(Pictured: Mariah Carey on MTV Unplugged 30 years ago today, if we can trust the Getty Images caption.)
The March 14, 1992, American Top 40 show I wrote about last week was from an era when the show used Billboard‘s Hot 100 Airplay chart as opposed to the regular Hot 100 (although they didn’t announce that on this particular show). Compared to the actual Hot 100 from the same week, there are some differences. Certain songs riding high on the Airplay chart were not doing nearly so well on the Hot 100. (The opposite was also true.) One example is “Make It Happen” by Mariah Carey, at #8 on Airplay while it sat at #20 on the Hot 100 in its fourth week on.
I didn’t have room for this observation in my earlier post, but I think “Make It Happen” is one of Mariah Carey’s greatest performances. I have always found her technically impressive but emotionally reserved—she rarely sounds spontaneous to me, like she’s always conscious of the fact that she’s putting on a performance, and I might even go so far as to say “curating a brand.” But on “Make It Happen” she cuts loose, and it feels real in a way that her records often do not.
What else is there to see on the Hot 100?
19. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/Nirvana
37. “Too Legit to Quit”/MC Hammer
58. “Right Now”/Van Halen
63. “Live and Learn”/Joe Public
66. “Addams Groove”/Hammer
69. “Do Not Pass Me By”/Hammer
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Too Legit to Quit” were both missing from the Top 40 of the Airplay chart in this week. We were reaching the end of Peak Hammer (newly rechristened without the “MC,” a term that became uncool with remarkable speed, if you recall); the outgoing “Addams Groove” was the last of his five Top Tens. “Right Now” might represent Peak Van Hagar, although that’s probably due more to its famous video, which is far more memorable than the song itself. “Live and Learn” is in the Top 40 on the Airplay chart in this week, but it’s also in its first week on the regular Hot 100, making the week’s highest debut at #63.
44. “Stars”/Simply Red. This was my favorite song of the moment in the spring of 1992. The album of the same name is still in my all-time Top 10.
49. “Pride (In the Name of Love)”/Clivilles and Cole
51. “You Showed Me”/Salt ‘n Pepa
66. “Live and Let Die”/Guns ‘n Roses
Salt ‘n Pepa’s version of the Turtles’ “You Showed Me” was in the Top 40 of the Airplay chart in this week. They didn’t cover it as much as they sampled it, but as long as Gene Clark and Jim McGuinn got paid, I’m not mad about it. (Clark and McGuinn wrote it while they were still struggling folkies, and the Byrds would demo it but never finish it.) Other covers hitting in this week include “Pride,” which is not terrible, although probably not necessary either. Clivilles and Cole had taken “Gonna Make You Sweat” to #1 a year earlier as C + C Music Factory. And it’s not fair to compare anybody to Paul McCartney, even to one of his lesser hits, but GnR’s faithful-yet-lumbering cover of “Live and Let Die” is also unnecessary.
52. “Can’t Cry Hard Enough”/Williams Brothers. That’s Andy and David Williams, nephews of easy listening superstar Andy Williams. Eighteen years before, they appeared in an episode of The Partridge Family during its final season, playing a new act Reuben is managing, but they refuse to perform until they get a date with Laurie. Their version of “What’s Your Name,” originally recorded by Don and Juan in 1962, scraped into the Hot 100 a few months later, in the summer of 1974. But it didn’t result in teen-idoldom for Andy and David; although they made two albums at the time, they wouldn’t make another until 1987. “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” just missed the Billboard Top 40 although it made it to #29 in Cash Box; it rose to #11 on Billboard‘s adult-contemporary chart, and I played it on the radio a few times.
73. “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven”/Bryan Adams
74. “There Will Never Be Another Tonight”/Bryan Adams
Like a number of artists on this chart, Bryan Adams is doubling (or tripling) up. Here in 2022, he released a new album just last week; it would be nice to think that adult-contemporary radio might play it, considering how much other Bryan Adams music is still in heavy rotations, but I’m not expecting it.
Thanks to all for the discourse on my earlier post about the 3/14/92 American Top 40. We are collectively making each other smarter, and in a world as dumb as this one, that’s no small thing.