Top 40 Smash Taps: “So Close”

These posts are about the songs that can accurately claim to crossed the key line of chart success, becoming Top 40 hits on Billboard, but just barely. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 40.

Diana Ross is very well acquainted with the Billboard Top 40. With the Supremes, both before and after her name officially preceded that of the group, she amassed 26 Top 40 singles, twelve of which topped the chart (the group made seven more appearances in the Top 40 after her formal departure from the group in January 1970, including with one song that qualifies for this feature, but that’s another entry). As a solo artist, Ross had 27 more Top 40 hits, six of which made it to #1. With all that, Ross probably didn’t even notice when one of her singles just barely made it into the Top 40. She just accepted another massive bouquet of congratulatory flowers from the label and moved on with her day.

The song that peaked at #40 was “So Close,” released in early January of 1983. The second single off of the 1982 album Silk Electric (following the Michael Jackson-penned “Muscles,” which made it into the Top 10), the song is a real oddity that provides a telling snapshot as to where a long-standing artist such as Ross was uncomfortably wedged in the early eighties. It has a bit of a classic pop tinge, as if trying to stir fond memories of all her Motown favorites from two decades earlier. There’s also the presence of the dying embers of the disco era, although quelled down to the softer, more approachable version favored by the likes of Olivia Newton-John (it has a pleading backbeat that is reminiscent of “Hopelessly Devoted to You”). Occasionally, there’s even a little passage that seems to be trying to harness the edginess of still-ascendant New Wave. Naturally, squeezing all those disparate styles into the song makes it come across as kind of a mess. It’s no wonder it stalled out in the lower reaches of the Top 40.

It was also indicative of the way that Ross’s hold on the public was starting to fade. When this single came out, it was Jackson, her protege, who was exploding in popularity. The album Thriller was released just over a month before the “So Close” single and this far more dynamic, forward-thinking take on the brand of soulful pop they’d both performed for years was just beginning the extended process of spinning the music industry like a whirligig. Ross had a couple more Top 40 hits, but none of them hugely successful or especially memorable. The goddess of pop was fading. “So Close” hints that it might have been because, perhaps for the first time in her long career, she didn’t really know where to go from where she was at.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.
“I’m in Love” by Evelyn King
“Buy Me a Rose” by Kenny Rogers
“Who’s Your Baby” by The Archies
“Me and Bobby McGee” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Angel in Blue” by J. Geils Band
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Rhythm of Love” by Yes
“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde
“Come See” by Major Lance
“Your Old Standby” by Mary Wells
“See the Lights” by Simple Minds
“Watch Out For Lucy” by Eric Clapton
“The Alvin Twist” by Alvin and the Chipmunks
“Love Me Tender” by Percy Sledge
“Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies
“Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Olympics
“The Bounce” by the Olympics
“Your One and Only Love” by Jackie Wilson
“Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano
“The Last Time I Made Love” by Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne
“Limbo Rock” by The Champs
“Crazy Eyes For You” by Bobby Hamilton
“Violet Hill” and “Lost+” by Coldplay
“Freight Train” by the Chas. McDevitt Skiffle Group
“Sweet William” by Little Millie Small
“Live My Life” by Boy George
“Lessons Learned” by Tracy Lawrence

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