Like A Prayer-Madonna

“Like A Prayer” is a terrific dance song. With a great dance beat, the song dramatically builds  to a joyous gospel choir. (“Like a prayer, I’ll take you there….”)

I know that the video was very controversial when it came out, but that was always her strongest marketing point. I never appreciated Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone as a musician, or vocalist. But she truly redefined the “art” of self-advertising.

As a singer she made her debut album in 1983 and is still churning about albums today, at 58 year olds. She actually  is listed as the Number 1 on VH1‘s list of 100 Greatest Women in Music and number two (behind only The Beatles) on Billboards list of Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time.

So despite my lack of appreciation for her voice, I’m clearly in the minority, All I know is that “Like A Prayer” is terrific to use to start out a dance set because it starts out with a slow, yet instantly recognizable, introduction….comes to a pause, and kicks in to a thumping dance groove.

In attempting to cause a stir in the Catholic Church by show a crying “Black Jesus” in the video, she succeeded, garnering the attention she has unabashedly built her entire “brand” on.  So it’s probably best to listen to the song without watching the video, but I figured I’d show you how terrible acting, mediocre singing can’t even ruin a terrific pop dance song.

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Here are the lyrics. Enjoy,

Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home
When you call my name it’s like a little prayer
I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there
In the midnight hour I can feel your power
Just like a prayer you know I’ll take you there
I hear your voice, it’s like an angel sighing
I have no choice, I hear your voice
Feels like flying
I close my eyes, Oh God I think I’m falling
Out of the sky, I close my eyes
Heaven help me
When you call my name it’s like a little prayer
I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there
In the midnight hour I can feel your power
Just like a prayer you know I’ll take you there

Leave comment to let me know your thoughts & opinions.

 

 

No Scrubs-TLC

The band Atlanta-based TLC is actually the best-selling “girl group” in American Pop history. According to Wikipedia, they had ten number one singles, and four multi-Platinum albums throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The band is comprised of the three vocalists seen in video, including Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Lopes died in a car crash in 2007. TLC is actually an anagram for “T-Boz,” “Left Eye” & “Chilli,”  My favorite of their songs is “Waterfalls,” but “No Scrubs” has a unique almost Flamenco style guitar riff running throughout. The lyrics are not very deep, and are a tad repetitive, but it really does have a nice mellow dance groove, and is very evocative of the most popular R & B music made two decades ago.

A scrub is a guy that thinks he’s fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin’ about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass
So (no)
I don’t want your number (no)
I don’t want to give you mine and (no)
I don’t want to meet you nowhere (no)
I don’t want none of your time and (no)
I don’t want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me
I don’t want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me
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Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts or opinions.

Sway-Pussycat Dolls

I must admit that movies like “Shall We Dance,” starring Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere are right on top of my cinematic “guilty pleasures” In the same vein as Channing & Jenna DeWan’s “Step Up” and Antonio Banderas’ “Take The Lead.” Coincidentally, Jenna DeWan co-starred in “Take The Lead” as one of Antonio’s students.

The actual music in most of these “dance” movies is usually irrelevant, needing only to have a great beat to accompany the dancing. But the terrific arrangement of the song “Sway” in “Shall We Dance” stayed with me. “Sway” turned out to be a Spanish song, written by two Mexican composers and first recorded in English by Dean Martin in 1954. It’s been recorded as a jazz instrumental many times, and revived as a vocal by Michael Buble in 2003, then The Pussycat Dolls in 2004 for the movie. It’s the percussive mambo beat, and the extraordinary horn arrangement that make this the ultimate arrangement for me.

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This past weekend, we played a wedding in which we brought an additional vocalist who happened to know this exact arrangement. I wrote it out for the band and it was a huge hit. I’ll be adding more and more Spanish songs to our repertoire.

The most surprising thing is that “Sway” was sung by The Pussycat Dolls who I thought were nothing more than a sexy/beautiful Las Vegas showgirl act. It turns out that they were indeed thrown together as a tightly choreographed  “lounge act” until they started recording with A & M Records. Selling over 56 million albums from 2003-2009, they remain one of the most successful “girl-groups” of all time. Who knew?

Leave a comment to let me know how you feel about either my “guilty pleasure” dance movies, or The Pussycat Dolls.

 

 

National Anthem-Whitney Houston

Memorial Day is actually supposed to be a somber day in which we remember those brave souls who died in combat. Both my father and father-in-law loyally enlisted for active duty during World War II. Fortunately, they both survived as decorated veterans long before I was born. Since Memorial Day is to honor fallen American military, there’s

The staggering number of Americans who died in the two World Wars and Vietnam alone are almost unbelievable.
During WWI 116,000, WWII 405,000, Vietnam 58,000 and Korea 53,000.  Vietnam and Korea didn’t even have the honor of being declared “wars.” They were politely called “police actions.” And that’s not including all the Post 9/11 war victims. In Afghanistan & Iraq we lost another 6,700. And it goes on and on.

Whitney Houston’s astonishingly moving performance of  “The Star Spangled Banner” at The Super Bowl in 1999 remains the best version ever sung.  So to truly honor American soldiers who died in combat, there’s nothing more appropriate than to have a private moment of silence, and spend a minute and 1/2 with another fallen American, Whitney Houston.

I always wondered why we, as a country, have parades and barbeques by the pool on what’s supposed to be a day or mourning, but that’s just me. Enjoy this moment with the late, great Whitney Houston, and enjoy the chills.

 

Dancing In The Street

“Dancing In The Street” is an all-time great sixties song , recorded during the era when Motown Records owned the Pop Charts. One hit after another came out of Berry Gordy’s Detroit-based label,  which, at the beginning was simply Gordy’s own relatively small house in Detroit,  where he lived with his family on the second floor, having turned the first floor into a recording studio he called “Hitsville U.S.A.”

For a fairly long stretch, it seemed like every ‘R & B’ dance hit was written, arranged and recorded at Hitsville,  soon to become “Motown.” Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, etc. all were introduced from this one studio on 2648 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI. It actually wasn’t until I first heard this song that I realized that Motown was short for The Motor City, because Detroit was the Car Capital of America. (Motor City = Motown.)

The most musically interesting thing about this song are the use of the horns. From the blaring opening of the song, the horn become an integral part of this perennial classic. Here’s a picture of Gordy’s original home/studio, and the lyrics to this 1964 Motown classic:

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Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street.
They’re dancing in Chicago,
Down in New Orleans,
In New York City.
All we need is music, sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere.
There’ll be swinging and swaying and records playing, dancing in the street.
Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as you are there.
So come on, every guy, grab a girl. Everywhere around the world
They’ll be dancing. They’re dancing in the street.

It’s an invitation across the nation, a chance for folks to meet.
There’ll be laughing, singing, and music swinging, dancing in the street.
Philadelphia, P.A.
Baltimore and D.C. now.
Can’t forget the Motor City.

All we need is music, sweet music. There’ll be music everywhere……

There may be a very few fleeting moments when you might notice  “Dancing In The Street” dating itself,  and yet, most of the time, it sounds as fresh as it did when it was first released fifty-two years ago. A can’t miss dance treeasure.

Let me know what you think.

 

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Having played over 1500 weddings in over 20 years, not  a single couple  has ever had us play an uptempo dance song as a Processional. Recessionals, sure. But never for a Procession. Which is precisely why they are now officially one of my favorite couples. They asked me yesterday what I thought of using Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” as both the Full Processional and Bridal Processional.

I would have sworn that Elvis Presley had originally sung “Crazy Little Thing,,,” in the 50s or 60s, and Queen was performing it at a tribute. Even the musical arrangement sounds exactly like an Elvis recording. And that’s the reason I don’t go to Las Vegas.  It turns out the Freddie Mercury of Queen wrote it as a tribute to Elvis in 1979, who had passed away two years earlier in 1977,  

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I just keep picturing the Bridal Party, and the Bride, grooving down the aisle as the guests clap along with the sax and keyboard playing an instrumental version of this great “throwback” song. It definitely announces, straight off,  to their friends…. hat this is going to be a truly fun party.

Now I really can’t wait for their wedding in ten days. I normally print out the lyrics for dance songs, but since we’re doing it as an instrumental, the lyrics and video theatrics remain irrelevant in this case. Besides, the title of the song sort of says it all.  It’s the beat that makes “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” so special and soon-to-be-memorable as a fun and terrifically  joyful Procession.
Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Can’t Stop The Feeling-J.T.

Justin Timberlake has a new feel-good dance hit. “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” I think Justin Timberlake is exactly what’s right about pop music. The man can do no wrong. The only person I can compare him to is Jennifer Lawrence. The man can do no wrong. At 36, he’s won nine Grammy Awards and 4 Primetime Emmy Awards. He’s won four PrimeTime Emmys for hosting and singing on “Saturday Night Live.”

Jennifer Lawrence, has been nominated for four Academy Awards in five years…winning one.  For those same four movies, she won three Golden Globes, and was nominated for the fourth. Let’s not forget starring four “Hunger Games,” and three “X-Men” movies Did I mention that she’s 26 years old, and that every talk show or red-carpet event makes front page news.

The most important thing they share is an innate joy at whatever it is they chose to do.  But let’s stick with Timberlake for now. He was the lead singer of the 90s boy band NSYNC, which sold over 50 million records from 1995-2002. In 2002, he started recording as a solo artist. In that 14 year period he sold more than 20 million albums from only three studio albums. The man simply can do no wrong. In that same period, he starred in half a dozen movies including “The Social Network” and “Friends With Benefits.”

“Can’t Stop The Feeling,” is JT’s first single in three years which would be a lifetime in most artists careers. Not Justin. It’s just great to have you back, JT, doing what you do best. The lyrics seem straight from the pen of his sometime producer Pharrell Williams. They’re simple, firstly because he wrote it as the Executive Music Producer for a soon-to-be released animated feature, “Trolls.”  Check out the lyrics.

I got this feeling inside my bones
It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on
All through my city, all through my home
We’re flying up, no ceiling when we in our zone

I got that sunshine in my pocket
Got that good song in my feet
I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops, ooh
I can’t take my eyes up off it, moving so phenomenally
You gon’ like the way we rock it, so don’t stop
Under the lights when everything goes
Nowhere to hide when I’m getting you close
When we move, well, you already know
So just imagine, just imagine, just imagine
Nothing I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance
Feeling good, good, creeping up on you
So just dance, dance, dance, come on
All those things I should do to you
But you dance, dance, dance
And ain’t nobody leaving soon, so keep dancing
Can’t stop the feeling…..

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Welcome back JT.

 

Sweet Caroline-Neil Diamond

“Sweet Caroline” is one of the most interesting “rock-ish” tune in our repertoire. It’s not a great song, but it is astonishingly memorable. It is so universally adored that I’ve never played “Sweet Caroline” when it wasn’t one of the biggest hits of the party. It also seems to be ageless, and genre-less. Everybody knows it, and everybody feels totally comfortable belting out the lyrics with our singers. That is a rather unique response to a very average song. A lot of people know some words to most tunes. But, with “Sweet Caroline” it is not uncommon to have the whole party singing with their arms around each other.

The most interesting element of the song, if you listen carefully, is the orchestration. The opening melodies are played by a French horn, followed by an oboe. When the famous “hands….” portions starts, it’s accompanied by shimmering strings, followed with a full horn section. All in all, it’s simply a remarkably famous song that people love to sing with, rather than dance to. But, as long as people are having fun, it’s all good. Here are the lyrics, which according to YouTube, was dedicated to President John Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline.

Where it began, I can’t begin to knowin’
But then I know it’s growing strong
Was in the spring, and spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along
Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good
I’d be inclined, to believe they never would
But now I…
Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt, hurtin’ runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I’m holding you
One, touching one. Reaching out, touching me, touching you
Sweet Caroline……….

Cheerleader-OMI

“Cheerleader” is a terrific Calypso-style song by the artist  Omar Samuel Pasley, whose nickname is Omi. Te song always manages to get people up dancing at every party, and makes my trumpet player extremely happy. It’s actually rare to hear a solo trumpet part running throughout an entire song. It’s a very simple song, relying almost exclusively on it’s percussion-infused Caribbean beat. Most guests are unsure exactly how to dance to “Cheerleader,” but it’s hard to hear it, and not at least be captured by its infectious groove.

The lyrics, unsurprisingly, are trite, and more than a little bit objectifying of woman. But like so many dance songs on this blog, the lyrics are fairly inconsequential. They become a lot more obvious and sexist when you watch the video. But what the hell. It’s really a fun song to play, and gratifying to watch people enjoy dancing to. Here are some of the lyrics.

When I need motivation
My one solution is my queen
‘Cause she stays strong, yeah yeah

She is always in my corner
Right there when I want her
All these other girls are tempting
But I’m empty when you’re gone
And they say, do you need me?
Do you think I’m pretty?
Do I make you feel like cheating?
I’m like no, not really ’cause
Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her
Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her

She walks like a model, she grants my wishes
Like a genie in a bottle. Yeah, yeah
‘Cause I’m the wizard of love
And I got the magic wand
All these other girls are tempting
But I’m empty when you’re gone.

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“Cheerleader” really is a fun dance song. Get up and dance.
Leave a comment to let me know how you feel.