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Feb 11

MARIA McKEE – “Show Me Heaven”

Popular47 comments • 2,602 views

#651, 25th September 1990

Take my breath away, leave me breathless: the general “Top Gun, only not as good” vibe of Days Of Thunder extended to this single. As stately, as vague, more soporific somehow. One new ingredient is religion – “such amazing grace”, “feels divine” – and yes, this is a post-Madonna power ballad, but in this more conservative form the dance of identity between worshipper and worshipped quite vanishes. It has a slothful, vanillla, lie-back-and-think-of-the-Midwest kind of passion – sex as blockbuster movie, where your role is simply to wait for the ‘wow’ moment the heroic lead will surely provide.

McKee can belt, but she’s most comfortable away from the chorus, giving “Show Me Heaven” a more tender and dynamic performance than it might deserve. With this material, she can’t convince anyone of anything, but thanks to her it sounds for a while like this is a song, not a steamroller, that if it caught you in the right mood you might find something to relate to in it. But a lot of her good work is undone by that mandolin, its folksy, friendly, irritating air undercutting whatever subtleties she’s bringing.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    swanstep on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Kidman and Cruise resonate as particular extreme types on screen (rather like old-time movie-stars): once you divide through by beauty, she’s icy and entitled (I have friends who refer to her as ‘cold mountain’ or even as ‘CM’) and he’s needy and hyper (The Actor’s Studio ep./interview w/ Cruise has to be seen to be believed – track it down if you can). Aside from Mark M. ‘s good choices, I’d take To Die For and Birth for her, Risky Business and Tropic Thunder for him.

  2. 27
    LondonLee on 3 Feb 2011 #

    How did this get to number one? I don’t remember the film being any kind of popular smash like Top Gun. Maybe it was without me noticing.

    Cruise is very good in Rain Man, better than Hoffman.

  3. 28
    Tom on 3 Feb 2011 #

    #27 Apparently the song wasn’t a hit at all in the US, so we were clearly a market ripe for exploitation by enormous film tie-in ballads.

    As future events would prove, really.

  4. 29
    vinylscot on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Slightly biased, as this was the first dance at my wedding, but I always quite liked this one, even before “the big day”.

    I don’t find it formulaic; I find it a little quirky, and a refreshing change from the majority of the paint-by-numbers movie-related dross infecting the charts around this time.

  5. 30
    Mark M on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Re 26: you’re right, especially about Cruise – he’s a proper movie star in that he almost always plays roughly the same role* , and he’s rarely miscast. I just don’t like most of the films I’ve seen him in. The great thing about Magnolia is the way it uses his essential Cruiseness to entirely other ends (Paul Thomas Anderson also did much the same thing with Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love).

    To Die For – yes indeed.

    *(Tropic Thunder being an obvious exception – but I have to say I didn’t find his turn as funny as most other people did. Liked the film, though.)

  6. 31
    Mark G on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Often I see “High Society” and think Grace Kelly plays this part much like Nicole Kidman would have, even without the film having already existed. Does that make sense?

  7. 32
    Mark M on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Re 31: Really? I’ve always found Kelly, for all her immaculateness, a much more natural screen presence than Kidman.

  8. 33
    DanielW on 3 Feb 2011 #

    zzzz….nothing-special power ballad from a nothing-special film. This is one of those records that I can’t muster up any enthusiasm to like or dislike it. Will youtube “Ways To Be Wicked” out of curiosity though.

  9. 34
    Elsa on 3 Feb 2011 #

    Lone Justice’s “Soap, Soup and Salvation” goes through my mind with alarming frequency though I haven’t heard it in over 20 years. Onward to youtube once again…

    “Ways to Be Wicked” is a Tom Petty composition (with one of his bandmates).

  10. 35
    wichita lineman on 4 Feb 2011 #

    I could have sworn Blue Velvet was a number one. Certainly more memorable than SMH, of which only the roared title has lodged in my memory. So why was Blue Velvet a hit in 1990? An ad?

    I really should remember details of 1990 but I clearly don’t (apart from all-consuming crush on B Boo).

  11. 36
    punctum on 4 Feb 2011 #

    Mainly because of its use in an ad for Nivea cream but also in some part down to general David Lynch interest. It did make number one on the NME chart.

    The main difference between the charts then and now is that “Good Day Today” would have gone top ten in 1990.

  12. 37
    Mark G on 4 Feb 2011 #

    When did they pack the NME chart? It sort of disappeared from the magazine one day and I never noticed until I dunno, at least a year later.

    When I first got NME (Free faces flexi), I thought it somewhat keen that they had “Weeks on chart” and “highest position” as well. You can’t even get that on the Everyhit site now. “Neither Fish Nor Flesh” is as big a hit album (in fact bigger) than “The Stone Roses” by this reckoning…

  13. 38
    punctum on 4 Feb 2011 #

    In truth they packed it in around Sept. ’84, since that was when they started running the Network Chart (as heard on Capital etc.) but our copy of The Complete NME Singles Charts goes up to ’94 (I don’t believe there was another update) and the lists are generally a lot more interesting than the Guinness ones.

    The Stone Roses now officially a bigger hit than Neither Bought Nor Sold since it peaked at #5 in the summer of ’09 after retailing for 50p or thereabouts in the HMV sale.

  14. 39
    wichita lineman on 4 Feb 2011 #

    Well, I sold my copy.

  15. 40
    Mark G on 4 Feb 2011 #

    That’s right, the 2CD+DVD version was a fiver for a while, yeah.

  16. 41
    Paulito on 14 Feb 2011 #

    @12 – And it would have been even sweeter if the incomparably wonderful “In Dreams” had become a hit again on foot of its use in the film (and the related resurgence of interest in the Big O at that time). Quite incredibly, Roy’s re-recording of the song in ’87 actually surpasses the original.

  17. 42
    Erithian on 21 Feb 2011 #

    Certainly at its best when she’s not going for the big notes. Bit of a e-fit power ballad, but there’s plenty of character in the verses before she gets to the foothills. Not an experience you’d choose to return to all that quickly though. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, for a better McKee listen give me “If Love Is A Red Dress” from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.

  18. 43
    Lifes a Riot with Sully vs. Sully on 16 Dec 2012 #

    Painfully ordinary power ballad. But at least it’s better than the Days of Thunder computer game. God, that was shit. Not sure why Marouane Fellaini’s on the cover.

  19. 44
    JLucas on 16 Dec 2012 #

    There’s something rather interesting happening here, in that you’ve got a great singer doing everything she can with a fairly nothingy song – and yet she strangely disappears into the mix a little bit. I don’t think it’s just bad luck that McKee never had another hit (though I realise she remains popular in her world and probably couldn’t care less), this kind of could have been anyone, and even though she does a great job of it, the songs’ ultimate facelessness ends up enveloping her rather than allowing her to rise above it.

    Other versions of this song have been done by similarly gifted belters Tina Arena and the late Laura Branigan. They both do about as well with it as McKee does.

  20. 45
    Patrick Mexico on 11 Jul 2013 #

    Awful sleeve – it makes her look like Jaz Coleman.

    Saying that, any excuse to discuss Killing Joke on Popular..

  21. 46
    Cumbrian on 11 Jul 2013 #

    That’s a picture of Tom Cruise – as this was on the Days of Thunder soundtrack. I can’t say whether he does or does not look like Jaz Coleman in it though. He probably looks more like him in Magnolia.

  22. 47
    Patrick Mexico on 12 Jul 2013 #

    Haha! Sorry, what a gaffe. Sorry Maria. It’s that prominent nose. I suppose in the eighties, everyone looked like Marouane Fellaini – male or female. Or worse, David Luiz.

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