Music Review: Stacey Q – “Better Than Heaven” (2-CD reissue)

Stacey Q could be considered a one-hit wonder by many 80s pop fans. she and the synth group SSQ broadcast successfully for nearly a decade serve as proof to the contrary.

At the dawn of the MTV era, the collective – then simply called Q – released an independent EP of minimalist new wave-ish worlds away from “Two of Hearts” elegantly produced and cute-voiced – l 1985 record that became a top-10 ear candy slicer in over half a dozen countries the following year. In fact, Stacey was initially hesitant to record the Anthem Anthem, as explained in the liner notes of a new two-CD reissue of her first true solo album, Better than heaven.

The 30-track package includes a total of seven versions of “Two of Hearts”, along with mixes of popular singles “We Connect”, “Insecurity” and “Music out of Bounds”. Listening to these cuts and the six other selections from the album more than three decades later, it becomes apparent that the hasty tendencies to bundle Stacey with a Madonna sound pack were largely unwarranted.

It’s no surprise that it comes across as such at first to listeners unfamiliar with early Stacey-led SSQ cuts like “Synthicide” and “Screaming in My Pillow.” While she employed a wider tonal range on these (similar to the approach she would come to frequently use in concert), “Two of Hearts” relied on a deliberately flirtatious delivery reminiscent of the hits of Madonna such as “Like a Virgin” and “Lucky Star.”

None of Stacey’s subsequent singles matched the pop highs of “Two of Hearts”, but many came close in clubbing, most notably US club number one “We Connect”. Although not written by the same team as the first, some of its key melodic and rhythmic elements were clearly modeled after it. Still, it was different enough not to look like a lazy cash-in clone.

It’s the convergence of this kind of lighter fare with songs like the driving “Insecurity”, the nuanced “Don’t Break My Heart” and the sweet “Don’t Let Me Down” that form a distinctly well-balanced dance. and executed. pop, not to mention new wave “Dancing Nowhere” and R&B tinge “Don’t Break My Heart,” both infused with the sensibility of SSQ’s 1983 tunes Proofreading album.

Bonus material from the Cherry Pop reissue brings together for the first time on CD many of the revered mixes that were originally released on various 12-inch pressings in different territories. Although these were produced in an era before the phenomenon of reconstructed dance versions differing massively from the original recordings, it is nevertheless quite interesting to hear the evolution of “Two of Hearts” from its first form to the much played European Mix and UK. Q-Mix incarnations. Additionally, both the edited version found on vinyl pressings of better than heaven and the special extended mix of the first edition of the CD can be found here.

Adjustments to the remixes of “We Connect” and “Music out of Bounds” are more subtle, while the Guitar Mix of “Insecurity” adds noticeable bite to the number. Finally, the inclusion of bonus instruments and beats completes a kinetically and sonically satisfying package, ideal for revisiting the fun and eclectic vibes of the 80s.

“Two of Hearts” is frequently cited in discussions of iconic dance tracks from that decadent decade. Now pop experts have the evidence to further explore the singer and band behind the gem and discover that the better than heaven The album as a whole deserves recognition as an artistically significant and cohesive collection of the best of them.

Jack L. Goldstein