Tyka Nelson – Marc Anthony’s Tune
Sometimes I can love a song in the moment and then forget all about it for a decade or two, and then one day it will suddenly arrive in my brain like a postcard that’s taken years to arrive. Of course postcards usually tend to come from exotic or at least mildly pleasant locations, but in the case of today’s song, it returns me to a Texaco fuel station on the outskirts of Dumfries, where I was in the passenger seat with the radio on while my dad filled up the car. Thankfully it was a sunny summer day and I enjoy the smell of petrol, so as a memory it’s really quite nice, if a bit lacking in glamour. But you can’t have everything, can you? Just ask Tyka Nelson.
Ah yes, Tyka. She comes from a long and distinguished line of sisters-to-the-stars who’ve also attempted to make their fortune in the world of music. God, what a thankless job that is, eh readers? Despite the rule of thumb that says you are likely to be slightly edgier (notably Dannii and Solange), you are always going to find that every article written about you is prefixed with a reference to your more famous sibling. The only one I can think of who managed to get on something approaching an equal footing was Janet Jackson.
But when your brother happens to be Prince, what chance do you stand? History tells us the answer is ‘not much to be honest’, but let’s find out if Tyka has been unfairly overshadowed all these years by having a listen to 1988’s Marc Anthony’s Tune.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Marc Anthony’s Tune is that Prince is nowhere to be seen. Despite her big brother offering her free reign of Paisley Park, Tyka chose to go it alone, telling People magazine “I didn’t want it written that ‘she made it because of Prince. He wrote it, played it, sang it, told her what to sing, how to dress’. I didn’t want to be the next Vanity.” So she signed with Chrysalis Records, went off and made her debut album and called it Royal Blue, thereby continuing the Nelson family tradition of owning a colour.
The second thing you might notice is that the production (by Preston Glass, whose many credits include co-writing Michelle Gayle’s Sweetness – gasp!) is a tiny bit inexpensive and a little dated-sounding for 1988, and it doesn’t do the song many favours. The go-to man for a hit slush-fest at this point was Michael Masser, who’d produced several of Whitney Houston’s biggest ballads and would have a massive hit with Natalie Cole’s Miss You Like Crazy (interestingly a Preston Glass co-write) just a few months after Marc Anthony’s Tune bombed. Had he got his hands on it, I think this could have been huge – even with the cheap synths, it has charm to spare. As a songwriter, Tyka certainly has a way with a tune, knows her way around a lovely anticipatory pre-chorus and can deliver a gorgeous and subtle skyscraping chorus immediately afterwards. And she has a lovely voice pitched somewhere between Randy Crawford and the aforementioned Ms Cole, sounding particularly amazing on the word ‘sky’ at 1:38. All this is more than enough for the song to overcome its minor production problems.
Of course the question we’re all asking is who was Marc Anthony? Well, I will tell you: he was Tyka’s imaginary lover. I’m sure we’ve all had one of those at some point or other, but Tyka took it quite seriously. She wore two watches – one for her and one set to ‘Marc Anthony time’. I don’t know about you, but if I had a made-up boyfriend I’d at least make sure he was in the same time zone as me. But this is Prince’s sister we’re talking about (a woman who turned up to that People interview with a booster seat for a stuffed dinosaur called Jazz), so normal behaviour obviously doesn’t come as standard in that family.
Despite getting played on British radio at least once, being available in the shops (I bought the twelve inch) and the family connection that was obviously mentioned despite Tyka’s best efforts, Marc Anthony’s Tune was a complete flop just about everywhere, only charting on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs countdown, where it peaked at no.33. But it’s stayed with me, and every so often when I get a whiff of petrol in my nostrils I think of Marc Anthony, wonder about what could have been and imagine a world where Tyka Nelson has lots of platinum records, or at the very least her own Wikipedia page. Sadly she has neither.
Entered chart: 09/07/1988
Chart peak: 99
Weeks on chart: 1
Who could sing this today and have a hit? I was convinced Jennifer Lopez would do this when she was married to Marc Anthony, but she didn’t. What a missed opportunity.
So elegantly written, Niall, that you half-persuaded me.
Who would have imagined that the modern Proust would be overcome by petroleum?
Speaking of Proust, do you have any time for Swans Way (and their absent apostrophe)?
I’d completely forgotten about Swans Way so that’s my evening sorted. I would object to the missing apostrophe, but as I didn’t complain about Shakespears Sister I can hardly do so now…