Now Hear This: “Tainted Love”

Now Hear This: “Tainted Love”

During the 1980s, approximately 2,550 major albums were released, resulting in at least 3,000 singles entering the Top 40. There were 189 #1 songs. But the one song that appears on every damn single 80s compilation known to man is this one:

We’re not saying Soft Cell‘s lone Top 40 hit isn’t great, because just listen to it!

It was everywhere the summer of 1982, and has shown a surprising amount of longevity in the three decades (!) since. But anyone surprised by the fact that the song has been around longer than the last dozen Bond movies, and Mariah Carey’s entire career wasn’t paying attention when the song first came out.

“Tainted Love” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #90 on January 16, 1982. It stalled at #64 and dropped to #100. After spending a second week at #100, it started climbing again – and continued to do so for 19 weeks until it cracked the Top 40. The song reached #8 during the summer of 1982 and spent a then record-breaking 43 weeks on the Hot 100 without ever cracking the Top 5!

With exotic new wave sweeping the globe in the early 80s, who in their right mind would dare remake a song that failed twice before?

That’s right. Remake.

The song that was first recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965, and released as the B-Side to the single “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.” It was a dud, failing to chart in either the US or the UK.

“Tainted Love” eventually became an underground hit, so Jones recorded it again in 1976 – and the song again failed to chart. If it’s any consolation, Jones’ version closed out an episode of Mad Men once.

Once the Soft Cell version took hold, the song became so popular that the duo even re-recorded it themselves in 1991. But let’s face it, revisiting your only hit is kind of pathetic.

What’s awesome? Being covered in a completely different genre by the then-reigning king of the grotesque, Marilyn Manson.

Manson’s cover, released in the UK on March 23, 2002, became his band’s biggest hit in that country. The song entered the UK singles chart at #6 and spent a total of 22 weeks in the Top 75.

Given the song’s ubiquitous rotation, you would think that an up-and-coming pop singer would take one listen and know she’d have to run away (I’ve got to), get away. Why would rising star Rihanna want to sample such an obvious hook for her 2006 single “SOS?”

The Barbadian hottie must have realized that in the mid-00s, the hip-pop craze was starting to wane, so it back to the 80s for her. The result? Her first #1 US hit. Duh.

Alas, the Pussycat Dolls were not as successful with their straight-up remake…

And maybe we’re crazy, but would that possibly be a hint of “Tainted Love” in Flo Rida & T-Pain‘s 2010 single “Zoosk Girl?”

But Imelda May took it full circle. Her cover bypassed the synthpop classic and went straight back to Gloria Jones‘ version:

We could go on but there are TOO MANY VERSIONS TO LIST.

“Tainted Love” ranked #5 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 1980s, but let’s face it: Like The Walking Dead, Soft Cell’s version will never end. It will continue wandering the Earth, inspiring artists of every stripe to take a run at it’s infectious 80s goodness.

And when there are no more ways to sample, cover, study or interpret the hook-laden classic that has defined a generation, someone will invent a new way to perform it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

*