’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Weak”
The seventieth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Weak” by SWV. This trio was one of the biggest acts of the ’90s, and “Weak” was their most successful single and only chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100. “Weak” was the third single off their debut album, It’s About Time. The first, “Right Here,” stalled at No. 92. The second, the excellent “I’m So Into You,” reached No. 6. After “Weak” was such a cross-over success, a remixed version of “Right Here,” borrowing the instrumental of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” peaked at No. 2 (sharing an A-side credit with “Downtown“), kept at bay for three weeks by Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.” As lead artists, SWV would subsequently chart eight more times on the Hot 100, the biggest release being 1996’s “You’re The One” (No. 5), one of the best songs of that year. Their most recent hit was 1998’s “Rain” (No. 25), although they reunited a few years ago and put out a cute and underappreciated single called “Co-Sign,” which is worth a listen.
SWV (Sisters With Voices) was stylized and marketed as a more “street” version of En Vogue, or perhaps a more romantically optimistic and demure version of TLC, with Mary J. Blige’s fashion sensibilities. By most standards, the production quality on It’s About Time is pretty amateurish, but in some ways that’s part of its girls-next-door charm. The members of SWV aren’t the best singers in the world in terms of technique or range, but they were tremendously good at evoking emotions. And their taste dovetailed that of the public, which was broadly embracing “urban” entertainment.
Let’s give “Weak” a fresh listen:
“Weak” was written by prolific R&B songwriter Brian Alexander Morgan, who did a fantastic job here of creating a heartfelt, straightforward, original ballad. The track, though, may have turned out more polished had he decided not to produce it himself. Imagine it in the hands of someone like Narada Michael Walden, who did “All The Man That I Need.” Or imagine, further, if it had been sung by En Vogue, a group with a richer, fuller sound. But in 1993, a Walden-produced, En Vogue-sung version of “Weak” may not have worked; it might have seemed too over-produced, or even corny.
This song was a bit feminine and not particularly sexy, but it was pretty widely appreciated. Also, the public seemed to be rooting for these ladies and happy for their success. They seemed like underdogs, and it was a big deal that this track knocked Janet Jackson out of No. 1.
Does it hold up? There’s no question that this track sounds very old; it actually sounded old even upon its release. It’s probably considered SWV’s signature song, even though there are others we prefer, such as “Anything” and “Use Your Heart.” But SWV had such a great output that they deserve to have a No. 1 single under their belt, so if “Weak” did it for them, we’re fine with that and happy for them. They seem like genuinely nice people.
Dopeness: 4 out of 5 Birkenstocks
’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?