Belinda Carlisle – Mad About You
What makes the perfect summer single? While there are many recipes for summertime pop success, a few key ingredients are essential:
1. A swooping, joyous chorus that builds gradually and frenetically from the verses.
2. An unending sense of happiness that comes from repeated listens.
3. A transporting effect so powerful that the listener, even if in rainy Scotland, believes they are driving a convertible on a California beach.
4. An accompanying video that conveys all of the above plus a feeling that anything is possible, including non-stop sex, sun and satisfaction.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the quintessential summer single: Belinda Carlisle’s Mad About You.
In 1986, Belinda had left The Go-Go’s, one of the most successful girl bands in history, and had signed to IRS records as a solo artist. She had just become part of Hollywood royalty, marrying Morgan Mason, the son of the actor James Mason. For her debut solo single, Carlisle needed to make a musical statement that would distance her future career as far as possible from the pop-punk stylings and scrappy fashions of her former band.
And what a statement she made! In the video for the song, which debuted in the US in May of 1986, a newly slender Carlisle appears in a form fitting black dress, sporting movie star sunglasses and a Grace Kelly-esque blonde hairdo. For three minutes and forty-one seconds, she dances on the beach, rides in the back of a convertible, flirts with her handsome husband, buys flowers, shops with her girlfriends, ponders the universe over an espresso and generally seduces the viewer with every California cliché in the book. And it works – she looks and sounds AMAZING. With this video Carlisle effectively staked her claim as the LA babe to end all LA babes. She is Belinda, hear her roar!
Of course, none of this would work if the underlying song wasn’t a bona fide classic. The verses start simply and quietly, slowly building with ever increasing and happier uses of harps, bells and drums, finally exploding in one of the catchiest choruses of all time. It features a sexy and sassy guitar solo from Andy Taylor of Duran Duran, a tip of the hat from Belinda to the pre-eminent pop band of the era. The lyrics aren’t much to speak of, but by the time we get to the chorus, we sure as hell know that Belinda is mad about us and we couldn’t be happier. It’s as if Belinda and her producers had taken puppies and unicorns and rainbows and chocolate and roses, thrown them in a blender, and then told everyone to drink the result, the happiest cocktail ever made. It’s that tasty and good.
In the U.S., the song made Belinda a solo star and the video made her a sex symbol. Mad About You dominated airwaves over the summer, peaking at no.3 in August 1986 and staying on the charts for the entirety of the May to October summer radio season. It also established her as a pop diva to be reckoned with, and when she released her defining hit Heaven is a Place on Earth a year later, her transformation into a solo superstar was complete.
In the UK, however, that transformation took a little longer. Mad About You didn’t even chart on its first release in 1986. After Heaven made no.1 on the UK charts and subsequent singles I Get Weak and Circle in the Sand became top ten hits, IRS released the single again in 1988, to little effect. By that point, however, the single’s reason for being – to announce Belinda’s arrival as a solo star – was a moot point. Which is sad, because it truly is a summertime pop classic, suitable for listening to any time of the year.
Entered chart: 23/7/1988
Chart peak: 67
Weeks on chart: 6
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Jess Glynne. Hold My Hand is the Mad About You of 2015, announcing the solo arrival of this year’s new pop starlet, and a Belinda cover would be the perfect recognition of her place in the diva pantheon.