Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Retro Video of the Week: "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" by Michael Bolton

Many apologies for not posting a Tuesday Top Ten yesterday.  I was busy with work, parenting, eating, and practicing with my pop grindcore band, Adorable Apocalypse, as I do every Tuesday night.

But enough about me.  Let's talk music chart history.  Twenty-five years ago today, the Billboard album chart -- then known as The Billboard 200 Top Pop Albums, and now known as The Billboard 200 -- changed the way albums were tracked on the charts.  Prior to May 25, 1991, I kid you not, Billboard tracked album sales by calling record stores across the country and asking the record stores about album sales.  As you might imagine, that was not the most reliable way to track album sales.  For instance, if a record store owner really hated Quiet Riot (which is hypothetical, of course, since Quiet Riot is incapable of being hated), he or she might say that the store only sold ten copies of Metal Health that week, when it actually sold 400.  Or, on the flip side, a record store owner who was a huge Milli Vanilli fan might drastically inflate the sales numbers for Girl You Know It's True, in an attempt to get that album a higher position on the chart.

All of that nonsense ended on May 25, 1991, when Billboard switched to the Nielsen SoundScan system, ushering in the "SoundScan era."  SoundScan used technology to track actual cash register sales at thousands of retailers across the country, resulting in a Billboard album chart that much more accurately reflected the popularity of a particular album.  The added benefit is that record labels could use SoundScan data to try to convince radio stations to play songs by artists whose albums sold well, but who were relatively underrepresented on radio, including alternative rock, which, of course, exploded not too long after the SoundScan era began.

But there is only one man who can say his album was the first #1 on the Billboard album charts during the SoundScan era.  I'm sure you celebrate his entire catalog, but it was Michael Bolton's seventh studio album, Time, Love & Tenderness, that took the honors, hitting #1 on May 25, 1991.  After not finding huge success as a hard rock and heavy metal singer in the late '70s and early '80s, Bolton started writing songs for other artists and then eventually switched his own genre to the mother-pleasing easy listening songs we associate with him.  Feeding off the breakout success of his sixth album, 1989's Soul Provider, Bolton kept the momentum going on Time, Love & Tenderness.  The album has sold 8 million copies in the U.S. and 16 million worldwide, spawning four songs that cracked the Top 12 of the Billboard Hot 100:  "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" (#4), "Time, Love and Tenderness (#7), "When a Man Loves a Woman" (#1), and "Missing You Now" (#12).  It should also come as no surprise that all four songs topped the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.  

I'm going with "Love Is a Wonderful Thing" as this week's Retro Video of the Week because The Isley Brothers sued Bolton and the other songwriter (and Sony Music) for copyright infringement, due to similarities between this song and an Isley Brothers song of the same name.  The Isleys won, and now this album is out of print as a result (although can be purchased digitally, apparently).  But you can always see the video on YouTube.

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