Diana Ross debuted her single “Thank You” today. This is the first time in 15 years that she has put out original music. Interestingly, the song sounds fresh and modern while also retaining the vibe of her 70s tracks. The melody and production contribute to this feeling. Lyrically, she sings about how grateful she is to have been given so much love and support over the years. It’s a beautifully positive message. “Thank You” comes from the album of the same name that is set to be released this fall. I’m looking forward to hearing more new music from Ms. Ross.
“The Lady in Red” danced (cheek to cheek) onto the soft rock scene 35 years ago this month. Chris de Burgh was inspired by seeing his wife across a crowded room looking gorgeous in a red dress. But it’s not just an ode to a pretty woman. It’s about cherishing an important person in your life and not taking them for granted. His voice and the synths come together to make a beautiful song, so it’s not surprising that this was a huge hit. You’ll never forget the lady in red.
Enya celebrates her 60th birthday today. The Irish artist has a very distinct voice and musical style. When you hear it, you know it’s her. In the 80s and 90s she seemed to be everywhere; from commercials, to movies, to your doctor’s office. She sold millions of records and became the best-selling solo artist in Ireland. I particularly like her contributions to the LA Story soundtrack. It’s beautiful and transcendental.
Paula Abdul’s 1988 debut album, Forever Your Girl, was a huge success. It topped the Billboard charts, sold seven million copies, and launched four #1 singles (a record for a debut album). There must have been a great deal of pressure to match these achievements with her next project. Luckily, she met critics’ and fans’ expectations with Spellbound in 1991. Paula proved she wasn’t a one-album wonder with this new multi-platinum collection of songs.
11. To You
Too cutesy. It sounds like it was written for a teen act. Could have been left off the album.
10. Rock House
There are a lot of issues packed into this message song. Poverty, greed, war, and hunger. Paula couldn’t just choose one. Her solution is to “shut up and dance”. Sure, ok.
The album’s title track is just alright. Not as spellbinding as the others.
8. Alright Tonight
Paula takes us to Carnival with this upbeat dance track. It’s fun and unexpected.
Prince wrote the sexy “U” for Paula and you can hear his purple influence all over it.
6. Promise of a New Day
I always thought “Promise” was about preserving the environment. Probably because of the nature-filled video and the lyrics about eagles and such. In any case, it’s catchy.
5. My Foolish Heart
Paula’s foolish heart won’t allow her to let go of a guy who’s treating her badly. This is a really good song that could have been a single.
4. Will You Marry Me?
If you’re going to propose to someone this is what you need to play in the background.
3. Blowing Kisses in the Wind
Paula is trying to hold onto a relationship that is falling apart. She’s giving all her love to her man, but he’s cold in return. It’s a very pretty, sad ballad. I love the music box melody.
I’m in a funky way. “Vibeology” is a wild dance track. A mix of 90s club and big brass band. She sings about a man that has her “pumped in the groove” and “horny hard”. Ok then. Go Paula, Go Paula!
1. Rush Rush
Before focusing on singing, Paula was known primarily as a dancer/choreographer, so most of her early music was upbeat. When it came time to put out the first single from Spellbound, she threw a curveball with the ballad “Rush Rush”. Totally unexpected and the perfect choice. It’s a gorgeous love song: her voice, the melody, and those violins. Everything comes together beautifully. The Rebel Without a Cause rip-off music video co-starring Keanu Reeves was the icing on top. Paula cemented her place in the pop music world.
Luther Vandross would have turned 70 today. We lost the phenomenal singer/songwriter too soon, but his velvet voice lives on. This year also marks the 40th Anniversary of his solo debut, Never Too Much. The album gave us the instantly recognizable title track and his cover of Dionne Warwick’s “A House is Not a Home”, which completely lives up to the original. I believe in the power of Luther.
Back in 1986, “That’s What Friends Are For” was named the #1 single of the year by Billboard. But the history of the track actually goes back a little further. Burt Bacharach and Carol Bayer Sager wrote “Friends” in 1982. At the time, Rod Stewart recorded it for the movie Night Shift. He did an ok job with it, but something was missing. That something being Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Gladys Knight.
The quartet got together to record their own version in 1985 as a charity single to benefit AIDS research. Adding their energy and retooling the arrangement made the song infinitely better. Dionne starts it off with her distinctive vocals, Stevie brings in the harmonica, Elton’s on the piano, and Gladys wraps it up strongly. Their voices and styles mesh really well together. It’s not surprising that this was a huge hit, winning the Grammy for Song of the Year. And even better, it raised much needed funds for a worthwhile cause. Keep smiling, keep shining.
Twenty years ago, “Lady Marmalade” gitchie gitchie gitchie ya-ya’d onto the scene. This was actually a cover of the song that dynamic girl group Labelle made famous in 1974. Flash forward to 2001, where superstar Missy Elliott produced a remake for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. It was an appropriate choice considering both the song and the movie featured prostitutes. And a little bit of French. Missy assembled an impressive lineup of singers for the project and gave each woman a chance to shine. Mya kicked it off with her light silky vocals. Pink followed with her rocker style. Lil’ Kim broke it down with a rap, “We independent women, some mistake us for whores/ I’m sayin’, why spend mine when I can spend yours?” Then Christina Aguilera brought it home with roaring vocals that were bigger than her hair in the music video. When you added in Missy’s bombastic production you had a remake that equaled the greatness of the original. A rarity. Just like in 1974, the track went to #1. It also earned the quartet a Grammy. Hey sistas!
A love song that doesn’t care about “I love you”? It’s not such a crazy concept actually. Extreme’s “More Than Words” is an ode to a show me, don’t tell me kind of love. It’s easy to give someone a verbal confirmation, but to prove how deeply you feel with your actions is more powerful. “More than words/Is all you have to do to make it real/Then you wouldn’t have to say/That you love me/Cause I’d already know.”
Those lyrics matched with a smooth acoustic guitar came together to form a beautiful song. It also marked a departure for Extreme. Up until then they were known as a hard rock group, but going the ballad route really put them on the map. The single went to #1 in the US and several other countries in 1991. At that time, I remember it being played at every middle school dance. I didn’t care much about slow dancing, but I loved hearing that song. Still do.
In 1971, Carole King released her landmark album, Tapestry. It’s the perfect name for the mix of rich beautiful songs she crafted. Up until then Carole was known primarily for being a songwriter, creating memorable hits for other artists. Tapestry allowed her to step fully into the spotlight as a singer. The album stayed on top of the charts for 15 weeks, launched two #1 singles, and won 4 Grammys. Lets wrap ourselves up in Tapestry and take a look back.
Like a fairy tale set to music. You’re not quite sure what she’s trying to say or how you should interpret it. Not a bad thing. The melody is quite pretty.
11. Smackwater Jack
SJ sounds like an old folktale you’d hear growing up about outlaws and lawmen. It’s fun.
An inspiring ode to self-confidence and loving yourself. If you believe you’re beautiful and put that out into the world, the same energy will come back to you.
9. Where You Lead
Carole is so devoted to her man she’ll follow him anywhere. The right person is worth trekking across the world for.
8. Home Again
“Snow is cold, rain is wet”. It’s a simple lyric but you feel the pain and longing in her voice. Wanting so badly to be home and comforted.
7. Way Over Yonder
This sounds like a traditional gospel song you’d hear in church. Carole and the amazing Merry Clayton bring so much soul to it. I want to get to over yonder too.
6. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Carole originally wrote this for The Shirelles in the 60s, one of their biggest hits. This version is stripped down and raw.
5. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Of course, this song is always going to be associated with the Queen of Soul, but Carole wrote it. She pours all of herself into it.
4. So Far Away
We can all relate to pining for loved ones that are miles away. It’s gorgeous and timeless.
3. It’s Too Late
A sad song lamenting the end of a romance. They’ve outgrown each other and the relationship can’t be salvaged. I particularly like the line, “Somethin’ inside has died and I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it”.
2. I Feel the Earth Move
Love feels like an earthquake for Carole. Everytime her man comes around her world starts shaking. It’s an apt description for a passionate new love.
1. You’ve Got a Friend
A heartfelt song about the power of friendship. I love her vocals and the beautiful piano arrangement. “Winter, spring, summer, or fall/All you have to do is call…”
The legendary Dionne Warwick turns 80 today. Singer, actress, Solid Gold host, Godwill Ambassador, reality tv contestant, and, recently, prolific Tweeter. Dionne has done it all. Let’s say a little prayer for her on her milestone birthday.