What Ever Happened to: Chantay Savage

When did Walgreens get so awesome?

During my daily trip to our neighborhood pharmacy (emphasis on “hood”) to restock on the essentials – Sour Patch Kids and Lemonheads – the classic empowerment anthem “I Will Survive” played in the background.

But it wasn’t the version you’re probably thinking of, it was Chantay Savage’s remake of the Gloria Gaynor disco masterpiece.

Sour Patch Kids and 90s drug-store playlists. These are the blessing in my life.

But enough about me, what about Chantay? Let’s revisit her career.

Before Chicago native Chantay Savage forged a solo career, she made waves behind the scenes as a session musician, singer, and songwriter. Fun fact: Chantay co-wrote CeCe Peniston’s 1992 No. 1 hit “We Got A Love Thang.” Thank Wikipedia for that tidbit, even I know didn’t know that one.

In 1993, Chantay released her first single, “If You Believe,” a track that would later be featured in the 1995 film “Party Girl.” Judging by the poster, I won’t be rushing to watch it on Netflix anytime soon.

I guess drunk librarians were hilarious in the 90s. Those shoes certainly are laughable.

Chantay later dropped her debut album, Here We Go…, which produced her first minor hit, “Betcha’ll Never Find.” This still kinda jams today. It cracked the R&B Top 20 and was Chantay’s first solo victory. She followed up with another upbeat track, “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head,” and slowed it down a bit for “Give It to Ya.” Neither made much of an impact but y’all slept on “Give It to Ya.” Now that was a hit.

In 1996, Chantay reached her zenith, courtesy of the sounds of Ms. Gaynor. Chantay’s version of “I Will Survive”, the first single from I Will Survive (Doin’ It My Way), peaked at No. 5 on the R&B charts, becoming her biggest hit. Remember BET’s Video Soul Countdown on Friday evenings? This joint LIVED on that countdown.

I’ve said it a billion times in this very column: If you wanna remake a song – especially a song as iconic as “I Will Survive” – you CAN’T match it note for note with the original. We’ve already heard that version; give us something more. Instead of spitting out a carbon copy of the original, Chantay went into an entirely different direction. She slowed the tempo down to a crawl and made the track much more sultry and soulful. It still embodied the message of the original yet sounded completely different. She made it her own. Genius.

The follow-up single, “Baby Drive Me Crazy” was OK but didn’t gain much traction, probably because it veered to close to Mary J. Blige’s lane. The album peaked at No. 14 on the R&B charts but couldn’t crack pop’s top 100. Chantay did get a little shine courtesy of Common months later when they collaborated on “Reminding Me (Of Sef)” from Com’s One Day It’ll All Make Sense LP.

Chantay returned to the game in 1999 with This Time and her lead single, “Come Around,” which was produced by Keith Sweat and featured background vocals from Kut Klose’s Athena Cage.

A slow jam produced by King Keef with Athena on the hook? Playa, add a rap from Biggie and this would be my dream song! Too bad listeners didn’t share my enthusiasm. It didn’t gain much ground. Neither did the second single, “My Oh My.” Both were great though. The album was well-received critically but, as you’d expect, cash registers didn’t ring.

This Time was Chantay’s final album. In recent years she’s kept a low profile, recording one-off tracks here and there, including vocals on this remake of Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” and “Let Nobody.”

Should She Come Back?: ’90s R&B was a competitive time, especially among female artists. I always felt that Chantay had more to offer than what most fans heard. In today’s climate, thanks to YouTube, Internet and superior music sites like THIS ONE RIGHT HERE, Chantay’s music might have a better shot of reaching fan’s ears.

In the meantime, though, I guess we’ll always have Walgreens.

Revisit more music industry veterans in our “What Ever Happened” to archive

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4 Comments

  1. Love her!!
    (And I had missed this series)

    • IF you haven’t seen Party Girl you are depriving yourself of one of the BEST movies about music/fashion and NYC in the 1990’s.

      You might learn a thing or two.

  2. Agreed G. The movie is phenomenal and a definitive slice of life of NYC club culture in the mid 90’s. If anyone hasn’t seen it, you should also has a great message.

  3. Her voice is magical!! She killed it!! That opening note was angelic!

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