An under-represented genre at the top of the British charts, in the late 1980s, was the neo-soul of Seal, Sade, and Terence Trent D-Arby… Even Prince went without a UK #1 for a long time. Perhaps Lisa Stansfield’s first chart-topper is as close as we’re going to get…
All Around the World, by Lisa Stansfield (her 1st of two #1s)
2 weeks, from 5th – 19th November 1989
If you’re being harsh you might call this sort of smooth and glossy R&B ‘dinner-party soul’ – soft background music you’d hear while munching asparagus tips in an Islington townhouse. And it would be especially harsh on this record, as it’s a lot more lively than some of its contemporaries. I don’t know where my baby is… Lisa Stansfield purrs in the spoken intro… But I’ll find him… She is famously northern, from Manchester, but she does a passable American accent (which was probably wise, as it might not have made #3 in the US if she’d sounded like someone from ‘Coronation Street’).
The verses are a little too tidy, a little too glossy. Bland, even. This is what the late ‘80s would have sounded like without Stock Aitken Waterman to liven them up (I’ve resigned myself to missing SAW when their hits dry up…) But the chorus picks things up, and it comes with a great hook: Been around the world and aye-aye-aye, I can’t find my baby…
There’s drama too, in the strings and the middle-eight: I did too much lyin’, Wasted too much time… and through the length of the record Stansfield shows off the full-range of her vocal talents. She trills, growls, and hits some impressive high-notes. If you didn’t know what she looked like, you might imagine a black soul diva rather than a skinny Manc lass. By the end, as she starts harmonising with herself, it’s a little OTT; but you can forgive the exuberance.
Lisa Stansfield had been releasing music since 1981 – both solo and as part of the band Blue Zone – but to little fanfare until she teamed up with production duo Coldcut. Earlier in ’89 they had released the house classic ‘People Hold On’, establishing her as a vocalist. ‘All Around the World’ was her second solo hit, helped by her distinctive look in the video, the short hair with Betty Boop kiss-curls.
Stansfield would continue scoring Top 10 hits throughout the nineties, including one further chart-topper to come. Meanwhile, we find ourselves with just three #1s left in this decade! Time flies… And if ‘All Around the World’ gives us a perfect mash-up of late-80s/early-90s sounds, our next chart-topper is an ear-popping vision of the decade to come.