#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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Memoirs of a Frustrated Singer-“Heels”

She put her bags down on the chair. You would think they would at least have a room to store your personal stuff and not just instrument bags. Whatever. She thought, shaking her head. She looked inside her bag at the heels she had brought and then at the black flats she was wearing on her feet. Technically she could pull off wearing the flats for the night. They did match with her outfit and no one was going to be looking at her feet when the music started playing.

Other band members started filtering in, setting up their instruments and music. The other singers slowly made their way to the microphones standing next to hers. “Ooo, girl I love that top,” Jesse said, putting his flute on the music stand and setting up his sheet music. “Where’s the rest of it though?”

“What do you mean?” she said, looking down at her shirt. It wasn’t a low cut shirt and the material wasn’t see-through.

“I mean, don’t you need to go change your shoes or something?” Jesse’s eyebrow went up as he looked down at her black flats, disapprovingly.

“No. I’m fine like this.”

“Yeah okay.” He walked over to greet Tammy, who was walking towards them in a short dress and high heels. He kissed her on the cheek.

“That’s a cute dress,” she smiled at Tammy. She looked down at Tammy’s ankle, wrapped in beige bandages. “What happened to your foot??”

“Oh, I was jogging with my friends earlier and I fell and sprained my ankle,” Tammy rolled her eyes, trying to wave away the question.

“Do you really think you should be wearing three-inch heels? The gig is 3 hours long.”

“Yeah, I know, but if I didn’t wear the heels, it wouldn’t really be that good of a performance.”

Tammy walked away leaving her confused. Heels add to a performance? What aspect? Was she talking about helping her posture? Because it doesn’t. Maybe the audience experience? More than half would be on their feet dancing, not even really paying attention to what the singers looked like.

“Latin singers just need to wear heels. It completes the performance. ” Jesse said, looking down at her shoes.

“You’re not wearing heels.”

“It’s different. I’m a male performer.”

This is ridiculous, she thought. “Yeah, I’m not changing my shoes just to make you or anyone else think that the performance is more ‘authentic’.” She wouldn’t kill her feet or back just for appearances. She was there to sing. The music would speak for itself.

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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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#OnRepeat: Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”

This week, I’ve had Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”  #OnRepeat. I’ve written about Elton John before, but this song has always been a favorite standard of mine. I recently came across it in the movie, Sing, where a gorilla named Johnny plays the piano and sings this song on stage.

For those who haven’t read my previous post about Elton John, he is a singer, pianist, and composer from London, England who has sold millions of albums internationally an whose music is still relevant to this day. For more about Elton John and my post about his song, “Without Question,” click on this link:

http://www.singingtillimblueintheface.com

“I’m Still Standing” was written by Elton John for his 1983 album, Too Low For Zero. The lyrics are written from the point of view of a person who is “still standing” even though their lover treated them poorly. The lyrics can somewhat dark, but you almost wouldn’t notice the message because of the upbeat tempo and arrangement of the song. “I’m Still Standing” is an iconic Elton John song–catchy with a great melody and witty lyric writing. Try listening to this song a couple of times without it getting stuck in you head.

Listen below:

Are there any other Elton John songs you like? Leave a comment below!

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#OnRepeat: Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”

This week, I’ve had Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” #OnRepeat. I was actually reminded of this song while watching the Marvel superhero show, The Defenders, on Netflix this past week during one of the last episodes.

The band, Nirvana, is a Grunge-Alternative Rock band from Aberdeen, Washington that was formed by guitarist, Kurt Cobain, and bassist, Krist Novoselic, in the late 1980s. Although the band had a short run (disbanding after Cobain’s death in 1994), they sold over 20 million records and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Some of their most well-known songs are “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “In Bloom,” and “Love Buzz.”

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night (In The Pines)” is a traditional Folk song that was made popular by the Folk and Blues musician, Leadbelly, during the 1940s. The meaning behind the lyrics has been disputed for some time (and varies depending on the version and musician performing it), but the overall themes have to do with love, death, and loneliness. Kurt Cobain earned a lot of recognition for his acoustic interpretation of this song during Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. Cobain’s raspy, higher-pitched rock-style voice captures the desperation, grit, and bleak loneliness that is painted in the lyrics of the song. Nirvana’s darker take on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” introduced the song to a new generation of fans that still listen to and discuss the musical implications of this version more than a decade later.

Take a listen below:

 

Below is Leadbelly’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” for reference:

 

What do you think of Nirvana’s version? Is it a proper continuation of this song’s legacy?

 

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Memoirs of a Frustrated Singer – “Stick in the Mud”

She stared at the microphone directly in front of her mouth, letting her eyes focus on the overlapping wires that made up the mesh mouthpiece. Maybe if she thought about something else, something simpler, she wouldn’t think about how nervous she was.

Oscar, the director of the ensemble, had stopped the musicians and was going over the chart with the horn players. Good, she thought. I get a couple minutes to look over the words.

It wasn’t that she didn’t know the words or the melody, or even what section of the song came next. She had listened to the song more times than she could count; so much so that she could sing along with the horn and bass lines when they played. She had always been exceptionally good at picking up songs quickly. It wasn’t even a question of whether or not she knew the song.

Oscar lifted his hands and began counting off, interrupting her thoughts. The other singers around her started dancing automatically, but she didn’t. She came in with the first verse, focusing on the words, their pronunciation, how her breath control affected the sound of each word. . . She knew she was thinking about it way too much, but she only understood Spanish. It wasn’t her first language. She didn’t want to sound like an idiot.

Oscar waved his hands in the air to signal the band to stop playing. He rolled his eyes and slouched his shoulders, clearly annoyed. “Singers. You need to come in strong on the coros!”

One of the other singers, Jesse, spoke up, looking directly at her. “You know, we would know for sure where to come in if everyone was dancing. Everyone would be in sync together.”

The other singers nodded in agreement.

“Tiffany, you need to be moving, girl. This is salsa! You can’t just stand there like a stick in the mud!” Jesse exclaimed, making his shoulders shimmy and attempting to spin her around.

“You’re too stiff. You’d sound much better if you started moving,” one of the other singers giggled as she watched Jesse do an awkward dance move.

She looked at them all in disbelief. “I’m not moving right now because I’m focusing on the words and making sure I get this right. I’ll worry about dancing when we actually have a performance.”

“You’re gonna look stiff up there on stage. It’s not enjoyable to watch a stick sing Latin music,” Stan, the other male singer said off-handedly as he played on his phone.

The other singers started murmuring in agreement, calling her names under their breath, insinuating that she didn’t know how to dance or sing. I’ve never felt so incompetent, she thought to herself. Just because she didn’t practice or perform music the way that they did, didn’t mean she was any less of a vocalist. She had more singing experience then all of them combined. They should’ve been asking for her advice and opinions; not throwing theirs at her.

Oscar made the band stop playing again. He was making an announcement to everyone, but the singers were too busy laughing and talking to hear what he was saying. They weren’t even trying to be respectful in any way–no attempts at whispering or making eye contact with the director while he was talking. He was changing the end section of the song at the last minute, which would effect everyone in the band.

She shook her head. It was embarrassing how disrespectful the singers were acting. No concern for pitch, song form or harmony, not to mention their fellow musicians. She could only imagine what the actual performance would be like.

The band started to play again, and this time they started several measures before the end of the song. Just as she’d predicted, all of the singers didn’t come in when they were supposed to, which made her voice stick out more when she did.

Oscar stopped the band and looked directly at the singers. “Come on guys. We just went over this.”

“No you didn’t,” Jesse chimed in, accusingly.

Should she say something? Despite the voice in her head telling her not to, she spoke up. “Um, maybe if you weren’t so busy talking and playing on your phones, you would’ve heard him talk about the change to the end of the song.”

Jesse’s face turned from a smile to a frown. He knew she was right. “Well maybe you should go–” His voice trailed off.

She looked questioningly at Jesse, bracing herself for an insult.

“Whatever.” He turned and began talking under his breath to Stan and the other singers. They all started laughing.

She looked down at her watch. And then people wondered why she was so quiet. Just thirty more minutes, just thirty more minutes, she thought to herself.

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#OnRepeat: Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son”

This week, I’ve had Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” #OnRepeat. Since I’m a huge fan of music from the 1960s and 1970s , this singer and song were bound to end up one of these posts eventually.

Cat Stevens (born Steven Demetre Georgiou, now Yusuf Islam) is a singer, songwriter, and guitar player from the Marylebone area of London, England. Several of his albums have topped the international billboard charts for weeks at a time and he was inducted into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. His music is a blend of Folk, Country, Pop, Rock, and later in his career, Islamic music influences. Some of his most well-known songs are “Moonshadow,” “Peace Train,” “The First Cut is the Deepest,” and “Wild World.”

“Father and Son” was written and recorded by Cat Stevens for his 1970 album, Tea for the Tillerman. The song tells about a conversation between a father and a son, the misunderstandings that arise between older and younger generations, and the need to come to terms with personal life decisions. Stevens uses the lower part of his register for the words spoken by the father and the higher part of his register to represent the son speaking. Stevens’ lyric writing is simple, but poignant, and though there is not much use of vibrato in his voice, Stevens’ portrayal of the message brings out a bittersweet depth and desperation in this song that causes you to pause and listen. And maybe even potentially cry when no one is looking.

Take a listen below:

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

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