One Random Single a Day #109: “Edge of a Dream” (1984) by Joe Cocker

While writing these music reviews, I’ve found that the hardest part of this task is not writing reviews of music I like or love, or even writing on music I dislike or hate. It’s definitely the music on which I have no strong feelings one way or another. I’ve been making my way through listening to the US releases of Now That’s What I Call Music! compilations. My most recent listen-through was on Now 42 – take a look at this tracklist. This is the blandest set of songs on this journey that I’ve come across so far. It’s just a vapid abyss of EDM and electro-pop nonsense, some faceless pop tracks, an uninteresting indie smash hit, a couple truly bland country tracks, and the mandatory bonus material, which are all just forgettable. These are all general buzzwords that definitely describe this particular compilation – yet they never quite seem to fully encapsulate the genuine sense of nothingness I felt while listening through this compilation. It’s just… nothing.

Now, while Joe Cocker’s music is a far cry from any of these dull gems in contemporary pop music, I think it’s fitting that I begin this review with this mention. Although Joe Cocker first came into popularity through his unique gritty voice and idiosyncratic covers and original tracks, his major break into the soft rock mainstream came in 1975 with his #5 single “You Are So Beautiful”. This appeal was pushed even further when, in 1982, his duet with Jennifer Warnes’ “Up Where We Belong”, helped by its inclusion to the popular An Officer and a Gentleman soundtrack, made it all the way up the top of the pop charts. Now, while I hate An Officer and a Gentleman with a fiery passion, the song is a bit better. Not that it’s a good song – in fact, if anything, it’s yet another example of the dull adult contemporary wave that took over the 80s and would continue throughout the following decade. But as limp as it is, at least the swell of the chorus is somewhat memorable enough to give at least a hint of why some people would find this a very meaningful recording in the first place.

But now we’ve got “Edge of a Dream”, another soundtrack song from Cocker, by himself this time. Although no one remembers Teachers – I’ve never even heard of Teachers before researching this song! Of course, this song went nowhere and it’s actually not too hard to see why. The production sounds like it could have been copy-pasted from any other R&B/pop-rock song of the 80s. It begins with a lone piano, becomes more and more intense with each verse, and then quiets down right before the climactic push of the final chorus – how original! The lyrics are generic as they come (“The closer it gets the further it seems / It’s always one step out of reach / On the edge of a dream”). Cocker has also definitely sounded better – his raspy voice is one of his most dominant qualities, but here he sounds almost like a tired parody of himself. It’s actually a bit depressing to listen to.

But despite all this, I’m not too certain is this song is really “bad”, per se. Unlike other bad songs, I don’t feel a profound sense of dread while listening. I just feel nothing. This sounds exactly like it was processed and pushed out in a short amount of time to make the deadline for the soundtrack’s release. I’m certain that they were going for an “arena ballad” thing here, but if this song were played during a concert, I’d probably find myself just falling asleep instead of singing along. I wish I had more things to say about this one – either positive or negative – but… well, I’ll just leave it at this.

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