#OnRepeat: Stevie Wonder’s “Some Day at Christmas

This week, I’ve had Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas” #OnRepeat. I saw an a cappella group perform this song at Disneyland California Adventure for their Festival of Holidays and the melody has been stuck in my head ever since.

I know I’ve written about Stevie Wonder before, but those who haven’t read that or who haven’t come across his music, Stevie Wonder is a blind singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from Michigan. He is famous for his recordings he did with Motown, which include “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” “Superstition,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” and “Overjoyed.”

“Someday at Christmas” was written and recorded in 1967 by Stevie Wonder for his Christmas album, and is a song whose lyrics talk about the hope for peace, joy and freedom in the future during the holiday season. Stevie Wonder’s wide vocal range and great improvisational skills exemplify the hope and warmth the exudes from the lyrics of the song. The melody is simple and memorable, like a lullaby, making you sing this song long after it has stopped playing.

Take a listen below:

What is your favorite holiday song?

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#OnRepeat: “Remember Me” from the Disney/Pixar original film, Coco

This week, I’ve had the Disney/Pixar film Coco theme song “Remember Me” #OnRepeat. I went to see the movie over the holiday weekend and I can’t get the song out of my head. I also can’t stop a lump from forming in my throat whenever I hear it.

The movie, Coco, tells the tale of a boy who longs to become a musician but is forbidden by his family to play music. He is transported to the land of the dead when he steals his musical idol’s guitar and must gain his ancestors’ blessing in order to return to the land of the living. There are major themes of family, love, acceptance and remembering or honoring someone’s memory—all are portrayed in meaningful and subtle ways throughout the film, this song being a strong example of all of them combined.

There are several different versions of the song “Remember Me,” but the most memorable (and tear-jerking) versions for me being the bare, acoustic guitar versions sung by the character of Hector (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) in both English and Spanish. The lyrics are from the point of view of a loved one who has to be separated from another person, so they ask them to remember how much they love each other even though they’re apart. Bernal’s gravely, yet deep voice perfectly conveys the charm yet simultaneous insecurities and deep love that the character Hector has for his loved ones. The acoustic guitar merely adds the vulnerability that is found when expressing your love for another. So in other words, this is a beautiful song that will most definitely make you stop in your tracks (and potentially ugly cry hard). I know I did.

I wish I could find a clip of the scene where Miguel is singing this song to his great grandma, Coco, but here are the Spanish and English recordings of the song for now.

Listen below:

What do you think? Which version is your favorite? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Jennifer Hudson’s “Golden Slumbers/ Carry That Weight”

Have you ever heard a song that you not only can’t stop listening to, but also can’t stop singing? That’s what it’s been like with this week’s #OnRepeat song “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight” by Jennifer Hudson.

Jennifer Hudson is a singer, songwriter, and actress from Chicago, Illinois who got her start on the American Idol reality show. Although she didn’t win, she went on to star as Effie White in the film adaptation of the musical, Dreamgirls, which helped catapult her career with Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and awards. Her powerful voice and show-stopping performance style has earned her several Grammy awards. Some of her most well-known songs include “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” “Spotlight,” and “If This Isn’t Love.”

“Golden Slumbers/ Carry That Weight” is a song by the Beatles that was part of a six-part medley for their album, Abbey Road, in 1969. The song is written almost in lullaby-like form, and although the lyrics are somewhat vague, one can surmise that the song is sung from the point of view of a friend or loved one comforting another. Jennifer Hudson’s wide range and powerful voice are showcased in the song’s climactic melody; her deep, expressive voice mirrors the deep love, nurturing nature and understanding that can be found in the lyrics of “Golden Slumbers.” This song has quickly become a favorite of mine. Take a listen below:

 

The Beatles’ version is below for reference:

 

 

Which version do you like more? Is there an artist or group that you can’t stop listening to? Leave comment below!

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#OnRepeat: James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

I seem to be on a Robin Williams movie streak this week, so James Browns’ “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is #OnRepeat this week. This was the perfect song in the movie, Good Morning Vietnam, to showcase the difference between Williams’ character’s on-air personality and others before him.

James Brown was a singer, songwriter, producer, dancer and arranger from South Carolina who got his start as a Gospel singer who performed lead for the group The Famous Flames, later going off on his own for a very successful solo career. The music he would later produce with his James Brown band, mixing Gospel, Blues, and Jazz, would help to influence the development of Funk music in the late 1960s. He was known for his raspy, yet powerful voice and energetic stage performances. Some of his most well-known songs from throughout his career are “Try Me,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” and “The Payback.”

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” was recorded as a single by James Brown in 1964 and is one of Brown’s most popular recordings. The lyrics are told from the perspective of someone who is absolutely besides themselves with happiness because they have the one they love. Brown’s use of screams, shouts, and his use of belting, rhythmic feel, and melodic phrasing give the song the iconic energy and soul that is James Brown. I can never help but dance in my seat whenever I hear this song (because I’m usually driving or sitting down for some reason).

Take a listen below:

 

What do you think? Do you have another James Brown song you love to listen to?

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#OnRepeat: Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell On You”

This week is the week leading up to Halloween and, therefore, Nina Simone’s “I Put a Spell On You” has been #OnRepeat, especially because Bette Midler kills her version of this song in the movie Hocus Pocus (a movie I watch every year during this time).

Nina Simone was a songwriter, pianist, arranger, singer and an activist from North Carolina who was known as a Jazz vocalist, but implemented Gospel, R&B, Blues, Jazz, and Pop music with elements of Classical music. She recorded more than 40 albums and her improvisational technique, musical arranging, stage presence and socially conscious performances made her one of the most influential singers of her time. Some of her most well-known songs are “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Feeling Good,” “Sinner Man,” and “I Loves You, Porgy.”

“I Put A Spell On You” was originally written by the singer and actor, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956 with a different theme, but–in true Nina Simone fashion–Simone changed around the words and musical arrangement, transforming it into a song about someone madly in love with someone else despite how they mistreat them. Her vocal licks, musical phrasing and her performance of the words made this one of her most well-known songs (it is definitely my favorite). The desperation, angst, and stubbornness conveyed in the lyrics is magnified by Simone’s powerful, deep voice, her use of long straight tones, and intermittent scatting.

Take a listen below:

Here is Bette Midler’s version of this song for reference:

Although I love Simone’s version, I cannot deny that both vocalists perform amazing versions of this classic song, both bringing their own unique interpretation of the lyrics and music.

What do you think? Which version do you like? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody”

This week, I’ve had The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” #OnRepeat. This is one of my top favorite songs of all time and will always have a special place in my heart because I grew up watching the movie, Ghost, which this song was featured in.

The Righteous Brothers are a duo group from Santa Ana, California that formed in the early 1960s, starting out performing with the five-member group, The Paramours. During their recording career as a duo, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield’s vocal performing style earned the name “blue-eyed soul.” Some of their most well-known songs were “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Ebb Tide,” “Soul and Inspiration,” and “Rock and Roll Heaven.”

The song, “Unchained Melody,” whose music was written by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret in 1955 for a movie called Unchained. The song’s lyrics tell about someone who has been missing and pining after the person they love for what seems like forever. The vocal lead for the song was performed by Bobby Hatfield, and their version of this song became the most well-known version of the song to date. Hatfield’s tenor range is showcased with his use of projection and breath control, creating a a wide spectrum of vocal dynamics. Hunger, desperation, and longing are perfectly portrayed by Hatfield’s (at times) wail-like tones, creating an almost heart-breaking feel within the song.

Take a listen below:

What do you think? Are there any other songs or singers you can’t get enough of?

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#OnRepeat: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons “Sherry”

This week, I’ve had Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ “Sherry” #OnRepeat. Even though the song is considered in the Rock genre, it grooves ridiculously well.

Frankie Valli is a singer from Newark, New Jersey known for being the lead singer of the American Pop Rock band, the Four Seasons. The group (originally known as The Four Lovers) were internationally successful in the 1960s and 1970s and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Some of their most well-known songs are “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” “Rag Doll,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”

“Sherry” was written by Bob Gaudio in 1968, and was the group’s first number one hit. The song is written from the view point of a guy who wants to go out with a girl, but she has to ask permission from her parents. Even though the song is somewhat dated (people don’t really ask nor care about whether or not their parents are comfortable with them dating any longer), the subtle desperation found in the lyrics is clearly shown in Frankie Valli’s croon-like wailing voice. His voice reminds me a lot of the Beach Boys, who were pretty popular around this same time and too-wop singers from the 1950s. This, combined with the rhythm arrangement for the song makes for a grooving pop song that easily gets stuck in your head.

Listen below:

Do you guys have any songs or groups you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”

This week, I’ve had Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” #OnRepeat. Not only is the melody catchy, but every time I hear this song, I find myself wanting a piña colada drink (interestingly enough, I heard he doesn’t like that type of cocktail, but it was the first drink that popped up in his mind when he was writing the song).

Rupert Holmes (born David Goldstein) is a singer-songwriter, playwright, and author originally from England, who moved at a young age to Nanuet, New York. He gained recognition from his playing and songwriting with the bands, The CuffLinks and The Buoys, later collaborating with singers like Barbara Streisand and Judy Collins. He earned several Tony Awards for his 1985 musical, Drood, creating a television series in the 1990s, and even publishing several books. Some of his most well-known songs are “Timothy,” “Him,” “Answering Machine,” and “You Got It All.”

“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” was written and recorded by Rupert Holmes for his album, Partners in Crime in 1979. The lyrics talk about a man who is bored with his marriage and reads a newspaper ad to meet a woman who likes piña coladas. The song has an interesting twist at the end: the man meets the mysterious woman at a bar only to find out it was his current partner. The song’s lyrics, set in story form, are sung in a “sing-songy” style. This approach works to Holmes’ advantage since the melody and arrangement cause the listener to remember not only the melody, but the words as well. Holmes’ voice, which is a mixture of Elton John and The Beach Boys, brings a light-hearted feel to the already pop-like song. Listen below:

Are there any songs or singers you can’t stop listening to? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”

This week, I’ve had “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion #OnRepeat. I know, I know, but I watched Titanic this week and it’s such a great song.

Celine Dion is a singer from Quebec, Canada who started as a teen pop star recording albums in French with her manager, and later husband, René Angélil. She gained international success and recognition as pop artist with the release of her first album in English, titled Unison, in 1990. Dion’s virtuosic three-octave range and her commanding stage presence have earned her five Grammy Awards, recognition as the best selling Canadian Artist, and caused her show to at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to be the most successful residency show of all time. Some of her most well-known songs are “Because You Loved Me,” “The Prayer,” “That’s the Way It Is,” and “Tell Him.”

“My Heart Will Go On” was a song whose music was written by James Horner and lyrics were written by Will Jennings in 1997 for the film, Titanic. The lyrics are written from a retrospective point of view: a person who looks back on a point in their life where they were deeply in love with someone, but realized they had to move on, despite their feelings. Interestingly, Celine Dion didn’t want to record this song at first since she had just finished recording another film score for Beauty and the Beast. I am so glad she was convinced otherwise. The song perfectly displays her unique use of vocal technique and lyrical interpretation that would become the iconic “Pop Diva Sound.” Her vocal range, skill in terms of projection and her interpretation of the words has made “My Heart Will Go On” one of the most popular songs of the 1990s. Although many now might roll their eyes when hearing this song (only because it was played almost everywhere you went the year the movie was released), there is no doubt that this song is a Celine Dion classic, becoming synonymous with not only the movie, Titanic, but with Celine Dion herself.

Take a listen below:

What do you think? Are there any other Celine Dion songs you can’t stop listening to?

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#OnRepeat: Meryl Streep’s version of ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers”

This week, I’ve had Meryl Streep’s version of ABBA’s “Slipping Through My Fingers” #OnRepeat. ABBA, for me, has always been one of those groups that is a mix of guilty pleasure and a source of musical inspiration; and this song is no exception.

ABBA is a Pop group from Stockholm, Sweden that formed in the early 1970s, who were one of the most successful Pop bands in history, being inducted into the Rock and  Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. There was  resurgence in popularity of their music when their music was adapted to the 1999 internationally successful musical, Mama Mia!, and the release of the theatrical version of the musical by the same name.

The song, “Slipping Through My Fingers” is sung from the point of view of a parent who is watching their child grow up, reflecting on the child’s growth and wishing time would slow down. Meryl Streep ( who can apparently sing like a 80s Pop star) brings so much depth and grace to the performance of this song,simultaneuosly capturing the melancholic, vulnerable feeling conveyed in the lyrics. The lyrics are poignant and bittersweet, the lullaby-like melody innocent and simple like a child. Adding the performance powerhouse that is Meryl to this mix of emotion and music makes me have a lump in my throat every time I hear this version.

Take a listen below:

Are there any other ABBA songs that you like? Leave a comment below!

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