Raise Your Expectations
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Raise Your Expectations is the first studio album from Animotion in 26 years. Newly reformed, with the line-up including both original front people Bill Wadhams and Astrid Plane, Animotion are back with an incredible set of original new music – and a new version of one of their signature hits, ''Let Him Go''. ''Raise Your Expectations'' is an effortless adult contemporary confection that will be sure to find new fans, as well as please those already onboard.
Animotion exploded into the hearts and Sony Walkmans of the world's population in 1985 with their global smash hit debut, ''Obsession'',
which reached number five in the UK, six in the US and similarly high positions elsewhere. The song continues to live on, being heavily synced within hit TV shows such as ''Nip/Tuck'', ''Weeds'', ''WWF Saturday Night's Main Event'', movies such as ''Hot Tub Time Machine'' and was covered by Sugababes twenty years after its original release!
The band's eponymous debut album spawned a second hit, ''Let Him Go'', which the band have revisited on Raise Your Expectations. Meanwhile, the second Animotion album, Strange Behavior, was released in 1986 and included yet another hit, ''I Engineer''. At the end of that album cycle, the band broke up and a third album, also called Animotion, was released in 1989 without contributions from any original members (although it did not break the band's hit-making run, as it generated yet another US top ten single, ''Room To Move'').
Raise Your Expectations brings the Animotion story bang up to date!
In 1984, L.A. New Wave band Animotion released ''Obsession,'' one of the best and most iconic hits of the '80s. Their last album was in 1989, but in 2017, original members of the synthpop group will unleash their first new album in 28 years, Raise Your Expectations. Today Billboard is excited to premiere the first single from that project, ''Last Time.''
The newly reformed Animotion includes both original frontpeople, Bill Wadhams and Astrid Plane, and the first offering from the band's return strikes an effective balance between the distinctive sound of '80s pop and more modern production techniques.
''The new Animotion album, Raise Your Expectations is a collaboration between original members Astrid Plane, Don Kirkpatrick, Greg Smith and myself with producers Chuck Kentis and Joman,'' Wadhams tells Billboard. ''Animotion guitarist Kirkpatrick has been in Rod Stewart's band for over a decade, working with Rod's musical director and keyboard player Kentis. When Animotion was signed to Invisible Hands Music in London, Don suggested that Chuck co-write and produce tracks for the album. The song 'Last Time' was a late entry to the project. Chuck's son Avery Kentis often takes over his father's studio, composing soundtrack music for student films. Chuck came across an 80s influenced demo that Avery had recorded and shared it with the band. Don and I immediately took to it and added guitars, melody and lyrics. That was the genesis of 'Last Time.' Coincidentally, I was so impressed with Chuck's other son, filmmaker Noah Kentis that I hired him as director of the music video for 'Last Time.' It's an Animotion and Kentis family affair.''
The new album, which you can pre-order here, features gorgeous artwork from Jay Vigon, who created the band's original logo and the logo for Prince's Purple Rain film (not too shabby). --Billboard
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In February 1986, they released their sophomore album, "Strange Behavior". Having success with songwriter Holly Knight with "Obsession", they tried again with the lead-off track "I Engineer" except this time, no gold. After that, the band faded to black.
Weirdly, in 1989, they were back, except this time with two different lead singers to replace the original Bill Wadhams and Astrid Plane. Coincidence that the new lead singers were Paul Engemann from the Holly Knight formed band, Device, and Cynthia Rhodes (Penny Johnson from "Dirty Dancing", and also Richard Marx's new wife at the time)? There were only two official members of the original Animotion in the band for their third album, which was also self-titled like their debut (no confusion there, right?) Still, with all that change, they managed another top 40 hit in the form of "Room to Move" from the god-awful "My Stepmother is an Alien" film starring Dan Aykroyd and Kim Basinger, and written by songwriting duo, Climie Fisher who were just off having a hit in 1988 with "Love Changes (Everything)"--which sounded like a Rod Stewart track at the time. And then the band faded to black once more. Until, in 2005, there was a television show called "Hit Me Baby One More Time" in which Bill and Astrid actually appeared doing "Obsession" and a cover version of Dirty Vegas' "Days Go By". They were great, actually. Got all that? Good.
Fast forward to 2016, and surprising release of Animotion's fourth album, "Raise Your Expectations". This time around, four of the original six members are in tow, including Bill and Astrid for the first time in 30 years. That has to be a record of some type.
So, while I have, strangely, been a fan from the beginning, owning their first three albums on compact disc, I was amused and curious to see where the band would be now, musically. Things have radically changed since 1986 in the popular music medium. I held no expectations that their music would be highly valued and treasured like so many other artists from the 1980's, but to my surprise "Raise Your Expectations" was pretty good.
Defining good--memorable songs with memorable melodies and lyrics. They're here. The lead-off track, "Last Time" is both memorable and catchy while propelling the band into contemporary times. It's a good song. However, my favorite tracks happen to be "They Can't Touch You" with Bill Wadhams' odd humming during the chorus and "You Love It" with its dancefloor friendly groove and wry lyrics. Speaking of which, what would an Animotion album be without some humor and wry lyrics? Just try "Bad Review" and "Love You Better", both of which contain some sly talking and commentary about the band and also relationships.
The band only loses their footing on such alternative noise tracks like "Not Your Lover", "Trust Me" and "Surrender"--easily the weakest songs here.
The 2016 re-imagining of "Let Him Go" is decent. It neither improves upon, nor detracts from, the original (on the debut album, or the remix found on the re-released version).
So, I will say that "Raise Your Expectations" exceeded mine, though admittedly my hopes were low to begin with. If you liked Animotion, there's a good chance you'll like this new offering. In fact, I wouldn't mind if they kept going and released a new album in a few years. This was a pretty strong comeback even though times have changed and it won't get any recognition as the medium for promoting music has radically altered. If this were 1992, it would be a different story--or maybe not, because back then the record label would just not promote something it didn't stand behind, and thus it would get lost in the shuffle anyway.
Here's how "Raise Your Expectations" compares with Animotion's previous works:
1984 Animotion: Two and a Half Stars
1986 Strange Behavior: Three Stars
1989 Animotion: Two Stars
2016 Raise Your Expectations: Three and a Half Stars