May 2014


Counting Crows feat. Vanessa Carlton – “Big Yellow Taxi” – (2002)

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song originally written and obnoxiously recorded by Joni Mitchell. It’s been covered a lot over the years, but most famously by Counting Crows with vocals by Vanessa Carlton. This was the biggest version, becoming an Adult Contemporary top five hit. This song came from an era of music where artists just covered older songs (looking at you Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker). While I don’t love this song (but do love its message), it is infinitely better than the nerve-grating original.

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Mariah Carey feat. Joe & 98 Degrees – “Thank God I Found You” – (1999)

This song is from Mariah Carey’s “Whisper Period” – those years in the late 1990s/early 2000s where she barely made any noise on any of her songs and it just sounds like she’s humming words in the next room. Fortunately, this track features boy band 98 Degrees and late-90s R&B dude Joe to provide actual lyrics. Because it is a Mariah Carey song technically from the 90s, it obviously went to #1. But it’s by no means the best of them.

Patrick Swayze feat. Wendy Fraser – “She’s Like the Wind” – (1987)

The Dirty Dancing soundtrack is one of the most successful soundtracks of all time, selling over 32 million copies. I can’t be the only one who finds it weird that Patrick Swayze had a top three hit in the U.S.? Then again, this was the decade of all kinds of actors releasing music – Don Johnson, Bruce Willis, etc. Patrick Swayze is the main credited artist, but the single was actually released with “featuring Wendy Fraser” attached to it. You can tell this is from the 80s because of the power ballad lyrical delivery and the saxophone. Mostly that sax.

DJ Sammy and Yanou feat. Do – “Heaven” – (2002)

Yeah, I’m really stretching the definition of “duet” here – slaughtering it really. DJ Sammy (who is from Spain) and Yanou (who is from Germany) are two DJs and they recruited Dutch singer Do to do vocals on this dance cover of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven.” While the Bryan Adams version hit #1, this version – or, the “Candlelight Mix” (which is a less-techno-y version) – ended up at #8 on the Hot 100. I prefer the faster, non-Candlelight version.

Patty Smyth & Don Henley – “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” – (1992)

I could’ve sworn this song was from the 80s. Nope – 1992. But hey, adult contemporary from the early 1990s might as well have been from the 80s because it all sounds very similar. Also, let’s note that this is by Patty Smyth, former lead singer of Scandal and not Patti Smith, the punk singer. Big distinction. And of course, Don Henley, the Eagle. This was an Adult Contemporary #1 and a #2 on the Hot 100. And I’ve always thought Patty Smyth sounds like a country singer in this song. Am I crazy?

Peter Cetera & Amy Grant – “The Next Time I Fall” – (1986)

This was a #1 hit for Peter Cetera and Amy Grant and it comes off of Peter Cetera’s most successful solo album. This was Amy Grant’s first hit in mainstream music and the song that marked her shift away from Christian music. I like Peter Cetera’s voice and the weird twang or whatever it is that he has when he sings. Whenever I hear Amy Grant’s voice, I can only think of Christmas music. This is solid 80s.

Common feat. Lily Allen – “Drivin’ Me Wild” – (2007)

Here was a song that I once saw featured on some near-the-end-of-it-all music video program on MTV or VH1. Probably VH1. Anyway, it was a minor hit in the U.K. – due to featured artist Lily Allen’s large fame. This song by Common was produced by Kanye West. It’s average. Lily Allen is the best part. As she usually is.

Glenn Medeiros & Bobby Brown – “She Ain’t Worth It” – (1990)

This was a #1 hit for Glenn Medeiros (and Bobby Brown). His successful years were between 1984 and 1993. After that, he became a teacher and currently is a vice-principal at a school in Hawaii. How about that for a career turn? Imagine having a teacher who had a huge radio smash. This song is a good example of early-90s R&B/new jack swing. I like it (although I don’t care for Bobby Brown’s rap verse).

Dionne Warwick & Friends – “That’s What Friends Are For” – (1985)

This song was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. Rod Stewart recorded it originally but it was Dionne Warwick’s version that went to #1. Well, Dionne Warwick and friends. Those friends? Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder. Pretty impressive friends. Well name-dropped, Dionne. This was a charity single to benefit AIDS research. It’s one of those tunes that everybody knows.

Jennifer Lopez feat. LL Cool J – “All I Have” – (2002)

This was the second single from J.Lo’s “Jenny From the Block” album (that’s not actually what the album’s called, but it’s the single it is best known for and how I refer to not only the album but this phase in J.Lo’s career – as if I do this a lot). This is one of those #1 hits that I don’t ever actually remember hearing on the radio. I remember the Christmas-themed video on MTV back in the day, but the song was somewhat foreign for many years. And this is one of the last songs I can recall from LL Cool J before he went all NCIS on us.

Salt-n-Pepa with En Vogue – “Whatta Man” – (1993)

This is one of the most popular songs by either Salt-n-Pepa or En Vogue (the best girl group the 90s, sorry TLC). “What a Man” was originally recorded as a soul track in 1968 by Linda Lyndell. En Vogue covered it and layered a Salt-n-Pepa rap over top of it to generate a top three hit on the Hot 100. It was also nominated for a Grammy. It’s an awesome 90s track.

Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald – “On My Own” – (1986)

This Hot 100 #1 hit was originally recorded by Dionne Warwick, but never released. So Patti LaBelle and the former lead singer of the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald – the best voice in blue-eyed soul – put out a version to top the charts. The duet was not recorded live together, but instead recorded in different cities independently and merged into one track. If you like McDonald’s unique voice, you’ll like this song.

John Mayer feat. Taylor Swift – “Half of My Heart” – (2009)

Well 2009 is officially over five years ago, so I can feature songs from that year. And this duet between John Mayer and Taylor Swift gained significant radio popularity in the first half of 2010. It peaked at #25 on the Hot 100 and its best performance was on the Adult Top 40 chart, where it reached #2. This is the kind of song the Adult Contemporary crowd loves.