Whitney Houston

Playlist: Remembering Chris Cornell

Last month we lost one of the best voices in rock, Chris Cornell. The news came as a shock to fans and those who knew him best. Many are still trying to make sense of the situation and come to terms that he’s gone. He may no longer be with us, but at least we have the gift of his unforgettable music. Not only did he make wonderful music with Soundgarden and on his own, he recorded various covers throughout his career. Whether with Soundgarden or solo, Cornell gave us some of the most chilling and unforgettable covers reminding us why he was a phenomenal singer. To remember Cornell, let’s look at some of his best cover songs.

“Come Together” – Beatles cover from 

Soundgarden takes this psychedelic Beatles song and turns it into a gritty, dirty affair. They bring in the down tuned guitars, sludgy riffs, and screeching guitars, slowing things down and making everything heavy as hell. They manage to turn the song into a bonafide rocker making you want to bang your head and stick up those devil horns. If you didn’t know anything about The Beatles, you’d be convinced Soundgarden were the originators. It may be gritty, yet Cornell’s vocals keep the soulful vibe of the original.

“Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin cover from Guitar Heaven The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time

When you get one of music’s greatest guitar players along with one of rock’s greatest vocalists, you know you’re in for something good. In 2010, Carlos Santana and Chris Cornell teamed up for a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta love.” While it’s very true to the original, you can’t deny how much it just fucking rocks. Santana lights up the guitar making the iconic riff sound sweeter and sexier. Cornell easily gives Robert Plant a run for his money. He hits every note perfectly reminding you what a great singer he was. The Led Zeppelin version will always be great, but Cornell and Santana almost have them beat with their cover. Why didn’t they do a whole album together?

“Billie Jean” – live Michael Jackson cover

Lots of artists cover this Michael Jackson hit, but no one else brings you to tears with it like Chris Cornell. With only his vocals and an acoustic guitar, his rendition is absolutely haunting. Cornell manages to bring out the underlying darkness of this song that you often forget once you hear that iconic beat. He sings the song as if he’s been through this hell himself. His vocal delivery is so powerful and so intense, it would bring tears to your eyes before his untimely death. Not to mention the violent way he plays the guitar rousing a great reaction from the crowd. It’s not only a memorable performance, it shows how versatile he was as a musician.

“Girl U Want” – Devo cover from “Outshined” single

For the b-side on the “Outshined” single, Soundgarden covered this frantic Devo track. They suck all the bouncy energy and fun vibe out of it and turn it into a sludge fest. Everything is slowed down and played heavily as if the guitar’s a sopping wet with mud. Their version is heavy and somewhat dark with the haunting way Cornell delivers the lyrics. It’s a far cry from Devo’s version; if it wasn’t for the guitar riff you wouldn’t even know they were the same song. They definitely stamped the song with their gritty, raw rock sound.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” – live Sinead O’Connor cover

Cornell had a knack for making his covers sound haunting and somber. So it’s surprising that he managed to make this Prince song sound even sadder. That’s not to say it isn’t lovely. The acoustic rendition is as beautiful as the original and Cornell’s gruff vocals are perfectly suited for the song. There’s even a country vibe to it at times, but it doesn’t last long. Since the instrumentation is subdued, it gives you the chance to hear his singing, which is mesmerizing. It’s enough to give you chills, especially with his untimely passing.

“Imagine” – John Lennon cover from Songbook

The thing about Cornell’s covers is they’re straightforward and simplistic, but it’s his voice that makes them outstanding. It’s no different with this John Lennon classic. This song always had a melancholic mood to it, but when Cornell sings it, it’s enough to break your heart. Here we get the best of both worlds; he gives us a taste of his gruff, powerful vocals he’s known for, but we mostly hear his softer, gentler crooning, which is beautiful. Again, he doesn’t try to make the song his own. Rather he adds his chilling vocals for an unshakeable effect.

“Waiting for the Sun” – Doors cover from Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path

For Soundgarden’s cover of this Doors song, things start out muted and somewhat psychedelic. Cornell sounds like he’s mumbling through the lyrics. Just when you’re ready to nod off, the band kicks into high gear and lets it rip. The distorted guitars, throbbing bass, and pounding drums add a much needed dose of adrenaline to the song. It takes a drug induced classic to something that kicks ass. Whenever you hear that brief pause before everything explodes you’re left waiting in anticipation, waiting for the sweet release. When it finally comes, it’s the most satisfying moment.

“Dear Prudence” – live Beatles cover

Cornell puts his spin on yet another Beatles hit. Cornell is known for his powerful vocals, but for this cover, we get to hear a softer side. With a gentle acoustic guitar setting the mood, Cornell croons this classic never missing a beat. He sounds downright sweet when he hits those high notes at the end of the verses. His quiet, subdued delivery makes the song beautiful. It shows Cornell’s impressive range; he had the chops to make us rock out, but his croons also bring tears to your eyes.

“Cop Killer” – live Body Count cover

Did Soundgarden really cover Body Count’s controversial 1992 song? It sounds too good to be true, but they actually did during one of their Lollapalooza sets. After an impassioned speech from Cornell about exercising your power and not letting others tell you what you can’t do, the band launches into the notorious song. Everything about the performance sounds mad as hell; Matt Cameron beats away at the drum as if trying to break them, while the guitars sound like they’re screeching on their last breath. Cornell gives it his all rallying the crowd for a call to arms. During an unforgettable break, Cornell reassures us the song’s not about killing others, it’s about fighting for your rights. He then launches into a “fuck the police” chant. It’s an exciting, heart-pounding moment that riles you up and gets you ready to fight. Too bad the performance hasn’t been cleaned up and remastered for an official release.

“Hotel California” – live Eagles cover

“Hotel California” is one of those songs everyone knows is good, but no one listens to thanks to the radio playing it to death. Cornell’s acoustic cover makes the song exciting again. It’s a simple, straightforward rendition, but as always, it’s Cornell’s vocals that take it to another level. The grittiness of his vocals makes it sound like he knows what this person’s been through. He adds this harrowing vibe to the song and makes it fresh again. His version reminds you how good the song is. He can’t outdo the original, but his version comes close.

“Thank You” – Sly and the Family Stone cover from John Peel BBC Session 

Soundgarden gets funky for this cover. With a thick bass groove that sounds like it’s summoning Flea, the band lays down a heavy dose of funk mixing it with their heavy, dirty sound. The result is a stellar cover that more people should be talking about. As soon as that opening riff hits and Cornell lets out that wild scream you can’t help but nod your head with an intense feeling of “hell yes!” The band leaves their unmistakable mark on the song, but they manage to keep the soul of the original. And just when you thought the song couldn’t get any sicker, bassist Hiro Yamamoto gives us a hot solo. It’s not only Soundgarden’s best cover, it’s one of the best cover songs out there.

“I Will Always Love You” – live Whitney Houston

You wouldn’t expect a rocker like Chris Cornell to cover this Whitney Houston classic. Performed during a 2012 concert, his version is stripped back with only him and his acoustic guitar. He doesn’t try any fancy tricks with it or even try to make it his own. He just sings it straight. It’s his honest, passionate delivery that makes it so great. Even though the poor audio quality of the Youtube videos, you can hear how amazing he sounds. He holds those soaring notes with ease and his vocals are just as powerful as Houston’s. Though you would expect the cover to make you sad after his death, in a weird way it’s reassuring as if it’s a message to fans and family. His love will always be with us through the music.

Thank you for the wonderful music, Chris Cornell. You won’t be forgotten.

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Playlist: Going to the Movies

It’s the last month of summer, so it’s time to get in as much chill time on the beach or in the A/C as you can. Summer doesn’t only mean hot sun, parties, and swimming. It’s also the season for blockbuster movies. This got me thinking about movie themes, which aren’t a big trend in movies anymore. Some are powerful others are cheesy making the point to tell you the plot of the movie in three minutes. It seems the 80s had the best and biggest movie themes out there, but there are too many to keep track of. So, let’s look at some notable movie themes and make summer last a little longer.

“Lose Yourself” theme from 8 Mile (Eminem)

Eminem was already an international superstar by the time 8 Mile dropped, but this song put him over the top. It was the hottest song of 2002 and one you couldn’t escape from. It even earned Eminem an Oscar win to the surprise of everyone including the rapper himself. Em has a lot of hit songs, but the drive, aggression, and persevering message of this single connected with fans all over the world. The song was so overplayed it grew sickening whenever you heard it. But now that it’s not blasting on the radio every five minutes, it’s easier to sit back and appreciate the track. Over ten years later, it remains one of Em’s strongest and successful singles. Didn’t hurt that the movie was actually good either.

“Ghostbusters” theme from Ghostbusters (Ray Parker Jr.)

Movie theme songs have the tendency to be cheesy with this being the ultimate example. It may be full of 80s cheese, but that’s what makes the song so lovable. From the wonky synth to Parker Jr.’s smug “I ain’t afraid of no ghost” it’s a track that’s a lot of fun, which is why it fits perfectly with the movie. Everything about it is memorable, especially the tagline “Who ya gonna call?/Ghostbusters!” It may be corny, but at least it isn’t the hellish spawn that is the rebooted theme song. Believe it or not, Huey Lewis sued Parker Jr. and claimed he stole the melody from his track “I Want a New Drug.” The two are surprisingly similar; the matter was later settled out of court.

“Stayin Alive” theme from Saturday Night Fever (Bees Gees)

If you were asked to pick one song to represent the disco fever days of the 70s, it would be this Bee Gees hit. It has an unmistakable riff and Barry Gibb’s unique falsetto vocals. Whether you genuinely like the song or think it’s beyond corny, you have to admit there’s so much swagger in the opening riff. You can’t help but feel like a boss when strutting to this tune. The Bee Gees actually had several hit songs from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, including “Night Fever,” “How Deep is Your Love,” and “Jive Talking,” but it’s this track that’s their most notable. Now, if you could only get the image of John Travolta dancing out of your head whenever it plays.

“I Will Always Love You” theme from The Bodyguard (Whitney Houston)

This song was originally written by Dolly Parton in 1974 but didn’t gain massive notoriety until Whitney Houston performed the song for The Bodyguard soundtrack. The song turned out to be a perfect match for Houston’s haunting, beautiful vocals. And the part when the beat drops and she belts out that one note near the end still gives you chills. The single is still considered the singer’s signature song and many have forgotten Parton as the originator. Sure, the movie was shit, but it at least gave us this timeless song.

“Footloose” theme from Footloose (Kenny Loggins)

This is another song filled with 80s cheese, but it has a hook that’s hard to resist. The song, from the cheesy 80s film of the same name, ended up being Kenny Loggins’ most recognizable song, which is tough considering he released the equally popular “Danger Zone” for Top Gun. With its stark synth and memorable guitar riff it’s a track that’ll get you dancing even if you don’t want to. Guess that’s why it was a perfect fit for the movie. The tune was later covered by Blake Shelton for the laughable 2011 remake. Footloose may be a corny movie, but I’ll watch Kevin Bacon herkin’ and jerkin’ any day rather than the unnecessary remake.

“9 to 5” theme from 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton)

This song is from the successful film of the same name, which stars Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lilly Tomlin as three women sick of their dead-end jobs and getting even with their boss. The song follows a similar suit; it’s about someone getting ready for a job they hate and barely making it on minimum wage. It’s one of those songs everyone can relate to, especially women with the line about not getting a raise. It speaks to people forced to work at jobs they hate with people they can’t stand on a wage that’s barely keeping them afloat. It’s hard to stay down about your job when you hear Parton’s jolly vocals on this upbeat country pop tune.

Pet Semetary from Pet Sematary (The Ramones)

Who would’ve thought The Ramones recorded a movie theme? Stephen King is a big Ramones fan and he asked the band to be a part of the soundtrack. Story goes, he handed a copy of the Pet Semetary book to Dee Ramone, who took it and came back with lyrics an hour later. The song has several references to the movie, particularly the hook of “I don’t wanna be buried/in a pet sematary/I don’t want to live my life/again.” It’s a fun, somewhat spooky song, but not everyone was a fan. It received a Razzie nomination for Worst Original song in 1989. Despite this, the single turned out to be one of The Ramones’ biggest radio hits and help cement their crowns as punk rock kings.

“The Power of Love” theme from Back to the Future (Huey Lewis & The News)

Huey Lewis & The News actually recorded two songs for the Back to the Future soundtrack, but this one is the most memorable. It’s not one of those songs that describe the events of the movie. Rather it’s about how love is a powerful and awesome force that makes people do different things. Written specifically for the movie, it appears near the beginning when Marty skateboards to school. It’s a bright, upbeat track with an unmistakable synth riff you still can’t get out of your head. The song turned into another hit single for the band and even earned them an Oscar nomination. They lost of Lionel Riche’s “Say You, Say Me.” “Back in Time,” the second song the band wrote for the movie, is more related to the film but isn’t as catchy or memorable.

“Who’s That Girl?” theme from Who’s That Girl? (Madonna)

Madonna has given us terrible movies over the years, but they’ve at least produced hit singles. Though what is arguably the best Madonna song, “Get into the Groove” can be considered the theme for Desperately Seeking Susan, it wasn’t featured on the film’s soundtrack. This song was recorded for Madonna’s 1987 film of the same name. And yes, it’s fucking terrible. But the song is another party anthem for the singer. Using latin influences, she creates an irresistible groove. She even lays down the hook in decent Spanish, a culture she’s always admired. The reviews on the song were mixed, but it ended up being her sixth single to top the Billboard charts. It’s not her best so, but it’s fun and puts you in a good mood.

“Eye of the Tiger” theme from Rocky III (Survivor)

One of the most bad ass movie theme songs, “Eye of the Tiger” is made to pump you up and make you feel like you can do anything. It has that iconic shuffling riff and the hook that’s somehow stayed relevant for the past 34 years. Rocky himself Sylvester Stallone approached the band to write a theme for the movie after Queen denied use of “Another One Bites the Dust.” I love that song, but seriously? The disco groove doesn’t fit the story of a boxer trying to keep his glory. Since its release, this song can be found in training montages everywhere. It’s almost as popular as the Rocky theme. The next time you need a pep, put on this song and achieve greatness. Or at least try to get off the couch.

“My Heart Will Go On” theme from Titanic (Celine Dion)

I’m sorry, I had to do it! Yes, it’s that song no one could escape in the late 90s. Titanic was a huge movie upon release and this song overshadowed everything. Every time those opening notes fluttered people either turned up the volume or rolled their eyes. It hit number one across the world and subsequently became a hit for Celine Dion. It’s still regarded as one of her most successful songs. This song was everywhere and by the end of 1997, everyone was sick of it. Revisiting the track, it’s actually quite beautiful. Sure, it’s sappy as hell, but Dion’s voice is what makes it powerful and alive. Now that it’s not playing on the radio every single second, it’s not that bad. Though it does bring up questions about the whole Titanic phenomenon, like why turned a tragic event into a love story?

“Weird Science” theme from Weird Science (Oingo Boingo)

They just don’t make movie themes like this anymore. Performed by Oingo Boingo, featuring Danny Elfman, it’s one of the best and oddest themes from the 80s. Nothing in the film made sense and neither does this song, which is why it’s perfect. The music is blaring, a mix of rock, synth, and dance and Elfman’s vocals make him sound like a mad scientist. The lyrics recall using “voodoo dolls” and “electricity” to make the creation come alive like the boys did in the movie. It’s a fun, offbeat theme that brings on flashbacks of the movie. The song was also used as the theme for the Weird Science TV show. Wait, there was a show? Oh no.

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” theme from The Breakfast Club (Simple Minds)

Arguably Simple Minds’ biggest hit, this song earned its place in movie and music history by being the opening and closing theme for the iconic film The Breakfast Club. As soon as you hear the refrain of “Hey, hey, hey, hey!” an image of John Bender pumping his fist in the air springs to mind. It’s impossible to hear this song and not think of the John Hughes movie. The song was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff and Simple Minds weren’t their first choice for singers. They offered the song to Annie Lennox, The Fixx, and The Pretenders who all turned it down. They eventually settled on Simple Minds, who needed some convincing since they didn’t want to perform songs they didn’t write. While the song is now considered a classic, the band still aren’t too keen on it. Vocalist Jim Kerr previously said he wanted to vomit every time he played it. Ouch.

“Maniac” theme from Flashdance (Michael Sembello)

Okay, so technically “What a Feeling…Flashdance” by Irene Cara is the theme for this 80s flick, but this song is more memorable. The song is best remembered for the montage sequence from the movie where Alex (Jennifer Beals) is training in the warehouse. The song has a simple, yet unforgettable hook along with an opening synth that’s so satisfying and memorable. The song was included on the Flashdance soundtrack accidentally. Sembello’s wife accidentally included it on a tape sent to executives at Paramount Pictures, who were looking for music at the time. The song also lives on in infamy since many believed it was originally written for the 1980 horror flick Maniac and Sembello changed the lyrics for its inclusion on Flashdance. Unfortunately, this is nothing but a myth.

There are way too many movie themes to include here, so which ones did I miss? What is your favorite movie theme? Let me know in the comments!

Playlist: Best Grammy Award Performances

It’s almost time for the Grammys again, which means lots of snubs, disappointments, questionable moments, and Adele. That’s why everyone is going to watch, right? The award ceremony has been panned for the past couple of years for being bland and boring, but along with its low moments are tons of high moments. It’s still known for some of the most iconic and memorable performances in music. So before we start predicting when exactly Kanye is going to crash the stage, lets look back on some of the best performances from the Grammys.

“Stan” – Eminem & Elton John (2001)

Though Eminem made a joke about the Grammys in his song “The Real Slim Shady,” he’s been no stranger to them since his massive album The Marshall Mathers LP. This is the time when the rapper was most controversial garnering the anger of groups like GLAAD, who claimed he was homophobic. To shut up his critics once and for all, Eminem delivered a powerful performance of “Stan” with Elton John singing the chorus. At the song’s end, the two embraced and held hands in a victory pose. It’s not only one of the best Grammy moments of all time, but one of the best Eminem moments ever.

“American Idiot” – Green Day (2005)

Eyeliner, creepers, red ties, and lots of pyro. American Idiot era Green Day was on the rise thanks to their massive concept album. Not only was it a big winner at the 2005 Grammys, they also delivered a performance of the title track that was unforgettable. Instead of being cut and dry, the band brought their snotty attitude, slaying guitars, and their love of fire with them. As usual the band sounded great and wowed the crowd with fire shooting up at all the right moments. The band made sure to light a fire under the asses of the stiff academy. This is just one of a number of amazing performances from the year of American Idiot.

“The Way You Make Me Feel/Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson (1988)

Michael Jackson didn’t grace award show stages that much during his life, but whenever he did it brought the fucking house down. This 1988 performance starts out pretty standard: Jackson blows away the crowd with his dancing and singing. But it’s not until we get to “Man in the Mirror” where the show really starts. As he continues to sing, he gets more into the song until he’s falling on his knees, near tears, demanding everyone to “make that change.” The best part are the last five minutes where he seems to go off the record and just feels the music and gets everyone to stand up. He’s possessed by the song as he spins and collapses while a choir backs him up. It’s one of those moments that’s so stunning you remain quiet during the whole thing.  It shows why there will never be another performer with the fire, passion, and moves like Jackson.

“Where It’s At” – Beck (1997)

There’s always one year where Beck sweeps the award shows and makes some people question “Who the hell is Beck?” During the 1997 Grammys, he performed his hit single “Where It’s At” from Odeley, which was up for several awards that night. The thing that makes the performance so great is Beck’s unbridled energy. He has all the moves and swagger of a rapper and even pulls some awkward, yet entertaining dance moves at the end. His monotone vocals matched with his wild movements makes Beck hypnotizing to watch on stage. It ends on a high note, literally with Beck pulling off some scratchy falsetto. After the performance he won a Grammy for Best Rock Male Vocal. And similar to last year’s ceremony, many were left wondering who the hell this guy was.

“Runaway” – Bruno Mars (2012)

I wouldn’t call myself a huge Bruno Mars fan, but his performance from the 2012 Grammys blew me away. Is it his upbeat energy? Yes. Is it his style? Yes. Is it him commanding people to get off their “rich asses?” Yes. He sounds great and pulls off some awesome dance moves, but what makes this performance so memorable is the set up. It looks like an old school soul performance complete with matching gold suits, Temptation style dance moves, and Bruno’s pompadour with some added James Brown for flavor. He’s such a charismatic performer that he makes any award shows, or Super Bowl, exciting.

“I Put a Spell on You” – Annie Lennox & Hozier (2015)

What started out as a performance from Hozier featuring Annie Lennox turned into the Eurythmics singer taking over the stage. She came out to join Hozier on “Take Me to Church,” but as soon as she started “I Put A Spell on You” everyone forgot he was on stage. Her soulful delivery is powerful and she commands the stage while singing and swinging her hips. All Hozier could do and stand back and nervously smile. The way she belted out those notes gave you chills. It was so amazing it’s all people could talk about the next day. Sorry, Hozier. Good try, though.

“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston (1994)

At the 36th Grammys Whitney Houston blew everyone away this performance of her hit single “I Will Always Love You.” She starts out by performing the first verse acapella, which is enough to stir you. She really gets in her element when the music starts up and she continues singing in her elegant white gown. The best is when the drum pounds and she holds the note while she sings the chorus one more time. Watching it again over 20 years later, it still gives you goosebumps when she hits that note. It’s a reminder of what a wonderful performer Houston was and a sad reminder of what we’ve lost.

“One” – Metallica (1989)

Everyone knows the story of Metallica losing the Best Heavy Metal album to Jethro Tull in 1989. Though they didn’t win, and yeah they should’ve of, they delivered a blazing performance of “One” from their …And Justice for All album. Things start out kind of shaky with the vocals, once the band gets in the groove of things, they take over the stage and set fire to the Grammys. The performance is intense, brutal, and heavy as if reminding the committee why they should’ve won in the first place. Luckily, the academy realized they were wrong and gave the band best Metal Performance for the same song the following year. The band revisited the song at the 2014 ceremony with pianist Land Lang accompanying them.

“Feel Good Inc/Hung Up” – Madonna & Gorillaz (2006)

Madonna and Gorillaz seems like a collaboration that would never happen, but oddly enough it works. This performance features the animated band as 3D holograms singing, gyrating, and looking bored in general. When De La Soul comes out 2-D checks his phone while leaning on the mic. Then Madonna pops up on screen, also a hologram, and teases the band. After that she appears on stage in the purple leotard first seen in the “Hung Up” video. The entire performance is fun, innovative, creative, and unforgettable. Though Madonna’s rendition of “Living for Love” was also good, this one is more memorable and creative.

“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele (2012)

You knew she was going to pop up here sooner or later. The performance is simple; no fancy effects, tricks, or collaborations. Just Adele, her singers, and her band. Her voice is so powerful and beautiful, you can close your eyes and let it wash over you. Even if you don’t play her heartbreaking songs on repeat after seeing this performance you had to acknowledge that she’s one of the best modern singers. There are plenty of people who can’t wait to see what the singer will do at this year’s ceremony. Actually, it’s probably the only reason anyone will tune in.

“Glitter in the Air” – Pink (2010)

When Pink came out on stage to perform “Glitter in the Air” no one at home or in the crowd expected to see her twirling through the air. She comes out in a hooded shroud, looking beautiful and elegant. Just when you think she’s going to stand there and sing, she reveals a nude leotard and joins a group of aerial acrobats that lift her in the air. She strikes various poses and even pulls off an impressive spin and she’s still singing. She never misses a beat. By the end everyone was stunned and in awe. It’s a trick she’s pulled off a few more times for later Grammy performances, but no one will ever forget the first time she did it here.

“Seven Nation Army/Death Letter” – The White Stripes (2004)

The White Stripes managed to make a lot of noise at the 2004 ceremony. The performance starts out with the popular “Seven Nation Army,” but ends with a chaotic seizure educing rendition of “Death Letter.” It’s here where Jack White lets loose and plays with fire and fury. He stumbles around the stage, motion towards Meg White, and ends the song with a unchained solo. The performance is also great due to the weird introduction by Beck who references “Children of God” before introducing the duo. Well, it is Beck after all.

“La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life)” – Ricky Martin (1999)

This performance will forever be burned in my memory. Why? Because my mom and I were glued to the screen, wondering who this hot new guy was and how fast could we get his album. Ricky Martin was at the forefront of the Latin explosion of the late 90s. He cemented his popularity at the time with this performance at the 41st Grammy Awards. After this performance aired, Martin was a household name and everyone wanted to live “la vida loca.” Sorry, I had to.

“Lady Marmalade” – Pink, Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim ft. Missy Elliot & Patti LaBelle (2002)

It was hard to escape this song in the early 2000s and though the group of ladies performed the song at various award shows throughout the year, this one is the best. All of the singers sound on point and Aguilera finally shed the gigantic poodle wig she was obsessed with. What made this performance so memorable from the others, is the original Lady Marmalade, Patti LaBelle, joined the group on stage. While she didn’t get to sing much she did enough to show she still had the chops and even though this cover was pretty good, nothing could outshine the original.

Which Grammy performance is your favorite? Is there one that I missed? Let me know in the comments.

 

Mini Music Movie Review: Whitney (2015)

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I didn’t have high expectations for this movie. First of all it’s made by the Lifetime Network, which is responsible for the atrocious Aaliyah and Liz Taylor biopics. Second, it’s a made-for-tv movie, but I was hoping it would be entertaining either because it was genuinely good or it was so bad it was funny. Rather than that, the film is boring. It focuses on Whitney Houston’s relationship with Bobby Brown, which you wouldn’t expect from the title. And since the film doesn’t offer any insight or information that we couldn’t find out by pulling up Wikipedia, it feels pointless. But that’s only the start of the problem.

As many have pointed out, the movie starts off with an inaccuracy. We see Whitney getting ready for her performance at the 1989 Soul Train Awards. The only problem is she never performed at the ceremony. She was only nominated for Best R&B Contemporary Single, Female, which was met with some jeers from the crowd. But this isn’t even mentioned. At least they got one thing right: that’s where she met Bobby Brown. From there the movie gets less and less interesting. We never get to hear much about Houston’s career. In one scene we’re with her in the recording studio and in the next she’s getting ready for The Bodyguard. There’s nothing about how she fought against criticism to become one of the most successful female artists in the world. All of that is replaced with uncomfortable sex scenes of the couple. I don’t think anyone asked to see what they were like in the bedroom.

Another thing that bothered me was how none of the actors looked like anyone. It seems Yaya DaCosta was only picked because she was skinny like Houston. It’s not a big deal, but when the acting is sub par you at least want the players to look a little like the people they’re portraying. If anything more thought was given to how many wigs should be worn throughout the movie. I know Houston was fond of them, but come on. Does her hair really have to change in every scene? Then there’s the singing. DaCosta has a decent voice, but she can’t hold a candle to Houston, which is fine. What I don’t understand is why we have to sit through full renditions of songs like “I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “I Will Always Love You.” I understand the film wants to show Houston in her element, but showing half of the song would’ve been fine.

We all know the trouble Bobby Brown has gotten into over the years, so why does the movie make him a victim? Half way through we move away from Whitney to Bobby who plays up the victim card. There were problems in their relationship for sure, but they were way bigger than the way the movie makes them look. I honestly expected better of Angela Basset. Not only has she played Tina Turner in an excellent biopic, but she’s a well regarded actress. How did she let things get so bad? But I guess you can’t ask for much from a film that was made in 20 days. If you’re a fan of Houston at all and are not interested in her tumultuous relationship with Bobby, skip this movie. Hopefully, a studio will give us a movie we can tolerate.

Top 10 Best Cover Songs

Everybody loves a good cover song, whether it’s completely reinventing the song to make it something new and different or just sticking with the original to pay homage to an artist. Of course, not all cover songs are good, but that’s for a different day (and a different list). Just about every musician out there has covered something and while there are a lot of good ones, these are the ten that I feel are amazing and stand the test of time. And since I already did a list of metal covers, this one will focus on covers in other genres.

  1. “Tainted Love”-Gloria Jones/Soft Cell

This is one of those songs you always forget that’s a cover. Other people have tried to match or outdo the greatness of this version and failed (Manson). Nothing beats the Soft Cell recording. I would take this version over the original any day. There’s just something about the music that when those beeps at the beginning of the song come on, everybody knows what song it is and proceeds to dance their ass off. There’s also something about the music that’s in this area of dark synth pop, kind of like Depeche Mode. It’s just a fun, feel good song; one of the better ones from the 80’s. And it definitely stands the test of time.

  1. “Imagine”- John Lennon/A Perfect Circle

This version leaves you with no hope for the future. With the pounding drums beating throughout the song, it brings on an impending sense of doom. This cover would be perfect playing over any movie footage of the apocalypse. Lennon’s version seemed more optimistic, while this one has anger, frustration, and sadness in one song. Maynard James Kennan’s voice is the right pitch and tone for this song. It even carries a hint of sadness. You can find this cover on their album Emotive.

  1. “I Love Rock N Roll”- Arrows/Joan Jett

This has got to be one of the best hard rocking songs out there. So many people love this song and the best thing it’s aged incredibly well. Also, it fits the whole badass attitude of Joan Jett. Not only does she sound like she’s looking for a fight, she looks like it in the video for the single. Her voice just has this amazing snarl behind it, especially when she says “Owww!” after the first verse. This is a classic to this day and one of the staples of rock music.

7. “Mony Mony” – Tommy James and the Shondells/Billy Idol

This is the song that showed that the young punk had rhythm and soul. It’s like with this song he wanted to get everyone on their feet. What’s interesting about this cover is it has a lot of elements from the original from the vocals to the rhythm of the song. It’s like Idol wanted to keep everything that made the song great in the first place, but he added a few guitars and his haunting vocals to make the song his own. It still sounds like a vintage song from the 50’s, he even has the background singers that sound like old school girl groups, but the synth and the hard guitars add a tough edge to it. It’s probably one of Idol’s most loved songs and it’s just really fun.

  1. “Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson/Alien Ant Farm

This has got to be the oddest, but most awesome cover of a Michael Jackson song ever. Driving guitar riffs, odd vocals, and various screams trying to imitate the King of Pop, this song rocks hard. This song shows that Jackson’s song translate really well the rock genre. This cover takes everything that was amazing about the original and turns it up way past ten. Aside from the style, the song stays pretty true to the original in terms of pace and vocal style (kind of). Not only is the song a great homage to MJ, the video is as well. It’s full of references to Jackson and even has elements from his other videos, such as the light up steps from “Billie Jean.” This song also helped to teach a younger generation how awesome Michael Jackson was and could be. Unfortunately, it’s also the cause of many people thinking Alien Ant Farm were the originators of the song.

5. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”- Eurythmics/Marilyn Manson

This is the song that launched the band into popularity. The original version has a more futuristic sound with synthesizers and Annie Lennox’s sultry vocals. Manson’s version is anything but sweet dreams. This song (and the video) will give you nightmares for weeks. Everything from the slow, dredging guitar riff, to the weird warping noises, heard in the beginning, and even Manson’s shrill vocals unnerve you. I think this version really shows the dark undertones that were in the original that were masked by how catchy the song was. Manson stripped away those elements and left us with pure terror.

4. “The Man Who Sold the World”- David Bowie/Nirvana

This cover is often hailed as better than the original. The subdued, mellow tone of the song blends well with Cobain’s scratchy, anguished vocals. He sounds a little sad, yet joyful at times during the song, even a little reminiscent while he’s singing. There’s something about the way Cobain sings here that makes it sound like he’s so familiar with the song, as if he wrote it himself. There’s just something about this version that sounds sorrowful and vulnerable, while Bowie’s sounds a but more psychedelic. The hypnotizing guitar riff and the looping bass line traps you in the song and makes you remember why this is now considered a Nirvana classic.

  1. “Feeling Good”- Cy Grant/Muse

This cover is one of the best and under appreciated cover songs out there. It’s one of Muse’sbest-knownn songs and one that really displays Matt Bellamy’s hauntingly beautiful vocals. It manages to keep the spirit and the tone of the original, but it also adds this attitude and just a hint of darkness that can make the song unnerving and creepy at times. What’s even more interesting is the bridge when Bellamy pulls out the megaphone and continues to sing. At times he sounds like he’s speaking gibberish, at others he sounds like a sweet angel. Maybe the song is so amazing because it’s one that Bellamy has admitted he wish he wrote himself.

  1. “I Will Always Love You”- Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston

For the longest time I had no idea that this was a cover song. If anything it sounds like it was written just for Whitney Houston. The original can’t even stand up to this one. While this version manages to keep the same tone and mood of the first version, Houston’s voice is so beautiful and power that it makes it more intense. The part that always gives me chills is when the music stops, the boom of the drums come in, and Houston holds that note during the last chorus. She may have had her own demons to deal with later in her life, but it doesn’t change the fact that she had one of the best voices in music.

  1. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”- Leadbelly/Nirvana

There is not one person who can really claim recording the first version of this song since it’s been around since the 1870s under different names. But the two most popular versions are by Leadbelly and Nirvana. This would be Cobain’s last televised performance and he made sure it was memorable. There is so much emotion in this song. You can feel the pain and anger when Cobain sings. You even get a hint of defeat when he lets out a heavy sigh before singing the last words. Just listening to him shriek out the lyrics is really haunting. This is the most powerful and gut wrenching Nirvana performance. It becomes eerie when thinking about how Cobain died a year later.

Bonus: “Psycho Killer”- Talking Heads/Cage The Elephant

This quirky song by legendary band Talking Head becomes even more chaotic and awesome when covered by Cage the Elephant who are not only crazy, but unpredictable and full of energy. And that’s exactly what they bring to their version. It’s really singer Matt Shultz who makes the song. His vocal style is unchained, raw, and unstable. The original is kind of subtle and quiet with hushed vocals, but Cage’s version is loud, in your face, and makes you wonder if one of the members actually is crazy enough to be a killer.