A blog about my favourite movies, music, and TV.

27 November 2009

When Pia Zadora decided to become the white Janet

After finally selling a few albums with her 1985 and 1986 LP's of standards and torch songs, 'Camp Pia' decided it was time to cash in on thia new found 'credibility' to launch her as bonafide pop star, without much of the 'pop'. Poor Pia could never get a break and when her private jet touched down in the backyard of 80's R&B maestro's Jam & Lewis the duo knew they had a near impossible task. They had spotted Pia opening for Frank Sinatra and thought that launching Pia as the next Janet Jackson (well more like La Toya really) would be a great challenge and cement their status as super producers with the Midas touch.

The results are pretty damn hot! From the opening bars of I Donna Wanna Love one is aware that this is a very different Pia to the show tune belting diva-ette who pulled of the likes of Maybe This Time and I Am What I Am with the style and panache of a Shirley Bassey or Streisand not two years previously. It could even be said that Jam & Lewis played down the 'showey' aspect of Pia's voice, in favour of a subtle breathy style which plays on Pia's sex appeal - and all those dirty movies she made! Jellybean Johnson guests on guitar on this strong mid-temp R&B opener.

I just adore the next track, Still Remembered, it's got a great rhythm and the chorus is wonderfully robotic, it reminds me of the stuff Jam & Lewis did with Thelma Houston, especially You Used To Hold Me So Tight. I think this could've made a great single.

Speaking of singles Dance Out Of My Head is up next, this was the first and only single taken from the album, and although it's a great track I think it was a bad choice!

All of Pia's personality is drained from this one, and while I think it's as catchy as hell, it could be anyone singing it. That said this is the most danceable track on the set and it had a whole host of mixes from not only Jam & Lewis themselves, but Ben Liebrand and my personal favourite Shep Pettibone who makes good use of Pia's soulful vocals which are relegated to the background of the album version.

Laughin' At You is so sweet, it starts of with chopped up vocal samples and tinny drums and mellows into a cute mid-tempo ditty seemingly about Pia laughing at the sillyness of her man! Like most of the songs on the first part of the album it has a very mechanical vibe, it's unashamedly proud of it's European influences too. The title track follows in a similar vein. It makes you want to pull on a pair of leggings and a chunky belt and leap around with Pia pretending to be Paula Abdul!

Pia even has her own interlude!

I Really Like You (Not Him) is the first ballad, and it's sublime. Only a decent vocalist could pull off a subtle slow jam like this and Pia pulls it off so well. Again, there's no 'belting', it's all smooth and soulful vocals and a driving backing track. I think this is one of her best songs ever, it was also the b-side to Dance Out Of My Head. Two ballads, Silence and Since I've Been Loving You tie the album up with class and dignity, while Pia's Theme (another interlude!) closes the set.

It kind of fizzles out at the very end , but overall this album is fantastic, it shows off another side to Pia which would be followed up on Pia's next big budget foray into the pop world, Pia Z! When The Lights Go Out was a big old flop when it hit shelves in mainland Europe in 1988 which resulted in it never getting a US release. Dance Out Of My Head made #65 in the UK and was her final release here.


Mike said...

Truly stunning! Pia is such an icon. I really need to write about her one of these days.

VIRGO said...

Someone could post her album PIA Z from 1989... Its a good way to review her work through 80s
Thanks in advance


this alien said...

just catching up with your blog posts...on a lark, i saw pia zadora live in concert back in the 80's, and she was a surprisingly compelling live performer.

i love pia said...

Pia is an icon in the music industry and I love the she sings.