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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Write Back Weekend "Packs A Punch"

I'm glad that the few of you who actually read and decided to participate in this week's TITMT liked the question so much. I've been sitting on this one for sometime now, waiting till I had the time to write about it myself. Of course I realized I was waiting for the perfect time that might never come so instead, in the spirit of emotion (since that's the name of the game this week) I decided to just jump in.

Last week's question was the following, "What do you think are the most powerful songs vocally and/or by topic? What songs really get to you? I'm talking about the songs where the singer sung the HELL out of that song. You know the type I'm talking about."

As always, it becomes nearly impossible to touch upon every song that has touched meand/or I feel has touched the vocalist enough that they've conveyed the message in spades. What follows is a list of songs that have gotten to me over the years. These are songs I've been angry with, cried with and happy with, all for different reasons. Whatever the emotion being conveyed, these are some songs that get the job DONE. Does this mean they are all the best songs, ever? No, but the writers and or singers definitely gave you the best they got.

1. Without You- Harry Nilsson- This song has been remade many times over but Nilsson's version still rings the most true to me. A close second would perhaps be Kelly Clarkson's version during American Idol season one because she managed to sing such a powerful song, live no less. Very few vocalists could rise to that occasion. I also love the song for its content. Dude, the guy is saying he can't live if living is without YOU. If that's not true devotion, I don't know what is.

2. Angel- Jon Secada- Ah Jon Secada. Where did ye go wrong? In the early nineties, it looked like he had the Latin pop vibe in the bag. Then a few years went by and he faltered. I thought for sure though he would resurface during the whole "Latin craze" that took the pop world by storm in the late nineties. Suddenly it became Marc Anthony, Enrique and Ricky Martin battling out for top Latin God. Nowhere was Secada to be found. Still Angel resonates as a reminder of one hell of a vocalist who conveyed a lot of emotion.

3. This Woman's Work- Kate Bush This song was originally featured in the movie She's Having A Baby and given the topic, rightfully so. I can't even tell you though how many times though and in how many ways I've heard it used over the years. I always thought this song would have been a bigger hit at the time had mainstream, power house vocalist Cyndi Lauper recorded it, but I guess we'll never know.

4. Town Without Pity- Gene Pitney- If you want a sordid tale of young and forbidden love, look no further than Gene Pitney's Town Without Pity. This is the story of star-crossed lovers, the Romeo and Juliet of their town so to speak. The world disapproves, the singer pours his heart out. Oh, when these little minds tear you in two, what a town without pity can do.

5. Forever- Kenny Loggins- Say what you will about Mr. Loggins, that man can SING. You know this is a powerful song because he gets so into it at one point and despite knowing what the hell he is saying, I'm right there with him. Never underestimate the power of powerful delivery.

6. Love Rears Its Ugly Head or Cult of Personality- Living Colour- I'm not quite sure what happened with Living Colour, but I still say that their lead singer, Corey Glover, has one of the best and most powerful voices out there. The only singer to come along and remind me of his greatness in recent years was Ty Taylor, formerly of Dakota Moon and featured on Rockstar INXS. At any rate, I couldn't choose between these two songs because they are both powerful, but feature different sides of the band. Cult of Personality is just a great rock tune with a lot of energy and a semi political stance. Love Rears Its Ugly Head is a twisted love tune about fear of commitment. Either way, they both rock.

7. Creep- Radiohead- This is another example of a powerfully delivered song where I have no clue what they are saying half of the time. I think it's a song about a guy who doesn't feel he's worth of this girl's affections thus the title, Creep. And when she runs in the song? Man, that guy sounds like his heart is being ripped out.

8. Break Your Heart- Barenaked Ladies- The Barenaked Ladies are known for their trademark, happy go luck style of music. But the aptly titled Break Your Heart, a story of a man who stays with the wrong woman for all the wrong reasons, is a true departure from that. The only version I know is live and somehow that raw emotion shines through all the more in this type of vocal, thus really managing to...break your heart.

9. Who's Loving You?- Jackson Five This song has a particularly soulful sentiment, especially when you consider this version was sung with such conviction by only an eleven year old Michael Jackson. He went on to be known as the King of Pop, but here's where it all started.

10. It's All Coming Back To Me Now or With This Tear- Celine Dion- I know every time I mention Celine Dion on this blog (which isn't often, but still) that I'm risking getting hell for it. But that's ok. If you've ever heard Celine Dion sing, regardless of whether or not you like her singing, you know she gives it her heart and soul. It's All Coming Back To Me Now and With This Tear are just two shining examples of this. It's All Coming Back...was actually written by Jim "Meatloaf" Steinman. His ability to write epic songs that told stories is brilliant. It takes a powerful vocalist to make such powerful lyrics to come to life. With This Tear, meanwhile is a song that was actually written by Prince but sung by Celine. It tells such a sad story that it breaks my heart every time I hear it. Really any Celine song could fit here, these are just two samples.

11. Vision of Love or Vanishing- Mariah Carey- Before Mariah Carey was known as a hoochie mama who couldn't keep her clothes on, she was known for something else far more pertinent, actual talent. When I heard Vision of Love for the first time I was blown away. Then I bought her album and realized all of her songs were just as powerful. Vanishing, though never a single, always stuck with me because of her gut wrenching, multi octave range with just a piano to back her up.

12. Praying For Time- George Michael- When George Michael released Listen Without Prejudice Volumes One and Two admittedly it was hard to do just that. After all, here's a man who kicked off his career by making us Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. Then he followed that up with the booty shaking, I Want Your Sex and Faith. But on Praying For Time, Michael really did make me listen in a way I hadn't before. It still holds some of the most powerful lyrics I have heard yet, "The rich declare themselves poor, and most of us are not sure, if we have too much, but we'll take our chances, 'Cause God's stopped keeping score...And you cling to the things they sold you, did you cover your eyes when they told you, that he can't come back 'Cause he has no children to come back for."

13. Let It Rain- Amanda Marshall- I bought Amanda Marshall's self-titled album on a fluke back in 1995. It's what I did back then, in the days before downloading. From the first few moments of the opening track I knew I was going to love Amanda Marshall. Let It Rain is a beautiful song that really does feel like it's raining down on you. She's had a few minor hits over the years. Why she isn't more popular however, I still have no clue.

14. You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)- Josh Groban- If you're looking for the male contemporary pop answer to Celine Dion, look no further than Josh Groban. When Josh Groban first appeared on the scene it looked like he'd be doing more contemporary than pop, but the music producers in the skies seem to be trying to make him more and more mainstream. I can't say I blame them. With pipes like that, songs like You Are Loved and You Raise Me Up convey emotion like nothing else out there today.

15. Your House- Alanis Morissette- My senior year of high school was when I discovered the second coming of Alanis Morissette. I say second coming because it's true. She had a life before she became pop's jaded princess, one both her and her second coming fans would most likely want to forget, but I digress. When I bought Jagged Little Pill I swore I was going to wear out my copy. Then I discovered the "hidden track" and it was like finding a secret room. So many Alanis songs feature amazing vocals, but this song's story is sad, and so powerful and stripped of any actual background music either which makes it all the more remarkable.

16. Last Kiss- Pearl Jam- I've said it before and I'll say it again, Pearl Jam's Last Kiss is one of very few remakes that actually improved upon the original. Their rendition of a horrible car crash that takes a life is haunting and melodic. Not to mention Eddie V's wonderful interpretation here, vocally.

17. Almost anything by Live- I've tried to narrow it down before and I just can't do it. When I first heard Live back in high school I was blown away by their energy. Their lead singer, Ed Kowalczyk, truly pures his heart and soul into every song he sings whether it be Lightning Crashes, Freaks, I Alone, Lakini's Juice, Pillar of Davidson or anything in between. It was pure genius to me when they paired up with Chris Daughty a few years back on the single, Mystery. So much power in under four minutes or less. Impressive.

18. You Can Have Her- Roy Hamilton- I don't know much about Roy Hamilton, all I know is that You Can Have Her is definitely an example of a great song about the illusion of love lost. Roy Hamilton, complete with his choir, will go down in history as singing the hell out of You Can Have Her. If Samuel L. Jackson had to choose one sixties pop song to match his kick ass style, this should be it.

19. I Can Dream- Elvis Presley- No doubt about it, Elvis Presley delivered some of the most powerful performances of his generation. But when you strip away the signature dance moves and the "thank you very much's", Elvis was actually a very good vocalist. Believe it or not, I had never heard (or didn't remember hear) I Can Dream until Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers played Elvis back in 2005. I didn't expect to think much of the film. Not only was this a TV movie, Elvis movies had been done so many times before. But Meyers delivered such a powerful and believable Elvis that the movie won me over. He sang some of the tunes, but it's his lip sync (yes, I said lip synced) version of If I Can Dream at the end of the film that grabbed me. Since that day it's been one of my favorite Elvis tunes.

20. How Am I Supposed To Live Without You- Michael Bolton- I can practically hear the chuckles coming through the computer screen on this one but admit it, there was a time, not oh so long ago, where Michael Bolton was EVERYWHERE. And I always loved the story behind this song. He wrote it, but Laura Branigan had the original hit. Turn around a little less than a decade later and Bolton decides to finally record his own song. Branigan's rendition was stellar, but Bolton really knocked one out of the park the second time around. Given how much he wore his heart on his sleeve, I actually half expected him not to live. Depending on how you look at it, I guess he really didn't.

21. Does She Love That Man?- Breathe - A little known British band, Breathe had a few hits in the late eighties with Hands To Heaven and How Can I Fall? respectively. While I loved those songs, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the much lesser known, Does She Love That Man? Another song about a lover who has moved on, the story is so sad and really sticks with you. Maybe it's because it's the underdog of the three that I love it the most. I guess you could say they ask gut wrenching questions via song like nobody else can.

22. Living Inside Myself- Gino Vanelli- I don't know what happened to Mr. Vanelli, but this song is some mighty powerful stuff. It's grand, sweeping lyrics seem almost too perfect for American Idol auditions and show off vocalists who want to prove a point, but alas it's time has yet to come. Still I can listen to Living Inside Myself when I'm all by myself (see below) and remember the days when they really dug down deep.

23. New York, New York and My Way- Frank Sinatra- What's so great about both of these Sinatra tunes is the ability he had to vocally made a song build. Both of them start off quiet enough, but it's the pay off in the tail end of both tunes that makes the ride worth it. Plus knowing what has been said about Sinatra's attitude over the years only makes the message behind these tunes all the richer.

24. - Cryin'- Roy Orbison and KD Lang- When this song first came out it was featured in an excellent film entitled Hiding Out. It breathed new life into Roy Orbison's original hit by adding a female vocalist to the tune. There's never been much meat in terms of lyrics, but it's the understated beauty and oh all the angst that grabs my attention every time.

25. Superwoman- Karyn White - It's hard to explain my affection for Karyn White's Superwoman to people who don't know the song. The reason it's hard to explain here is because I know you are all the type of people who have no clue what song I'm talking about, like stated previously. In a nutshell, it's the story of a woman who tries to do everything she can to please her unappreciative man. There are two main things about this song that I've always loved. One thing is the unconventional lyrics. They convey an otherwise very common topic that is not often talked about lyrically. The second is Karyn's delivery of it all, period.

26. You or Far Behind- Candlebox- This might be an unpopular opinion, but I feel like any list that contains strong vocals has to contain some hair band type vocals. I know years have deemed much of it cheesy in retrospect, but truth be told, a lot of those guys really sang their hearts out. I chose Candlebox to represent the long haired masses because someone had to do it. What better representations than You and Far Behind.

27. God Give Me Strength- Kristen Vigard-

This song is featured in the movie Grace of My Heart. It tells the story of the main character and doesn't show up until about halfway through the movie. When you see the film, the emotion ties in to her ultimate performance of it for the first time. It's one of those "slow builder songs" about a man that has treated her wrong, thus her plea to have strength to make it through. It was written by lyrical genius Elvis Costello, but performed by Kristen Vigard. My favorite lyric is, "Maybe I was washed out like a lip-print on his shirt. See, I'm only human, I want him to hurt. I want him, I want him to hurt."

28. Worst That Could Happen- Johnny Maestro and Brooklyn Bridge- This is, hands down, one of my favorite songs EVER. It's a unique perspective on a common tale. The guy who can't commit, the girl he would love to be able to commit to and the guy who gets her. She's finally made a choice and it's the worst that could happen to him. Yet somehow, it's one of the best things to have happened to popular music.

29. Like The Way I Do- Melissa Etheridge- Like The Way I Do was Melissa's first real bonafide hit back in 1988. I don't know when I first realized this was a chick singing about another chick. Fast forward a few years and it became a non issue. No matter who she was singing this song for, she was singing the hell out of it, as she does with most of her songs.

30. In the Air Tonight, I Wish It Would Rain Down- Phil Collins- Phil Collins music is like a rainbow of emotions. These two songs represent different, darker sides of the Collins repertoire. On In The Air Tonight, anger is the predominant emotion. It also has one of the best slow build examples in pop history...EVER. I Wish It Would Rain Down on the other hand is more melancholy and introspective. When it comes to heart break, Billy isn't the one who has our number, it's Phil Collins.

More to include, no time (or space) to write:

Bridge Over Troubled Waters- Simon and Garfunkel
Weekend In New England- Barry Manilow
Total Eclipse of the Heart- Bonnie Tyler
Try A Little Tenderness- Otis Redding
Alone- Heart
I Will Always Love You- Whitney Houston
I'll Be or Could Not Ask For More- Edwin McCain
Time To Let You Go- Enuff Z' Nuff
All By Myself- Eric Carmen
Your Baby Never Looked Good In Blue- Expose
Welcome to Love (Now Go Home)- Danielle Brisebois
Crying Like A Church On Monday- New Radicals
Angel of the Morning- Juice Newton
The Background- Third Eye Blind
Faithfully and Open Arms- Journey
Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young & Nowhere Fast- Streets of Fire
Does He Love You?- Rilo Kiley
Sister Christian- Night Ranger
Rain- Patty Griffin
On The Side of Angels- Leann Rimes
Wild Horses- The Sundays
All I Want Is You- U2
Since I Fell For You- Lenny Welch
Like The Way I Do- Melissa Etheridge
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me- Mel Carter
Monty Python's Spamalot- Find Your Grail
I'll Never Love This Way Again- Dionne Warwick
Angel- Sarah McLachlan
Never Let You Go- Steelheart
18 and Life- Skid Row
Positively Fourth Street- Bob Dylan
Could've Been, Here In My Heart- Tiffany
Lonely Teardrops- Jackie Wilson



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