In a betting mood?
Even though the Grammy Awards are months away, you can put money down now on "On My Own," the Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald single that recently spent two weeks at No. 1 on the nation's sales charts.
The heartache ballad, written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, appears a cinch to be nominated for a Grammy in at least three categories: best record, song, and pop vocal by a duo.
For one thing, "On My Own" follows the model of past Grammy winners--hugely successful, and in an easy-listening style.
The tendency to honor records that fit this pattern has often led the Grammy voters to embarrassing decisions. Among the underwhelming "best record" Grammy winners in that best seller, easy-listening tradition: Captain & Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together" in 1975, Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" in 1978, Christopher Cross' "Sailing," 1980, and Toto's "Rosanna," 1982.
"On My Own," however, is far more inspired than any of those records. The affecting, character-rich tale of romantic disillusionment is more in keeping with more distinguished "best record" Grammy winners such as Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" and Michael Jackson's "Beat It."
It was clearly one of the most inviting singles of the first half of 1986.
But my favorite single so far this year remains the Bangles' "Manic Monday."
Don't, however, put any money on "Manic Monday" in the "best-record" race. It's got too many playful rock sensibilities for most voters to take it seriously.
The L.A. rock quartet, however, should do well in the rock group vocal competition. There hasn't been more consistently appealing harmonies in rock since the Mamas and Papas.
Eligibility for today's midyear look at the best singles was limited to records which made Billboard magazine's weekly Top 100 sales chart at least once since January. The midyear list of best albums will appear next Saturday.
Today's midyear list underscores the fact that you can never say never in pop music.
Who, for instance, would have guessed in January that one of the most appealing records of the year would be by a Jackson who lives in Encino--and that the artist's first name wouldn't be Michael?
Here are the best singles so far this year:
1. The Bangles' "Manic Monday" (Columbia)--Talk about surprises. Remember when the Bangles were dismissed as imitation Go-Go's? This record, a bright, bouncy combination of the workweek blues and romantic daydreaming, offers the vitality and charm of the best Go-Go's tunes.
2. Prince's "Kiss" (Paisley Park)--Prince has fun saluting one of his boyhood heroes (some of the guitar riffs are straight from James Brown) and mocking his own Superstud image. Sample lyric: "Don't have be rich to be my girl/You don't have to be cool to rule my world."
3. Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" (Geffen)--The tone of pop in recent weeks has been lighthearted and teasing, and this single from Gabriel's highly recommended new "So" album summarizes that mood. A great dance-floor excursion that has fun with rock's long-standing fondness for blatant sexual innuendo.
4. Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald's "On My Own" (MCA)--LaBelle can overpower a song but she shows excellent restraint here, teaming with McDonald on vocals that expertly capture the longing and emptiness that follows the breakup of a longtime romance.
5. Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (A&M)--Michael's sister gets nasty and scores big.
6. Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" (Island)--Another look at the exaggerated, love-is-the-drug playfulness of "Sledgehammer."
7. Belinda Carlisle's "Mad About You" (I.R.S.)--The single and the video both make you feel that this newlywed really is in love.
8. Erasure's "Who Needs Love Like That" (Sire)--Now that Alison Moyet has proved (in parts of her solo album) that she can get along on her own and Vince Clarke shows in this new single that he can still make catchy synthesizer pop without her, why don't the two reform Yaz? There's an added spark when they work together.
9. David Bowie's "Absolute Beginners" (EMI)--Not a great song, but Bowie hasn't crooned with this much feeling since "Heroes."
10. A tie between the Bangles' "If She Knew What She Wants" (Columbia), Prince's "Mountains" (Paisley Park) and Janet Jackson's "Nasty" (A&M)--I usually allow only one record per artist on the mid-year list, but these three singles are too good to let a little tradition keep them off this year.
MORE MIDYEAR: Colleague Dennis Hunt also nominates "Manic Monday" as the best single of the first half of 1986. Here's the rest of his Top 10: Janet Jackson's "Nasty," Midnight Star's "Headlines," Prince's "Kiss," the Jet's "Crush on You," Miami Sound Machine's "Bad Boy," Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls," Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," INXS' "What You Need" and Falco's "Vienna Calling."
LIVE ACTION: ZZ Top will be at the Forum on Aug. 14; tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Mr. Mister headlines the Greek Theatre on Oct. 3 and Pacific Amphitheatre on Oct. 5; tickets on sale Monday. . . . Tickets also go on sale Monday for the Pet Shop Boys' Nov. 7-10 engagement at the Pantages. . . . Bunny Wailer will make his first U.S. appearance in more than a decade July 13 at an outdoor reggae festival at Cal State Long Beach. . . . Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle and the Whispers will be at the Forum on July 19. . . . Blow Monkeys will be at the Palace on July 23, Boys Don't Cry is due there July 24. . . . The Cramps will be joined by Social Distortion on July 12 at Hollywood Palladium.