Deep Dive: Robert Palmer, HEAVY NOVA
30 years ago this month, Robert Palmer released his ninth studio album, an LP which was arguably the most anticipated of his career.
Why were so many people looking forward to hearing HEAVY NOVA? Partly because it was the first album he’d released in three years, but mostly because it was the follow-up to his hugely successful 1985 album RIPTIDE, which provided the world with two major hit singles: “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” which hit #2 in the US and #9 in the UK, and the iconic “Addicted to Love,” which hit #5 in the UK and topped the Billboard Hot 100.
In other words, expectations for HEAVY NOVA were running pretty darned high, and Palmer knew it, so he did exactly what someone who wants to maintain as much of their new audience as they possibly can: he gave them a new album that wasn’t so terribly far removed from the previous album. Granted, that’s exactly the sort of thing that inspires rock critics to giddily begin sharpening their knives, but it’s also very much the sort of thing that tends to make an artist’s new fans happy, which is precisely what HEAVY NOVA did.
While it didn’t in any way find Palmer stepping outside his musical comfort zone, HEAVY NOVA nonetheless spawned three Hot 100 hits: “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming” (#60), “Early in the Morning” (#19), and “Simply Irresistible,” which climbed all the way to #2, a feat which was aided immeasurably by the song’s video, the visuals of which borrowed heavily from “Addicted to Love.”
If you haven’t given HEAVY NOVA a spin recently, consider revisiting it as a standalone album, i.e. without your ears being tuned to the thought that it’s the follow-up to RIPTIDE. It might borrow some of its tricks from its predecessor, but it’s still pretty strong in its own right.