In the Heat of the Night
Released: October 1979
Chart Peak: #12
Weeks Charted: 122
Certified Platinum: 12/8/80
This story's so ancient it barely has the strength to be told. When those that ain't got finally get, they start pulling the same tricks as those that already have. It's true that aspiring women rockers are less relegated now to the stereotyped roles of concubine on display, castrating bitch, tortured victim or sugar-and-spice songbird. Instead, we get albums like Pat Benatar's In the Heat of the Night, on which the lady recycles the gents' wretched excesses.
The problem isn't so much the machismo as the lack of tempering humor that allows the machismo to tattle on itself. Benatar's debut LP parades the worst tendencies of her heroes (Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Lou Gramm), flexing and strutting and snarling and swaggering. So what if girls can be just as obnoxious as boys?
Producer Mike Chapman clicks with bands like Blondie and the Knack because these groups are mannerists. Working with pop rituals and roles is what interests such musicians -- and amuses them, too. Unfortunately, Benatar's no mannerist, though it seems she'd like to be at times. Every song here is clogged with misplaced seriousness and sincerity. As soon as the star gets done beating a lyric to death, the band goes blundering off into bigness and badness, reminding us that too much of In the Heat of the Night is scavenged and second-rate. Only the singer makes a mark, almost in spite of herself.
Because Pat Benatar is a bona fide soprano who can sing hard without being harsh, she brings something distinctively female to a rock lyric. Her basic equipment is grade A -- the opening bars of "Don't Let It Show" prove that. But raw talent that's misdirected is just another tired tale. The concubines have known for years that great equipment by itself isn't very interesting for very long.
- Laura Fissinger, Rolling Stone, 4/3/80.
- Billboard, 1979.
Where some "eclectic" rock and rollers brim with sheer experimental joy, Benatar is sodden with try-anything-once ambition. From showbiz "hard rock" ("Heartbreaker") to big-beat "cabaret" ("Don't Let It Show") to received "futurism" ("My Clone Sleeps Alone") to fake-Blondie "Eurodisco" ("We Live for Love"), she shows about as much aesthetic principle as Don Kirshner. Though she does have a better voice than Kirshner. C+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
This debut album features her trademark power-pop song "Heartbreaker." * * * *
- Donna DiChario, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Benatar's first two albums -- In the Heat of the Night and Crimes of Passion -- are her most consistent. Arena rock classics like "Heartbreaker," "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" and John Cougar's "I Need a Lover" cemented her reputation as a toughie with pipes of solid brass -- an antidote to the coy and antiseptic female pop stars of the time. * * * *
- Eric Deggans, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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