This is the 19th post in a biweekly series. Read about the series — and just what we mean by “freestyle music” — here. Freestyle Fridays post on the first and third Fridays of each month.
I feel the need for a palate cleanser — something right down the middle, a group that embodies the best and the worst aspects of the freestyle genre. Maybe something about a trio of interchangeable young women with a couple of excellent hits (including a great cover song), a bunch of mediocre singles, and the requisite lugubrious ballad. Maybe a group from New York City that nevertheless takes on Miami freestyle sound, just to cover all the bases. Hey, look — it’s Sweet Sensation!
In 1986 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, sisters Maria and Margie Fernandez joined with lead singer Betty Lebron to create Sweet Sensation. In 1988, they released their debut album, “Take It While It’s Hot,” which peaked at Number 63 on the Billboard pop albums chart and spawned a remarkable five singles:
- “Hooked on You” (Number 23 on Billboard Hot 100)
- “Victim of Love (Goodbye Baby)”
- “Take It While It’s Hot”
- “Never Let You Go” (Number 1 on the US Dance chart)
- “Sincerely Yours” (Number 13 on Billboard Hot 100)
In late 1988, Mari left the group and was replaced by Sheila Vega. The artwork of “Take It While It’s Hot” was altered to reflect the personnel change, but the album’s vocals were not rerecorded.
The new trio released their second album, “Love Child,” in April 1990. The title song — which is, of course, a cover version of The Supreme’s Number 1 hit from 1968 — went to Number 15 on Billboard’s dance chart and Number 13 on Billboard’s pop chart. While I love both versions of “Love Child,” I’ve always found the story told in the song somewhat overblown, and I’m not sure I buy the song’s central argument, which boils down to “don’t pressure me to have sex, because I grew up poor.” (Also, how exactly is the illegitimate love child “misunderstood?”) But the song itself is a knockout, and Sweet Sensation’s Miami-freestyle version amps up the energy behind the dramatic lyrics.
Alas, it was the album’s second single — a dreaded freestyle ballad — that gave Sweet Sensation its all-time biggest hit. “If Wishes Came True” spent one week at Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in September 1990. As usual with power ballads by freestyle groups, “If Wishes Came True” discards everything good about freestyle and replaces it with 1980s electric guitars.
Aside from that ballad, I find Sweet Sensation to be pretty inoffensive. They had a couple of good songs (IMHO they are “Hooked on You” and “Love Child”), but most of their singles are interchangeable and forgettable. In my mind, they represent the way bland freestyle music started to spread into every corner of pop music at the time, eventually moving from merely bland to annoying by overstaying its welcome.
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