“Close To You”

’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Close To You”

The nineteenth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Close To You” by Maxi Priest. Sporting an accessible reggae-pop sound, Priest had a few hits in his native U.K. during the ’80s, but in the United States, his only hit prior to “Close To You” was a 1988 remake of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” which reached No. 25. Priest followed “Close To You,” his only U.S. No. 1 hit, with five more Hot 100 entries. The most successful and memorable of these were hihs 1991 duet with Roberta Flack on the breathtakingly good “Set The Night To Music,” which peaked at No. 6, and his catchy 1996 hit “That Girl,” featuring Shaggy, reaching No. 20.

“Close To You” has an unusually prominent instrumental track — a crisp, snare-heavy, relentless electronic beat that serves as the focal point of the song around which Priest flexes his superior singing ability. He’s quite emotive on “Close To You,” which is necessary to give the song any interest, as the foundation has no dynamic peaks or valleys.

Let’s give “Close To You” a listen:

To back up a moment, wasn’t 1990 a trip? The diversity we’ve already seen in genres at No. 1 would never happen today. The year sent gospel/soul, rock, blues, adult contemporary, bubblegum teen pop, reggae and hip-hop to the summit. You have to appreciate the public’s open-mindedness.

We always liked “Close To You.” It’s simple, but it comes off as sincere thanks to Priest’s superior performance. The melody is tremendously hooky and memorable, and the overall listening experience is unique. You’d be hard-pressed to offer up a song that can be mistaken for this one.

Was it dope? Sure. There’s an exotic appeal to Priest’s accent and appearance that made this song a welcome ingredient to pop radio at the time. This isn’t pure reggae of course, but it’s reggae-ish enough to have possibly opened some people up to exploring the genre. And Priest just seems like a cool dude.

Does it hold up? We think there’s a modern-day audience for this song, but it’s not very big. The percussion is too prominent for this to be mistaken for anything released recently, although the basic songwriting here is strong enough that it’s a good contender for a remake. Any takers?

Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks

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closetoyou
Maxi Priest
“Close To You”
1 week at No. 1, starting Oct. 6, 1990
Preceded by: “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection,” Nelson
Followed by: “Praying For Time,” George Michael

’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?

– John

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