One of the consistent patterns of song reviewing is that a certain set of songs consistently receives a lot of hate by those who review music in given years. One of those songs happens to be one I greatly enjoy and appreciate, The Jets’ “You Got It All.” The song was released in 1986 as the fourth single to the family group’s self-titled debut album and it peaked at #3 on the pop charts in early 1987 as well as #2 on the R&B charts and #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts, also featuring in a lot of soundtracks who found the song to be an enjoyable one for soap operas and one of the films in the Jaws franchise (!). A version of the song was later recorded by Britney Spears, and two Filipino acts have recorded the song as well. As far as songs go, it has the sort of sound one would expect from a young family group in the 1980’s, with a sultry sax solo that seems mildly out of place with the impassioned lead vocals from the group’s thirteen year old lead singer, with a smooth and polished sound that is typical of the adult contemporary of the period.
There are a few elements of the song that have earned the song the metric boatload of hate that it has received from angry reviewers of the songs of 1987. In particular, reviewers have noticed and critiqued the disconnect between the lyrics that express a certain world-weariness and experience with abusive and unhappy past relationships that have led to problems with the narrator’s new flame with the fact that the song is sung by an innocent and fresh-faced thirteen year old vocalist. A great deal of the cynicism that the song possesses can be credited to the song’s writer, Rupert Holmes, best known for writing and performing somewhat cynical and world-weary songs like “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and “Him,” which explore aspects of rivalry and jealousy within relationships and similarly have received a great deal of critical dislike. Intriguingly enough, the song was written for the songwriter’s then ten-year old daughter, but tragically she never got to hear the song because she died of a brain tumor before the song was recorded and released . And also intriguingly enough, the song was written by the songwriter with young singers in mind, to be appropriate as a love ballad for a young teenager.
This obviously prompts some serious questions about what Rupert Holmes (and presumably the music buying public of the United States, who made this song one of the biggest hits of 1987) consider appropriate for teenagers. For one, the song possesses a large degree of idealism about the present relationship the narrator is in, and supposes that teenagers would be experienced with toxic and abusive relationships and the sort of damage it does to later relationships that are affected by those past realities and the awkwardness they bring. As Rupert Holmes himself said: “I thought writing a love song for a 14-year-old girl would be tough because some of my lyrics used to be about some pretty strange characters. I thought it would be a challenge to see if I can write a love song that sounds appropriate sung by a 14-year-old girl. This was before we had all the Britneys, Mandy Moores, and all these teen stars. I purposely tried to write a very clear, simple, unaffected lyric that would have a little lilt to it, that would be a positive song for a young girl getting over her first heartbreak. Letting her know that this boy she just lost, or who didn’t treat her appreciatively, was not going to be the only boy she’d ever have as a boyfriend. I also wrote it thinking of my daughter who was at that time 10 years old. I thought maybe it would be a song she would enjoy and be fun to hear with her friends and say ‘My father wrote that .'”
I personally think this song is one that a lot of teenage girls can relate to. It is common for people to fear at any age when coming out of bad relationships or a long stretch of time without a relationship that there will never be another relationship to enjoy. Likewise, one of the negative aspects of having a relationship history is that people one is in a relationship have to worry about being compared to all of the past people one has been in a relationship with or been interested in, or that there may even be attempts by past partners to rekindle the flame of a relationship. The singer here is earnestly seeking to put those concerns to rest, and it comes off sincerely. Perhaps people are not used to thinking of the complex relationship histories of young people, but quite a few young people have to deal with a surprisingly complex history of romantic relationships and the damage that result from them. When I was a middle school student myself, as clueless as I was about relationships, I certainly saw other people engaging in them, and throughout my life since then I have seen the repercussions of early relationships and that tragic loss of innocence that young people have to deal with going forward.
To be sure, Rupert Holmes may not be the best person to write love songs for teenage girls to sing, and I may not be the best person to defend such songs, but the song did resonate for a lot of people at the time, and I suspect it resonates with even more people now. It is a straightforward song sung with conviction by a young person caught up in the world of popular music in a family group, and even if the thought of a guy having taken advantage of the singer would prompt many people (myself included) to clean our nearest rifle while having a stern conversation with the young man in question, it does not strike me as an unrealistic scenario at all, as sad as it is. Like the narrator in the song itself, the listener is left to hope for the best for the young woman, that she will have a better relationship in the future and will be able to move on with as few scars as possible.
 http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2897. Accessed May 5, 2019.