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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Moving On Up with the M People

So, we're going to be offering up a little bit of a twist in regards to today's Sunday Jukebox. I did promise you that the whole month of November would focus on the music of the 1990s, and this has still not changed at all. In fact, today's song was released a little over two decades ago. But unlike the other two entries which were both chart-toppers on the Billboard Music Charts, this one didn't even make the Top 30.

Well, at least on a mainstream chart like the Billboard Hot 100 anyway.

Now, if we take a look at another type of chart, you'll see that the song managed to become a number one hit, proving that not all charts are created equal.

Truth is that the Billboard Charts might be considered to be a chart that most artists strive to have a number one smash hit on the charts, but it doesn't mean that the other secondary charts aren't as worthy. Truth is that having a number one hit on the adult contemporary charts, the country charts, or even the heavy metal charts is still a number one hit no matter how you slice it. I mean, just ask George Strait if any of his SIXTY number one country singles are meaningless because they weren't all on the Billboard Charts. I reckon that he'd either laugh in your face, walk away, or possibly smash his guitar over your head and use his hat to sop up the blood stains!

(I'm only making up that last part, by the way.)

So, as you probably might have guessed, today's song is one of those songs that charted on a secondary chart.

And that chart is the dance chart.

Truth be told, I happen to have a bit of a soft spot for dance music, even though my own dancing abilities would likely get me banned from “So You Think You Can Dance” for at least the next ten years. The whole music scene was filled with songs that made you feel good. The lyrics were positive, the beats were happening, and the songs just made you want to get up off of your feet and just start dancing your cares away. I think that during my junior high school years and early part of high school, I listened to quite a lot of dance music.

Well, that is until grade eleven when I entered my “let's listen to nothing but Garbage, Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins because they sound just as depressed as I am” period. Luckily, that period didn't last that long, and by the new millennium I was back to listening to feel good music.

And, this was one of those feel good songs. I'll be talking about the group below, but I'll also share a bit of a story on the side. Consider this part Sunday Jukebox and part Thursday Diary Entry.  And, in order to watch the video for the song, click HERE.

ARTIST: M People
SONG: Moving On Up
ALBUM: Elegant Slumming
DATE RELEASED: September 13, 1993

Now, remember how I said that the majority of dance music was considered to be happy and feel good? Well, this song happens to be one that does exactly that...even if the music video makes it out to be anything but. But in all honesty, this M People hit is a song all about empowerment and taking control. And, what could be better than empowering yourself and finding the independence necessary to make up your own mind?

Trust me, there are a lot of people who struggle with this every day. I should know. You're reading a blog entry by someone who has openly admitted to having this struggle.

So, who exactly are these “M People”, and how did they end up having one of the biggest club hits of the 1990s?

Well, you can give the credit to British born DJ Mike Pickering for the idea. After all, the name “M People” came from Mike's own initials.

Mike Pickering had begun his career as a DJ, performing at the famous Manchester dance club, The Hacienda (which closed in 1997), and also worked at Factory Records, where he was responsible for signing British acts James and Happy Mondays.

(Most of you in North America likely haven't heard of either artist, but I can tell you that Happy Mondays were one awesome band in the early 1990s. I listened to a lot of Brit-Pop and British rock bands when I was a teenager, as I preferred UK music to USA music – and still do to some extent.)

As a staff member of Factory Records, certainly Pickering enjoyed some perks on the job. One of those perks was access to its recording studio, where Pickering would work on his side project – a band that he formed with the name “Quando Quando” - themselves a huge club presence in the United Kingdom.

At some point before 1990, Pickering crossed paths with two of the three other members of the band that would make up “M People”. “Ace of Clubs” band member Paul Heard, and Andrew Lovell (who went by the stage name of “Shovell”) of Natural Life teamed up to form the new band, and initially the idea was for the trio to rotate lead vocalists depending on the song that they were performing. But when the group heard singer Heather Small – who had previously sang for the band “Hot House” - perform, the group almost unanimously decided that she would become the permanent main vocalist – and fourth member – of “M People”.

With the band lineup now complete, the group went to work on releasing music. The band released their first single in May 1991 – a limited edition white label pressing with the title “Colour My Life”. On the music charts, it was largely ignored, but it did get them enough recognition for their next release – 1991's “How Can I Love You More” - to become a Top 30 hit. Shortly after that, the band's debut album, “Northern Soul”, was produced and released by Deconstruction Records, and became a huge hit.

Of course, a lot of the reason why the album succeeded was because of the fact that the band re-released singles that were remixed and reworked to make them sound like brand new singles. It wasn't the first time that bands remixed songs to make them perform better though. After all, Madonna did the same exact thing back in the 1980s.

Still, the success of the debut album lead to a follow-up album in 1993 - “Elegant Slumming”. And, that's where our Sunday Jukebox spotlight comes in.

Moving On Up” was the second single of the album, and as it so happens, also was the the biggest selling “M People” single ever. Released in September 1993, it eventually peaked at number two on the British charts. The song also performed well in several other countries including Australia (#4), France (#3), Ireland (#4), and New Zealand (#4). And it became a number one dance smash in the United States and Canada. As far as sales go, it is estimated that the single itself sold a total of half a million copies. It even appeared on the “Beverly Hills 90210: The College Years” soundtrack in 1994!

The song's composition is quite unique, with the single having a tempo of 124 beats per minute, and Mike Pickering delivering a saxophone solo during the two instrumental breaks of the song.

And the video is quite interesting as well, as the theme of the video sort of leads into the personal words of wisdom that I want to speak about in this blog as well.

Naturally with “Moving On Up” being a bonafide club smash, the video of course takes place in a hot dog stand in the middle of Tibet with dancing yaks offering you snow cones.

Heh...just kidding.

Of course the video takes place at a fancy dance club, where three of the four members of “M People” are the entertainment for the night. Heather Small is one of the patrons of the bar. As the video opens, we see several people dancing on the floor, and the camera focuses on a young couple who have just entered the club. She's young and gorgeous, and he seems to be the same way. But still...there's just something about him that just screams...scuzzbucket.

NOTE: This is probably the first time in two and a half years that I have ever typed out the word “scuzzbucket” in this blog. Not that it has anything to do with the blog, mind you, just like to mark milestones!

Anyway, it turns out that my thoughts about the guy were correct, as he's instantly ditching his date to go dancing with some other woman.

Yep, in the words of country music starlet Patty Loveless, he's got a lying, cheating, cold deadbeating, two-timing, double dealing cheatin' lovin' heart!

(And, yes, I had to Google those lyrics as I know not a thing about country music.)

So, what would you do in that situation? What would you do if you found out that the man you love enough to bring to one of the smallest dance clubs in the whole world was cheating on you right behind your back? Would you get angry? Would you forgive him? Would you even suggest a menage a trois?

Not our gal. She would rather confront him on the dance floor and tell him exactly what a low-life slimeball she is, concluding with our jilted girlfriend pouring a nice cocktail all over him before storming off. I think it probably would have been funnier if she had taken the bartender with her, but I suppose that would have been too much karmic retribution for one video.

But the point is that the video's plot is one that we all have likely experienced. Well, okay, maybe I haven't had the experience of being cheated on by a date (mainly because I never really dated anybody long enough to experience that heartbreaking experience), but I have had to cull some friendships over the years because the friendship was one-sided.

You know the ones I mean? The ones that start off quite nicely, where you bond over a common interest. It could be sports, it could be a favourite movie, it could be retro pop could be almost anything, really. And, at first, the friendship is almost similar to a relationship in that the more time you spend with each other, the stronger the bond gets.

But over time, you realize that maybe your friendship isn't as strong as you once thought it was. And depending on the situation, you find that maybe keeping a friendship with someone who has a toxic personality isn't the best friendship to keep.

I know I've said this before, but I find myself to be extremely guarded when it comes to the idea of friendship (and by extension, relationships as well). Having been hurt in the past by former friends (and likely causing some hurt myself during my most immature moments of my youth), I take friendship extremely serious. So whenever I have the feeling that something just doesn't seem right within the friendship, it makes me wonder whether keeping the friendship going is even worth it.

Back when I was a kid, I would have done anything to keep friendships – even if it meant selling myself short, doing things I didn't agree with – heck, becoming a person that I didn't recognize. Now that I am older, I have the ability to see through people and really get to know what their true intentions are. I guess that ability has gotten better with age, as I find myself for the first time in ages knowing who my real friends are, and telling them apart from those who just wanted to use me or abuse me.

Granted, I've made mistakes in trusting people. And, there is the possibility that I could make even more mistakes in who I let into my life. But at the very least, I can say that I've now broken free of those who did hold me back. Why would anyone want to hang around people who are constantly negative towards you when you could choose to be with people who want to see you succeed?

I think the choice is a no-brainer, don't you?

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