So as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Thriller was a “gateway drug” to other forms of R&B that were coming up at the time. I actually remember my Aunt buying me a Rene and Angela tape (“Street Called Desire”) as payment for babysitting, and the only reason I knew who they were was because of VH1. It’s a pretty well-acknowledged fact that African-American artists almost never got any play on the video channels prior to Michael Jackson, but by the time MTV launched VH1 in 1985, programmers recognized the power of the music, and mixed a heavy dose of R&B into their regular rotation.
I will confess that, while I knew of some of the older R&B music, I didn’t go back to find a lot of it until college or later. At the time, I was submerged in everything current (and even stuff not quite popular yet). My obsession with anything remotely coming into the Top 40 led me to find stuff like Five Star, who remain one of my biggest musical crushes. Largely ignored by pop fans in the US, the quintet of brothers and sisters made some noise on the US R&B charts, but they were megastars in the UK and Europe. Some likened them to the UK version of the Jacksons, and with the family writing, performing, producing, choreographing, and even designing outfits, who would argue with that? One of the greatest injustices in my mind at the time was that “Can’t Wait Another Minute” peaked at #41 in the US. ROBBED!
In my pursuit of all things Five Star, I started buying English pop music magazines, including “Smash Hits”. Through this, I began finding other artists like Mel and Kim. “Showing Out” and “Respectable” rocked my world, and proved to be the seeds of domination for Stock, Aiken and Waterman to control my music-buying habits for many years. The first time I saw this video was on a local access cable video show back in Syracuse. Looking at it now, it seems overly cheap, but I thought it was sophisticated at the time.
And then, the floodgates opened. Someone found a way to bring a slightly watered down R&B to the top of the pop charts, and Whitney Houston’s career was born.