In what may be an indication that a critical mass of the “adult” radio listening audience now has no first-hand memory of the band’s creamy cheeseball ballad 80s heyday, Billboard.com today reported that “Dance With Me”, the latest single by the Australian duo Air Supply, has reached #28 on the Adult Contemporary chart. This is their first appearance on that chart since the summer of ’93, and their highest placing on the chart since 1986 (that is: the year Lady Gaga was born). Although I’ve always kept a soft spot for the Air Supply of my youth, namely their fantastic run on the pop charts between 1980 and 1986 which I unironically maintain produced some of the era’s most enduring love songs – “Lost in Love”, “All Out of Love”, “The One That You Love”, “The Power of Love”, and, of course, their Jim Steinman-penned and produced magnum opus “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” – I’d lost track of them after the relative flop of their last album for the Arista label, 1986’s Hearts In Motion. I own that last Arista album, and I have to say, it’s not all that bad, and in fact, it’s lead single – you know the one that gave Air Supply their last best showing on the Adult Contemporary chart – remains one of my favorites of theirs, despite the fact that it rarely turns up on any of the myriad Air Supply greatest hits comps out there:
I’ve been distantly aware that Air Supply have remained active both as a live touring act, especially in Asia and South America where their popularity has never waned, and as recording artists. They’ve put out 8 studio albums, a handful of live documents, and a Christmas record in the last 25 years, which makes them slightly more prolific than, say, U2. So my heart leapt a bit when I read that they were now enjoying an apparently renewed level of success in the U.S. It wasn’t just my 12-year-old self thrilling to see an old familiar face sharing space with Colbie Caillat and Kris Allen. But the sheer unlikelihood of this resurgence made me think that for any Air Supply song to recapture a larger American audience, it had to be friggin’ awesome.
Well, okay, going by Air Supply’s website, it appears that their latest album Mumbo Jumbo is a sort of concept album with high art pretentions, strangely religious undertones and an indecipherable Adam and Eve type storyline, for which “Dance With Me” serves as an establishing chapter. Setting aside the looney-tunes conceptual context (someone’s been listening to Prince’s The Rainbow Children), there’s nothing wrong with the song itself. “Dance With Me” is, at least theoretically, a lovely mid-tempo charmer. And in the few live performances of the song you might find on YouTube, it seems to go over well in concert. But the recording of the song is embarrassingly bad. While Graham Russell (the tall one) has never sounded more like Art Garfunkel (nice!), those who remember the diminutive Russell Hitchcock‘s skyscraping tenor will be struck immediately by just how haggard and depressing his voice sounds now. Furthermore, the raw, all-foreground production does nothing to flatter either song or singer. It’s unfathomable to me that any self-respecting radio programmer would give something this amateurish airplay, and I’ve rarely regretted a 99 cent download more. Again, I am not an Air Supply hater, and I find the idea of a re-energized, re-popularized Air Supply a very heartening development. If only the music were good.