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Taylor Swift Achieves 50th “Billboard” Hot 100 Song

After only six years in the spotlight, Taylor Swift has yet another milestone under her belt, marked by her latest release, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Joining superstars MadonnaAretha FranklinDionne Warwick, and Connie Francis, Swift has achieved her 50th charting song on the Billboard Hot 100.

Although this is due in large part to the fact that many of her releases were preview tracks from her albums rather than official singles, it still marks an incredible triumph for Swift, one which took others over a decade to complete.

Of the four other women to boast this same triumph, Aretha Franklin was the quickest to reach 50 entries into the chart, taking just over 14.5 years.

If you like Taylor Swift, check out OurStage artist Jessica Lynn.

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Sound And Vision: Guns N’ Roses? Joan Jett? Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is on the Verge of Becoming a Joke?

Last month when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its fifteen nominees for induction in 2012, the organization really outdid itself—and not in a good way! Donovan? Not again! Erik B. & Rakim? Not before LL Cool J! Joan Jett and the Blackhearts?

What? No “Weird Al” Yankovic? Hasn’t he been eligible for four years?

The Hall of Fame has been scraping from the B-list for a while now, but the voting body should take a closer look at the A-list. There’s still a lot of unheralded talent there, and that would not include Joan Jett. Yes, Jett’s former band, The Runaways, deserves credit for introducing girl power to hard rock, but did Joan Jett and the Blackhearts really earn a spot in the hallowed Hall based on the strength of one really awesome No. 1 smash, 1981′s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which the band didn’t even write? In the general scheme of things, aren’t they sort of a rock & roll footnote?

Not Linda Ronstadt. Perhaps the most influential female in ’70s rock, who spent the ’80s juggling genres from new wave to mariachi to the great American songbook, she’s the most deserving artist never to be nominated. And let’s talk about Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks, who is already in the Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac but whose solo career is far more worthy of the honor than Jett’s post-Runaways. At least the nominating committee finally had the good sense to give props to Heart, though I’ll eat my copy of the “Alone” Cassingle if the Wilson sisters actually get in.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Guns N’ Roses? Joan Jett? Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is on the Verge of Becoming a Joke?’

Sound And Vision: Cover Me — Ten Remakes Of Great Songs That Are Better Than The Originals

“Have you lost your mind?!”

That’s the thought bubble I could have sworn I saw spring from my friend’s head several weeks ago when I mentioned that my all-time favorite remake is Aretha Franklin‘s 1971 Sunday-morning-at-the-pulpit rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “You mean her version isn’t the original?” he asked, totally floored. No, she borrowed it from Simon & Garfunkel, who had hit No. 1 with it the previous year, and never gave it back.

Every time I think of Franklin and the crafty way she used to take ownership of other people’s hits (Dionne Warwick‘s “I Say a Little Prayer,” Ben E. King‘s “Spanish Harlem” and most famously, Otis Redding‘s “Respect”), I remember a story Dusty Springfield once told me. Franklin was originally offered “Son of a Preacher Man,” and when she turned it down, Springfield snatched it up. Shortly after Springfield’s version hit the Top 10, she met Franklin for the first and only time in an elevator. Franklin walked in, put her hand on Springfield’s shoulder and simply said, “Girl.” Not another word. “I just about fell out!” Springfield told me, still in shock and awe decades later.

Franklin eventually recorded “Son of a Preacher Man,” and Springfield so liked what Franklin did to her hit that she began performing it in concert Franklin style. And that, folks, is what you call running off with someone else’s song. (For the record, I prefer Springfield’s original.) Now, here are ten other cases of musical robbery.

Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” Just one year before Gaye went to No. 1 for seven weeks with his biggest hit, Gladys Knight and the Pips took their gospel-infused version of one of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong’s two crowning achievements (the other being the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”) all the way to No. 2. Both are spectacular, but Gaye’s moody, brooding take, which actually was recorded first, making it a “cover” in timing only, will always be definitive.

Marvin Gaye “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (a capella)

Harry Nilsson “Everybody’s Talkin’” and “Without You” Little-known fact: The late singer-songwriter who wrote Three Dog Night’s “One” had his two biggest hits singing other people’s words. Fred Neil‘s 1966 original version of his own “Everybody’s Talkin’,” though moving, lacks the mournful tremulousness and vocal drama that Nilsson brought to it three years later. Nilsson’s emotional bells and whistles sell the song. “Without You,” his biggest and signature hit, was written and recorded by Badfinger in 1970, two years before Nilsson took it to No. 1, and has since been covered by Mariah Carey and seemingly at least one contestant per season on American Idol. The song, however, belonged to Nilsson in life, and it still does in death.

Harry Nilsson “Everybody’s Talkin’”

Billy Paul “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” Bob Dylan’s song has been done to death—by Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, The Four Seasons (under the pseudonym The Wonder Who?) and so many others—but Paul’s jazz-inflected rendition gave it a certain soulful urgency lacking in every other version I’ve heard. This is one of those rare times that someone not only did one of Dylan’s compositions justice but did it better than Dylan, too.

Billy Paul “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”

Anne Murray “You Won’t See Me” I’d read it many times and always assumed it was a suburban myth, so when I met Murray in the ’90s, I asked her, “True or false: Did John Lennon really tell you that your 1974 version of “You Won’t See Me” was his favorite Beatles cover?” True. Better than Marvin Gaye’s “Yesterday,” Elton John’s “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby.” (I wonder what he would have made of Tiffany’s “I Saw Him Standing There” had he lived eight years longer to hear it.) Once again unwrapping her gift of interpretation six years later, Murray took the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” and made it listenable at last.

Anne Murray “You Won’t See Me”

Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good” Dee Dee Warwick recorded it first, and Betty Everett took it for its first trip up Billboard’s Hot 100 (to No. 51 in 1963). As great old-school soul singers go, both were up there with the best, but what made Ronstadt’s version pop and rock and sent it to No. 1 for one week in 1975 was the mix of Peter Asher’s haunting production, a tough-as-nails Ronstadt at the peak of her vocal power and the best instrumental outro in the history of ’70s rock. Love and anger rolled into one of music’s great transcendent kiss-offs.

Linda Ronstadt “You’re No Good”

Amii Stewart “Knock on Wood” Eddie Floyd‘s 1966 original is a soul classic and deservedly so, but Stewart’s 1979 cover—which went all the way to No. 1—is a highlight of the era of disco balls, bell bottoms and white polyester.

Amii Stewart “Knock on Wood”

Darlene Love “River Deep – Mountain High” I know, sacrilege! How dare I say that anyone ever topped Ike & Tina Turner’s 1966 classic! But there you go. Recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Love, whose voice is one of the greatest instruments ever committed to record, covered the Phil Spector track for the 1985 Broadway musical Leader of the Pack, and nailed it effortlessly on the cast recording. She sang it with a soulful clarity and technical precision that matched and then surpassed the Queen of Rock & Roll because Love, unlike Turner, didn’t have to claw her way out of Spector’s great, big, oppressive “Wall of Sound.”

Darlene Love “River Deep – Mountain High”

Marc Almond Featuring Special Guest Star Gene Pitney “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart” Topping Gene Pitney is hard work, but when Pitney revisited his own 1967 UK hit as a male-on-male duet with Soft Cell’s Marc Almond, the result not only improved on its source material, but it gave the singer one final trip to No. 1 in 1989.

Marc Almond Featuring Special Guest Star Gene Pitney “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart”

David Cook “Always Be My Baby” In what remains one of American Idol‘s greatest moments, during season seven, Cook took a sappy Carey song I’d always despised and turned it into a grungey, slow-burning stalker anthem. In the process, he proved himself a true artist and Carey a songwriter capable of greatness.

David Cook “Always Be My Baby”

Sound And Vision: Building the Perfect Valentine’s Day Soundtrack – 14 Great Love Songs

Love is in the air. I’m not just talking about that warm and tingly feeling that fills up the senses every year on February 14—if you’re lucky enough to have your own funny Valentine. I’m also referring to the great 1977 Top 10 hit by John Paul Young, an immortal love song in a decade that was full of them. It’s rhythm and romance at its catchy best.
In honor of V-Day, here are fourteen other great songs in the key of love. I’ve limited the romantic playing field to pop, rock and R&B singles from the last 50 or so years, leaving album tracks, country, jazz, the great American songbook, Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin for another list (maybe next year’s). My favorites are always changing—by the week, by the day, by the hour. But if you’re looking to set the perfect romantic mood on Valentine’s Day, just let the music, this music, play.
“I’m Still in Love With You” Al Green. The greatest love of all is an everlasting one, and few singer-songwriters have nailed the subject as frequently and brilliantly as Green. This single, which went to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1972, is as timeless and immortal as the love it celebrates.
“The Air That I Breathe” The Hollies. “Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe, and to love you.” Now that’s crazy in love.
“Poetry Man” Phoebe Snow. It’s hard to fathom that Snow, who also wrote this song, was only 23 years old when the song was a hit in 1975. Imagine any of today’s twentysomething pop stars crafting anything so hauntingly gorgeous and grown up.
“The Man With the Child In His Eyes” Kate Bush. A girl and her piano. Like the most effective love songs, there’s an overwhelming aura of melancholy in both the production and 20-year-old Bush’s vocals, which are at once delicate and sturdy. After the operatic weirdness of her 1978 debut hit, “Wuthering Heights,” Bush floated back to earth in the most stunning way.
“Close the Door” Teddy Pendergrass. Sometimes it’s all about sex. Incredibly, this 1978 single was the only solo Top 40 hit of the late Pendergrass’s long career.
“Send One Your Love” Stevie Wonder. Although this one has been more or less overlooked since it was a No. 4 hit in 1979, it’s nearly as magical as “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” an album track from three years earlier. A tip to all hopeless romantics: If you just called to say, “I love you,” and you must do it with a Wonder song, make it one of the two.
“I Love You” Climax Blues Band. Everyone says, “I love you,” but singer Derek Holt didn’t until four minutes into the song—and then it was over. By saving the best for last on its 1980 single, which only went to No. 12 but was one of the biggest hits of the year, Climax Blues Band created a masterpiece of anticipation and romantic build up that goes out in a blaze of glory.
“More Love” Kim Carnes. The irony! A songwriter as gifted as Carnes found her greatest success drastically reworking other people’s music. Jackie DeShannon’s “Bette Davis Eyes” may be the reinvention for which she’s best remembered, but this cover of a Smokey Robinson oldie, which preceded the aforementioned hit into the Top 10 in 1980, is the one that gets under my skin and stays there.
“Love of a Lifetime” Firehouse. The ultimate hair-metal power ballad, from 1991, a few years after the genre peaked.
“Heartbreaker” Dionne Warwick. Love is a beautiful thing indeed, sometimes even when it’s in ruins. Of all the great love-song singles that the Bee Gees wrote for themselves (“How Deep Is Your Love,” “Too Much Heaven”) and others (Samantha Sang’s “Emotion,” Barbra Streisand’s “Woman in Love,” Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream”), this one, in which sweet Dionne hints at possible stalker tendencies (“This world may end— not you and I”), is the one I always go back to.
“Harvest Moon” Neil Young. When I dream about love, this 1992 Neil Young masterpiece always seems to be playing in the background.
“Kiss Me” Sixpence None the Richer. Michelle Williams’s film career wasn’t the only great thing to come out of Dawson’s Creek. After the TV teen drama used “Kiss Me” on its soundtrack in 1999, it reached runner-up status on the Hot 100. More than any other song in the history of romance, this one makes me want to run out and fall in love.
“Can’t Get You Out of My Head” Kylie Minogue. Sometimes the glow of love burns so much brighter with a fierce electro beat.
“You’re Beautiful” James Blunt. When it comes to love songs, they generally don’t make them like they used to, but every now and then, modern love spawns an aural masterpiece.
Five Honorable mentions: “Angel” Anita Baker, ”So Alive” Love and Rockets, ”Love Is All Around” Wet Wet Wet, ”Maps” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and ”1 Thing” Amerie
What love songs will be on your playlist this Valentine’s Day?

Will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 Right Old Wrongs Or Make New Ones?

Another year, another batch of deserving, long-overdue and not-so-worthy nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This cycle, the biggest mystery doesn’t involve the ones they omitted but the legend they finally got around to recognizing. After 22 years of eligibility, Neil Diamond made the short list for the first time.

What took them so long?

Steely Dan, John Mellencamp and ZZ Top—great acts all and all short of legendary— already have secured their Hall of Fame spots, and the powers that be in Cleveland are just getting around to noticing the glaring absence of Diamond? I love the video for “Legs” as much as any child of the ’80s, but in what universe does the ZZ Top songbook hold up to that of the guy who wrote such classics as “I’m a Believer,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “Red Red Wine”?

As for his fellow first-time nominee Bon Jovi (Alice Cooper, Donovan and Dr. John also made their short list debuts), sure they had a lot of hits and continue to sell respectably, but have they influenced any kid with a guitar and a song in his (or her) heart since hair metal went out of fashion? Oh, and where are the nods for Electric Light Orchestra and Roxy Music, a band that helped define ’70s glam rock while paving the way for the New Romantic movement led by super ’80s groups like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran?

Did the ELO and Roxy nods go to LL Cool J, a surprise nominee (to me) who is barely in his 40s? He started out with a big bang in the mid ’80s for sure, and he was rap’s first solo star, but the quality of his output went into steep decline after “Mama Said Knock You Out,” as he became more hitmaker than visionary. Now he seems to have set aside his creative pretensions in favor of a comfortable middle age on prime-time TV as the star of NCIS: Los Angeles. Though he deserves to be demerited for going from gangsta to hack, I’d let him in over Bon Jovi and Donovan, but only if Beastie Boys, nominated for the second time, get in too.

The late Laura Nyro is also a return nominee for inclusion into the (mostly) boys club, and I’d say it’s time to let her in when the Class of 2011 inductees are announced in December and feted at the ceremony next March 14th. Ditto the queen of disco Donna Summer, a second-time nominee. But where pray tell are the nominations for Linda Ronstadt, who helped define mainstream rock in the ’70s and has been eligible since 1994, and Dionne Warwick, a ’60s legend without whom the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songbook might be just another bunch of songs? (Maybe the latter’s psychic friends can look into it.) Dusty Springfield had to die to get in in 1999. Let’s hope the Hall of Fame doesn’t make the same mistake (twice) again.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.


 


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