Off Bleat #2: Wilson Phillips
Our Bloggist Looks Back at Formative Influences

Before I even discovered cassettes and glands, there was pop radio. I was a helpless and impressionable young gentleman at the mercy of mass media – which told me to listen to music that was hip, phat, and wiggity-wack. It’s exactly this kind of involuntary musical exposure that I wanted to address through this series.
We realize eventually that not all of our formative favorites retain a cachet of cool. Tastes can be quite fickle. We just need to be honest to ourselves, really. And if it’s anything, this series is honest – it’s about full disclosure. It is so honest that I am obliged to tell you that the rest of this blog is LIES. I’m a liar. It’s because I lie.

The first installment of Off-Bleat (ugh) came in July, where I had the opportunity to write about Backdraft, the best Filipino metal band of the 90s (in Loyola Heights, Quezon City (near McDonald’s)).

Coming from that post about a seminal Filipino rawk outfit (not) named after a Ron Howard film about firefighters, we now progress onto the next logical chapter: a multi-platinum pop vocal trio composed of the daughters of influential musicians from the Golden Age of American popular music. The cute blonde to the left, incidentally, married the star of that hyperlinked movie (who isn’t Kurt Russell).

Wilson Phillips”, you say? “Is he a singer?” “No, you poor thing. I’d slug you if you weren’t a little kid. They’re a girl group.” And you say, “But only a guy who is A GAY would listen to a girl group! Are you A GAY?” “Unfortunately, no. I’m not A GAY. But, yes – they are a girl group. In fact, they are the best-selling girl group ever.”

Duh. It’s never gay when you dress up like cowboys. [thanks, Wilson Phillips]

I love Wilson Phillips. I can say that out loud, even at the risk of sounding like I’m proclaiming profound affections for another man. Would people think me A GAY because I cannot verbalize italics? Never mind that, because I really am totally gay for Wilson Phillips. They’re my girls. God, my beard would be so proud…


We begin with a disclosure: my exposure to Wilson Phillips was mainly through their singles. My, but weren’t those good singles? They’re so good that they were inescapable during the group’s heyday from 1990 to 1992. I absorbed everything I heard on the radio that these songs have become irredeemably imprinted onto my prefrontal cortex – a mad scientist once stuck electrodes into my brain and heard the single edit of “Hold On”.

He then made a mix-tape using this diagram.

What’s weird is that it’s not even my favorite Wilson Phillips song (but more on “Impulsive” in a bit). Nevertheless, “Hold On” could very well be their signature piece – you may have caught it last year in ‘Bridesmaids’ (via cameo). It’s not only the group’s debut single but also their biggest hit. It’s also effectively a showcase for Chynna Phillips, who wrote it and sang lead.

Impulsive” (the third single), features Wendy Wilson with her first vocal lead. She turns in a somewhat unsure take that becomes rather the one factor that makes the song brilliant. We hear a timid young girl wanting to break free of her inhibitions – and nothing could be sexier.

Except beards. Sexy sexy beards.

After “Impulsive” came “You’re In Love” – their longest charting hit. This was, of course, their biggest one in the Philippines (here being pained love ballad country).

The Wilson Phillips package, however, may best be appreciated through single number two: “Release Me”. It is the first song that the girls wrote together and it has them singing in harmony throughout – and they do harmonies really well. In a nutshell: Chynna hits the bright spots, Wendy provides warm texture, and Carnie Wilson delivers the understated low end.

On that note, radio did not play a Carnie lead vocal until the fifth single – funny, because she sang lead on the most tracks on their debut LP. This single, “The Dream Is Still Alive”, was not promoted much outside America… “You’re In Love” was still on heavy rotation in most of the world, after all, and the group’s take on Elton John’s “Daniel” also took off around the same time.

The rundown so far: five top ten singles from their 1990 debut album, and one non-album hit – all this in less than two years. Not bad at all…

Wilson Phillips came out with their second album, ‘Shadows and Light’, in 1992, right when I started getting MTV Asia through UHF. Of course, grunge had already happened by then, so I remember my girls’ new videos getting played in between Pearl Jam and Nirvana, not to mention REM and Metallica. Incidentally, those last three links are to videos that are in black and white…

The 90s was a bleak, bleak decade as much as it was edgy. [thanks, Wilson Phillips]

Whether the group was aware of the developments in the scene, ‘Shadows and Light’ felt like a departure from the first album, if only in tone. Although it still sounded unmistakably like Wilson Phillips, this disc explored themes that went contrary to the lightweight nature of their debut – something apparent in the first single…

You Won’t See Me Cry” is one of the group’s more complex songs. It is a pretty little ballad sung throughout in harmony (and a uniform favorite among my girls to perform). The video was, of course, in black and white. It also had lots of dramatic slow-motion shots – because it was high-concept and artistic (duh). It should be no surprise, though, as it was directed by one Michael Bay.

Whom we know for his art-house oeuvre… [Err, Transformers]

Despite (perhaps because of) the sophistication, the song simply flew over my twelve-year-old head (forcing Mssr. Bay down a career path that would always target twelve-year-olds). This would be in direct contrast to the next single, which was something that ALL twelve-year-old males at the time appreciated.

The video for “Give It Up” was a godsend… although I think that term is a bit inappropriate, seeing as that video figured quite a bit in my weekly Catholic schoolboy confessions. It would go something like this:

“Father, forgive me for I have sinned.”

And the priest would reply, “Is this about “Give It Up” again?”

“I’m afraid so…”

“Well, do tell me about it… again… and slowly… I need details. Does watching the video make you feel… unusual?”

“I guess it does. But it’s ok, because I’m going to marry Wendy, anyway.”

“I see that you like to reply in screen-caps. I like that. Do you feel any hypnotic effects from the music video?”

“Yes, but it’s mainly because of Chynna’s slinky top. I thought she was a Batman villainess being all whirly-twirly like that. She looks like Wonka candy. She’s yummy.”

“Do you think about the video often, my boy?”

“Yes, I do. I think about Chynna’s hyper-extensions and how the Wilson sisters dance like moms.”

“How about when you sleep?”

“When I dream? I don’t really remember much… just roomfuls of hot ladies who dance like moms. Am I going to hell?”

“I can only say one thing to you, child… you’ve got taste. You’re different. I’ll be damned if I hear one more confession from another pre-glandular boy about that same old Shaider girl. No penance for you, my little man. See you next week!”

“But I was only getting to my Shaider confession…” [Thanks, Shaider]

I stopped going to confession not long after that. Not only had Wilson Phillips disbanded in 1993 (aww), but I had also developed a grunge/alternative cassette habit. I would track down my own Wilson Phillips CDs eventually, which I figured would come in handy for signing when I meet my girls in the future.

But that, as they say, is another story…

Check out that other story by doing the clicky-thing HERE.

Categories: [celebrity], [events], [music], [nostalgia]

[No Comments]

No Comments »

Leave a Reply