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With “Hold On,” Wilson Phillips drew strength from sisterhood

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In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week: songs sung by siblings.


Wilson Phillips, “Hold On” (1990)

I was going to write about Haim for this week’s prompt, but the second I started flipping through Haim tracks—and, mind you, I like Haim very much—I realized that there was no reason to write about Haim when I could write about Wilson Phillips, the architects of the Haim sound. Made up of two sisters—Wendy and Carnie Wilson, daughter of The Beach Boys’ Brian—and a longtime, similarly parented friend—Chyna Phillips, daughter of The Mamas And The Papas’ John Phillips—Wilson Phillips brought soft-rock-loving crowds to their sandaled feet in the early ’90s. I was among those mildly amused listeners, with Wilson Phillips’ self-titled record landing as the first CD I ever purchased with my own money.


A tour de force that went five times platinum in the states, Wilson Phillips is full of sentimental jams, like “Release Me,” “Impulsive,” and “You’re In Love.” Written in part and produced entirely by Jagged Little Pill producer Glen Ballard, the record pretty much came from a musical factory. Wilson Phillips used its connections to recruit everyone from Joe Walsh to Toto’s Steve Lukather to appear on the record, and with Ballard in tow and the then-very-popular SBK Records in line to release the LP, the stars pretty much aligned for a hit.

Of course, it helped that the songs were there. “Hold On,” for instance, stands up even now. Re-popularized by Bridesmaids, the song is a stomp-clap rally call for troubled women—or, really, anyone who’s having a rough go of things. As the anthemic chorus goes, “Don’t you know things can change / Things’ll go your way / If you hold on for one more day.”

Knowing what we know now about both the Wilson sisters’ lives and what kind of household Chyna Phillips grew up in, that’s a message that has become more prescient than ever. Those girls knew and know from pain and struggle, and that they were able to pull themselves out of it—as hard as that was and probably still is—well, that’s nothing short of miraculous.