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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Jukebox - "Baby Baby" by Amy Grant (Plus a BONUS song!)

Crossover artists.

Many have tried to be successful with switching from one type of music to another, but not a lot of people seem to have had success with it.

It can be a tough enough job to make a mark on the music scene in one category alone.  To go out of that comfort zone and make a name for yourself to a whole different type of music with a completely different fanbase than what you're used can be a scary experience.

I can't really say that I know what it is like based on my own experiences.  I'm such a tone-deaf, terrible singer that I would likely be barred from American Idol, The Voice, and America's Got Talent at the same time.  I can only imagine how tough it can be though.

Sometimes, people do succeed.

Right off the bat, I can name off Shania Twain and Michelle Branch in the success category.  Shania in the mid-1990's dominated the country charts, but had a couple of successes on the pop charts with "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" and "That Don't Impress Me Much", giving her success on country and Top 40 radio.  On the flipside, Michelle Branch had success in the Top 40 charts with songs like "Everywhere" and "Breathe", and a couple of years later, formed "The Wreckers" and had success in country music as well.

Some haven't done so well.  Jewel as a folk-like singer.  Good.  Jewel as a dance-diva singing "Intuition"...not so good.  And don't even get me started on Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines, the most unsuccessful crossover of 1999, and possibly of all time.

And sometimes you have singers who actually do better in their new style of music than they ever did in their original path.

I bet it might shock some of you knowing this but, did you know that when Katy 'I Kissed A Girl' Perry first started out, she was a contemporary Christian artist?  It's true!

The artist featured in this blog entry also started out as a contemporary Christian artist, much like Katy Perry did.  While she's been kind of quiet on the charts lately, and while she never changed her image as drastically as Katy Perry, she still had a ton of success on the pop charts, and even had a hit or two on other charts as well.  She's more versatile than you think!

Amy Grant was born in Georgia on November 25, 1960, and she started off her career in contemporary Christian music.  Some people even refer to her as the 'Queen of Christian Pop'. 

This isn't at all surprising though.  Since she released her first album in 1977, she has sold more than thirty million albums, cassettes, and compact discs globally.  That's mighty impressive.

With songs such as "El Shaddai", "Angels", and "Father's Eyes", Amy Grant became a sensation on Christian radio, and in 1986, she made an impact on the Billboard 100 by singing a duet with Peter Cetera entitled "The Next Time I Fall".

The duet with Cetera proved to be a major hit, hitting #1 on the Billboard charts in late 1986.  Still, Amy Grant had never had her own solo hit on the Billboard charts.  Certainly, she had scored several number one hits on the Contemporary Christian charts, but it wasn't until five years after that duet with Peter Cetera that she would score her own number one hit on the Billboard charts.  It was that one hit that cemented Amy's place on the Billboard charts for the next few years.

ARTIST: Amy Grant
SONG:  Baby Baby
ALBUM:  Heart In Motion
RELEASED:  January 18, 1991

Amy Grant's main goal was to become a singer.  However, she also wanted to be able to broaden her musical message and to widen her fan base.  Her dream was to be the first Christian singer-songwriter to also be successful on the Billboard charts as well.  The seeds to her pop career seemed to have been planted around 1985, when she released her album 'Unguarded'.  The album cover showed Amy dressed in a leopard-print jacket, and had a more mainstream sound than her previous albums before that.  The album still had contemporary Christian songs, but there were a couple of pop songs for a wider audience to listen to.  Her 1988 release 'Lead Me On' was more of the same.  A mixture of pop and contemporary Christian music which seemed to perform well on the Adult Contemporary charts, but didn't really make much of an impact on the pop charts.

It wasn't until 1991 that it seemed that Amy Grant had decided to steer her career almost entirely away from the Christian pop that had made her well-known, and more into the mainstream pop world.

When Amy Grant released the album 'Heart In Motion' in March of 1991, her fans seemed shocked that the album was mostly pop music, and that only a minute few of the tracks were Christian themed.  While most of Amy's fans embraced Heart In Motion, some members of the Christian community frowned upon the album as a result of Amy's desire to change the focus of her music. However, Amy did get her wish, as Baby Baby, the first release off the album, hit number one status in April of 1991. 

Certainly the album was very successful in both the pop and Christian charts.  Five of the album's singles reached Top 20 status between 1991 and 1992, and it set the stage for Amy to continue with her career on the pop charts, releasing two more albums in 1994 and 1997, also with some Billboard success.

Baby Baby is probably her most well-known hit, and what some might not know about this song is the inspiration behind this song.

In 1989, Amy and her then-husband Gary Chapman had a daughter, Millie.  Millie's birth was actually the moment that inspired Amy to write the song Baby Baby. 

The song Baby Baby wasn't initially about falling in love with the right person, and pledging your love to them forever, as the music video portrays above.  In fact, it was Amy writing about how she loved Millie, and how she promised to love her with 'the sweetest of devotion'.  If you really listen to the lyrics of the song closely, you can see that the lyrics are ambiguous enough to be defined as both the love for a child, and/or falling in love with someone special. 

Of course, there are some reports that the video for Baby Baby was not the original concept.  Had Amy had her way, she would have sang the song in a mermaid costume while dozens of diaper-tushed babies crawled all over her.  Thankfully, she didn't go that route.  Could you imagine what might have happened had the original concept had gone through?  As much as I like Amy Grant and this song, I don't think it would've been well-received.

Over the years, Amy Grant has made several changes in her life, as well as her music.  She never stopped performing contemporary Christian music.  She still records and sings it even today. 

In 1994, Amy Grant sang a duet with established country music artist Vince Gill, entitled "House Of Love".  The song became a Top 40 hit for both Gill and Grant, and unbeknownst to them, it would be a song that would change both of their lives forever.  One might call it kismet.

Because six years after they recorded that song, Amy Grant and Vince Gill ended up getting married to each other.  With both of them coming out of divorces, and having formed a friendship since 'House Of Love', they fell in love with each other, and have been together ever since.

And to think, none of that would have been possible if neither Gill or Grant had been afraid of change.

I think that's ultimately what we all want.  None of us can't be too afraid of change that we end up stagnating ourselves.  In order to make something out of ourselves, sometimes we have to take change, and stare at it in the face to become better people who get the most out of life.

Amy Grant's decision to venture out into the world of pop music by stepping away from her safety zone was a big risk for her to take, but she wanted success so badly that to her, it was worth the risk.  And it was.  She ended up having a hit record because of it, and it was because of her pop ambitions that she ended up working with, and later falling in love with her current husband.

So, I guess the lesson Amy Grant can teach all of us is that sometimes, taking risks can be worth the payout.  You'll never know until you try.

And, hey...if Amy Grant can make a success out of herself for taking risks, I suppose I can do the same.

(But, try to make your risks realistic...and not to take any that'll cause bodily harm.)

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