forever number 1 one Board The series that pays special tribute to recently deceased artists who have achieved our chart’s highest honor – a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single – takes an extended look at the chart-topping songs that made them a part of this exclusive club. Here, we honor the late Tina Turner with a look back at her only No. 1: her career-rebooting smash and eventual signature song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
Pop historians remember 1984 as one of the greatest years in US Top 40 history – a time when, powered by the new commercial and artistic possibilities afforded by MTV, a new class of solo superstars were at the forefront of success. – got on the unimaginable plane. Multi-platinum-certified album. Tour to sold-out stadiums. The Essential Music Video. Madonna. Prince. Michael. Bruce. And another anonymously recognized icon whom no one could have predicted to be back in that pop inner circle just a few short years ago: Tina.
Tina Turner’s name was an odd fit on the marquee for a year of pop music that was very much about the future. For one, she was already middle-aged by that point — at 44, practically a whole generation older than 25-year-old Madonna and MJ — and for another, she’d been out of the limelight for a better part. was out Decade, free of the abusive and romantic partner Ike Turner on stage, but failed at that point to achieve much in the way of singles chart success. In 1984, she staged one of the biggest comebacks of the era, with a new contract with Capitol Records, a new set of rock and pop collaborators, and most importantly, some of the most accurate pop songs of the late 20th century. One of: “What’s love got to do with it.
“Love” Wasn’t the First Single From Turner’s 1984 Album private Dancer, It was actually their cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”. Their rendition of the 1972 Billboard Hot 100-topper served as a soft launch of sorts for New Tina, bringing the focus to her disjointed pipes (and in the video, her eccentric style) to an updated synth-soul sound. Showing up, courtesy of producers Greg Marsh and Martin Ware – the latter one of the co-founders of cutting-edge synth-pop outfit Heaven 17. It was a minor success, peaking at No. 26 on the Hot 100 and becoming her first Top 40 hit since 1973 – but it was a table-setter for what came next.
“What’s Love Got to Do With It,” produced by UK hitmaker Terry Britton and co-written by Briton and Scottish folk-rock alum Graham Lyle, is just the kind of song any seasoned pop artist would kill for. It’s mature without being cheesy, it’s charming without being cheesy, and it’s got an obvious soulfulness and wisdom without sounding downright retro or old-fashioned. it was a classic Adult single, one befitting Turner’s age and stature, but even while arriving in the midst of the biggest pop explosion since peak disco (or perhaps peak Fab Four), it still sounded very much of its time — a song which could be placed in the middle of the playlist dance The soundtrack singles and New Wave hits by Duran Duran and Frankie Goes To Hollywood don’t feel out of place anymore on Top 40 radio.
It helped that the groove of “Love” was amorphous enough to allow the song to fit anywhere. The song’s subject matter and melody – and Turner’s pedigree – perhaps most easily slotted it into R&B, and the song peaked at No. 2. BoardK’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Then Black Singles) chart. But Turner himself was more interested in rock music, and the production’s crisp, cinematic mix of choppy guitars, throbbing bass and bubbling synths on the intro and verses is more reminiscent of foreign big ballads of the time than anything else. . And while the big pop hook is the most attention-grabbing part of the chorus, its most inspired bit may be how the rhythm shifts from the tense melodrama of the verse, to an almost reggae-like shuffle for the refrain. It’s an incredibly versatile song, and a lot more shape-shifter than the first.
But none of this works without Turner behind the microphone. In contrast to the chops on display with her “Together” cover, she’s notably restrained on “Love,” demonstrating more of her power with what she keeps than she lets go. She hums like someone who’s a little embarrassed to sing what she’s singing — like she’s not sure if she should admit to any of it — which makes sense, considering the song is about love. is about attempting to dismiss as “second-hand emotion,” and placing a strictly-material framework around a relationship that is clearly revealing itself to be more.
Not that Turner doesn’t bring the goods with her vocals, as you can still hear that first “Ohhhh, what is love…followed by a mid-song key change. But even then, she quickly pulls back for the rest of the “what’s that got to do with” phrase, as if she’d let her emotions get the better of her for just a second before she remembered herself. It’s a display of mesmerizing control, texture and feel, the kind a less-skilled, less-experienced belter can’t be trusted to pull off.
With the help of a popular music video that featured a high-heeled, leather pencil-skirted Turner encountering various strangers on the streets of New York, “Love” took the Hot 100 by storm in May of 1984. Took it, bounded the charts and rose to the top. 10 that July. It finally reached No. 1 on the chart dated September 1, replacing Ray Parker, Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”, and lasted three weeks before being deposed by Jon Waite’s “Missing You”. A few weeks later, she would perform the song for the first time at the MTV Video Music Awards – although the video would not qualify until the following year, when she beat out Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Sade and Sheila E for Best Female. Video. The song also dominated the 1985 Grammys, taking home statuettes for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female.
Turner would never reach the Hot 100 apex again, but would remain at its top level for many years to come. private Dancer Two more Top 10 hits followed, in the rocking “Better Be Good to Me” (No. 5, November 1984) and the theatrical title track (No. 7, March 1985), and before the following year petered out, she added a No. 2-peaking single. Third in “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” from the soundtrack Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, its 1986 follow-up break every rule wasn’t blockbuster enough private Dancer but it spawned another No. 2 hit with lead single “Typical Male”. And although 1989’s “The Best” would only peak at number 15 on the Hot 100, it was one of her biggest global successes, and will remain as one of Turner’s signature numbers.
“I Don’t Wanna Fight,” released in 1993 from the soundtrack to her Angela Bassett-starring film biopic—the surprisingly titled What’s Love Got To Do With It – would mark his last trip to the Top 10, peaking at No. 9. From there, she moved mostly into the legacy phase of her career, earning career accolades (including a pair of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, with Ike in 1991 and 2021 as a solo artist) and Good Luck in 2009. remained a major touring draw until being taken off the road for the . Ashanti’s No. 2-peaking 2002 smash “What’s Love” and 2020’s globally successful Kygo Remix hits again with Turner’s original timeless vocals – proving 60 years after his debut (and a decade into her retirement), Tina Turner still wasn’t too far away from her next comeback.