Happy 30th Anniversary to Tina Turner’s seventh studio album Foreign Affair, originally released September 13, 1989.
Tina Turner is a force, one of the world’s greatest forces at that, unlike any other. She is the embodiment of class, talent, energy and survival. It is these traits that have not only served her well on the stage and vocally, but have also allowed her to navigate through an incredibly tumultuous life that at times must have seemed dark beyond compare. Her ability to survive enabled her to break down many barriers without even so much as batting an eyelid, and in my opinion, it’s fair to say that the world doesn’t truly recognize just how extensive her contribution was, is and will continue to be for many generations to come.
When writing about certain artists, it’s incredibly easy to get lost in the hype that surrounds the legend, especially if said legend is Tina Turner. Her career has spanned over six decades, a time defined by constant change in the musical landscape that most now learn about via Netflix. Not simply an observer of music’s evolution, Turner has also lived it and essentially helped create said landscape and all its changes. She, for better or worse, has earned her legendary status more than most.
The ‘80s most definitely belonged to Tina Turner. She kicked off her decade of recording with the 1984 release of Private Dancer, which as any Turner fan will know, solidified the singer as not only legendary, but also placed the title and crown of “Queen of Rock & Roll” firmly on the singer’s head, confirmed yet again with album sales in excess of 20 million copies. A hard act to follow, but Turner was able to do it with Break Every Rule (1986) and of course, the decade-concluding Foreign Affair (1989).
In fact, it’s Turner’s seventh studio album that, for many, is likely one of those albums that you’ve heard of, but just why you’ve heard of it remains somewhat of a musical mystery. The irony in this, is that it happens to be home to one of Turner’s most recognizable songs, the global smash hit cover of Bonnie Tyler’s “The Best,” which also happened to be the album’s lead single and a song that would go on to help Foreign Affair achieve sales in excess of 6 million copies globally.
Foreign Affair is in essence, an album deeply rooted in adult contemporary, a genre that Turner has been associated with for the majority of her solo career. “Steamy Windows,” the album’s GRAMMY nominated third single, is the epitome of said genre and in true Turner style, incorporates elements of the blues and a whole lot of rock. That said, the album also moves into other areas and delivers some solid club tracks like “I Don’t Wanna Lose You” and the beautifully uplifting love song “Falling Like Rain.”
With a solid dosage of ballads like “Ask Me How I Feel” and “Be Tender With Me Baby,” it would be hard to ignore the incredible production value on this album from the late and legendary musician and record producer, Dan Hartman. Hartman not only produced most of the entire 12-track album (he also played various instruments on many of the tracks and even provided backing vocals on “The Best” and “Look Me In The Heart”), but he also penned “Not Enough Romance.”
One track that truly stands out for me is the bluesy and incredibly sensual “Undercover Agent For The Blues.” A song that not only showcases Turner’s Tennessee roots, but reminds the listener that for all the “soft rock” adult contemporary that mostly fills this album, Turner is essentially at her core, pure rock & soul. Few artists have been able to achieve this ability to straddle the very grey area of crossover appeal versus musical core—a tricky balancing act that Turner not only managed to achieve on this album, but has maintained throughout her career, pre and post Foreign Affair.
Although Foreign Affair failed to enter the top 30 in the U.S, it was a worldwide hit, especially in Europe where the album spawned five singles and entered numerous charts at the #1 position. The UK alone accounted for 1.5 million sales, allowing Turner to realize that her music was and is not limited solely to the US market. Like other previous retrospectives, Foreign Affair has been an absolute pleasure to revisit. It was and is a part of the fabric of my musical coming of age and now, as an adult and some thirty years later, I again find myself reliving all those wonderful “firsts” this album gave me.