Growing up, the Pointer Sisters were told by their religious parents that rock and roll was the devil’s music. But there’s nothing quite so enticing as forbidden fruit. After deciding to turn their love for music into a career, the sisters went on to dominate the charts in the 70s and 80s, winning 13 top twenty hits between 1973 and 1985, three Grammys, and recognition as one of the most successful dance acts of all time. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Pointer Sisters songs of all time.
10. Jump (For My Love)
Break Out, the Pointer’s tenth studio album, was by far their most successful, reaching number 8 on the Billboard 200 and certifying triple platinum in the US. One of its standouts is this top ten hit from 1984 which got a fresh lease of life in 2003 when British girl band Girls Aloud covered it for the soundtrack to “Love Actually.”
Automatic is all about Ruth Pointer, whose distinctive contralto dominates throughout. Released as the second single from the album Break Out in January 1984, the song soared to number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and quickly became known as one of their signature songs. It was an even bigger hit overseas, reaching number 1 in Ireland, number 2 in the UK, and number 5 in Belgium.
8. He’s So Shy
He’s So Shy was originally intended for Leo Saywer (albeit under the title of She’s So Shy), but it ended up in the Pointer Sisters’ laps instead. After infusing it with their trademark jumble of pop, new wave, dance and R&B, the sisters unleashed it on the charts and watched it climb all the way to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
7. Neutron Dance
Writer Allee Willis wrote Neutron Dance in the hope it would get on the soundtrack of “Streets of Fire.” It didn’t, but it did wangle a very prominent place on “Beverly Hills Cop” instead. Ruth Pointer didn’t want to sing it at first over concerns that the word ‘neutron’ had a “violent connotation on account of the neutron bomb then so much in the news.” She tried to get Willis to change the lyrics but Willis told her to quit overthinking it and just sing it… which she did, earning the group a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the process.
6. I’m So Excited
If there’s one song that the Pointer’s are probably known for above all others, it’s I’m So Excited. The upbeat classic got its first airing in 1982 when it was released as a single from the album of the same name. That time around, it went to number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 28 on the Billboard Dance Music/Club Play Singles chart. Two years later, a remixed, edited version of the song made another appearance in the charts, this time taking the group to number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 25 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart
5. Dare Me
Dare Me was written by Sam Lorber and future Restless Heart founder Dave Innis specifically with the Pointer Sisters in mind. “Sam Lorber and I… did try to put ourselves in the place of what a gal might be thinking… not specifically trying to be a Pointer Sister, but a song written from a female perspective, for sure. There are certain things that are more gender-specific and gender appropriate… certain things that a woman can say that a guy’s not going to be able to get away with saying,” Innis told Songfacts.com. Released in June 1985, Dare Me hit number 11 on the Hot 100 and number 1 on Billboard Dance Club Chart – their highest ever position on the chart.
Bruce Springsteen wrote Fire in 1977 with the idea of it being recorded by Elvis Presley, shortly after watching his idol perform at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. He sent Presley a demo of it, but by the time it arrived the king had already left the building. A year later, the song made its way into the Pointer’s hands, who promptly scored a top 2 Hot 100 hit with it. It also went huge internationally, charting at number 1 in Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and New Zealand, number 34 in the UK, and number 3 in Canada. “[‘Fire’] became our first gold single: we had had gold albums before but I didn’t realize what a difference a gold single made ’cause…that one song [is played] over and over all over the world. It really became a major hit for us and made a total difference in our career,” Anita Pointer later recalled.
As The Guardian notes, Fairytale pushed the Pointer’s riotous jumble of ragtime jazz, earthy blues, and hard-edged fun even further out there, adding country and western to their already ambitious repertoire. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did, beautifully, earning them a Country Top 40 hit, their first Grammy, and an invite to Nashville, where they became the first black women to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry. It even reached the ears of Elvis Presley, who recorded his own version for his 1975 album Today and performed it as a regular part of his live performance up until his death.
2. Slow Hand
In at number one on our list of the 10 best Pointer Sisters songs of all time is this satiny slick radio staple from 1981. With the slightest of country twinges and a style that comes as close to ‘mature’ as the group ever came, its seductive blend of countrified pop and soul fed directly into the burgeoning appetite for adult contemporary, resulting in a top five Billboard Hot 100 hit, gold certification, and one of the most enduringly popular songs in their catalog.
1. Yes We Can Can
After their first shot at fame with Atlantic Records ended in a few underwhelming singles and a lost record contract, the sisters took the advice of producer David Rubinson and cut a demo of Allen Toussaint’s Yes We Can Can. The result is six minutes of righteous positivity, with Anita’s gutsy lead vocal leading the charge over a backdrop of funky guitars, hypnotic harmonies, and throbbing rhythms. Released in February 1973, it became the Pointer Sisters’ first bona fide hit, peaking at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 12 on the Hot Soul Songs chart.