Toto, “Only You” from Kingdom of Desire (1991): Toto Tuesdays

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Kingdom of Desire may be Toto’s heaviest album, but the band also managed to knock it out of the park with three solid ballads. “Only You,” the third and final one, is perhaps the most emotionally naked of them all – making it arguably the most lyrically relatable. It’s also the only one that had a music video made for it.

Written by David Paich and Steve Lukather, “Only You” was initially pitched as the love song for Top Gun. When Hollywood passed on the song in favor of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” Toto instead sat on the track until the Kingdom of Desire sessions.

“Only You” plays on the common relationship fear: surrendering of control and making oneself vulnerable to potential heartbreak. The lyrics speak to a man who sees that his relationship is slipping away, despite his best efforts. He’s waiting to hear the words that will put his fears to rest, but the vocal delivery portrays a sad resignation. As much as he wants to hear those words, deep down inside he doesn’t believe he ever will. At some point in their lives, just about everyone has experienced these feelings.

But what works best of all isn’t so much the lyrics but Steve Lukather’s heart-wrenching vocal delivery. He doesn’t merely sing the lyrics; he emotes them. The hurt, the vulnerability, and the emotional honesty is all there. Lukather has said in interviews over the years that he considers himself a guitarist who is able to sing, and tends to downplay his vocal abilities. However, I’d argue that when it comes to singing ballads, Luke perpetually brings his A game to the microphone. “Only You” features one of the rawest and most touching vocals of any ballad Steve Lukather’s has ever sung, either with Toto or on any of his solo albums.

The backbone of this song is an easy groove laid down by drummer Jeff Porcaro. As always, Porcaro was a master of subtlety who truly understood that sometimes less is more. He and his brother, the late bassist Mike Porcaro, added such a tight rhythm that they sounded as if they were playing as one cohesive being, rather than as a separate musicians.

The lush guitar and keyboard work from Steve Lukather and David Paich creates a beautiful and well-polished canvas for Lukather’s deeply emotional vocal delivery. As brilliant a guitarist as Lukather was and is, this song was more a showcase for his vocals than his guitar work. He borrows a page from the Jeff Porcaro philosophy of “less is more,” with guitar fills that belie a well-polished, brilliant and beautiful subtlety. All of it contrasts exceptionally with Lukather’s stand-out vocals.


Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the band’s rich musical history. They returned with three new songs on 2018’s ’40 Trips Around the Sun.’

Perplexio

Perplexio

Perplexio also maintains a stand-alone blog called The Review Revue, where he explores music, movies and books. He spearheaded 'Saturdays in the Park,' our weekly multi-writer, song-by-song series focused on the music of Chicago. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse reviews.com.
Perplexio
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