“For the first time, I’m battling to decide which is the best, rather than the worst.” (David)
It’s day 7, and it’s the Number Fours…
1963: Little Town Flirt – Del Shannon.
1973: You’re So Vain – Carly Simon.
1983: Sign Of The Times – The Belle Stars.
1993: The Love I Lost – West End featuring Sybil.
2003: Stole – Kelly Rowland.Listen to a brief medley (about a minute each) of all five songs.
(If the link doesn’t work, then try this instead).
Your patience has been rewarded. Today’s selection is possibly the strongest yet, with four singles that I could easily have awarded 5 points to on other, less worthy days.
Plus one that I couldn’t. Del Shannon is one of those names that regularly pop up in lists of early 1960s hitmakers, and yet there is definitely something of the also-ran about him. In fact, beyond a certain familiarity with a couple of his other hits (Runaway, Hats Off To Larry), I know absolutely nothing about him. Was he British or American? Was he cute? What happened to him after the hits dried up? Has anyone ever quoted him as an influence on their work?
(Pause, as I discover that the man is even struggling for recognition on his own domain name, the front page of www.delshannon.com being primarily concerned with plugging a tribute act. Now, that’s sad.)
A routine piece of hack-work, Little Town Flirt already sounds four or five years out of date. Un point to Del.
That was easy to sort out. Now things get more difficult. Both Sign Of The Times and The Love I Lost are singles which I bought and loved at the time, for no particularly deep reasons. They were just fun – and “fun” has always been one of my key aesthetics of Pop. Listening to them again now, I therefore find it hard to discount the associated warm glow of nostalgia, and to give them an objective assessment instead. But if I am going to be strict-but-fair, then I suppose that in the final analysis, West End featuring Sybil‘s cover of the Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes classic is, well, a bit on the cheesy side. Although much classier than most examples of that ilk, it’s still just a dancey cover version – albeit one which carries powerful associations with some top nights out. Deux points to Sybil.
The Belle Stars are represented here by their finest hour. Bright, fresh, breezy stuff, which is only hampered by a rather synthetic production that hasn’t aged too well. Great tune, though. Trois points to the Belles.
Time for the next dilemma. The beautiful and talented Kelly Rowland offers further proof that she has far more to offer than merely supplying backing vocals for Beyoncé Knowles in Destiny’s Child. Whereas last year’s duet with Nelly (Dilemma) limited her to endlessly repeating the same melodically repetitive chorus (“No matter what I do, all I think about is you…”), Stole gives Kelly Rowland a chance to truly shine. It’s a gorgeous piece of work, and possibly my current favourite single of the moment. So how do I go about comparing it with Carly Simon‘s acknowledged classic? It’s quite impossible. Will Stole also still be fondly remembered in thirty years time? Or does that even matter? Do I accede to seniority, and mark down the precocious young upstart accordingly? Or do I strike a blow for the New over the Old?
You’re So Vain is distinctive, unique, and damn nearly faultless. Meanwhile, Stole maybe doesn’t do quite enough to transcend its genre. If you don’t like R&B, then you might dismiss it as “just another faceless R&B track”. You’d be wrong of course, but at least I can appreciate the logic. Kelly gets four points, and Carly gets five.
My votes: 1 – Carly Simon. 2 – Kelly Rowland. 3 – Belle Stars. 4 – West End featuring Sybil. 5 – Del Shannon. K’s votes are in the comments.
Over to you. As with Laura Branigan and Duran Duran on Saturday (and it’s still not too late to vote retrospectively on that), I’m predicting a closely fought battle today. Although I can’t see poor old Del Shannon picking up many points – can you?