#BANKONIT: Bobby Brown's "On Our Own"
Instead of doing a Hot Take, I’ve decided to do a review on something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a LONG time.
Do you ever look back and realize that you completely missed out on something special, not necessarily due to hindsight, but because you were just too young?
There were countless things I could think of, from cartoons and TV shows to movies and magazines. I look back at the late 1980s-early 1990s with complete fondness and glory, but I missed out on a lot of it.
Music, however, was something I always felt “with it”. My parents always had me listening to all types of music. One of my earliest memories was being in the backseat with my Mom and Dad driving, going to Wendy’s on Rt. 18 in 1989 as they were playing 105.1 FM on the radio and “the Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics was on.
I’ve never prescribed myself to loving a particular genre over another, but I just have a wide spectrum of songs I really dig. I have to thank Nick Reigota from the “Nick and Jon: ‘Live’ in New Jersey” podcast for making me more at home when it comes to my eclectic music tastes, especially due to his “Sick Nick’s Music Picks”.
So when I watched a vintage movie the other day, and heard a song that popped into my ears, I pulled a Reigota and, similar to what he does, researched the history of the song in question. When I learned the history of that track, I saw a statistic that really shocked my brain.
Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own” from the Ghostbusters 2 Soundtrack in 1989 was NUMBER TWO on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in 1989.
WHAT?? That song? Color me shocked. A themed song from a movie was a Summer hit? Bobby Brown? It made me want to dig deeper and research more.
And that’s where our story begins.
My knowledge of Bobby Brown growing up was not necessarily a positive view. His relationship with Whitney Houston was ALL over the tabloids. Mama Bruce’s Star Magazine subscription, which came to the house every week, frequently discussed the drama within their relationship and his legal problems. To me, that sucks to have your life dissected negatively in the world, but once you’re in the public eye as a mainstream entertainer, all bets are off.
It actually took me a very long time to learn that Bobby Brown was a very talented singer in the mid to late 1980s. He formed New Edition in 1981 with his cousins Michael Bivens and Ricky Bell. They started gaining recognition with their LP “Candy Girl” in 1983 and then broke out with their self-titled second album in 1984, including tracks “Mr. Telephone Man” and “Cool It Now”.
Once Brown was voted out of New Edition in early 1986, he signed a solo deal with MCA Records. After his first album “King of Stage” didn’t gain much traction, he laid low for a year plus and released the LP “My Prerogative” in 1988. With guidance from incredible R&B producers Babyface, Teddy Riley, and L.A. Reid, Brown broke out, with the album-titled track and “Every Little Step” helping him sell twelve million copies and winning multiple awards within the music industry.
I’ve read a lot of comments from fans all over the internet who grew up die-hard fans of Brown and everyone had said that no one could touch his popularity in entertainment at this time. He was next level. Manu Ginobilis Bald Spot on YouTube (BIG LAUGH FOR THE CREATIVE NAME) posted a comment with the following: As hard as it might be to comprehend, there was a window of time in 1988 and 1989 when Bobby Brown was the biggest musical act in the world. Not 'up there' or 'among them', but literally for a brief moment, the biggest music act in the world. It's insane, but true. I was there for it.
Brown helped perfect the music style “New Jack swing”, which I fully admit to not having a clue on what that meant. According to Wikipedia, New Jack swing “ is a fusion genre of the rhythms and production techniques of hip hop and dance-pop, and the urban contemporary sound of R&B. Spearheaded by producers Teddy Riley and Bernard Belle, new jack swing was most popular from the late-1980s to early-1990s. Its influence, along with hip hop, seeped into pop culture.” A plethora of performers grasped the style and made it relevant in the eyes of the mainstream music fan, including Janet Jackson, Bell Biv Devoe, Paula Abdul, and “the King of Pop” Michael Jackson. Brown was most known with that style, subsequently being called, along with Riley, “the King of New Jack Style”.
So when Ghostbusters 2 came out in 1989, Bobby Brown made an impact on the soundtrack.
After the original Ghostbusters in 1984, Hollywood and fans banked on Ghostbusters 2 being a massive success. Combining the success of the movie and cartoon series in 1986, it was a given. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akyroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts (my secret Hollywood crush), and Rick Moranis were all signed up for the sequel. Anticipation was building.
The movie wound up being OK in the theaters. Trying to balance the universes of the film and the cartoon proved much more difficult than once thought. Although, I, a die-hard Ghostbusters buff, LOVED the flick, it was more of a toss-up. Released on June 16, 1989, the movie made $215.4 million worldwide against a budget of $30-40 million, which is tremendous, but not as massive financially as Hollywood initially thought. The main reason given was because of the monster success of Tim Burton’s Batman released the following week on June 23.
However, Bobby Brown’s involvement in the soundtrack, which was pushed by producer Peter Afterman, made for some magic in pop culture during the Summer of 1989.
“On Our Own” was released as a single on June 22, 1989, and the song took off. Written by L.A. Reid, Babyface, and Daryl Simmons, New Jack swing was in full effect, as Brown seamlessly switched between hip-hop and vocalizing. The beat was catchy, the hook was tremendous, and the vibe was positive.
Lyrically, the song was so upbeat. The purpose of the track was to showcase how if you want to achieve success, you must work hard and grind it out. It starts and ends with YOU. The song plays to the movie, as the Ghostbusters had to overcome the negative slime traveling underneath the streets of New York City and defeat Vigo the Carpathian with help from the Statue of Liberty and positively charged slime. They did it on their own with hard work and determination.
The talent of Bobby Brown made this song work. It felt, as a listener, he was giving this song his ALL. Every ounce of passion went into the track, and it shows. It was immensely performed. It helped the Ghostbusters 2 Soundtrack reach Gold.
You think it stops at the song? Just peep at this music video.
The star power in the music video alone was wild. Moranis, who played Louis Tully, made an appearance, as well as model Iman, Victoria Jackson, the Ramones, Doug E. Fresh, Jane Curtin, and Malcolm Forbes from Forbes Magazine were interspersed throughout, but the two big ones that shocked me was future President and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who was outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, and CHRISTOPHER REEVE, in the middle of a bike ride.
Also, every major building and area in Manhattan were on display. The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Times Square, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center Twin Towers, and others on display, showing clips from the movie and Brown and his backup dancers. For 1989, this was a very innovative video.
For me, this was vintage, cutting edge New York at its finest.
Unbelievably, the song made it to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in July and August 1989. What two songs were better than “On Our Own” to be #1 for four weeks?
“Batdance” by Prince and “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx. WHAT??
SPEAKING OF MOVIE THEMES! With all due respect to Prince, “Batdance”, in my opinion, couldn’t hold a candle to “On Our Own”. That song was all flash and not a lot of sizzle, in my opinion. I just had to go back and compare tracks. “Batdance” does not hold up as well as “On Our Own” does. But the success of the music video translated to the top of the charts, so I cannot hate on that. Prince was a showman, no doubt about it. Batman beat Ghostbusters all Summer long. It happens sometimes.
BUT RICHARD MARX?? “Right Here Waiting” is a decent song, but #1 worthy? “On Our Own” was an upbeat, positive track, while “Right Here Waiting” was depressing, as it was about holding on hope for love gone past. With all due respect to Richard Marx fans, my stomach turned knowing that this song was as high as it was. Good grief.
Richard Marx fans, please direct all your hate to me on Twitter @BankieBruce.
Looking back in hindsight, this song might have been snubbed as a #1 song. If Batman didn’t revolutionize the film industry in 1989, and Ghostbusters 2 was the major Summer hit, “On Our Own” would’ve been on top of the charts. Instead, the song settled for #2. And #2 is still fantastic.
Seeing where music has gone in the modern era, I’m not sure if there will be many songs from massively successful film franchises that will reach those heights in entertainment again; the last being “Shallow” from A Star is Born.
“On Our Own” was a song that should not have gotten as high as it did. But Bobby Brown absolutely smashed it and made it an amazing track.
People forget the strength of his power in the late 1980s. He was seemingly through the ringer professionally and personally, with heartbreak, addiction, and loss. But he’s still around, creating reality television shows and still performing with New Edition, most recently on New Year’s Eve 2022. It’s a testament to his drive and talents.
Ghostbusters 2 and Bobby Brown. What a combination. I just know that if a collaboration like this happens again, I’ll be ready for it.
Maybe to the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife? A guy can hope.