from the album Set The Night To Music (1991)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #6 (two weeks)
Weeks in the Top-40: 16
Today's song of the day comes from singer/songwriter Roberta Flack, who after a fruitful career in the 1970's, had been relatively quiet in the next decade, landing two top 20 hits in the first part of the decade, first with her theme from the groundbreaking movie Making Love, then with her duet with Peabo Bryson, "Tonight, We Celebrate Our Love". In 1988, Flack released the sublimely beautiful Oasis album, which had both a #1 R&B hit with "Oasis", and a #1 Dance Club Play hit with one of the best transformation remixes of that decade, "Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)". However, neither track made even a dent on the American pop chart.
Three years later, Roberta released her tenth solo studio album Set The Night To Music. The first single, and title track, was a slow-tempo soft-pop song written by master "song doctor" Diane Warren. It was originally released by Starship as the fourth and final single from their No Protection album. It didn't reach the pop Hot 100, but it climbed all the way to #9 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary (or "easy listening") radio chart in the fall of 1989...
For Roberta's version, she recorded the song as a duet with reggae singer Maxi Priest, who was coming off the biggest hit of his career, and one of the most successful singles of 1990, "Close To You". Producer Arif Mardin gave the arrangement a reggae beat with a very light touch, and it was one of the big last breaths of the soft pop movement that ushered in the decade...
"Set The Night To Music" became Roberta's eleventh and final top-40 pop hit in November of 1991. The song spent one week at #2 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary (or "easy listening") radio chart, and slipped on to their R&B list at #45. Internationally, the single reached #9 in Canada. A second single from the album, a very "soft" new-jack-swing-ish cover of the Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New", made it to #50 on the R&B chart.
In 1994, Flack recorded a covers album, Roberta, which didn't get much radio airtime but did nab the singer her first Grammy nomination in 14 years for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance, losing out to Tony Bennett's MTV Unplugged record. When the rap group the Fugees had a hit reworking her "Killing Me Softly" song from the 1970's, a club remix of her original vocals ended up topping Billboard's Dance Club Play chart for two weeks in 1996. A year later, she released a Christmas album (and re-released it in 2003). Her most recent studio album was a tribute to the music of the Beatles, Let It Be Roberta, which popped on to the bottom half of the albums chart in the U.S.
Up tomorrow: Jazz-pop singer has some thoughts.