Madonna

Rank the Videos: Madonna 1996 – 2002

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Following one of her most controversial periods, which saw the release of the Sex coffee table book and Erotica, Madonna toned things down considerably in light of the backlash. This continued in the mid-90s in an effort to convince director Alan Parker to cast her in the starring role of Evita. After she landed the role along with a Golden Globe for her performance, she reinvented herself once again embracing her spiritual side. This led to one of her most unique and successful eras. Let’s take a look back at some of her most ambitious and dull videos of the era.

“Frozen” (1998)

Around this time Madonna became interested in spiritualism and mysticism, which she used as a basis for this video. Sporting a gorgeous Gothic look, the singer is in the desert, gracefully moving her hands covered in mehndi, as she tries to reach her cold lover. Directed by Chris Cunningham, the clip features some great, eerie visuals, like Madonna falling and shattering into a flock of birds, splitting herself into three, and transforming into a dog. The whole thing is hypnotizing especially with the intricate movements of her hands and arms. It’s a departure from everything she’d done before and it gained the adoration of critics and fans alike. The imagery is visually stunning and so haunting it both fascinated and creeped me out the first time I saw it. Still a stellar video 21 years later.

“What It Feels Like For a Girl” (2001)

Directed by her then-husband Guy Ritchie, Madonna recreates Grand Theft Auto in real life. The action-packed video is nothing but the singer raising hell and wreaking havoc wherever she goes. It starts with her hotwiring a car and stealing an old woman from a nursing home. From there she drives recklessly, uses a stun gun to mug someone at an ATM, fucks with the cops by spraying water pistols at them, and ruins a street hockey game by driving into it. She then steals another car, runs over the owner, and goes out in a blaze of glory by crashing into a pole. The video caused a lot of controversy due to its violent nature. Many thought it was excessive and glorified violence. Some also called it shocking and disturbing. Madonna fought back saying it’s acting out a fantasy. Even though she’s acting badly and committing all sorts of crimes, it’s still a thrilling video that stands out for its cinematic quality.

“Nothing Really Matters” (1999)

Inspired by the 1997 novel Memoirs of a Geisha, this video features a lot of weird, surreal imagery. Wearing a red Kimono designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, Madonna twists and dances in a jerky manner as she sings the song which was inspired by her daughter. Apparently, she did her own choreography and it shows – it’s kind of awkward. But things get weird when Madonna and the other dancers twitch and shudder holding bags of water, which is supposed to represent materialism. The way some of the dancers begin floating, scream, and rolling their eyes in the back of their head is freaky. It’s one of those videos that tries way too hard to have deep symbolism. The whole thing is confusing, but I still enjoy it for its creepy imagery.

“Don’t Tell Me” (2000)

Only Madonna can make country Western attire look so cool. Madonna appears to be walking through a Western setting, but the camera pans back to show her walking on a conveyor belt in front of a green screen. Madonna and her dancers do a bit of line dancing but give it a modern update with lots of gyrating hips. There’s also a lot of sand they keep throwing around, which they probably weren’t happy about later. The clip ends with a shot of a cowboy riding a Skewbald horse who gets tossed off and gets up again. It’s not a flashy video, but the cool choreography and Madonna’s S&M take on cowboy attire make give it a stylish flair. It’s a cool looking video that launched people all over to buy cowboy hats and tighter fitting flannel shirts. Hell, even I had one. It seems Bret Michaels didn’t get the memos that the hat trend is over.

“Beautiful Stranger” (1999)

Typically, I think videos for songs featured in movies are boring. It’s usually nothing but a bland performance clip mixed with footage from the film. Luckily, “Beautiful Stranger” goes beyond that. Instead of shoving movie clips in your face, it creates a fun, silly scenario in the Austin Powers universe. Here, Madonna plays a “master of disguise” who is responsible for seducing and taking out spies. In steps Austin Powers who is sure he can handle the situation. Of course, he falls for Madonna’s whims and fantasizes the two of them being naughty in his car. With a flirtatious Madonna and a hilarious Michael Meyers, the video is sexy and funny proving that there was a time when Austin Powers wasn’t stale and clichéd.

“Drowned World/Substitute for Love” (1998)

We all know how vicious and disgusting the paparazzi can be thanks to shows like TMZ, but since that wasn’t around in the late 90s, Madonna shows us how awful they can be. The singer is followed by the pap and rabid fans as she leaves her home and arrives at a theater. Just when she thinks she can find some solace, someone snaps her picture. Things get worse when she arrives at a party. The faces of those around her begin to distort and wrap causing her to run away only to be met with more resistance. She finally reaches home where her daughter is waiting for her comforting embrace. Madonna gives the camera one last hard look and sings “This is my religion” while holding her daughter. Though you wouldn’t think it, the video got some flak for the scenes where she’s running from the pap on bikes, which many compared to Princess Diana’s death the year before. It was later revealed the video had nothing to do with her death. Despite this, it’s still one of her underrated videos that shows us the downsides of being a celebrity.

“Die Another Day” (2002)

With every new Bond film comes a new theme song and Madonna got that honor in 2002. While the song is subpar, the video is thrilling. It opens with her being tortured, beaten up, and nearly executed by a group of villains. The rest of the video is a grueling battle with herself. The best part comes when the two Madonna’s duke it out in a room filled with references to the other Bond films: a mannequin painted gold, the bond cat, and a replica of a bond babe. There’s even a guy sporting the same grill as Jaws. It remains the second most expensive video ever made with Michael Jackson holding on to the top spot. While I don’t think it’s her best of the era, it’s still exciting and has some fun easter eggs for James Bond fans.

“Ray of Light” (1998)

“Ray of Light” marked another huge moment for the Queen of Reinvention. The video is primarily made of footage of the singer gyrating on screen and people going about their daily lives in a blur of motion. It ends with her dancing away the night in a club looking liberated and loving life. The clip stands out for its use of time-lapse technology, which gives it a dizzying feeling. It may not be her best video, but it’s one of her most creative and it didn’t go unrecognized. That year it took home five VMAs including Video of the Year.

“The Power of Good-Bye” (1998)

Directed by Matthew Rolston, this gorgeously shot video shows Madonna in the midst of an emotional breakup. Aside from footage of her singing, we see her and her lover, played by Croatian actor Goran Visnjic playing a game of chess. She destroys the chess board and ultimately leaves despite his attempts to make her stay. The final scene shows her sitting on the beach. Though it’s not one of her stronger videos, it looks beautiful and has a dramatic story. Still, I had to laugh at the cheesy smoldering looks to the camera and the cliched symbolism. It feels too phony at times, but it’s not bad.

“Music” (2000)

I was never a fan of this video. Everything about the video is gaudy from Madonna’s look to Ali G’s lame attempt at comedy. Madonna and friends hang out in the back of a limo, driven by a virtually unknown Ali G, as they party and visit strip clubs. In the middle of the action, a cartoon segment appears where she turns into a superhero and begins fighting bad guys. Everything about this video feels sleazy from the cheesy outfits to Madonna’s greasy look. It’s supposed to show off her rebellious, devil may care, but everything is so unappealing instead. The most interesting thing about the video is how the singer was pregnant with her second child.

“Another Suitcase in Another Hall” (1996)

This is the performance footage taken from Evita and it features Madonna with a dark hairdo getting kicked out of her home and drowning her sorrows in a bar figuring out her next move. She also has a mini duet with Antonio Banderas, who plays the bartender. Later on, it seems like she does to find a job only to be rejected. She leaves, holding her head high, and tries to find another home. Out of all the videos released for the movie, this is the least mind-numbing. It has an interesting plot, but is still pretty dull, unless you like the movie.

“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” (1996)

Madonna originally recorded this song for her 1984 album Like a Virgin. Since it’s one of her favorite ballads, she later remixed and re-recorded the song for her Something to Remember compilation. Madonna sings the song in an elegant empty room. As the camera slowly zooms in on her, her performance gets more emotional as she twists and turns. It’s gorgeously shot, and Madonna looks beautiful, but it’s so bland. I can appreciate how it looks, but it’s not very entertaining.

“You Must Love Me” (1996)

If you thought most of Madonna’s videos from the mid-90s were very simple, tame, and dull, they’re nothing compared to the ones made to promote Evita. To win the role of Eva Peron, Madonna reinvented herself in a more modest, elegant image. Continuing to push this image, Madonna sings passionately next to a piano with clips from the movie are mixed in. It’s another beautiful looking video, but unless you enjoyed the film, it’s quite boring. It’s a typical music video made to promote a movie. There’s nothing exciting about this clip.

“Don’t Cry For Me” (1996)

Here’s yet another video from Evita. Madonna sings as Eva Peron from a hotel window to the people of Argentina waiting for her below. While her vocal performance is impressive, the video is not unless you’re a fan of the musical, which I’m not. I was never interested in this film and I find all the videos made to promote it tediously boring. Not to mention, I don’t care for Madonna’s acting though critics were even impressed with her Evita performance. Unfortunately, her successful acting streak wouldn’t last long as her next starring role proved.

“American Pie” (2000)

This boring is as dull and vapid as Madonna’s cover. It’s mostly her singing and dancing in front of an American flag while wearing a tiara. The rest of the video features a diverse group of people in front of the flag including farmers, kids, firefighters, bodybuilders, and gay couples. The most entertaining bit is when an old woman in a leotard begins wrestling with another woman. Otherwise, the video is just boring. It’s well-meaning with its message of we’re all Americans, but it’s cliché and dull. Not to mention the cover itself is bland. It’s almost as bad as Sherly Crow’s cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” There’s another version of the video that features different cuts and a lesbian kiss. This is yet another video made to promote a film, The Next Best Thing starring Madonna and Rupert Everett, who is also in the video.

There are more Madonna videos to look at, so stay tuned for the next part of Rank the Videos: Madonna. And make sure to check out part one and two if you missed them. Let me know which one of these are your favorite or least favorite in the comments.

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Rank the Videos – Madonna: 1990 – 1996

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Back in 2015, I revisited all of Madonna’s videos to celebrate seeing her in concert for the first time. Unfortunately, time slipped away from me and I didn’t get a chance to finish ranking her videos. Okay, so maybe I just forgot. Either way, it’s time to pick up where we left off. The 90s were a challenging time for Madonna. It’s the period that saw her push the boundaries of sex, which caused a huge backlash. As a result, the era features some of her most controversial and some of her most tame videos. So let’s take a look back at Madonna’s most risque period and rank these clips from best to worst.

“Vogue” (1990)

Madonna has had a number of memorable videos during her career, but this is the definitive one. This beautifully shot back and white clip is dedicated both to old Hollywood and the underground voguing scene. Madonna looks glamorous as she lists the biggest actors of yesteryear, like Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, and Fred Astaire. Meanwhile, backup dancers pull do their best voguing while looking dapper in fresh suits. The entire video does a great job of recreating the look and vibe of 1930s Hollywood. And it’s timeless. It’s always been one of my favorites just for how gorgeous she looks. This has got to be one of her greatest videos both for its look and just because the song is so damn good.

“Justify My Love” (1990)

When this premiered, Madonna was no stranger to controversy as she previously stirred up trouble with “Like a Prayer,” but this video pushed boundaries to a whole different level. This was also the start of her oversexualized, Sex era. It’s all about exploring, being free, and enjoying your sexuality even if goes against the norm. Images of BDSM, orgies, male on male, girl on girl, doms and divas run abound as Madonna seduces and gyrates against her leather clad lover. Featuring many androgynous and ambiguous people, the video was ahead of its time showing everything isn’t as black and white as society wants to believe. The clip ends with an energized Madonna leaving the hotel room laughing and fulfilled. MTV swiftly banned the video, which prompted the singer to release it as a VHS single. It has since gone down in history as one of the most scandalous and steamy videos. But little did the world know that Madonna wasn’t finished exploring her sexual realms.

“Take a Bow” (1994)

This beautifully shot video sees Madonna yearning for her lover, real-life bullfighter Emilio Munoz. The entire video is a parallel between Madonna and Munoz’s abusive affair and his bullfight. We see both of them getting ready, making a grand entrance, and the bloodshed both from the bull and Madonna herself.  Other shots include Madonna in sexy underwear while she gets a little too friendly with her television, which is broadcasting Munoz’s image. Because of the vintage style and the way it was shot, it’s one of her most memorable videos.

“Human Nature” (1995)

Madonna took quite a beating for her over-sexualized image. This video and song was her response to her critics who thought she went too far. The singer gives her haters a big fuck you while she struts around in a catsuit. The video is filled with bondage and S&M images, such as the singer tied to a chair, her wearing what looks like a gimp mask, and her brandishing a whip, which she then uses playfully on a dog. All of this is supposed to represent breaking out of restraints and not having any shame. This has always been one of my favorites because of how fierce she is. She’s a complete badass who’s tired of trying to please her harshest critics. This is the strong, badass diva I originally fell in love with. Her tame videos showed she knew how to be modest and vulnerable, but here she took back her dominating image, which is when she’s at her best.

“Bedtime Story” (1995)

This is Madonna’s weirdest video. It’s even a bit disturbing. It’s filled with many bizarre images that probably have some symbolic meaning, like Madonna giving birth to a flock of doves or the creepy-ass scene where her lips replace her eyes. All these scenarios are supposed to represent various surreal dreams which borrow elements from new age, Sufi, and Egyptian cultures. I always thought the video was unnerving, but it also intrigues me because it’s so different. Many of Madonna’s videos are simple and play up her sexuality, but this one is full of freaky visuals to shock viewers and get them thinking. Even if you don’t get all the imagery, you’ll get hypnotized by the trippy video. Also, is it any surprise that this was directed by Mark Romanek, the director of “Closer?”

“Secret” (1994)

Shot in black and white, this video features Madonna singing in a club, while shots of people in Harlem are mixed in. Throughout are images of drag queens, transvestites, prostitutes and pimps, rebirth, and damnation. Madonna returns to her penchant for playing with religious imagery in a scene where what looks like holy water is dripped onto her forehead. The video ends with her going to her lover’s house where he’s playing with his son, the supposed secret. It’s simple, yet effective. It’s another beautifully shot video with Madonna remaining sexy yet classy. It does a great job spotlighting Harlem and various people who often feel marginalized.

“You’ll See” (1995)

Not only is this an underrated ballad, the video is pretty cool. Serving as a follow up to “Take a Bow,” Madonna and Emilio Munoz reprise their roles as lovers, but this time things are different. Rather than Madonna chasing after him, it’s Munoz that chases Madonna all across the world. In the end, she frees herself from him. There are some gorgeous shots of Madonna singing about being able to make it by herself after all. Another version of the video was shot for the Spanish version of the song “Veras,” which was released only in Latin America. This version features the same scenes from the original interspersed with scenes of Madonna singing in Spanish.

“Deeper and Deeper” (1992)

This 70s inspired video pays tribute to both Andy Warhol and Italian director Luchino Visconti. Madonna’s character is inspired by model and Warhol protégé Edie Sedgwick. Most of the video takes place in a club where Madonna walks around with balloons mixed with shots of her hanging out with her girlfriends, watching a male stripper, and looking pretty bored. But there’s also a weird subplot where Madonna gets entranced and tries to escape a diabolical man. It’s a decent video with several references to the 1970s and Warhol, including a scene where the girls eat bananas, a possible reference to Warhol’s album cover for the Velvet Underground. You may not get all the references and symbolism at first, but at least it’s a fun video.

“I Want You” (1995)

Madonna plays the rejected, vulnerable lover in this clip. Wandering around her apartment in a nightgown, she sits by the phone waiting for someone to call. She goes from anxious worry to fury as she plots the best way to win back her lover. She spends most of the video lying in bed distressed, waiting for the phone to ring. Finally, the phone rings, but as she goes to pick it up, she has a moment of clarity and hangs up. It’s not an exciting video, but it fits the style of the ballad. It also encourages a woman’s strength and independence. It may have been torture, but in the end, she figured she shouldn’t chase after someone who doesn’t want her.

“Erotica” (1992)

People who thought Madonna went too far with “Justify My Love” clearly weren’t ready for “Erotica.” The video is an onslaught of footage from her Sex photo shoot mixed with the singer miming the track while dressed as a dominatrix. Madonna tries to shock us with images of nudity, S&M, and bondage, but at this point, the media grew tired of her antics. A Madonna backlash began both from critics and fans who felt she went too far. Ultimately, you can view the video as one long advertisement for her baffling Sex book, which featured the singer in various comprising positions. Despite her efforts, the video isn’t as enticing or sexy as her previous ones. It’s just uncomfortable and awkward to watch. She’s trying too hard to be shocking. No surprise that MTV banned this video after airing it only three times after hours.

“Bad Girl” (1993)

This is a classic live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse tale. Madonna plays a woman who lives a life of drinking, smoking, and promiscuous sex. As she walks down this dangerous road her guardian angel, played by Christopher Walken, watches over her. But no matter how hard he tries, he can’t save her. She ends up dying at the hands of a lover. The video tries to have this dark tone with the lesson of being careful what you do, but it’s hard to take seriously. The message is heavy-handed. And I can’t get over the scene of Walken dancing – it ruins the tone of the video. At least the video tries to do something different and stands out from her usual clips. But compared to the classics, it’s pretty forgettable.

“Fever” (1993)

With the Powerpoint graphics, various costumes, and lots of dancing this video seems like it was made solely for nightclubs. It’s four minutes of Madonna in different costumes, including a Balinese Idol, and body paint, intense close ups, and lots of gyrating hips. But the actual star of the video is the gold painted muscle man. His overly chiseled body and his aggressive dancing is almost disturbing. On top of that, some of the visuals are so blinding and annoying they’ll give you a headache. After the first minute, I was bored with the video. It seems like something you would put on during a party just to get people on the dance floor.

“This Used to be My Playground” (1992)

Prior to this, Madonna released one of her most controversial videos to date. So how does she follow it up? With a tame, somewhat dull performance video. Most of it is footage of her singing in different photographs while someone flips the photo album pages. This is mixed with footage of the film A League of Their Own, which Madonna was in. It’s not a terrible video but watching someone turn pages for four minutes isn’t very exciting. Rumor has it that the singer stole the idea from Boy George, who used the concept for his 1987 single “To Be Reborn.” At least the movie scenes don’t make up the entire music video. Considering the backlash that followed Sex, it’s understandable why she’d want to tone things down. But I feel this is when Madonna is at her dullest. It’s nice to see a different side to her, but it leads to some forgettable videos.

“Rain” (1993)

This is one of those highly stylized “futuristic” videos that became popular in the 90s. With odd furniture pieces all painted chrome, this is a video within a video as we see Madonna filming the clip for the song mixed with footage of her writing and practicing her moves. The singer looks almost unrecognizable in a cropped black wig, which may be an homage to Liza Minelli. What is interesting about the video is it was filmed entirely in black and white then hand painted with blue tones. Seems like a lot of work for a mediocre clip, but somehow it won two Moonmen at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards.

“I’ll Remember” (1994)

This is another “behind the scenes” video where Madonna records the song in some weird studio while clips from the movie With Honors plays behind her. Meanwhile, she’s directed by producers lurking in the shadows. Eventually, it’s revealed that one of these hidden people is actually Madonna in androgynous gear. Since it was made after her backlash, it’s another tame, boring video. Almost nothing happens. She’s back in the black wig, singing, and holding her headphones, which all musicians seem to do in the studio. A forgettable video for a forgettable movie.

Madonna’s videos don’t end here. Make sure to come back for the fourth part in the Madonna Rank the Videos series. And let me know which one of these videos is your favorite 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!

Playlist: Remembering Prince

April 21, 2016, the world lost one of music’s iconic and talented musicians, Prince. He was truly a legend who left a huge impression on music with his style, songs, and vision. He was a versatile artist who constantly pushed boundaries and challenged perceived notions of music. Since he was bigger than life, even though he only stood 5’3, you don’t picture him working with a lot of other artists or even performing covers. His music is so good, why should he play other people’s songs? But, surprisingly, Prince extended himself to various musicians and created memorable, yet underrated duets. At the same time, he also put his funky, sexy spin on songs you’d never guess he’d play. So let’s remember the late Prince by looking back at some of his most notable duets and covers.

“Love Song” – Madonna + Prince

When listening to Madonna’s landmark album Like a Prayer it’s easy to gloss over this smoldering track. The sexy ballad features the two music icons being seductive with one another. It’s a smooth, sexy track meant to put you in the loving mood. So how did the two end up working together? “We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him, but the only thing I really dug was ‘Love Song’ […]” With its funky groove and steamy lyrics, it’s more of a Prince song. It sounds like something that belongs on one of his albums and doesn’t mesh well with the pure pop of the rest of the album. You would think a song featuring two of the biggest acts of the 80s would get more attention. But the track couldn’t really compete with massive singles “Like a Prayer” and “Dear Jessie.”

“Creep” – Radiohead

You don’t expect someone like Prince to do too many covers, especially considering how many hits he has in his catalog. But during his headlining set at 2008 Coachella, he pulled out a number of them. He played The Beatles’ “Come Together,” Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice,” The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” But the most talked about moment was his blazing cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Though the elements of the original are there, he turns the track into something completely his own. When he pulls out the extended solos and falsetto vocals, it doesn’t even sound like the same song. It’s amazing to listen to especially since he never played any of the band’s songs before. But of course, Prince wasn’t happy when footage of the cover went live online. He ordered the video to be taken down, which Radiohead reverted since it’s their own song.

“Waiting Room” – No Doubt + Prince

This is another unexpected Prince collaboration. Found on No Doubt’s Rock Steady, it’s got a bit of groove, it’s kind of soulful with a dash of synth and pop. Thanks to Prince’s work on the track, it sounds nothing like the band’s previous or later material. Apparently, Prince agreed to work on the track as a favor to the band since Gwen Stefani appeared on his track “So Far, So Pleased.” They sent him the track and he completely rewrote it. His influence can be heard all over the song. If it wasn’t for Stefani’s lead vocals, you would swear it’s a Prince song. It’s one of the weirder, yet satisfying options from No Doubt’s 2001 album.

“Best of You” – Foo Fighters

Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl Half-Time performance was the first time I realized just how versatile and insanely talented he was. We know how hard Prince rock’s his own material, but not too many other songs. That changed when he busted out renditions of “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watch Tower,” and Foo Fighter‘s “Best of You.” You wouldn’t expect to hear falsetto shrills in a Foo Fighters song, but Prince truly made that track along with the others he featured all his own. He infused them with his attitude, flair, and a healthy dose of soul like no one else ever could. Though some people didn’t think he was worthy of handling the show, his performance is still hailed as one of the best in Superbowl history. Watching it now, it still gives you chills, especially when he busts out “Purple Rain” during an epic downpour.

“A Love Bizzare” – Shelia E + Prince

Prince was so unique and had a style unlike any other that his essence pours out of every song he writes. This duet with his protégé Shelia E, features the Purple One on background vocals and on bass. But even though Shelia E is the focus of the song, it’s undeniably a Prince song. With its upbeat funky groove, irresistible hook, and sultry lyrics it could’ve come from any of his albums. Though his contribution is kind of downplayed on the studio version, the live version has his flamboyance all over it. Like so many of his tracks, this one is fun, energetic, and sexy. Then again, what Prince song isn’t sexy?

“Every Day is a Winding Road” Sheryl Crow + Prince

Any artist collaborating with Prince should know once he makes an appearance, he steals the show. That’s what happened during this live collaboration with Sheryl Crow. The two performed a hard-edge version of her hit “Every Day is a Winding Road.” Prince does backup vocals and shreds away on his iconic guitar. Shortly after this performance, Prince recorded his own version of the track for this 1999 album Rav Un2 The Joy Fantastic. If you’re lucky enough to find this version, you’ll find a completely different song. It’s funky, slinky, and downright sexy, which you don’t expect from a Crow song. It’s soulful and makes you want to dance. The cover is so good, Crow should hand it over to Prince to be rightfully his. On the same album, the two collaborate on the track “Baby Knows,” which has this cool rock, funk swing to it. If you want to hear it, you better pick up the record; they’re impossible to find online.

“Why Should I Love You?” – Kate Bush + Prince

Kate Bush is an iconic figure in alt rock. Her music is often dreamy, otherworldly, and elegant. So it’s a bit unexpected to learn she worked with Prince. The song, which appeared on her comeback album The Red Shoes, starts out with an air of whimsy and airy and quickly turns into a Prince jam. Seems to be the usual pattern with Prince collaborations. Apparently, Bush sent him the track back in 1991 so he could add background vocals. He not only added vocals but a lot of instrumentation. Since it sounded so different, Bush wasn’t sure what to do with it. They worked on it for two years trying to make it fit Bush’s sound. Clearly, it didn’t work.

“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell

Prince is known for his sexy, funky style, but on this Joni Mitchell, we get to hear a different side. While it still has an air of sensuality, the track is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an intimate moment with Prince and a piano that’s unforgettable. Hearing his soaring falsetto vocals and the classy tinkling piano keys leave you in awe. We all know Prince was such an amazing guitar player, it’s often easy to forget what a versatile musician he was. This cover shows the beauty and elegance he could add to songs, whether they were his or not. This version is a stark difference from Mitchell’s original folk stylings.

“Love is a Losing Game” – Amy Winehouse + Prince

This haunting and somber track from Amy Winehouse’s final album Back to Black, received the Prince treatment several times live. Footage of this is difficult to find, but luckily, the two eventually teamed up for a powerful rendition of the song. Winehouse joined Prince onstage in 2007 during his final show at London’s O2 Arena. He leaves her to take care of the vocals while he tears it up on guitar. In case you forgot what a badass he is on guitar, you’re quickly reminded on this track. It’s an unforgettable collaboration, though you can’t help but feel a little sad since both musicians passed on unexpectedly.

“Honky Tonk Woman” – Rolling Stones

Prince started performing this song live in 1993, but his version was never officially released. Previously, it could only be found on the Japanese version of The Undertaker. The cover received a wider release when Warner Bros. shared rehearsal footage of Prince performing the track shortly after his death. He turns the song into a scorching number with meaty guitars and a bad ass solo. If you needed more proof of what a genius Prince was at playing guitar, just watch this video where he shreds away with an “I make this look good” look on his face.

“Give Em What they Love” – Janelle Monae + Prince

Prince doesn’t easily hand out compliments and didn’t hide it when he didn’t like someone. But he did admire Janelle Monae, who looked up to him. Luckily, the two worked together for this track from Monae’s second album, The Electric Lady. Not only does Prince play guitar, he also provides co-lead vocals on the track. The song is already is already hot with Monae’s passionate vocals and seductive demeanor. But having Prince sing his signature falsetto makes the track even sexier. Plus, it’s funny to hear Prince utter the term “chicken head.” It’s funky, has a healthy dose of attitude, and makes you feel sexy as hell.

“One of Us” – Joan Osbourne

Prince covered Osbourne’s sole hit for his 1996 album, Emancipation and played it live in concert. With this track, he takes you to church. His soulful delivery, cries for the crowd to join him, and his passionate singing makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a sermon. You want to close your eyes, sway your arm in the air, and shout “preach!” as he’s singing. While there’s nothing wrong with the original, Prince’s version is superior especially with the fiery guitar solo that gives it an extra edge. He even uses the track to take a dig at his former label, Warner Bros. by changing the line “Just a slob like one of us” to “Just a slave like one of us.” This shows if Prince had a problem with you, he’d let you know it in the sassiest way.

“Shhh” – Tevin Campbell

There’s no question about it; Prince was a sexy mother. Just about everything he did dripped with sex. He does the impossible on this Tevin Campbell cover; inject a song that’s about getting in on and make it 100 times dirtier. No, he doesn’t change any lyrics or anything like that. It’s all in his over the top delivery. Hearing his falsetto cries of pleasure you’d swear he was having sex while recording the song. If that wasn’t enough to get you hot and bothered, the blazing guitar solo will do the trick. He takes a typical 90s slow jam and turns it into a sex romp. Only Prince could somehow make a sexy song even sexier.

“Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells 

If you thought Joan Jett made this song rock, you haven’t heard Prince’s version. For the most part, it’s a straightforward cover with Prince being playfully coy during the breakdown of “I think I love you” and blowing kisses into the mic. It’s not until the solo where he makes this song sizzle. In case you needed a reminder what an awesome guitar player he was, Prince make sure you remember with this performance. He makes the guitar burn and blaze like he’s Jimi Hendrix. It leaves you stunned the way he makes the guitar whine, scream, and trill. The cover appeared on his album LOtUSFLOW3R, but it’s his performance of the track on Ellen that gets a nod here.

Which ones of these Prince covers/duets is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

 

Playlist: Worst Grammy Performances

Let’s face it, the Grammys aren’t as good as they used to be. Ratings show this and people all across the internet proclaim it. Though the ceremony may not be what it used to be, it’s still responsible for some of music’s biggest and weirdest moments. Performances from Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Adele, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain are considered the best in Grammy history. But the Grammys don’t always get it right. Sometimes they have some real stinkers. With the Grammys a month away, let’s take a break from remembering the awesome performances and look at some of the worst Grammy performances instead.

“Pants on the Ground” – General Larry Platt (2010)

Remember in 2010 when one man stumbled on the American Idol stage and sang “Pants on the Ground?” It was funny for about a week. But E! and the Grammys thought the odd song was so funny, they invited General Larry Platt to perform on the red carpet. And it’s…something. I don’t know what’s worse seeing General Platt struggling to come up with more lyrics on the spot or the random Rock Band drumset in the background. Watching him hop on one foot while holding a handful of belts, you realize this is the end of the weird phenomenon. Even the people on the red carpet look confused, not knowing what to make of the performance. It’s like watching someone make “Chocolate Rain” jokes in 2017. Hopefully, he didn’t spend all his earnings on more belts.

“Same Love”  – Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, and Madonna (2014)

The Grammys are constantly struggling to stay relevant. They’re still getting off on the unexpected collaborations idea, which leads to great and questionable performances. In 2014, they decided to invite Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to perform “Same Love,” which has a well meaning message of tolerance. But instead of just letting Roger Klotz rap, they decided to wed 33 couples live on stage with Queen Latifah leading the service. There are so many questions with the biggest one being why? When did Queen Latifah get ordained to wed people? Why is Madonna lazily singing “Open Your Heart?” Why the fuck did 33 people just get married at the Grammys? The spectacle is strange, bizarre, and seems more like a ploy for high ratings rather than taking a stand. But I guess the Grammys got what they wanted; it’s something you won’t ever forget.

“Synthesizer Showdown” – Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, and Thomas Dolby (1985)

Back in the 80s, music made entirely with synthesizers was a wild crazy trend. Since it was new at the time the 1985 Grammys dedicated a performance to it. But rather than invite one of the many pioneers of synth music to perform, they threw a bunch of them together for a massive, puzzling performance. Howard Jones, Thomas Dolby, Herbie Hancock, and Stevie Wonder perform bits and pieces of songs you recognize while the rest of it is hard to make it. It starts okay at first with groovy synth beats with an odd robotic voice asking everyone to introduce themselves. But when the track transitions to the upbeat, pop-infused “Go Home” things fall apart. Everything starts to clash and sound sour and Dolby awkwardly moves on stage wondering if he’s even plugged in. He then starts playing the part of wacky conductor as the group finishes, oddly, with “America the Beautiful.” The entire thing is so cringy to sit through. It’s great that the Grammys wanted to recognize synth musicians at a time when no else wanted to, but making them all play together was clearly a bad idea.

“Girl You Know It’s True” – Milli Vanilli (1990)

Milli Vanilli is one of those groups you can’t believe is real. They look like some bad creation from a comedy show. And, yes, they won a Grammy showing that the award show hasn’t known what good music for over 20 years. Though this isn’t the duo’s infamous performance when they were outed for lip synching, this one is pretty terrible. The two do nothing but hop around stage and shuffle their feet in what’s supposed to be dance moves. And if you watch carefully, it’s clear they’re not actually singing. Plus, the song is fucking terrible. As everyone knows, shortly after their questionable Grammy win, they had to give it back when the world found out they were lying. What’s funny about this incident is everyone thinks they got in trouble for lip synching, which is an accepted practice today. But what really got them in hot water was the fact it wasn’t their voices at all. The two could barely speak English, so the record company enlisted Charles Shaw to handle vocals. The duo never recovered from the incident and in 1998 Rob Pilatus died of an accidental drug overdose. A pretty sad end to a pretty terrible band.

“Numb, Encore, & Yesterday” – Jay -Z, Linkin Park, and Paul McCartney (2006)

When Linkin Park and Jay-Z reminded the world that rock and rap mashup to create some pretty kick ass music, everyone flipped. Their collaborative effort, Collision Course, has sold 2 million copies to date. So of course, the Grammys wanted to show them some love. What’s sad about this performance is it’s actually pretty good. Jay-Z and Linkin Park surprisingly sound great together and their performance is strong. It’s when they decide to include the Beatles when things go wrong. Chester Bennington starts singing “Yesterday” and prompts Paul McCartney to step out and join him. And man, does it fucking suck. The two are completely off key and end up clashing notes. It’s almost enough to make your ears bleed. Jay-Z even seems to take a jab at the collab ending the performance by saying “Doesn’t it sound like beautiful music?” No, no it doesn’t.

“Across The Universe” – Slash, Bono, Billie Joe Armstrong, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Tim McGraw, Alicia Keys, and Steven Tyler (2005)

Allstar collaborations seem to only work on a massive scale. Look at “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for successful examples. But it rarely works when it’s ten different artists from various genres for a sloppy tribute. Look at this 2005 performance for reference. As a tribute to John Lennon, a bunch of A-list musicians get together and perform “Across the Universe.” And it’s hard to tolerate. Individually they sound pretty good, when they’re not flubbing the lyrics. But once they start “harmonizing” together, it all goes to shit. Everyone starts singing in different keys while obviously looking at a teleprompter for reference. While Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, and Steven Tyler are off in their own world, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones look downright uncomfortable. They probably knew what a shit show this would be.

“Forget You” – Cee-Lo and Gwenyth Paltrow (2011)

Remember in 2011 when America’s most hated actor Gwyneth Paltrow tried to be a singer for a bit? Everyone realized how horrible it was, except for the Grammys. As if Cee Lo performing the smash hit “Forget You” in a peacock outfit surrounded by muppets wasn’t weird enough, he invites Paltrow on stage. Not only does she have zero singing talent, she awkwardly delivers out of place lines like “I’m tired of yo ass.” It’s hard to sit through the entire thing without cringing. It turned into one of the most talked about moments just because of how awful it was. The Grammys may be all about unimaginable collaborations, but this is one they should’ve passed on.

“The Exorcism of Roman” – Nicki Minaj (2012)

Nicki Minaj has a reputation for being a bit strange, but no one could predict what she would do at the 2012 Grammys. Debuting the new song “Roman Holiday” Minaj went full on exorcist for the performance. It starts with her growling at a priest and ends with her levitating in the air. In between is a bizarre short film where Minaj skitters up the wall in attempts to be scary. Instead, she looks like a raving maniac on stage. Sure, this may have been the point, but rather than being fun, campy, and theatrical the performance comes off as awkward and bad, like a painful b-horror movie. And since it featured religious themes, you know it pissed off the Catholic church. Even the producer of the Grammys hated the performance. Maybe if Minaj didn’t take the performance so seriously it could’ve worked. Otherwise, it’s painful to watch.

“Whaddup” – LL Cool J, Chuck D, Travis Barker, and Tom Morello (2013)

Hey, why don’t we get LL Cool J to perform at the Grammys? If this was the 80s or 90s then it wouldn’t sound so bad. But having LL Cool J rap on the 2013 ceremony isn’t desirable in the least. They even paired him with Chuck D, Travis Barker, and Tom Morlleo and the performance still sucked. The rapper struts across the stage, trying to own the place when clearly, the rap world has moved on without him. They even slapped on a lazy tribute to late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, which was just as lame as the rest of the performance. Cool J is a lame host, why did they think he’d bring an A-game performance?

“Hey Ya” – Outkast (2004)

Remember when “Hey Ya” was so popular even Andrew 3000 got sick of it? So of course the Grammys wanted 3000 to perform the track during the 2004 ceremony. The performance would’ve been another ordinary moments in Grammy history if it wasn’t for one thing: the fucking costumes. For some reason Andre 3000 saw no issue with dressing himself and everyone on stage in stereotypical Native American gear. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they turn the “hey ya” hook into a pseudo Native American chant while the dancers creep out of the smoke filled hut. Everything about this performance is cringy. You just shake your head throughout the entire thing. Rightly so, 3000 didn’t get away with getup forcing CBS to apologize. Somehow this still  hasn’t  taught  celebrities  that  this   isn’t  a  good  idea.

Lemmy Tribute – Hollywood Vampires (2016)

A supergroup featuring Duff Mckagan, Alice Cooper, and Joe Perry sounds rad as all hell. Having Johnny Depp in the band? Eh, that could be cool. So how did they manage to deliver one of the dullest Grammy performances? They took the stage last year and it was one of the low points of the ceremony. Playing “As Bad As I Am” and “Ace of Spades” in tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, they didn’t sound all that bad. But watching them shamble across the stage and hearing Cooper growl the lyrics with little enthusiasm, it seemed like they didn’t want to be there. It’s actually kind of sad to watch. They look like a bunch of old guys trying desperately to hang on to their youth. And what the hell is up with Depp’s mumbling spoken word part? It left plenty of people confused, including Bruno Mars in the crowd, who didn’t seem to understand what was going on. It was a stinker of a television debut and reminds us why supergroups are rarely a good idea.

David Bowie Tribute – Lady Gaga (2016)

Never has a tribute performance drawn as much ire as Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Many felt the performance was underwhelming or just downright cheesy. Gaga, dressed as what’s supposed to be Bowie but looks more like ginger Elvis, performs a medley of the late singer’s hits. While things start out okay, it eventually turns into a terrible impression of Bowie. She hops around stage trying to sound like him in the most awkward way possible. It’s still baffling why Gaga was chosen to provide the tribute. Bowie has tons of peers that would’ve been more than happy to come together with a tribute. Instead, Lady Gaga carries the torch. It doesn’t make any sense. The performance was so bad even Bowie’s son and former drummer hated it. Let’s hope they do something more tasteful for the Prince tribute.

Which Grammy performances do you think are the worst? Let me know which ones I missed in the comments!