May 2012

Celine Dion – “If You Asked Me To” – (1992)

Originally recorded by Patti LaBelle for the soundtrack to the late-80s James Bond movie License to Kill, “If You Asked Me To” was the second single from Celine Dion’s eponymous album, released in 1992. It was a top five hit in the U.S. and a #1 in Canada. You’d be hard-pressed to listen to any Celine Dion song and say it was a cover because she has such a unique voice. And this was one of the very first hits that showcased that unique voice that would become one of the biggest of the 1990s.

The Human League – “Human” – (1986)

I always suspect something is up when an artist has a song that is similar to the name of the artist. In this case, the band would’ve had to have been incredibly patient to pull one over on us, as they adopted the name “The Human League” around 1981 and this song didn’t come out until 1986. It’s one of their best known songs, although you might not realize that it’s actually them. It was a #1 in the U.S. and Canada and the second-biggest hit for the band. If you don’t recognize it by title alone, I would highly recommend giving it a listen as it’s actually really good – and you just might recognize it by sound.

William Naraine – “If I Could Fall” – (2010)

William Naraine was the lead singer of the Italian Eurodance group called Double You, which formed in 1985. The group hasn’t released an album since 1998. I guess that makes them “dormant.” Anyway, Naraine ventured out on his own and this was a single released near the end of 2010/beginning of 2011. I happen to really like it. There are a lot of upbeat dance tracks, but few have quality vocals. This does. And, if you watch the video, he kind of looks like Jeff Goldblum with wild-ass hair. This is easily one of my favorite dance tracks of the past few years.

Dog’s Eye View – “Everything Falls Apart” – (1995)

Dog’s Eye View was a one-hit wonder in the immediate post-grunge alternative rock scene. You don’t hear this on the radio anymore but you used to hear it all the time in the mid-to-late-90s. The lyrics are really good and their delivery is even better. And the music just screams of the era. If you’re a fan of The Wallflowers, the Counting Crows, the Gin Blossoms or any similar band – then this is a song you must hear. You’ll remember it.

Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A.” – (1984)

While I’m not a big Springsteen nut, I recognize this song as a classic. It is the definitive Springsteen song and like some of the popular seemingly-patriotic anthems of John Mellencamp – this is not a positive song. That is, although it keeps repeating the phrase “born in the U.S.A.” – it actually deals with the Vietnam War and the crap Vietnam veterans had to deal with when they came home. For that reason alone, this song is great. But when you add in the rockin’ E Street Band and Bruce’s raspy vocals it becomes something larger. This was an anthem for a generation in the 1980s. Politicians loved to use it until they realized what its lyrics were actually about. The album of the same name remains Springsteen’s largest contribution to popular music and is revered by fans. Rightfully so.

Aerosmith – “Just Push Play” – (2001)

The other two Aerosmith songs we featured this week sound relatively… well, the same – compared to this. This is the title track from the band’s 2001 album, and, although not nearly the biggest hit, it was still pretty good. This song is a prime example of one of the criticisms of the album: it sounds like a band of 40 and 50 year-olds pretending to be 20. Pop (and I mean pop) music was as big as ever around this time and it kind of sounds like they were trying to cash in on it. There are synthesizers and it’s like it’s trying pretty hard to be a dance track. It did chart on the Mainstream Rock chart (#10) and showed up in the Top 40 the following year. If you want an example of an Aerosmith song that doesn’t sound like your typical Aerosmith song, this is it.

Aerosmith – “Crazy” – (1993)

“You say that you’re leaving on a 7:30 train and you’re heading out to Hollywood.” This is definitely a bluesy rock track from those opening lyrics. “Crazy” was the final single released from Get a Grip and it came out as a single in 1994. Again, not their best work, in fact, the song drives me a little crazy (yeah, I rolled my eyes too). Strangely, this is another Aerosmith song that features Alicia Silverstone in the video. I’m not sure what the obsession was, but she starred in three of the band’s videos in the early 90s. It made her famous, but I wouldn’t say it benefitted the band – but what do I know?

Aerosmith – “What It Takes” – (1989)

It’s not that the song is terrible – it isn’t – but it certainly isn’t my favorite and I wouldn’t say I enjoy listening to it. I think it has mostly to do with the fact that it’s from a period of rock music that I don’t necessarily enjoy. Not the high point of rock and roll, the late 80s. This also wasn’t the high point for Aerosmith. We’ll call it an “average” Aerosmith tune.

Also, this is Aerosmith week (not an official holiday)! An 80s track on Monday. A 90s track on Wednesday. And something newer than that on Friday. Enjoy.

3 Doors Down – “Duck and Run” – (2000)

The Better Life was the first studio album from 3 Doors Down and this was the third single from that album which spawned some big hits. While this was a #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart, it wasn’t the biggest hit they had. Or the best. But it was the only one to get put on Clear Channel’s “inappropriate songs” list after September 11th – which of course, is stupid. I’ve always had the impression that the lead singer of 3 Doors down is always doing a Rob Thomas impression. Don’t know why. But watch the video and tell me if I’m wrong.

Mariah Carey – “Can’t Let Go” – (1991)

If you remember your 90s pop ballads – that is early 90s pop ballads – then you just might recognize this one. It hit #2 on the Hot 100 and was a mainstay on pop music stations – but not to the extent of other Mariah songs. Sure, this one got regular play through the mid-90s, it was often overshadowed by later hits, and let’s face it, Mariah had many and some were so much bigger than this. This is definitely a good one and you can hear the pure talent in her voice – especially the parts where it sounds more like an exasperated whisper than singing.

Survivor – “High on You” – (1984)

This is a rock song that screams “80s” but not necessarily “80s rock.” The music is rock with a very upbeat, almost pop like feeling – but Jimi Jamison’s lyrics, delivered in a Steve Perry-esque kind of way. It’s melodic and you could very easily mistake it for Journey. It’s weird… it’s a ballad but it’s so upbeat that it doesn’t feel like a ballad. Enough talk. Go listen to it. Here are some lyrics: “Talkin’ to myself, runnin’ in the heat. Beggin’ for your touch, in the middle of the street and I – I can’t stop thinking ’bout you girl. I must be living in a fantasy world. I’ve searched the whole world over, to find a heart so true. Such complete intoxication, I’m high on you.”

Wolfgang Gartner feat. Eve – “Get ‘Em” – (2011)

Here’s a song I came across. Wolfgang Gartner has some awesome instrumental tracks and this one featured Eve, who was pretty good and really popular about 10 years ago. She’s got a decent voice and can rap pretty well. When I saw “Wolfgang Gartner” and “Eve,” I thought, “This could be good.” And it is. It’s upbeat and Eve is just laying down lyrics really quick. It’s a dance track, no doubt. I’m not sure that this was a single, but it’s my favorite song off the album Weekend in America, Gartner’s first full-length album. “Wolfgang, E-V-E hands up top.”

Spin Doctors – “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” – (1991)

Gotta love the Spin Doctors. They fizzled out after their two hits from Pocket Full of Kryptonite, but those two hits were kick-ass. Call it funk-rock or blues-rock or whatever you want, but it’s catchy as can be and makes for a great party song. It was tempting to put this in place of “Two Princes” in our 90s countdown. “Little miss little miss little miss can’t be wrong, what’cha gonna do to get into another one of these rock ‘n’ roll songs?”