells ding. Synths whirr. Saxophones honk. There’s a processed-to-death four-note guitar riff that actually rocks in that deathlessly simplistic ‘Smoke on the Water’ sort of way.” SG “Gonna Make You Sweat” “is goofy and immediate and shameless enough to turn a transgressive underground dance sound into pure mainstream kitsch.” SG About.com’s Bill Lamb praised it as “one of the most exhilarating songs of the year.” WK

One of Seduction’s hits, “You’re My One and Only True Love,” featured lead vocals from Martha Wash, who also provides “roof-raising, post-disco vocals” AMG on “Gonna Make You Sweat.” Her voice, which “hits like an adrenaline-needle to the heart,” SG and rapper Freedom Williams’ “Ice-T-derived delivery provided a great juxtaposition to the blithe lyrics and music.” AMG

Wash also sung on Sylvester’s hit “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real,” the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” and Black Box’s “Strike It Up” as well as backup vocals on Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock” and Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love.” However, because Wash was a large woman she was replaced in videos with thinner, model-like performers lip-synching and was often not properly credited on the recordings, leading to several lawsuits – including one against C + C Music Factory.


Resources:


First posted 3/15/2023.