I love the 90s

Music Movie Review: What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993)

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The explosive and abusive relationship between Ike and Tina Turner has been well documented but was brought to the forefront with What’s Love Got To Do With It? Based off Tina’s autobiography, I, Tina, the film follows the diva from her early church beginnings to her successful solo career she fought for. Starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, it’s still one of the best biopics out there. It’s a compelling look at Tina’s career and her violent relationship with Ike Turner.

Oddly enough, I first saw this movie when I was young. I’m not sure why, but I remember really liking it. Years later, I still think it’s a fantastic film. Bassett does an amazing job portraying the diva. She got everything from her facial expressions to her movements and gestures down perfectly. You can tell she studied and researched Tina to accurately portray her. Fishburne did an equally good job of playing Ike, even proving to be terrifying at times. Though Tina’s story is interesting, it’s the cast’s performances that helps make the movie stand out from the other music biopics.

Of course, like with other movies based on true stories, there are a number of inaccuracies. Some instances include the character Jackie, who was invented solely for the film, Tina’s son Craig, who is the son of Raymond Hill, not Ike, and Ike Turner being the frontman for his band. There are also some errors regarding the year certain performances occurred and the number of hit songs the duo made. Later on, Ike Turner denied the scenes where he pulled a gun on Tina. He also said the infamous studio abuse scene did not occur.

Though a number of things were changed, I still think it’s a great movie. I’ll admit I was disappointed that the movie took so many liberties, but it’s standard with most biopics. Something is always going to be changed, condensed, or played up for entertainment purposes. And there’s always two sides of a story, so it makes sense that Ike and Tina don’t agree on certain events. At least the movie manages to get the basics about Turner’s career right. It also helps that Ike and Tina were both involved giving it more weight and credibility.

Despite its inaccuracies, the film is a fascinating look at the rise of Tina Turner, her marriage, why she stayed as long as she did, and how she finally got out. It also makes audiences privy to just how horrible it was. Some of those scenes are downright appalling. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open during most of them. By the end of the film, you’re cheering Tina on, even though you’re aware of the long, successful solo career she maintained for years. It’s a classic biopic and one that still holds up today.

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Playlist: Let’s Get Weird This Christmas

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Holidays have the potential to bring out the best and worst in us. They can also bring out the weird in us. Rather than singing about Santa Claus, spending time with the family, and frosty the snowman, these songs dive into weird territory you wouldn’t expect for Christmas. So if you’ve been listening to “All I Want for Christmas is You” since October and are ready to gouge your eardrums, check out these weird, creepy, and hilarious Christmas songs.

“Dear Santa (Bring Me a Man This Christmas)” – The Weather Girls

The holidays can be a real drag without someone to cuddle up to as The Weather Girls know. There’s only one thing they have on their list: a man. The girls kick things on a sentimental note talking about having someone to wrap your arms around. But things kick into high gear when the disco music starts and Izora Armstead sings “Bring me a man!” The girls are straight to the point on this funky song and don’t waste time being coy. They even get downright dirty by asking Santa to leave a man under the tree “dim the lights down low/and let it snow.” It’s a weird song to get you in the spirit, but it’s a bonafide jam. Though you may not want to play this one around the family.

“Christmas with Satan” – James Chance

This is what a Christmas song would sound like in Hell, which is probably the point. While Chance wails about why partying with the devil during the holiday is the best, demented renditions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Jingle Bells,” and other carols screech along with him. The entire thing is a freaking nightmare that gets worse and worse. It sounds like something that would be played at a creepy clown party. Sorry for that image. The uncut ten-minute version is even worse with Chance painfully screaming and slamming the piano keys like he’s five years old. If this is what Christmas sounds like with Satan then count me out.

“Scary Fucked Up Christmas” – Garfunkel and Oates

For some Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family. For others, it’s a terrible time to spend with family. So what’s the solution? Toke up. Garfunkel and Oates sing about getting high so Christmas won’t seem so bad. But of course, things get worse when you start tripping balls. Now, you’re worried about the snowman at your door, noticing shoes on meatloaf, and trying to bat away incestuous thoughts when you see your cousin. The duo’s quirky lyrics and mention of other famous December 25 birthdays (Happy birthday Karl Rove) make this a funny, but odd holiday song. And remember, no matter if you’re high or not Christmas is always scary and fucked up.

“Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS” – Tiny Tim

Want to instantly kill your holiday spirit? Then listen to this bizarre Christmas song from Tiny Tim. Yes, it’s as bad as the title makes it sound. Tiny Tim sings about Santa missing the holiday because of his condition. No more ho, ho, ho-ing, no more spreading Christmas cheer, no more sleigh rides. If that’s not enough to scar your then images of the nurses and the reindeer crying about Santa surely will. The whole thing is fucked up especially when you consider how AIDS was viewed during the 80s. According to Tiny Tim, the song is actually about the diet supplement Ayds and was written before Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS, becoming the first major celebrity to die from the illness. With lyrics mentioning hospital beds and sad nurses, it seems unlikely. It seems like he just wanted to avoid any backlash.

“Christmas Rhapsody” – Pledge Drive

Do you love Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but wish it had more Christmas flair? Pledge Drive has you covered with this, weird, yet impressive tribute to Queen. The iconic song is entirely rewritten with references to Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and singing carols. It follows the structure and flow of the Queen classic perfectly. While it’s a little hokey, it’s actually pretty good. The references don’t feel clunky or forced and it ends up being as catchy as the original. The highlight is the opera portion with the iconic line “Bismillah! No, we will not let you go/(Let him go!)” replaced with “Kris Kringle! No! Do not give him coal! Give him coal!” It’s a weird, yet, delightful treat for Queen fans. Good luck trying not to sing the actual lyrics though.

“Disco Christmas” – Universal Robot Band

In the 70s disco was like a bad cough you could never get rid of. The genre proved to be so popular, artists like Aretha Franklin and KISS even got on board. Even Christmas songs couldn’t escape disco as this 1977 gem shows. Sounding like “The Hustle” mixed with “Jingle Bells,” most of the “lyrics” is just Santa Claus and Rudolph trading insults with each other. Santa calls Rudolph ugly and in response, he calls Santa a “jive turkey.” They even spend a full verse arguing over each other while the background singers cheerily sing about “hustling around the tree.”  It feels like a weird parody song with references to 70s clichés like platform boots and phrases like “slap me five.” And this is only one of several disco themed Christmas songs. There are plenty of albums filled with disco versions of Christmas classics with the worst of them all being curated by Irwin, the Disco Duck. This must be Christmas in hell.

“R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – Christmas in the Stars

This song is so bad on so many levels. You have the interludes with R2-D2 chirping and C3PO being a neurotic fuck. Then there are children saying how much they love R2-D2 and how they want him to spend Christmas with him sounding weirdly ominous the whole time. But the weirdest thing about this song is that it’s Jon Bon Jovi’s first performance. Yes, before he fronted your mom’s favorite rock band, he sang about having a magical Christmas with an android. There are so many questions when listening to this song: why are they singing like R2-D2 is badly injured? Is R2-D2 the equivalent of Santa Claus in space? Why the fuck does Bon Jovi sound like one of The Monkees? And imagine there are eight more terrible songs filled with clunky references to Star Wars on the album, including the equally awful “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)”. You’d think Star Wars would stay far away from Christmas after the infamous wreck Christmas special only two years prior.

“Santa Dog” – The Residents

If this song is anything to go by then Christmas with The Residents is terrifying. The short song has Randy Rose repeating “Santa Dog’s a Jesus Fetus” and “A fleeting and a sleeting scene of snowness and of sleeves” while the rest of the members shout “bing, bing bing, bong, bong, bong.” Things get bleak with the notion of no presents and no presence in the future. Apparently, the song is about a wiener dog in Santa suit. Mostly, it’s an excuse to point out the “Santa/satan” anagram and freak everyone out. The ridiculous lyrics, jaunty music, and creepy singing make it more appropriate for a Tim Burton film than a holiday party.

“Homo Christmas” – Pansy Division

Similar to The Weather Girls, Pansy Division just wants a man for Christmas. This pop-punk tune celebrates being gay at Christmas and lists all the things they want, which include a nice hard cock and lots of boning. Frontman Jon Ginoli gleefully sings about how he wants to spend the holiday, which involves “Licking nipples / Licking nuts / Putting candy canes / Up each other’s butts.” It’s a campy song that’s ridiculous and funny, but it’s also a form of relief. According to Ginoli he wrote the song as a sort of therapy because  “Christmas can be stressful, especially since it’s a ‘family’ time, and I wrote [the song] thinking that it would give certain people hope on a day that sometimes sucks, especially when
the person you really want to be with doesn’t fit into certain definitions of family.” So, in a way, the song is kind of heartfelt, if you look past all the licking of body parts.

“Merry Christmas Santa Claus” – Max Headroom

You know when a fad has gone too far when they invade the music world. And in 1986, Max Headroom did that with this Christmas single. “Why?” is what you’ll keep asking yourself as you listen to Max glitch and stutter about loving Santa perhaps a bit too much. Max’s love for Santa gets creepy as he talks about loving Santa from “the top of your Christmas stocking/to the bottom of your Christmas bottom.” He even talks about bringing a big sack of Santa love. Best to leave this song alone and forget this song ever happened.

“Santa Claus is Watching You” – Ray Stevens

The older you get the more you realize Santa is kind of a creep. He sees when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake. As a kid, this was just part of Santa’s magic, but it sounds more nefarious as an adult. This is the angle Ray Stevens takes for this comedic tune. Stevens warns his lover that she better stay faithful and treat him right because Santa is always watching. As the song goes on, his behavior gets downright obsessive. Phones are being tapped, Rudolph has a constant eye on the house, and Santa’s the head of the CIA. Santa is a looming threat here and it’s pretty offputting. Stevens’ slurring vocals and manic screams of “He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!” will surely make you laugh, but you’ll be looking over your shoulder while you’re doing it.

“Deck My Balls” – Afroman

How many other holiday songs do you know that open with the line “Lick my balls with lots of salvia/fa la la la/la la la la?” This is only one of the many obscene gems you get from this song. You won’t find any mention of holiday cheer, spending time with the family, or giving back on this song. Instead, talks about baby gangstas, selling weed, getting over the on the system, flunking classes, and hooking up with some hot chicks. It’s what you expect from an Afroman song. What’s unexpected is not only was he so popular that he got his own Christmas album, but that he released a second one two years later.

“Christmas Unicorn” – Sufjan Stevens

What is this song even? Is he being extremely philosophical or just stringing together a bunch of nonsense? It probably doesn’t matter because we’re all the Christmas Unicorn after all.

There are a lot more weird Christmas songs out there. Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Michael Jackson Goes Heavy Metal

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Though the world lost Michael Jackson nearly a decade ago, his music is still widely celebrated all over the world. Jackson’s music had a wide impact all across music, including the most unlikely genre, metal. For a pop star, Jackson has a lot of heavy metal fans to his name, which makes sense considering how often he incorporated rock into his music. But most metal covers do nothing more than add in some loud guitars and screaming vocals. Fortunately, there are a good amount of covers that make the song into something else entirely. To celebrate what would’ve been Jackson’s 60th birthday, let’s take a look at these kick ass Michael Jackson metal covers that’ll get your fists pumping in the air.

“Beat It” – John 5

John 5 is a madman on the guitar, whose laid down intricate riffs for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Considering his riffs are ferocious, you know his Michael Jackson cover is going to be good. The guitarist included his version of “Beat It” on his 2012 album God Told Me To as a tribute to the late pop star. The instrumental track features John 5 playing everything from the main riff to the core melody on guitar. He even replicates some of Jackson’s vocal flourishes on the guitar. He keeps the badass nature of the song intact while showing off his impressive guitar skills.

“Give In to Me” – Soto

Soto released their version of Jackson’s 1991 hit in 2016. The song was already rock infused with Slash on guitar, but Soto takes the song in a darker direction. The intro sounds more somber than the original; you get an overwhelming sense of sadness hearing it. Jeff Soto’s vocal delivery is powerful and haunting, whereas Jackson’s is more anguished and angry. Even the music more intense; the crunching guitars and pounding drums give the song a heavier, morose vibe. It’s a great metal interpretation of the track, especially since it’s not a one to cover.

“Dirty Diana” – Evanescence

Featuring Steve Stevens on guitar, this song already had roots in rock, which is why it’s a popular choice for rock and metal acts. Yet, none of the covers are as chilling or beautiful as this version. The song begins with gentle keys that gives off this haunting tone. You don’t realize what they’re performing until Amy Lee starts singing. She builds up momentum with thing steadily getting gritty until the explosive chorus when the dirty guitars and pummeling drums kick in. But the highlight of the cover is Lee’s performance. She sings with so much power and ferocity it’s like she’s stabbing every line with a knife. Listening to her sing, it’s enough to give you chills.

“Smooth Criminal” – Leo Moracchioli

Alien Ant Farm blew people’s minds when they showed how well Michael Jackson translated to rock music. Their version is still considered one of the best Jackson covers, but this rendition by Youtuber Leo Moracchioli blows it out of the water. This one-man band cranks everything up and gives us a brutal version of this Bad single. The guttural vocals, crunching guitars, pounding drums turns this pop song into a gritty metal anthem. He even puts his own stamp on it with his own searing guitar solo making it stand out from other covers. Whereas the Alien Ant Farm cover makes you jump around, this version makes you want to mosh. Moracchioli is an absolute powerhouse, who regularly puts a metal spin on pop songs. If you want to hear more, check out his version of “Bad.”

“Speed Demon” – Xerath

This song kicks ass, plain and simple. It’s another Jackson single most people don’t cover. Most Jackson covers are already rock based, so it’s easy to down tune the guitars, throw in a solo, and add some screaming vocals. But Xerath turns this song into an aggressive, in your face anthem. They transform the main melody into a searing riff, yet it still has this undeniable groove to it. As soon as that opening riff kicks in, you can’t help but headbang. The screaming vocals are extreme; it sounds like Richard Thomson is ripping his throat to shreds. You never thought a Michael Jackson song could be this intense. A cover like this makes you realize how versatile Jackson’s music was.

“Thriller” – Koritni

No matter what you think about Michael Jackson it’s hard to dislike “Thriller.” It’s a favorite among metal bands to cover, but most renditions are boring doing nothing more than adding beefed-up guitars and screaming vocals. While Australian rock band Koritni’s version isn’t the greatest; their version “Thriller” is at least exciting. There’s something exhilarating about hearing the iconic opening on an electric guitar. The vocals are a bit exaggerated and hammy, but they give the song a rousing makeover. It’s sure to please metal and Jackson fans alike.

“They Don’t Care About Us” – Saliva

Rock band Saliva covered Jackson’s 1995 single for their tenth album, Loves, Lies, & Therapy. The music is the best part here. The song was already intense, but the added guitars and the fiery solo adds a new heaviness to the track. As for the vocals, they aren’t as powerful as Jackson’s. When Jackson sang it he was tired, angry, and fed up with the way people and the media treated him due to the allegations lobbied against him. Bobby Amaru sounds fine, but there’s no fire in his voice. This version doesn’t have the same feeling coming from Saliva, but in terms of music and performance, they at least do a good job.

“Scream” – Annisokay

In 2016, post-hardcore band Annisokay released an EP of Michael Jackson covers titled Annie Are You Okay? And it’s actually pretty good. Their versions of “Beat It” and “Thriller” are intense, but it’s their cover of “Scream” that stands out. Not only is it a song that’s rarely covered, they take the song’s main riff and turns it on its head. The grinding guitars and pummeling drums give it an abrasive sound while the growling vocals add a new ferocity. With how in your face it is, it pulls you into the song. The vocals are kind of weak, but Christoph Wieczorek and Kiarely Castillo don’t sound terrible. Their vocals just don’t demand the same prowess and command as Michael and Janet. They did leave in Michael’s scream from the original, which is a nice touch.

“Beat It” – Raintime

Imagine if Dream Theater covered Michael Jackson. That’s what this cover is like. Raintime released this cover on their second album, Flies & Lies in 2007. This version sets itself apart from the countless others with its prog-metal influence. While the iconic guitar riff and the spiraling solo are still there, they make sure to incorporate dancing keys throughout. They even put in a keyboard solo before the main solo. Whereas the John 5 version translates the entire song, melody and all, on guitar, this version turns it into a full-blown metal affair. It’s loud, filled with dirty crunchy riffs, and snarling vocals to give it a new flavor.

There are lots of metal Micheal Jackson covers out there, so which ones did I miss? What are you favorite Jackson covers? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Songs Recorded in a Different Language

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Back when releasing singles meant more than just posting a link, it was common for artists to record their songs in different languages. Most of them were region exclusive, making it a treasure trove for collectors. Plus, it was a nice treat for international fans. The practice isn’t as common today, but once in a while, contemporary artists will flex their language skills. Here are just a handful of artists who recorded songs in another language.

“Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu”/“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” – Michael Jackson

This duet between Michael Jackson and Siedah Garret was the debut single from 1987’s Bad and was the first in a string of five number one singles for the singer. A special edition 12” single featured a Spanish re-recording of the track dubbed “Todo Mi Amore Ers Tu.” The song sounds just as sappy as the English version, but with more cringe inducing pronunciations. While the hook sounds just as pretty as the original, Jackson and Garret sound a bit awkward on the rest of the song. Then again, it’s the first time Jackson recorded a song in Spanish. They also recorded a French version, which sounds much better. The song seems better suited for French than Spanish, but at least these versions aren’t terrible.

“Gone” – Nsync

Nsync fans may remember the Spanish version of “This I Promise You,” but this version of “Gone” flew under the radar. And it sounds just as good, if not better, than the original. While their vocal delivery is a bit stilted, you can tell they’re not comfortable with the language, their harmonies are on point. They actually sound great singing in Spanish. Justin still gives a powerful vocal delivery filled with all the hurt and anguish of the original. The Spanish version of “This I Promise You” is solid, but this version of “Gone” is far better. It’s a shame it wasn’t as popular as the former song. Though it makes you wonder how other Nsync songs would sound in Spanish. How about a Spanish version of “It’s Gonna Be Me?”

“Mickey” – Toni Basil

“Mickey” is one of those baffling one hit wonders. Why was this annoying song ever a hit? And why can’t you stop singing it? It’s one of those songs you hate but will get stuck in your head all day as soon as someone mentions it. For the alternate 12” single, Basil recorded the song in Spanish. And yes, it’s just as annoying. Admittedly, it’s not as aggravating as the English version, but something about it still gets under your skin. Maybe it’s the in-your-face pep rally vibe. Or how Basil keeps repeating Mickey throughout the song. Or because it’s just an awful song no matter what language it’s in.

“Nunca Te Haré Llorar”/“I’ll Never Break Your Heart” – Backstreet Boys

Boy bands recording their big hits in Spanish was a strange phenomenon. But when you think about it, it makes sense. They have fans all over the world, so why not do something special for their non-English followers? BSB added to the trend with a Spanish version of “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” They actually don’t sound bad; their vocals still sound sweet and smooth. And it’s good to know the song is still sappy and cheesy in another language. They also recorded a Spanish version of “Anywhere for You,” but it’s not as good. Hearing Nick Carter trying so hard to enunciate is painful.

“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder

“My Cherie Amour” is one of those timeless love songs. It’s sweet, easy going, and has a simple, yet unforgettable hook. When it was released in 1969 it charted at number 4 on the Billboard Pop and R&B singles chart. Now, it’s one of Wonder’s most iconic songs. It was so popular, Wonder re-recorded it in Spanish and Italian. Wonder handles both versions well having a pretty good grasp on each language. Both versions still sound as sweet and beautiful as the original. Considering the title, you’d think he’d do a French version. It’s never too late for him to try.

“Veras”/“You’ll See” – Madonna

Madonna has always flirted with Spanish culture ever since her days of visiting “La Isla Bonita.” So it’s no surprise that she recorded her 1995 single “You’ll See” in Spanish. Translated by Argentine singer/songwriter Paz Martinez her voice sounds beautiful, yet haunting. This version of the song still has the chilling, heartbreaking tone as the original. The Spanish lyrics paired with the swirl of Latin guitars complete the bittersweet mood. It’s kind of romantic, but there’s still something sad about it. Madonna later recorded “What It Feels Like For a Girl” in Spanish along with a collaboration with Ricky Martin entitled “Be Careful with My Heart,” which sounds like a strange duet, but actually works quite well.

“Can’t Change Me” – Chris Cornell

The debut single from Chris Cornell’s solo album, Euphoria Morning, received a French version for Japanese, European, and deluxe versions of the record. While his French is a little spotty, his voice still has the same power, emotion, and drive found in the original. He sounds beautiful in this version and his voice will still give you chills. Though it is a bit weird that part of the bridge is in English. The song was translated by Alexis Lemoine, so maybe it was a style choice. It takes you out of the song for a bit, but overall it’s a fantastic reminder of why Cornell was one of rock’s best singers.

“Do Do Do De Da Da Da” – The Police

For a special 7” edition of this single, The Police recorded this song in both Spanish and Japanese. While the Spanish version isn’t bad, the Japanese recording stands out. Japanese can be a difficult language to learn, so a lot of artists opt for an easier language if they want to re-record their songs. Yet, Sting does a pretty decent job here. Sure, he sounds and a bit unnatural, like he’s a first year Japanese student, but he doesn’t sound terrible. Still, it’s better than his new album with Shaggy.

“Helden”/“Heroes” – David Bowie

David Bowie’s groundbreaking single “Heroes” was recorded in English, French, and German. Every version is fantastic, yet each one has a different feel to it. The original is filled with a sense of melancholy while the French version is beautiful and kind of romantic. The German version is bursting with emotion and finds Bowie practically shouting at the top of his lungs by the song’s end. Each version is exciting and has a timeless quality to it. It really shows off Bowie’s talent and how great his crossover appeal was.

“Mi Refljo”/“My Reflection”– Christina Aguilera

In 2000, Christina Aguilera released her second album and her first Spanish album dubbed Mi Reflejo. The record featured cuts from her debut album, like “I Turn To You” and “Genie in a Bottle” recorded in Spanish. But this single from the Mulan soundtrack is one of the best from the album. Whether it’s in Spanish or English, the song is still beautiful and heartbreaking. The way she hits her notes on this version still gives you chills. Even if you can’t understand Spanish, the power of her voice and the emotion she puts behind every word is enough to make you cry. But if you’re looking for another Spanish Aguilera song that won’t choke you up, “Ven Conmigo (Solamente Tú)” is a good choice.

“Boom Clap” – Charli XCX

For the Japanese edition of her second album, Sucker, Charli XCX re-recorded “Break the Rules” and her hit single “Boom Clap” in Japanese. Surprisingly, both songs translate very well and the former actually sounds like it could be by a J-pop girl group. Of course, her Japanese skills aren’t the strongest, but she does a fine job. The songs keep their upbeat vibe and the hook on “Boom Clap” is still so infectious, you’ll find yourself singing the Japanese version in no time, even if you don’t know what she’s saying. Since recording singles in another language isn’t as popular as it used to be, it’s cool to see an artist like Charli XCX do something like this for her fans, especially those in Japan.

“Llámame”/“Call Me” – Blondie

This iconic track received a Spanish recording for a special 12” single meant for release in Mexico and some South American countries. It was later released in the US and the UK and was featured on the 1993 compilation Blonde and Beyond. For the most part, this version is spot on, even Debbie Harry sounds decent singing in Spanish. But things get clunky around the hook which finds her repeating “call me” in English. It’s like the translators decided “Llámame” didn’t sound as catchy and stuck with the original.

“Héroe”/“Hero” – Mariah Carey

No matter what you think about Mariah Carey, she has a killer voice. Her powerful vocals and those impossible high notes she hits are enough to give you chills. She brings that same talent to the Spanish version of “Hero.” This version was recorded for the international release of her album, Music Box, and was translated by Jorge Luis Piloto. The song is gorgeous and Carey sounds confident while singing in Spanish. This version even charted on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs. She’d later record “Open Arms” and “My All” in Spanish, but after a mistranslation snafu with the latter song, it seems like we won’t be hearing sing in another language for a while.

There are a lot more artists who recorded in another language so which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

10 Bizarre Musical Projects You Didn’t Know About

Sometimes when you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, you want to try something different. Our favorite artists and bands go through the same things. You often hear about artists wanting to break free from their established sound and do something new and out of the box. Sometimes it can produce successful projects that show another side of an artist you thought you knew. And other times it’s a spectacular failure. So let’s look at ten weird musical projects you may not have known about. Not all of them are failures, but they’ll make you see these artists in a different light.

10. Damon Albarn Writes an Opera

Considering how many projects Damon Albarn has created, him writing an opera doesn’t sound that shocking. In 2011, he teamed up with theatre director Rufus Norris for the production Dr Dee: An English Opera. The opera is based on the life of John Dee, who was a medical and scientific advisor to Elizabeth I. Originally, the production was meant to be a collaboration between Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and graphic novelist Alan Moore. It played at the Palace Theatre in Manchester in July 2011 and was received relatively well. The soundtrack to the opera was later released in 2012 and honestly, it doesn’t sound too different from his other material. While the release features traditional operatic tracks, other songs sound like they’re from his solo album. They’re spacey, kind of weird, yet beautiful. Maybe he’ll work on a Gorillaz opera next. Actually, that would be pretty awesome.

9. Beastie Boys Go Country

Unlike the other entries on this list, this album was made completely in jest. In 1999, the Beastie Boys recorded a full country album dubbed Mike D’s Greatest Country Hits. They never intended it for a wide release. Rather it was a weird gift for their family and friends. In the liner notes to The Sounds of Science, Adam Yauch explained the origin of the album as Mike D losing his memory due to being hit in the head and believing he was a country singer. “The psychologists told us that if we didn’t play along with Mike’s fantasy, he could be in grave danger. Finally, he came back to his senses. This song (“Railroad Blues”) is one of the many that we made during that tragic period of time.” It has a classic good ‘ol country vibe ala Conway Twitty, heavy twangs and all. Even though the songs are clearly jokes (“Sloppy Drunk”, “Don’t Let the Air Out My Tire”) a lot of country songs are strange, so in a way, they fit right in. You can listen to the entire LP on Youtube. And whatever happened to Country Mike? According to Mike D, he’s homeless.

8. Aretha Franklin Gets Disco Fever

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul who can do no wrong…expect she did by going Disco with La Diva. In the 70s many artists went disco for a spell from Paul McCartney to KISS. So it’s not exactly weird for Franklin to jump on the bandwagon. But since it was around the time Disco died out, it wasn’t her finest output and ended being a commercial flop. Selling under 75,000 units, it’s still her lowest selling album in her entire Atlantic Records career. Yet, the album isn’t terrible. It’s filled with sappy and generic disco songs prevalent during the era. It seems this record was released at the wrong time. Perhaps if it came out during disco’s peak it would’ve been better received. But seeing as disco was dying out, the album seems like a sad attempt to cash in on a dying trend.

7. Serj Tankian Gets Jazzy with Jazz Is Christ

 

Whenever you think of Serj Tankian the first thing that comes to mind is the heavy, intense music of System of a Down. And while he’s experimented a bit with his solo releases, jazz is the last thing you’d expect to hear from him. But that’s exactly where he went. In 2013 he released the album Jazz-iZ Christ with a group of the same name. Featuring pianist Tigran Hamasyan, flautist Valeri Tolstov, and trumpet player Tom Duprey, the largely instrumental album finds the rocker mixing jazz with elements of rock, electronic, and world music. It’s definitely a weird experience, but it doesn’t sound that bad. It does have the mellow flow of Jazz, but thanks to the blend of other genres it keeps you on your toes. It was a pretty successful release and shows the wide range Tankian has as a musician. Though I’m sure people would prefer a new SOAD record at this point.

6. Garth Brooks Confuses the World with Chris Gaines

Garth Brooks is one of country’s biggest superstars, if not the biggest. Even if you don’t like country music chances are you know one of his songs. He had a slew of hits and multi-platinum albums during his peak in the 90s. But not everything he touched went gold – remember Chris Gaines? Back in 1999, Brooks introduced this “edgy” alter ego to the world and released his only album The Life of Chris Gaines. Featuring Brooks doing his best Savage Garden impression, the album spawned one hit “Lost In You.” As you can guess, the project was a flop yet it wasn’t terrible. It was just weird. Not only did the album receive mixed reviews, fans were confused as hell. Was it a joke? Was it really Garth Brooks? Has he gone crazy? They even made a Behind the Music episode for the persona. Just listen to Brooks explain Gaines’ origins and try not to be confused. Turns out, Brooks planned the persona for a movie he was meant to star in called The Lamb. It didn’t happen. After the fiasco he back to country music. He’s good at it, so he should stick with it.

5. Paul Banks Release a Weird, Hip Hop Infused Mixtape

Paul Banks is better known as the monotone, Ian Curtis-eqsue frontman for Interpol. Banks has picked up various side projects, including a solo career, but his strangest is the 2013 mixtape Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed to Be. There’s so much weirdness packed into this release you’re not sure where to start. Banks handles production and the actual music, which sounds generic and low quality. As for vocals, rappers like Mike G, Talib Kweli, and High Prizm handle the actual rapping – a smart move on Banks’ part. Though, admittedly, having Banks rap on these tracks may have made the mixtape worthwhile. The release was meant to be a pre-release bonus for his second solo album Banks, but it was released a year later. It seems like Banks is genuinely interested in rap as he teamed up with RZA for the project Banks & Steelz, which surprisingly, was received pretty well.

4. Snoop Dogg Becomes Snoop Lion

People weren’t sure what to make of Snoop Dogg’s reincarnation in 2013. After a documentary dubbed Reincarnated, Snoop introduced his new persona Snoop Lion along with his new Rastafarian lifestyle. The album Reincarnated came out the same year and features Snoop doing his best Reggae impression while singing about smoking weed. Well, at least some things never change. To be fair, Snoop Lion isn’t terrible, but it’s still not great. The album was met with mixed reviews, yet oddly enough was nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. What a slap in the face for actual reggae artists. Seeing as Snoop released his latest album, Neva Left, under Snoop Dogg, it’s safe to say things are back to normal.

3. Tommy Lee Attempts Nu-Metal

Since hair metal died out in the 90s with the onslaught of grunge, Motley Crue wasn’t at their peak during the era. After some less than stellar albums, drummer Tommy Lee left the band in 1999 and formed Methods of Mayhem his attempt at a rap/rock band. The band released their self-titled album, which went gold and actually received decent reviews. Lead single “Get Naked” received moderate airplay on MTV, which is hard to believe since it’s terrible. Lee shouldn’t be allowed to rap because it’s a mess. And the band as a whole is just generic “hardcore” music and lame lyrics trying to cash in on the “nu-metal” trend at the time. Now, people realize just how bad the band was. Everyone except Tommy Lee. In 2009, he reformed the band with a new lineup and released the album A Public Disservice Announcement. Luckily, he doesn’t rap as much and sticks with something that’s supposed to be singing.

2. Pat Boone Goes Metal…Kind Of

Pat Boone makes the kind of music that gets finger snapping and toes tapping….if you’re over 65. Back in the day, Boone was a Renaissance man appearing in movies, TV shows, being a spokesman, a motivational speaker, and a singer. His music is safe and non-threatening, but in 1997 Boone made the bold decision to go metal in the lamest way possible. In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy features the singer covering metal hits like “You Got Another Thing Coming” and “Crazy Train” in a jazz/big band style, which makes the album even weirder. The covers aren’t necessarily terrible, just confusing as all hell. He sounds like a grandfather when singing “Enter Sandman” and “Holy Diver.” It’s like he wanted to make non-threatening metal for people who don’t actually like metal. If that wasn’t bad enough, the album art shows the then 63-year old wearing a vest and chain. Instead of looking metal he looks like a real-life version of that Ken doll that definitely wasn’t gay.

1. Dee Dee Ramone Reinvents himself as Dee Dee King

Dee Dee Ramone will always be remembered for The Ramones, one of the most influential punk rock bands. But his stint as a rapper will forever haunt him. It sounds like a bad joke but the punk rocker took up rapping in 1989. What started as showing up to Ramones rehearsals in hip-hop gear turned into a weird side project. Under the name Dee Dee King, he released the LP Standing in the Spotlight. It’s almost too painful to listen to. Songs like “Funky Man” and “German Kid” sound like your dad rapping because it’s “hip” and “cool” with the kids. The songs are laughably bad talking about how he’s half German or singing about how the Mash Potato will make your “body move.” He even proclaims he’s a master at hip-hop. At the time Dee Dee said he felt a connection with the underdog spirit of the genre. Later, an older, wiser Dee Dee realized it probably wasn’t the best career move. After the album flopped he went back to the Ramones and all was right with the world.

Which of these bizarre projects is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!