jamilah Plays The Hits Pt. II: Cross-Cultural Mashups

This post is a major contradiction- after saying numerous times how i feel about pop music (in general), what you are about to see are some of the most poppiest of songs. This led me to want to be clear on my relationship to pop music: if a pop song can convey great storytelling; if it can channel anything outside of the superficial; if it goes beyond lower vibrational energy… it’s most likely something i would enjoy listening to.

A great pop song can make me happy… or it can make me cry. There are a few, like ‘Home’ by Stephanie Mills (my favorite song in the whole entire world), ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ by Jennifer Holliday, ‘Love takes Time’ by Mariah Carey, and ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’ by Whitney Houston, that automatically bring tears the moment you hear those notes. i guess you can say, even though i’m not particularly a fan of anthemic songs, i do love big, dramatic ones. Not only are songs like these full of drama; you can also hear the tears, sadness or anguish in their vocals.

i am also a major fan of unrequited love longs… you know, when you have feelings for someone and those feelings are not returned. ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ is a perfect unrequited love song.

i spent a bit of time over the past few months searching for covers of the song, and it has been hard to find any versions that capture the heartbreak of the original. Most people stick to vocal acrobatics, taking away from the actual meaning of the song. While i definitely love a good run or two, i just don’t think they’re fitting for a song like this.

The only one who honestly does the song any justice is the original artist.

Laura Branigan sings the song very plainly, and at some points, deadpan. Michael Bolton (who co-wrote the song (with Doug James, under his birth name, Michael Bilotin)) comes fairly close, but his pleading is no comparison. Laura Branigan’s reading is one of desperation and urgency. You can hear how in the first verse, all the stuff they talk about is small talk; she wants to get all of that out of the way to ask the major questions. This person was her lifeline- all without them even knowing it.

The crux of the story is in this one line: “I don’t wanna know the price I’m gonna pay for dreaming, now that your dream has come true.” i don’t care what anyone says. This performance will always make me cry. To me, it is up there with (one of the greatest vocalists ever in the whole world) Phyllis Hyman’s performance of ‘Old Friend’.

For the post here, the bed of the song was Branigan’s version, but i combined her vocals with Michael Bolton’s, then played some drums. Like much of what we’ll see in this post, i had to do a bit of doctoring. Because the the final part of Bolton’s version has a higher key, i had to lower it to match Branigan’s original key. Also, i combined the full vinyl and CD versions of Bolton’s version. The CD version is shorter for some reason. This is the only Michael Bolton song i’ve dissected, so i can’t speak to the other ones. But i really do like this song. i’ve liked it since i’ve heard the OG back in ’83.

Speaking of…. i have no shame in saying i absolutely love what is now in this day and age, lovingly called ‘Yacht Rock’. Player, Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Gino Vannelli… No one should be too punk to love some well-crafted tunes. i came up in an era where a lot of that stuff crossed over into the hood.

‘Biggest Part Of Me’ by Ambrosia was another one of those jams, so when Take 6 covered it years later we all just knew they would do it right. Given that they largely do gospel, they switched up the lyrics in order to stay on that path. Even if someone’s not Christian, that should not stop them from enjoying a great song. Good music is good music. There have been plenty of gospel songs that traveled over into the pop charts. Both versions of the song did fairly well, but i’m not sure of how many people know both.

i did lower the key to Ambrosia’s version to match Take 6’s. i also played the drums.

This next song, i know for sure that there has been no general cross-cultural (or generational) exchange. When you think of ‘Float On’, you are most likely either thinking of the Floaters or Modest Mouse. Not both.

Until now.

This is something i absolutely had been thinking about doing for a while, but i didn’t know if it was gonna work out. i can’t possibly have been the only person to think of this combination. i’d be surprised if that was the case. i did keep the drums, but played the bass- almost, but not note for note. This was honestly one of my favorite things i’ve made since the start of this blog.

The following song might have you going, ‘there was another version of this song??!!’

Yes. As a matter of fact, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ was presented to Bucks Fizz before it was presented to Tina Tuner; they were told the song needed male vocals, which is how they ended up recording it. Of course we all know what ended up happening after Tina Turner sang it.

i did use the Bucks Fizz version as a base. i also used the background vocals, and put Tina Turner as the lead. The Bucks Fizz version is in a lower key, so i made it higher to match the other.

We end this post how we started… kind of. With two versions of the same song, one possibly more obscure than the other.

‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’ is an incredibly sad song. i’m not sure how (or why) it became popular in some circles of the pop pantheon. The lyrics are full of hopelessness and dread. This song is a companion to ‘Fade To Black’… except if you’ve only heard the version released on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, you might not notice it.

The Danny Hutton Hitters version (the one on the soundtrack) is the first version i ever heard, so i didn’t recognize how sad the song was until i heard Nik Kershaw’s original some years later. Danny Hutton (of Three Dog Night)’s reading of the lyrics sound a bit more hopeful that he will get over to the other side, after some struggle. Nik Kershaw sounds like it’s pointless to even try. With that, i opted to wage a conversation between the two. In between the conversation are scenes from Pretty In Pink– one of the the few John Hughes movies i actually remember liking. Though i hated the end (because i hate scenarios wrapped up in a neat little bow), the movie did take a dip into a discussion on class. i know some of his other movies did as well, but Pretty In Pink is the one i watched the most of as a kid.

i played the bass on this one, while the Danny Hutton version was the bed for the vocals.

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