Friday, June 30, 2017

Pride Month: TLC Song Facts


This song talks about girls' inner beauty. The first line (sung by T-Boz), "I wish I could tie you up in my shoes make you feel unpretty too," is talking about the people who say that a person is ugly. Chilli sings about satisfying her boyfriend for what he wants from her. In the video, directed by Paul Hunter, she and her boyfriend are looking at an online web page of a hospital which specializes in breast implants. Her boyfriend would like Chilli to get bigger breasts, but she thinks that she shouldn't. The video continues with more scenes of people compromising their health and principles for the sake of beauty, including a girl who uses bulimia to stay thin.

Dallas Austin, who also wrote and produced the trio's #1 hit "Creep," wrote this song based on a poem T-Boz composed called "Unpretty." He explained to Billboard: "Once I saw the title, I went to my keyboard and guitar and started playing melodies that would complement it. I didn't want it to be aggressive. I wanted it to be friendly - for a song called 'Unpretty' talking about how much you don't like stuff about yourself - so the message would come across to people with those kinds of problems or issues. I thought it would be unique to get it across in a sweet way."

Austin, who had first met the group back in high school long before they were famous, was careful to stay true to the girls' personalities by tailoring the verses for each of them: "When I write for TLC, I write for each one of the members. So when I do a Tionne part, it's different from what Chilli's part would be. When we first did 'Unpretty' it was one of the most exciting records we'd ever done because it was different. And it still stayed along the lines of TLC having messages for people."

This was used on the TV series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in the 1999 episode "Aging, Not So Gracefully."

This earned Grammy Award nominations for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2000, but lost both to Santana (for "Smooth" and "Maria Maria," respectively).


This was the first Top 40 hit for TLC. It introduced the group and explained who represented each letter: Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas.

This contains samples of "Escape-ism" (James Brown), "Jungle Boogie" (Kool & the Gang), "School Boy Crush" (AWB), "Fly Robin Fly" (Silver Convention), and "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" (Bob James).

The video made sure to introduce each singer. When each girl sang her part, her name flashed on the screen. Like many of their songs, T-Boz sang the lyrics, Left Eye did the rap, and Chilli sang on the chorus.

This is about sex. They made it clear, however, that they advocated safe sex, by prominently displaying condoms. Lopes wore one over her left eye in their early days.

This is not the same song as the Temptations classic of the same name. In that song, a man swallows his pride and begs his girl to come back to him. In this, the girls state that they are not afraid to ask a man for sex.

It took a long time for radio stations to figure out what this song was about, but when they did, a lot of them censored the line, "Two inches or a yard, rock hard or if it's sagging - I ain't too proud to beg." The line was part of Left Eye's rap.

This was written by Dallas Austin, except for Left Eye's rap which, like the majority of what she sang, she wrote herself.

The Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip album sold over 3 million copies. Their next one sold 5 million, but TLC still managed to go broke and had to file for bankruptcy in 1995. Their contract paid them only 7% of revenue from album sales, which wasn't enough to cover their expenses when split three ways.


This song is about a woman who is not happy with her man, so she sneaks around ("Creeps") and cheats on him.

This uses a sample from Slick Rick's 1988 song "Hey Young World."

This was written and produced by the Atlanta-based producer Dallas Austin. Though he had already made a name for himself working alongside producers like L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and hot acts like Another Bad Creation and Bell Biv DeVoe, "Creep" would be an important song for Austin because it proved he could write from a female perspective.

The trio had mixed feelings about the adulterous relationship portrayed in the lyrics. Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins thought the subject was an important one. She told Billboard: "We thought that was a good relationship to talk about because a lot of people don't admit that's how they feel - that their man's playing on them and they want to be with him so they seek attention elsewhere, but they really want to be with their guy."

But Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who was on probation for setting her boyfriend's (pro football player Andre Rison) house on fire, didn't like the idea and refused to contribute a rap to the song. Austin remembered: "The reason there's not a rap on it is because Lisa said, 'Dallas, I don't want this to offend people personally. I don't want it to interfere with my relationships. If he thinks I'm doing this, it's going to cause problems and I'm making a record out of it.'"

Left Eye also didn't believe in an eye-for-an-eye when it came to cheating. She threatened to protest the single by wearing black tape over her mouth in the video.

Austin held onto the song for six months because he thought it might be too corny, but when he couldn't get it out of his head, he decided to record it.

This was TLC's first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. They would have three more: "Waterfalls," "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty."

This won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1996. It was also nominated for Best R&B Song but lost to Stevie Wonder's "For Your Love."

The music video shows the group hanging out in their pajamas while T-Boz gets friendly with a trumpet player (played by former Janet Jackson dancer Omar Lopez). Two other videos were made, but went unreleased, including one that follows Chilli and T-Boz cheating on their boyfriends while Left Eye dances by herself.

TLC performed this on Saturday Night Live on the May 6, 1995 episode hosted by Bob Saget.

This was used in the TV series New York Undercover in the 1995 episode "CAT."

The song was inspired by a situation that T-Boz found herself in. "'Creep,' unfortunately, was one of my true stories," she told Billboard magazine with a laugh. "You're with a guy and he's not showing you attention, so another guy comes along and you're like, 'Hey, if you were where you were supposed to be, he couldn't be showing me attention right now!' I was in the middle of this drama, because the other guy was [my boyfriend's] friend, and my boyfriend was just not getting it together."

T-Boz shared her personal state of affairs with Dallas Austin, whom she grew up with in Atlanta, and Austin in turn penned "Creep."


This song is about men who have nothing going for them, but hit on women just the same, even resorting to hopeless tactics like hollering at women from the passenger seat of their friend's car. The song vaulted the term "Scrub" into the popular lexicon, and it became a well-used word to describe a worthless man.

Future Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss wrote this with help from producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, and Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. Burruss and Cottle were members of the recently disbanded group Xscape, who had a hit in 1993 with "Just Kickin' It," and they had formed their own duo, which they called KAT (Kandi And Tameka). Briggs was an up-and-coming producer at LaFace records, home of TLC, and he had written what would become "No Scrubs," but with completely different lyrics. After meeting Briggs through their manager, Burruss and Cottle asked if they could try writing different lyrics to the song, which they then hoped to record. Burruss got the "No Scrubs" idea after talking about some of her ex-boyfriends - she and her friends used the word "Scrubs" a lot. She and Cottle finished the new lyrics and took them to Briggs, who instead of putting the song together for KAT, brought it to LaFace where the execs decided it would be a great song for TLC. Burruss, who had songwriting aspirations but didn't write in Xscape, was hesitant about giving up the song, but knew it was the right thing to do. It worked out well for her, as even though her singing career wound down, she became a popular songwriter, later teaming up with Briggs to write another man-basher: "Bills, Bills, Bills" for Destiny's Child.

This was the first single released from Fanmail, the followup to TLC's wildly successful second album CrazySexyCool, which sold over 11 million copies. "No Scrubs" kept them in the groove and was a major hit. The song was a no-brainer for radio stations, as it was a fresh sound from an established group that had already made the R&B, Pop and Adult Contemporary charts. A smooth, mid-tempo number with a very memorable title, it found a home on all these formats, as did their next single, "Unpretty."

The word "scrub" has developed many uses, including what you do to rid your computer of viruses or remove items from a budget. "Scrubs" are what hospital workers wear, and a show with that name debuted on NBC in 2001.

The group Sporty Thievz released a response song from the male perspective called "No Pigeons." This renewed the popularity of "No Scrubs" as radio stations played the songs back-to-back.

This song is heavy on the "C" and light on the "T" and "L." It was the first TLC song that Chilli (Rozanda Thomas), sang lead on by herself; T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) did most of their lead vocals to that point. Kevin Briggs is the one who decided she would sing on it, and he worked with her to get the vocal down. He thought her vocal range was right for the track, and liked the idea of having her get her first lead. "We had some resistance from the other girls at one point, but we ended up working it out," said Briggs.

This won Grammys for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Group.

This song is TLC's biggest seller in the UK, selling 553,200 copies.

The futuristic music video, directed by Hype Williams, has the trio performing in space on metallic sets, with multiple wardrobe changes and a dance sequence in front of a TLC logo. The clip won the 1999 MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video.

The vocal melody in Ed Sheeran's 2017 hit "Shape Of You" bears much resemblance to the one used in this song. When Sheeran sings:

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me

It's pretty close to:

No, I don't want no scrubs
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me

It was close enough that Sheeran added the "No Scrubs" songwriters to the credits of "Shape Of You," likely to avoid a lawsuit.


"Chasing Waterfalls" is TLC's way of expressing how people chase intangible dreams with no thought of the consequences. The first verse is talking about an inner city mother and son relationship. He is chasing "waterfalls" (money and respect by dealing drugs), but his mother knows this cannot end well. The second verse deals with a man's relationship with a woman. His "waterfall" is casual sex - he has a "natural obsession for temptation." This could mean he is cheating on someone or the woman he is seeing is cheating on someone. Either way, he contracts HIV and dies ("three letters took him to his final resting place"). TLC were big on AIDS awareness - Left Eye would often wear condoms attached to her clothes and in her glasses to promote safe sex.

Cee-Lo Green sang backup on this. He's well-known as a songwriter and producer, and as a member of Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley. Cee-Lo recalled to The Guardian newspaper March 22, 2008: "I was working at the same studio and of course I know the girls too, because we were on the same label, so they just asked me. I didn't realize at the time what a big song it was going to be."

The Atlanta production team Organized Noize, who produced the track, wrote this song with Marqueze Etheridge, and TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes came up with the rap. Lopes was dealing with some personal problems at the time, which are expressed in her rap. She had a very turbulent relationship with the football player Andre Rison, and on June 9, 1994 she burned his new shoes in his bathtub, which set fire to his entire $2 million mansion. She pled guilty to arson, but did reconcile with Rison.

This makes the "songs discussed in movies" list thanks to its use in the 2010 film The Other Guys, where Michael Keaton's character keeps unknowingly quoting TLC songs, starting with this one.

The video won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1995, beating out "Buddy Holly" by Weezer and "Basket Case" by Green Day. The "Waterfalls" clip had lots of fancy computer generated effects, including a lot of water, which was notoriously difficult to render.

The rap lyrics Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes performed on this song were engraved in her casket. Lopes died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002.

Three-piece British girl group Stooshe released a cover of this song for their third single from their self-titled debut album in 2012. "We are huge fans and have met T-Boz, who told us she loved our version," Courtney Rumbold of the trio told The Sun. "It's meeting heroes like that that spurs us on, and we have the most loyal of fans." Their version peaked at #21 on the UK singles chart.

Stooshe managed to secure cameos from TLC's T-Boz and Chilli for their accompanying music video.

T-Boz and Chilli re-recorded the song with Japanese popstar Namie Amuro to mark their twentieth anniversary. The new version of the track was dedicated to their fans in Japan and finds Namie rapping Left Eye's verse almost at a whisper.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pride Month: Rihanna Song Facts


This bass-heavy dance anthem was co-produced by Norwegian duo Stargate with David Guetta, and it features the French king of Pop himself as a credited performer. Dutch newcomer Nicky Romero also has a credit as a co-producer. Romero attained a joint residency with Guetta at Ibiza for the summer of 2012 and collaborated with the French DJ on his Nothing But the Beat 2.0 Edition track, "Metropolis."

When the demo for this dance floor anthem first surfaced in the summer of 2012, it featured vocals by Ne-Yo. "We mixed the first version with Ne-Yo's vocals because he was part of the writing process," explained Romero to MTV News.

It was Guetta who suggested to Romero that they try penning something for Rihanna when the pair was working together at London's Metropolis Studios on some music. "We played a few songs that we made, a few hip-hop songs and a few dance songs and a lot of stuff," the Dutch DJ recalled to MTV News. "And she was like 'Yeah, I want to have this song combined with that world. And actually I want both worlds to glue together and make it one thing.' That's how 'Right Now' turned out to be on her album and I'm super, super proud to be part of it."

Finding a date when all parties were free to work on the track proved to be a scheduling nightmare. "Everyone's so busy and everyone's touring all the time, especially Rihanna, David Guetta and my schedule, it's insane," Romero told MTV News. "Basically we made the whole setup in London and we made it in a few hours."


Rihanna indulges an unnamed dude's fantasies on this Anti Deluxe Edition bonus track. She describes sex with her as "amazing" and "doesn't get any better" before continuing to turn him on with her dirty talk.

The song was written by OVO label singer-songwriter PartyNextDoor, the same guy that penned Rihanna's single "Work." Speaking to North Carolina's Power 98 FM station on how he came to write for the Bajan star, he said, "She let me into her house, literally. It was a working environment. She told me a few stories, I like interviewed her and I wrote a few songs for her."


Rihanna is addressing a former lover on this R&B power ballad, telling him to stop being so stubborn and just take her back. She knows that like her, he's been hurt by their breakup, so she urges him to swallow his pride and "kiss it better." The song was first previewed in December 2014 on Rihanna's Instagram page.

Rihanna wrote the song with:

American songwriter and producer Jeff Bhasker who has won Grammy Awards for the songs "Run This Town" by Jay-Z, "All of the Lights" by Kanye West, and "We Are Young" by Fun. His other credits include co-writing and co-producing Mark Ronson's smash hit, "Uptown Funk."

British singer-songwriter and actress Teddy Sinclair (real name Natalia Cappuccini), who started her recording career under the name of Verbalicious and released her debut single "Don't Play Nice" in March 2005. The song charted at #11 in the UK singles chart but her then record label later filed for bankruptcy and little was heard from her for a few years. Cappuccini then adopted the stage name Natalia Kills from the interjection "you killed it!", after her record company advised her that her legal name was "indescribable." She released two albums under that name, before reverting to Teddy Sinclair in 2015.

American vocal producer Thaddis "Kuk" Harrell who was a member of a songwriting–production team comprised of himself, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and Terius "The Dream" Nash. Harrell was the vocal producer and co-writer of Rihanna's Grammy-winning single "Umbrella" and earned another Grammy for the vocal production of Rihanna's "Only Girl (In The World)". His other credits include being a composer and engineer on Beyoncé's chart topping "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)."

Producer/songwriter Glass John, whose other credits include Chris Brown's 2013 single "Home." John caused a stir at the end of 2015 when he took to Twitter on an extended rant about the delay in completing Anti and how Rihanna's alleged boyfriend Travi$ Scott was sabotaging the LP.

John then went on to claim that "Kiss It Better" was supposed to be the album's lead single, tweeting, "ME AND MY WIFE (meaning Rihanna) WENT IN THE STUDIO W/ CLASSIC HIT MAKER @JEFFBHASKER TO CREATW A CLASSIC ANTHEM. And f--king Travis prevented it from being her first $ingle and launching her album last year."

Rihanna was scheduled to perform this song at the Grammy Awards in 2016, but she had to cancel after coming down with bronchitis.

The sultry black-and-white music video was directed by British fashion photographer Craig McDean. It features Rihanna moving around and rolling about in various stages of undress. The singer is literally the only thing in the frame throughout the clip.

McDean, who had previously shot Rihanna for magazines such as T and Vogue, told The Fader that he filmed the video in Los Angeles over a "very long night." McDean added that the inspiration for the clip was based on ideas which were inspired by dadaism and surrealism. "It all comes from you as a person, your inner inspiration and ideas you've had inside for a lifetime," he said.

McDean also spoke about the prominent use of dice that he and creative partner Masha Vayukova incorporated into the video: "Me and Masha watch the same kind of films, we look at a lot of books and art and it all merges together on the set, which is a great playground for visual experiments," he said. "Sometimes it's all about combining things that might not make any sense, [like] subconsciousness and dreams. Dice is such a graphic and surrealistic object so it came into play."

Rihanna recorded the song at Jungle City Studios, New York City and enlisted Extreme's Nuno Bettencourt to play guitar on the track.


Penned by Rihanna with Jamille Pierre, Badriia Bourelly, and Travis Scott, the Bajan singer premiered this expletive-laden trap anthem at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on March 29, 2015. Actress Taraji P. Henson introduced Rihanna as a boss, and she more than lived up to the billing with her fierce, bleeped performance of the cash-obsessed track.

Also stylized as "BBHMM", the grimy track finds Rihanna demanding that she gets paid what she's owed, and quickly. It has a similar theme to Ri-Ri's 2012 strippers and dollar bills-themed anthem, "Pour It Up."

Roc Nation producer Deputy helmed the tune, with help from Kanye West. Travis Scott and Canadian teenager Wonda Gurl both provided additional production for the song.

The title phrase dates back to Keenen Ivory Wayans' 1988 blaxploitation film spoof I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. Rappers who have used the misogynistic lyric include:

West Coast rhymer AMG on his 1991 cut of the same name, (actually a diss song aimed at rival DJ Quik).

Old Dirty Bastard during his 1999 single "Got Your Money"

Drake on his Nothing Was The Same track "Worst Behavior" (Bitch you better have my money when I come for the s--t like O.D.B.")

How's this for an irony: It could be that Rihanna owes someone else some cash because of this song! Fans of Houston singer/songwriter Just Brittany have pointed out the similarities of her 2014 track "Betta Have My Money" and the Bajan superstar's single. Brittany herself took to Twitter to claim that Rihanna had "jacked" her song. She later deleted the tweet.

Badriia "Bibi" Bourelly, a musician from Berlin, Germany, originally penned the song in a Los Angeles studio with Deputy. She recalled to Noisey: "We were just vibing with Deputy in one of the local studios I record out of. It was back when I was into writing to beats, which I don't do anymore. He played me it, I went in and started saying something like 'BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY!,' because I was feeling ratchet that day."

"We got that s--t done in three hours, then Dep went home and worked on it some more," Bourelly added. "It came out the way it did, and people seemed to like it."

The seven-minute NFSW cinematic video was co-directed by Rihanna and Megaforce, a quartet of French filmmakers who've previously masterminded videos for everyone from Kid Cudi to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It originated from an idea that the Bajan star came up with in 2014.

The explicit and violent clip follows Rihanna as she kidnaps and tortures a wealthy socialite, played by Canadian actress and model Rachel Roberts. to get back what she's owed. At the end of the visual it is revealed that the woman is actually the mistress of Rihanna's cheating accountant boyfriend, who is played by Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen.

Rihanna described the revenge fantasy story line to Vogue as, "Just a way to describe a situation. It's a way to be in charge, to let people know that you're all about your business."

Julia Roberts' actor brother Eric Roberts makes a cameo appearance. The Runaway Train star has featured in a number of music clips, including the ones for The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" and "Miss Atomic Bomb," Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" and "It's Like That," plus Akon's "Smack That."

The torture scenes as well as the shots of Rihanna covered in blood and cavorting naked proved divisive among fans online. Asked by NME if he anticipated the controversy, Leo Berne of Megaforce replied: "With the other videos that we've done, some of them could have been controversial, but it's never been our aim to do that. It's just the tone of the video [this time]. The song is about kidnapping, and we wanted to stay true to the tone of the song. It was never our intention to be controversial."

Asked if he has a favorite moment on the video, Berne replied: "I think it's the very last shot when her face is all covered in blood. I really like that shot because it's quite iconic. It was the very last shot of a very long day when we started at 5 p.m. and finished at 11 a.m. the following day."

Rachel Roberts is locked in a trunk and hung upside down, but it was being put under water that was the biggest challenge for the actress. "I can tell you the most challenging was the underwater scene where I was holding my breath while Rihanna held me under," she told MTV News. "I thought, you know, I'm pretty good in water, but there's still a sense of nervousness just because it's water."

One of the stars of the video, Seattle resident Sanam, who plays one of Rihanna's friends, had no previous acting experience. According to an interview with Vice, Rihanna randomly found a selfie Sanam posted on Instagram and direct messaged her about the project. "When we were down there, the first day I met her, I was like, 'How did you find me?'" Sanam told Vice. "She was like, 'I saw you on my Explore page.' She saw that picture of me where I was wearing my nath and my tika. She was like, 'I just thought you were so cool, and I was like, I don't know if I should message her or not. I don't know if she's going to be down.' I'm just sitting there, like, 'Are you crazy? How could you be nervous to message me?'"


This bluntly-titled cut is the opening track from Barbadian recording artist Rihanna's fifth studio album, Loud. The Stargate-produced and Ester Dean-penned song finds the singer proclaiming her vices: "I may be bad, but I'm perfectly good at it/Sex in the air, I don't care, I love the smell of it/Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me."

Rihanna told Spin magazine that people shouldn't take the raunchy lyrics too literally. "I don't think of it in a sexual way, I'm thinking metaphorically," she said. "It's more of a thing to say that people can talk… people are going to talk about you, you can't stop that. You just have to be that strong person and know who you are so that stuff just bounces off. And I thought it was super bad ass."

Rihanna told Q magazine the refrain "Sex in the air/I love the smell of it" is a raised middle finger to the media monks who say she is too raunchy. "You think I give a f--k what you think about me dressing sexy?" she exclaimed. "I love it. Come on, I love you for hating me."

The song's racy music video was shot in Los Angeles during the weekend of January 15, 2011 with director Melina Matsoukas, who had previously directed the promos for "Hard", "Rude Boy" and "Rockstar 101". It's concept is about the media's fascination with the Bajan pop star and features a cameo from blogger Perez Hilton who is seen paraded by Rihanna on a dog leash. Matsoukas told Billboard magazine the clip is inspired by the singer's "sadomasochist relationship with the press... it isn't just about a bunch of whips and chains."

On its release, the video was immediately banned in eleven countries, mainly in South Asia, due to its overt sexual content and BBC 1 Radio refused to play the track before 7 p.m. The clip was also labeled "inappropriate" for viewers under the age of 18 on YouTube, and a restriction put in place. Rihanna responded to the news via her Twitter account, posting "They watched Umbrella... I was full nude."

An edited version was released in the UK for daytime radio titled "Come On."

The controversial video became the target of a lawsuit from prominent photographer David LaChapelle after a number of media and bloggers noted the similarities between the clip and LaChapelle's work. Even Perez Hilton who appears in the clip tweeted: "The next time you make a David LaChapelle music video you should probably hire David LaChapelle."
The celebrity snapper accused Rihanna of ripping off images from his popular photographs, which have appeared in various publications. He claimed that the video copied the "composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting" of his work.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, Rihanna insisted the controversial hit is only superficially about sex. "The song can be taken very literally, but it's actually a very metaphorical song. It's about the love-hate relationship with the media and how sometimes the pain is pleasurable," she explained. "We feed off it - or I do. And it was a very personal message that I was trying to get across."

The song was Rihanna's tenth Hot 100 chart-topper. The Bajun singer was 23-years-old when it reached pole position, making her the youngest artist to rack up ten #1 hits. Mariah Carey held the previous record when she was 25.

The song's ascent to the summit was fueled by a "Rih-mix" featuring Britney Spears. The Rihanna/Spears collaboration was only the fourth #1 to feature two or more solo women. Can you work out the three previous chart-toppers to do so? They were:
1979 Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer "No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)."
1998 Brandy & Monica "The Boy Is Mine."
2001 Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink "Lady Marmalade."

Ester Dean told Billboard magazine how the song came about: "I wrote it, Father forgive me, on a Sunday. The track was already there," she recalled. "The first thing that came to me was 'Come on, come on.' I'm thinking, 'I don't know what in the hell this is about to be.' And I remembered I'd seen something that said, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones.' Then came 'But chains and whips excite me.' And I'm like, 'Oh, my God, I got to write that.' I'm in the studio with the engineer and just kept looking at him, asking, 'Is that OK?' And he says, 'I like it.' When people have a great track that speaks to me, it feels like it already has a story in it."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pride Month: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Song Facts


Ben Haggerty is a rapper from Seattle, Washington, who records under the name of Macklemore. After releasing his debut solo album, The Language of My World, in 2005, Macklemore was forced to take a break in order to battle his addiction to drugs and alcohol. After cleaning himself up in 2008, Macklemore teamed up with producer Ryan Lewis to become a collaborative and creative unit, having originally met through MySpace. Without a publishing or record deal, the pair spent several years recording their first album together, The Heist. Independently produced and recorded by the duo, the record debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 after being released on October 9, 2012.

This song was used to soundtrack an international Miller Genuine Draft advertising campaign during the summer of 2012. Its use helped increase Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' recognition in Europe.

Although originally released before "Thrift Shop," the song served as the follow up single to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' #1 hit. Its sales were boosted by a performance of the song on Saturday Night Live.

The song's music video finds the duo and guest singer Ray Dalton traveling the globe with their live band. The clip was created entirely by Macklemore and Lewis with their friends. The filming took place for three months, in over six continents and sixteen different shoots, ranging from New Zealand landscapes to the Space Needle in the duo's native Seattle. Lewis noted that his collaborators, "simply don't work within the conventional hierarchy of the film industry (director, producer, etc.) Sure, people have concrete pre-defined roles based on their expertise, but our team has the remarkable ability to wear multiple hats. 'Can't Hold Us' was a video that showcased this well."

Ray Dalton's chorus was actually the last part of the song to be crafted. "What happened was we were looking for a hook and it had no hook. There was just space; there weren't even words," Dalton explained to MTV News. "So when Ryan was testing my levels, I started humming them a melody, and that melody is what is now today the 'Can't Hold Us' song. [Then] Ben was like, 'Say this.' And I was reading the words to the melody that I made, and that's just how it happened."

At the time of Dalton's interview with MTV News, most internet sites listed the beginning of the chorus as "Here we go back. This is the moment," Dalton pointed out that he is actually singing "Can we go back..."

When this climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 to become Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' second #1 following "Thrift Shop," the pair became the first ever duo to take its first two singles to the chart's peak position.

This was the most-streamed song globally in 2013 on the music subscription site Spotify. "Thrift Shop" was also placed at #3 for the year, whilst The Heist was the most-streamed album on the service.


This song finds Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, detailing the struggles of a gay man throughout his life. Though straight himself, when Haggerty was in the third grade, he'd decided that he must be homosexual as he was artistic, tidy-minded and had an uncle who was in a same-sex relationship. It was his mom who reassured him he was not. Speaking with The Associated Press, Haggerty said the song's popularity affirms the changes in attitude within the notoriously homophobic Hip-Hop world. "I hope we're part of that transformation," said the rapper. "I don't think a song like 'Same Love' would have been received the same way even five years ago. We as a society and a culture have proven throughout time that we evolve, that we become slowly more compassionate and tolerant and accepting. The last couple hundred years in American culture have shown that. Obviously, there's give and take. There's times when we haven't and times that we lose ourselves, but I do think we're evolving as a society and hip-hop is a reflection of that."

Michigan performing arts teacher Susan Johnson found herself in the news after being suspended in November 2012 without pay for a couple of days. Her misdemeanor was allowing one of her eighth-grade students to play this song in her classroom. According to Johnson, the principal was unhappy about the song's use of the words 'faggot' and 'damn' and its pro-gay and anti-church content.

When this song replaced "Thrift Shop" at #1 on the Australian ARIA Charts in January 2013, Macklemore and Lewis became only the third act to replace themselves at the top of the ARIA countdown after Madonna in 1985 and the Black Eyed Peas in 2009.

The "love is patient, love is kind" lyric is a quote from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 13 v4 where the Apostle explains that true love is totally unselfish and directed outwardly to others rather than inward to oneself. It was Lambert who felt moved to include a Biblical reference adding, "My conscience is clear, I'm good with God," and "Not crying on Sundays." "It was in a positive aspect," she told The Seattle Times. "It was me saying, 'I am a gay Christian. I am comfortable.' I don't feel like it's bashing anyone."

The song was inspired by Macklemore's gay uncles and gay godfather, and is an issue that is personal to him. "I was really nervous to play it for them," he told The Independent On Sunday. "It's obviously a very personal song, and I didn't want to cross any boundaries in terms of their privacy. But we actually ended up taking a picture of them and using it as the cover art for the single.
"I wanted the art to reflect how personal the song was, and they are a big reason why I'm so passionate about the issue."

Mary Lambert told MTV News: "I didn't want to say this at the time, because I'm not egotistical, but I felt like this was the song I was meant to write, this is completely my story, my experience in the church, and being a lesbian."

"After we wrote it, I thought of it as Ben [Haggerty] being the brain," she added, "and the pragmatic part of the song, thinking about it intellectually, and I provided the heart and the emotional spark. And that's what makes an anthem, and I think that's why it's taken off."

This won for Best Video With A Social Message at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Accepting the award, Macklemore said: "I've been writing songs since I was 15 years old, and out of every single song I have ever written, to me this is the most important record out of all of them. To watch the song in the last year spread across the world is a testament to what is happening right now in America on the forefront of equality. Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation."

Structurally, this song is fairly straightforward: its form is simply three repetitions of verse/chorus (A-B-A-B-A-B) covering a 5:19 running time. What is unusual is how long it takes to reach the first chorus, which doesn't occur until 1:28.

This earned a Grammy nomination for Song Of The Year, but lost to "Royals" by Lorde (they did win for Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, and "Thrift Shop" won for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song). Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed the song at the ceremony, where they were joined on stage by Mary Lambert, Trombone Shorty, Queen Latifah and Madonna.

When Macklemore finished his last verse, Latifah presided over a wedding ceremony where 33 couples in the audience - some gay, some straight - exchanged rings. "By the power invested in me by the state of California, I now pronounce you a married couple," she declared. As the couples embraced, Madonna appeared on stage and sang part of her song "Open Your Heart" over the "Same Love" groove.

Ken Ehrlich, who produced the telecast, said that the idea for the mass marriage came from reports of wedding proposals at Macklemore & Ryan Lewis concerts.


Over Ryan Lewis' funky old school beat, Macklemore pays homage to the great hip-hop pioneers. The track features hip-hop legends Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, while singer Eric Nally croons the hook.

Macklmemore told 97.1 Amp Radio morning show host Carson Daly: "It is a record that kind of pays homage to the late 70's, early 80's and what was going on in hip-hop, and what was going simultaneously in rock music, and melding the two worlds together in one record."

After Macklemore & Ryan Lewis embarked on their first world tour in 2012, they each bought mopeds, which allowed them to leave the confines of the venues and see the sights on their travels. This kept the tour experience from becoming the routine of hotel-backstage-show without ever venturing into the local landscape. In this way, the moped became far more than a cheap means of transportation: it was a vessel for freedom.

When Lewis came up with the track, he called it "Moping Around," a work title that Macklemore heard as "Moped Around." That gave him the idea to write a song about mopeds. It started off as jocose song where he was just having fun, but it grew into something much more when they introduced the old-school element and involved the guest vocalists.

Macklemore told MTV News the story of the song. "I was listening to Backspin on XM Radio and hearing these older rappers' cadences and vocal tones and I was like, 'This is so dope, nobody's doing this anymore,'" he said "Ryan was like, 'Yo, you gotta flip something like that for the new album. People aren't doing these old school type cadences.' And so I messed around with that a little bit."

"We were also listening to a lot of Queen and a lot of music from the '70s and it was, 'How could we kind of merge these two worlds, these two very different worlds, in a way that seamlessly worked, that were obviously different, but could live on the same record?'" Macklemore added. "Like, 'Is that even possible?'"

Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel and singer Eric Nally join forces with Macklemore and Lewis on the video as they cruise through the streets of Spokane, Washington on their mopeds. With lots of urban dance-fighting, the Jason Koenig-directed visual contains many elements of the film West Side Story.

Macklemore and crew performed this at the 2015 MTV Music Awards, using many elements from the video. The performance went down outside of the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles.

So who is singer Eric Nally, the guy that is crooning the hook? The vocalist was the frontman for the Ohio rock band Foxy Shazam, which formed in 2004 and opened for mainstream acts like The Strokes, Panic! At the Disco, Hole and The Darkness.

Nally also collaborated with Meat Loaf on his Hang Cool Teddy Bear album, co-penning the tracks "Love is Not Real / Next Time You Stab Me in the Back" and "California Isn't Big Enough."

When Eric Nally got an out-of-the-blue call from Macklemore and Lewis to work on the song, it was perfect timing as the vocalist had just started a hiatus from working with Foxy Shazam. "From what I understand Ryan Lewis is a pretty big fan of Foxy Shazam," he explained to MTV News.

In addition, Macklemore and Lewis' trumpet player and collaborator, Josh "Budo" Karp, had played shows alongside Foxy Shazam during the 2012 Warped Tour. "He [Budo] remembered me and I guess we'd exchanged contacts and he and Ryan thought I'd be a good fit for the track," Nally said. "The next thing I know I'm flying out to Seattle and sitting in a circle with them in a studio working on the chorus and then cameo for the video."

Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., who played for the Seattle Mariners and is beloved in the city, makes an appearance in the video, catching a fish to punctuate the line, "stop by Pike Place, throw a fish to a player."

Pike Place Market is the shopping hub of Seattle, where the fishmongers will sometimes throw a fish - a bit that goes over well with tourists and for years has been a go-to shot for producers looking to set the Seattle scene in myriad video productions. (Like at the beginning of a Mariners game - "we're here in Seattle..." Every city has certain landmarks that identify it visually, but few have anything as kinetic and eye-catching as the flying fish. Along with shots of the Space Needle, this makes the job of compiling scenics for Seattle a no-brainer. What a lot of tourists don't understand, however, is that at the fish market, they will be happy to accommodate camera crews, but if you want the fish to fly, you have to buy one - they have better things to do than throw fish for onlookers all day).

This scene appears at the 1:43 mark; Griffey shows up again at 4:02 riding a two-wheeler.

In both shots, Griffey is rocking the 1989 look from his rookie year. In the fish scene, he is posed like his Upper Deck baseball card and styled the same way, complete with Mariners hat from the era and gold chain.

Like many Mariners supporters, Macklemore is a huge fan of Griffey - he recounts some of the star's on-field heroics on the 2010 track "My Oh My." Getting Griffey in the video was the idea of director Jason Koenig, who is also a big fan.

This was Kool Moe Dee's first Hot 100 appearance since 1999, when Will Smith's "Wild Wild West" (featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee) topped the chart for a week.


This is a sequel to "White Privilege," a track that appeared on Macklemore's 2005 solo album The Language of My World. The song finds the rapper rhyming for nine minutes about a variety of issues concerning racial tensions and engaging with the black community. Topics he references include white supremacy and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"This song is the outcome of an ongoing dialogue with musicians, activists, and teachers within our community in Seattle and beyond," Macklemore wrote. "Their work and engagement was essential to the creative process."

When the original "White Privilege" was released in 2005, few people knew who Macklemore was. However, his message has evolved, now he has recognition in mainstream America as a white rapper. "Writing that song in 2004 - that was a different version of me," he told Complex in 2015. "I was an unknown. I was making an observation: Look at what's happened. Pointing - not in a negative way - but making cultural observation."

"Fast-forward ten years, my vantage point isn't pointing the finger at anyone else anymore," Macklemore continued. "It's pointing the finger at myself. It was pointing the finger at myself then, too, questioning things. But it's different when - cultural appropriation and white privilege in regard to hip-hop - you're the example."

Miley Cyrus, Elvis Presley and Iggy Azalea are all namechecked in the lyrics. Macklemore includes them as examples of white artists that have been accused of appropriating African-American music and culture.

Iggy Azalea shared her thoughts on being called out on the track, tweeting. "He shouldn't have spent the last three yrs having friendly convos and taking pictures together at events etc if those were his feelings."

Macklemore told Rolling Stone that his bars weren't intended as a slight to those mentioned. "For me, that second verse is unpacking," he said. "It's an unpacking moment of internalized criticism and self-doubt, and 'What have I done,' and letting the criticism infiltrate who I am. 'Why am I insecure at a protest?' And I think that people get put into boxes, and the conversation around cultural appropriation -- I was at the forefront of that, rightfully so. And that conversation also included Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea, and that's why their names are on the record."

The song features the Chicago-based poet and singer Jamila Woods, who is best known for her vocal contributions on the Donnie Trump and The Social Experiment tracks "Sunday Candy" and "Questions."

The track was born from a Seattle protest following the non-indictment of Darren Wilson - the white cop who fatally shot black teenager Mike Brown. It was an unnamed veteran rapper who then inspired Macklemore to create the track. "It was a long night. And that ended up getting news coverage. Then I got on the phone with an O.G., whose name I want to keep off the record. A hip-hop artist I'd never talked to before," recalled the Seattle MC.

"He sent me a DM on Twitter and then he called me, and he said, 'I see you, I see what you're doing.' He was very complimentary about the music we've made, and it led into him saying, 'You have a platform, but silence is an action, and right now, you're being silent," Macklemore continued. "You're not saying anything about what's going on, and because you're a white rapper you have perspective and an insight onto these issues that you need to be speaking about. It's very important that you engage your audience.'"

The song was co-written by Macklemore's step cousin Tyler "XP" Andrews, one of six This Unruly Mess I've Made tracks he has credits on. He recalled to Genius: "On 'White Privilege II' a lot of people like Jamila Woods, Nikkita, and Hollis had input. Mostly just having conversation. Him and Ryan being like, 'How should we approach this? And is it OK to say some of these things that I want to say?' Once they got into the process of making the song, the one thing I wrote is the chant. 'The blood in the streets, no justice, no peace.' I wrote that for the ladies to sing. We recorded a huge choir—like 10 people, male and female. I helped direct that choir since I have Baptist church experience."

"I was drawing from our conversations," Andrews continued. "I'm sure from the rallies I've been to, too. If anything, it's a war cry, and it's more spiritual than anything. Probably something I channel—the s--t is in my blood. People before me. My whole family is growing through this s--t. This ain't anything new under the sun. It was almost 500 years old. It's a part of right now. It's a part of the past. That's what we felt and what was happening at the time."


Ben "Macklemore" Haggerty became a father for the first time when his fiancée Tricia Davis gave birth to Sloane Ava Simone Haggerty on May 29, 2015. This reflective ode finds the Seattle rapper dispensing life advice to his baby daughter in the verses.

Ed Sheeran croons the chorus, which captures Macklemore's sentiments of uncertainty about his new role as a father.

Macklemore the story behind the song in a letter to his fans on his website: "I wish that I could say that I was in a 'better place" when I found out the news. It would make for a far more polished and respectable story. But I think back to that night: praying on the floor at 2 am as Tricia went to the bathroom to take a pregnancy test I'd just purchased from Walgreens. I was scared. Scared to start working on new music. Scared of trying again and failing. Scared of the process of staring at myself through a page and seeing something that I wasn't proud of. Someone that I didn't like. Someone that wasn't ready to be a dad."

"I've always had some make-believe image in my head of who I would be as a father. I held on to clear expectations of where I wanted to be in my career, my age, my level of self-care, and my maturity. I basically assumed that I'd have it all together. But in actuality the hypothetical 'dad' version of me looked completely different than the man whose heart was beating out of his chest on the carpet, praying to a god or spirit I hadn't talked to in months. When Tricia walked out of the bathroom, I knew. And I knew I had to change."

"5 months later we were recording in a remote cabin away from the density that is Seattle. I was finally having fun in the studio for the first time in years. Songs were getting made, finally. I was going back to the city once a week to attend birthing class with Tricia. When I got back to the cabin the next day, Ryan (Lewis) had made a new beat that would eventually become the song that you're listening to. Half of it is advice about growing up. The other half is trying to figure out how to grow up myself."

Writing the lyrics was an emotional experience for Macklemore. "I wrote the words, 'They say boys don't cry, but your dad has shed a lot of tears,'" he recalled to MTV News, referencing the song's opening lines, "and immediately just welled up, and it just kind of came."

Macklemore originally approached Adele to appear on the song. When she passed, he turned to Ed Sheeran, who recorded the vocals instead.

Asked by The Sun how he felt about being turned down by the superstar, Macklemore replied: "Adele's management said she had to focus on putting out her record as 'Hello' was about to drop any minute and Adele hadn't done any collaborations. They were very sweet and said that she was a fan of the music and just the timing wasn't right so maybe another time we will."

He added: "Ed is a great dude, he is one of my favorite people. He is just a brilliant songwriter and a great friend. Before we'd ever met, I'd heard he was covering my song 'Same Love' off The Heist. Then we were both in Buffalo, New York, and he came to the show and we brought him out and he did various parts on Same Love. Then we went to a casino and stayed up super-late and had a great time."

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pride Month: Elton John Song Facts


Space exploration was big in 1972; the song came out around the time of the Apollo 16 mission, which sent men to the moon for the fifth time.

The inspiration for Bernie Taupin's lyrics, however, was the short story The Rocket Man, written by Ray Bradbury. The sci-fi author's tale is told from the perspective of a child, whose astronaut father has mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. It was published as part of the anthology The Illustrated Man in 1951.

Bradbury's story was the basis for another song called "Rocket Man," which was released by the folk group Pearls Before Swine (fronted by Tom Rapp) in 1970. Taupin says that this gave him the idea for his own "Rocket Man" ("It's common knowledge that songwriters are great thieves, and this is a perfect example," he says). In the Pearls Before Swine song, a child can no longer look at the stars after his astronaut father perishes in space.

This was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who worked with David Bowie on his 1969 song "Space Oddity." Both songs have similar subject matter, and lots of people accused Elton of ripping off Bowie, something both Elton and Bernie Taupin deny.

The opening lyrics came to Bernie Taupin while he was driving near his parents' house in Lincolnshire, England. Taupin has said that he has to write his ideas down as soon as they show up in his head, or they could disappear, so he drove though some back roads as fast as he could to get to the house where he could write down his thought: "She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour, 9 a.m., and I'm gonna be high as a kite by then."

From there he came up with the song about a man who is sent to live in space as part of a scientific experiment.

The song can be interpreted as a symbol of how rock stars are isolated from their friends, family and from the real world by those with power in the music industry. Some lyric analysis as part of the rock star isolation theory:

"I'm burning out his fuse up here alone" - Rocketing through space on stage.

"Higher than a kite" - Feeling outside the box called normal.

"Mars" - "The place he is when he's high; don't need to be raising children when you're an addict. It's a "cold" place, being an addict and larger than life when you want to be "Normal" and a "Rocketman" at the same time.

The most commonly misheard lyric in this song is "Rocket Man, burning out his fuse up here alone." This was the centerpiece of a 2011 commercial for the Volkswagen Passat, where folks came up with all kinds of interpretations of the last few words: telephone, cheap cologne, motor home, provolone. A couple in a Passat can correctly interpret the words thanks to the car's premium sound system, and all is well. This wasn't the first time the song was used in a commercial; it was also featured in ads for AT&T.

Elton John named his record company Rocket Records after this song. He started the company in 1973; it was the label that released Neil Sedaka's comeback songs.

There was another song called "Rocket Man" that Bernie and Elton knew about when they wrote this. It was released by a group called Pearls Before Swine and came out in 1970.

When Elton played the Soviet Union in 1979, this was listed on the program as "Cosmonaut."

This was Elton's biggest hit to that point, outcharting his first Top-10 entry, "Your Song." It had a huge impact on his psyche, as it gave him the confidence to know that he could sustain his career in music.

Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens' nickname was "The Rocket," which led to lots of highlight videos of him pitching in slow motion with this song playing in the background. He earned the nickname because of his outstanding fastball, but later came under scrutiny when the league learned that his rocket fuel may have been steroids. Clemens denied the allegations and was never convicted of steroid use.

Kate Bush covered this in 1991 for an Elton John tribute album called Two Rooms (a reference to John and Taupin writing separately). Her version hit #12 in the UK.

William Shatner performed a spoken-word version of this song at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards, for which he was the host. Bernie Taupin did the introduction.

At a show in Anaheim, California on August 22, 1998, Jim Carrey joined Elton for a duet of this song. Carey gave a real performance before sitting at the piano and bashing his head into the keys.

On an episode of the television show Family Guy, Stewie does a spoken version of this song.

This was used in a 2017 commercial for Samsung's Gear VR where an ostrich learns to fly after using the flight simulator on the device.


The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends follow the yellow brick road in search of the magical Wizard of Oz, only to find they had what they were looking for all along. It was rumored that the song was about Judy Garland, who starred in the film. See a photo and learn more in Song Images.

Elton and his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin went to Jamaica to record the album, but the studio was so horrible that the project was abandoned there, with only a rough version of "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" actually being recorded. This, and the rest of the album, were recorded in France at Strawberry Studios (The Chateau d'Hierouville).

Bernie Taupin writes the lyrics to Elton's songs. He often seems to write about Elton, but this one appears to be about him. The lyrics are about giving up a life of opulence for one of simplicity in a rural setting. Elton has enjoyed a very extravagant lifestyle, while Taupin prefers to keep it low key.

Speaking about the song, Taupin said: "It's funny, but there are songs that I recall writing as if it was yesterday. And then there are those I have absolutely no recollection of, whatsoever. In fact, I'd have to say that for the most part, if someone was to say that the entire Yellow Brick Road album was actually written by someone else, I might be inclined to believe them. I remember being there, just not physically creating.

There was a period when I was going through that whole "got to get back to my roots" thing, which spawned a lot of like minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don't believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn't want it. I just I don't believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home."

Bernie's canine imagery, including the part about sniffing around on the ground, is a sly poke at Linda's two little dogs. Linda was a girlfriend of Elton John's.

In 2008, Ben & Jerry's created a flavor of ice cream in honor of Elton John called "Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road." Made of chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks, it was made to commemorate Elton's first concert in Vermont (home of the ice cream makers) on July 21, 2008 at the Essex Junction fairgrounds. Elton had played every other state before his Vermont show. He had some of the ice cream before the show.

Ben Folds told Rolling Stone magazine for their 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time issue: "He was mixing his falsetto and his chest voice to really fantastic effect in the '70s. There's that point in 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,' where he sings, 'on the grooound' - his voice is all over the shop. It's like jumping off a diving board when he did that."


Elton wrote the music to this song as an homage to glam rock, a style defined by outrageous costumes that was popular in the early '70s, especially in the UK. Artists like David Bowie and Gary Glitter got into the act, but for Elton, it was an extension of his personality - he really was gay and liked to wear feminine clothes on stage. He became known for his wild appearance and collection of gaudy sunglasses.

"Bennie" is a female character who Elton has described as a "sci-fi rock goddess." Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics, told Esquire, "'Bennie And The Jets' was almost Orwellian - it was supposed to be futuristic. They were supposed to be a prototypical female rock 'n' roll band out of science fiction. Automatons."

It was Elton's idea to stutter the vocal: "B-B-B-Bennie..." Bernie Taupin thought this worked very well with the futuristic, robotic theme of his lyrics. Said Taupin: "That's a little quirk of the song which I'm sad to say I had nothing to do with. That and that wonderful big chord at the beginning. I think those two things are what probably made that song so popular. Neither of which I had anything to do with."

Comic books, movies, and the German photographer Helmut Newton were some of the influences Bernie Taupin threw into the pot when writing the lyrics to this song. Said Taupin: "I'd always had this wacky science fiction idea about a futuristic rock and roll band of androids fronted by some androgynous kind of Helmut Newton style beauty, which was depicted to little great effect on the Yellow Brick Road album cover. I'm not sure if it came to me in a dream or was some way the subconscious of effect of watching Kubrick on drugs. Either way, it was definitely something that was totally formed as a concept, and something that could have morphed into any number of populist items. Could have been comic books or movies. In fact, I can't help but believe that that Robert Palmer video with all the identical models somehow paid a little lip service to The Jets."

This was also a hit on the US R&B charts, known at the time as the "Black" charts. Elton was especially proud of this, as he was influenced by many black musicians.

Elton did not think this would be a hit. He was shocked when it went to #1 in America. John claims he rarely knows which of his songs will be hits.

The falsetto vocal is Elton trying to sound like Frankie Valli. He was a fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons growing up, and went to at least one of their concerts when he was young.

Elton's producer Gus Dudgeon wanted a live feel on this recording, so he mixed in crowd noise from a show Elton played in 1972 at Royal Festival Hall. He also included a series of whistles from a live concert in Vancouver B.C., and added hand claps and various shouts.

Elton tried to record the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in Jamaica, since The Rolling Stones had just recorded their Goats Head Soup album in a studio there and encouraged him to try it. Instead of the relaxing tropical paradise they expected, Elton and his crew encountered hostile locals and faulty equipment. They ended up recording the album at the studio in France (The Chateau) where they recorded their two previous albums.

Bernie Taupin says that when he saw the Robert Palmer video for "Addicted To Love," it portrayed when he envisioned Bennie And The Jets looking like: a dapper frontman backed by robotic models.

This wasn't released as a single in the UK, where it was released as the B-side of "Candle In The Wind." In the US, "Candle In The Wind" was not released as a single because MCA records thought this was better. Elton protested, but came around when black radio stations started playing it and it became a hit.

Elton performed this on Soul Train, becoming one of the few white performers ever to play the show (David Bowie is another). Elton asked to appear on the show, as he was a big fan. He explained on the program that he and his band would often watch it while they were on tour.

This was featured in the movie My Girl 2. Its played when Vada and Nick are exploring Los Angeles.

On Elton John's "Red Piano" tour (2007-2009), he would open with this song. He had old neon casino signs that spelled out ELTON. During the opening da da dada da notes, the lights would go on with each note.

Elton performed this song when he appeared on The Muppet Show in 1977, with a group of Muppets singing along with him at the piano. Elton's outlandish costumes were a running joke during the episode, and at one point Sam The Eagle was coerced into dressing like Elton.

In 1999, Mary J. Blige reworked this into a song called "Deep Inside." Elton played piano on the track.


Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to most of Elton John's songs, but Elton would occasionally suggest titles. Elton requested a song with the title "Philadelphia Freedom" in honor of his friend, the tennis player Billie Jean King. At the time, there was a professional tennis league in America called World Team Tennis, and in 1974 King coached a team called the "Philadelphia Freedoms," becoming one of the first women ever to coach men. Taupin had no obligation to write lyrics about King, and he didn't - the song was inspired by the Philadelphia Soul sound of groups like The O'Jays and Melvin & The Blue Notes, and also the American bicentennial; in 1976 the US celebrated 200 years of independence.

Elton John and Billie Jean King became good friends after meeting at a party. Elton tried to attend as many of her matches as he could, and he promised King a song after she gave him a customized track suit. Elton and Billie Jean King would become icons of the gay and lesbian community, but at the time, they were both still in the closet, since athletes and entertainers faced a backlash if they revealed their homosexuality. Elton was often answering questions about why he hadn't settled down with a girl, and King avoided the subject as best she could, but was forced to come out in 1981 when a former lover sued her for palimony. King was married to a man up until her outing, and Elton was married to a woman from 1984-1988.

On the single, it said this song was dedicated to "B.J.K." (Billie Jean King) and "The Soulful Sounds Of Philadelphia."

This song was a huge hit in America, following up another #1 single from Elton John, his cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds." Elton dominated the charts at this time, but it didn't always make him happy, as he felt he was being overexposed. He told Melody Maker in June 1975: "In America I've got 'Philadelphia Freedom' going up the charts again. I wish the bloody thing would piss off. I can see why people get sick and tired of me. In America I get sick and tired of hearing myself on AM radio. It's embarrassing."

Running 5:21, this was one of the longest dance hits of the '70s. A few months earlier, a national radio programer declared that he would no longer play any Elton John song over 4 minutes long because they were screwing up his playlists (Program directors liked short songs because they could play more of them. Elton's opuses like "Daniel" and "Funeral For A Friend" had a way of screwing up the "14 Hits In A Row" format). Elton knew this would be a hit, and was happy to screw the programmer by making it long, knowing he would have to play it anyway.

Elton said this was "one of the only times I tried to deliberately write a hit single."

Elton often put interesting B-sides on his singles, which made them more valuable. On this, the B-side was a live duet of The Beatles hit "I Saw Her Standing There" that Elton recorded with his friend John Lennon. Elton had previously sung on Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Through The Night" and also released a version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," which was written by Lennon.

In 1975, Elton become one of the first white performers to appear on the TV show Soul Train, which was an honor for him. He performed this song and "Bennie And The Jets."

Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album to enter the US charts at #1. This was due to advance orders, as the album was widely anticipated.

Depending on where he was performing, Elton would sometimes alter the lyrics of the song, swapping "Philadelphia" for his present location. He would only do it if he could make it fit, so "Cincinatti Freedom" was a go, but Cleveland didn't get customized.


The tag-line for the animated motion picture The Lion King was "Life's greatest adventure is finding your place in the Circle of Life." Lyricist Tim Rice was reportedly stunned by how quickly composer Elton John was able to put Rice's words to music. This effort was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination, but lost to "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from the same movie, also written by Tim Rice, and composed and sung by Elton John. The movie's version of this song in the opening scene was sung by Carmen Twillie, and Elton John's version is included on the soundtrack.

The Lion King went on to become the best-grossing traditionally animated feature of all time, with the songs playing a key part. The song is also featured frequently in attractions that include The Lion King at Disney theme parks, such as parades.

This is one of Elton's favorite songs in his considerable canon. Working on The Lion King got him out of the cycle of recording and album and then touring, and it led to more work on musicals, as he later contributed to Aida, Billy Elliot and The Vampire Lestat.

Elton prefers "Circle Of Life" to his other Lion King hit contribution, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight?" While he rarely plays the later in concert, "Circle" is often in his setlist, as Elton thinks the lyric is "brilliant."

The song is one of the few hits Elton wrote without his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin. There were no hard feelings, as Taupin fully supported the effort. It was Tim Rice who approached Elton about putting the music to his words. Rice says that the movie studio didn't think Elton would do it, but when he asked, Elton was very excited to work on the project.

Disney had another hit on their hands the following year with the movie Pocahontas, and once again, they made reference to the circle of life in the movie's theme song, "Colors Of The Wind," as the heroine sings, "we are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends."

Jennifer Hudson performed this on season three of American Idol during Top 9 week when Elton John was the guest mentor.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pride Month: Sia Song Facts


In the video The making of Colour the Small One, Sia says: "'Breathe Me' is about feeling worried, generally anxious. Being overwhelmed by your own inner dialogue and having some sort of conniption fit and potentially doing yourself some harm, then asking for help."

This was used on the last episode of the TV show Six Feet Under during the montage where it reveals what happened in the characters' lives and their deaths.

Sia told about recording this track: "It always felt like a good song that one. Sam and Felix had put the drums and bass down, they played it all live together one night after they'd been to dinner, and I was really sick with flu and I walked in the next day and the track was there without me singing on it and it was just so sleek. I don't really listen to my own music. I don't think most people listen to their own music after they've recorded it. Some of my musician friends get really anal and listen to it all the time, analyzing it. But once I've done it, I listen to it once and put it to bed, but with that one I was like, 'yeah! Again! Again!'"


A single from the deluxe edition of This Is Acting, this is a powerful anthem about refusing to give up. The theme of perseverance and resilience is one that Sia has visited several times previously, including on her This Is Acting track "Unstoppable" and the David Guetta single "Bang My Head."

Sia wrote the song with Greg Kurstin. The American producer's other collaborations with the Australian singer-songwriter include her first US #1 hit "Cheap Thrills."

The song features a Kendrick Lamar guest verse in which the Compton rapper testifies to the wisdom he has gained through his struggles and peoples' criticism of him.

The Stacy Moscatelli-directed music video features Sia's dancing avatar Maddie Ziegler. It omits the Lamar verse and - true to form - the shy songstress herself.

For the single's promotion, Sia shared a picture of herself and Ziegler with rainbow makeup on their faces indicating a pro-LGBT message. The nightclub setting at the end of the video with bullet holes in the back wall, appears to confirm it is a message of encouragement to the gay community in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting, which claimed 49 lives. There are 49 dancers in the clip, including Ziegler, who wears a black wig in place of white.


This sunny jam finds Sia singing of getting ready to go clubbing:

It's Saturday and it won't be long
Gotta paint my nails, put my high heels on
It's Saturday and I won't be long
Til I hit the dance floor

Like most of the other This is Acting tracks, this was written for another artist but rejected. In this instance, Sia penned the carefree tune with Greg Kurstin ("What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)", "Hello") for Rihanna.

"Her manager said "We want 'Diamonds.'" [Sia wrote "Diamonds" for Rihanna] We need soul. We want some music that has feeling," she recalled to Rolling Stone. "I went to Greg and that's what we came up with. I realized just as soon as I was cutting it that it sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for her. It's more Icona Pop. We did actually send it to her, but they passed on it, and then I just couldn't stop listening to it in the car."

"There's something really uplifting about it that put me in a good mood, and I would just pretend it wasn't me singing [laughs]," Sia continued. "It felt very summer and fun, and I was like, "I'll put that on there."

A remix of the track was released featuring reggae artist Sean Paul. His verse gives the song a whole new dancehall makeover. It was released as This is Acting's second single.

A black-and-white lyric video was released, parodying vintage variety shows with dancing contests. We see a new type of dance break out featuring energetic faceless dancers wearing signature Sia wigs. The visual was directed by Lior Molcho, who also worked on the clip for the This Is Acting lead single "Alive."

Directed by Sia with Daniel Askill, the song's music video is the Australian singer-songwriter's fourth collaboration with Maddie Ziegler. The young dancer previously appeared in Sia's visuals for "Chandelier," "Elastic Heart" and "Big Girls Cry."

The song was Sia's first Hot 100 chart-topper as an artist. She'd previously reached #1 as the writer of Rihanna's "Diamonds."

Sia was 40 years and seven months old when this song topped the chart. It was the first time a woman over 40 had reached the peak position since the 42-year-old Madonna achieved the feat with "Music" back in 2000.

The song was Sean Paul's fourth Hot 100 #1. He previously led with "Get Busy" in 2003, as a featured artist on Beyonce's "Baby Boy" the same year, and "Temperature" in 2006.

Asked by Billboard magazine what his reaction was when Sia first came to him about guesting on this song, Sean Paul replied: "I just thought: 'What a big sound, nice hook and melody she had put down.' I'm a huge fan of her voice. She spans generations. My mum is a big fan of her voice and her songs and writing."

Which song of 2016 had the most people reaching for their phone to find out what on earth it was? According to data released by the music identification app Shazam, "Cheap Thrills" was the year's most Shazamed song.


In this moral fable the narrator finally walks away from her needy friend, as she was tired of the friend using her as a crutch.

Sia told Stereo Subversion that although Some People Have Real Problems was an easy album to write for, "The Girl You Lost" took longer to pen than the other tracks. She explained: "It's like a bath. It's a big bath. I can sit down with my friends and play three chords or whatever or we'll hunt around and find the right three chords. Then they'll tell me what the song's about. Usually a sentence or a feeling will come or I can even just say to the person I'm with to tell me what it's about and give me a theme. Then eight minutes later, there it is. 'Academia' took eight minutes. 'Little Black Sandals' was five minutes. Then there are other songs that might take longer. 'The Girl You Lost to Cocaine' took a bit longer, but I don't remember why. I think I listened to it too much. It's different every time, but usually if it's a good one, it's like a bath."

A remix by Dutch DJ Sander van Doorn reached the Top 20 of the Netherlands charts. Van Doorn told UK dance DJ Dave Pearce how he came to work with Sia: "I got a promo from her with the Stonebridge remix and liked the track so much that I signed it to my label Doorn records for the BeNeLux. I also decided to do my own remix and that's how it came about!"

Sia told about the album title: "It's a note to self that when we're all complaining about our rich people's problems like a bitter latte or sh--ty traffic, there are people with no rice or maybe a lung missing who aren't complaining, if you get me."


This swooping serenade about a party girl's life was the first solo single by Sia in four years, following the release of her 2010 studio album We Are Born. (She did contribute "Elastic Heart" to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack in 2013 with Diplo and The Weeknd). Between the two releases, the Australian singer-songwriter "retired" and began co-writing hit songs for the likes of Rihanna ("Diamonds"), David Guetta ("Titanium") and Flo Rida "Wild Ones"). Speaking with Billboard magazine, Sia discussed her decision to remain out of the spotlight. "I don't care about commercial success," she said. "I get to do what I love and communicate whatever I want."

The song stemmed from an impromptu jam session between Sia and pop producer Jesse Shatkin. "I usually think, 'Oh this would work for Rihanna, or this would be a good one for B or Katy,'" Sia said to Ryan Seacrest. "But this time I was like, 'Uh oh I think I just wrote a full-blown pop song for myself by accident!'"

Shatkin and Sia came up with the song whilst working with hit producer Greg Kurstin (Pink, Kesha, Kelly Clarkson). "At some point, Greg had to run out, and me and Sia were in his live room with his piano and drum set and just kind of jammed for a second," Shatkin recalled to MuuMuse. "Greg has a marimba, so I was playing marimba - some weird notes - and Sia was playing the piano."

"She records everything on her phone, so we just kind of figured out a chord progression together," Shatkin continued. "She sent it to me on a voice note, and I turned it into a track. She already had the melody instinctively while she was writing the chords. We were real excited that she wanted to do this for her record, and then Greg added his production. I was really proud of it."

Kurstin explained his contribution to Rock Genius: "'Chandelier' was written by Sia and Jesse Shatkin," he said. "Sia brought it in for me to work on and tie into the other songs on the record. I added some acoustic piano, Mellotron and live drums over the track. I left most of Jesse's production; which was awesome."

The song's music video features a dance performance from a Sia-wigged Maddie Ziegler. The 11-year-old star of Lifetime's Dance Moms was personally asked to be in the clip by the singer. Sia co-directed the visual with Daniel Askill, who previously helmed the visual for her hit single "Breathe Me."

Speaking with Dazed, Sia explained the blonde bob worn by her in the 1000 Forms of Fear artwork and by Maddie Ziegler in the music video is a layer of protection from the outside world. "I already have a much larger concept for this album and for how I'm going to present it and that was: I don't want to be famous," she said. "If Amy Winehouse was a beehive then I guess I'm a blonde bob. I thought 'well if that's my brand, how can I avoid having to use my face to sell something', so my intention was to create a blonde bob brand."

The song is a rejoinder to all those pop tunes that celebrate the non-stop party. It is rooted in the now-sober Sia's past struggles with alcoholism. "That's why 'Chandelier' was interesting to me. I wrote the song because there's so many party-girl anthems in pop," she told NPR. "And I thought it'd be interesting to do a different take on that."

Sia and Greg Kurstin wrote this very quickly. "'Chandelier' took like four minutes to write the chords, then like 12-15 minutes to write the lyrics," she told NPR. "Probably 10 or 15 minutes to cut the vocals."

1000 Forms Of Fear topped the US albums chart. Sia's previous best was 2008's Some People Have Real Problems, which peaked at #26. In addition to reaching #1 on the Billboard list, the LP reached the summit on the iTunes albums chart in 47 countries.

The song was a wordwide hit, topping the singles charts in France, Israel and Poland.

This song featured in a 2014 Saturday Night Live skit where Jim Carrey and Kate McKinnon each show up to a Halloween office gathering dressed as "the child dancer from Sia's 'Chandelier' music video." The sketch resolves with the pair dancing to the song throughout the entire studio.

Billboard magazine chose this as their Best Song of 2014. They said: "The towering YOLO anthem 'Chandelier' took months to reach the Top 10 of the Hot 100 chart, but pop purveyors embraced its sentiment and Sia's performance almost immediately, turning the camera-shy Australian into an American star."

Sia concealed her face during performances of this song. When she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, she sang it with her face obscured by her wig while a mine acted out the song next to her. On The Graham Norton Show, she faced a wall while the dancer Denna Thomsen performed. Sia's faceless appearances were her reaction to the soul-sucking nature of fame and predatory, vapid celebrity journalism.

This was nominated for Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Pop Solo Performance, but didn't win any as Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" took the first two and Pharrell Williams' "Happy" the later two.

Sia did perform the song, however, singing it while facing a wall in a set that resembled the music video, while Kristen Wiig and Maddie Ziegler did the interpretive dance.

The video was choreographed by Ryan Heffington, who also did Sia's "Elastic Heart" clip. Speaking with Bullett magazine, he explained: "The song is about addiction, yet the video concept is more abstract than just this. What I find important is that this piece of art has so many interpretations. I don't think I could (or in fact want to) create such definition of the plot, it lives much more vibrant if I do not."

He added: "Early on I requested the architectural detailing of the character's living space and what furniture would inhabit it. Like any of our dwellings we spend an absorbent amount of time in, all material components becomes part of the physical dialogue between us and these objects - walls, furniture, hallways. Although muddled in color and sparse in content, it was a choice to have the environment be rich in means of activity for the character. How often do children find a pile of dirt and a hose the most enthralling playmates? Yes, she may be isolated from other humans or environments, but seemingly rich in imagination with the ability to utilize fantasy to entertain herself via exploring new physical conversations with what simply existed before her eyes."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pride Month: Whitney Houston Song facts


This song was co-written and co-produced by Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, who helmed Fugees' 1996 album The Score and also acted as the group's bass guitarist. Fugees member and Wonda's cousin Wyclef Jean was the other co-writer and co-producer.

Wonda recalled the story of the song in an interview with The Boombox: "It's actually a song that I remember me and Clef cooked the beat for on the bus while we were on tour," he said. "When Whitney showed up, she was with her daughter and I remember when we put her daughter [in front of the mic] and she said, 'Sing Mommy!' She loved it so much, it was like, she'd be like, 'Cue my daughter's voice loud!' We'd turn it up, she'd be like, 'No! Louder! Louder!"'

The tune was a massive hit worldwide, becoming another one of Houston's signature songs. It topped the European Hot 100 Singles Chart for a week and also peaked at #1 in New Zealand.

The song featured backing vocals from The Family Friends Community Choir.

This was sampled by Duke Dumont on his 2014 UK chart-topper "I Got U." He told MTV UK: "With things like that you need to seek permission to use the vocal and Wyclef is kind of quite tough with his music. He doesn't let people use his music for a lot of things but he was willing for us to use the Whitney recording. That was quite nice getting a little bit of respect from his side. So that was a nice touch to it."


This was featured in the movie Waiting To Exhale, which starred Houston as one of four women struggling to deal with the men in their lives. The song reflects the emotional state of the women in the film.

In the US, this spent 11 weeks at #2 after a single week at #1. It marked the longest consecutive stretches that the same two records have been 1-2 on the chart (this and "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men), and spent the most weeks at #2 after being #1.

According to BBC Radio 2 DJ Paul Gambaccini, the song's writer, Babyface, couldn't call this "The Shoop Shoop Song" as Betty Everett had already recorded a song with that title, so he put "Shoop Shoop" in brackets instead.

Babyface said he included the "Shoop Shoop" part because he couldn't think of any other lyrics. He told Billboard: "It felt like it should groove there. But I knew it couldn't groove without any vocals, so I started humming along with it and that's what happened. The 'shoops' came. But they felt so good, I thought 'Why not?' It doesn't have to mean anything."

This won a Grammy Award in 1997 for Best R&B Song. It was also nominated for Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

Actor Forest Whitaker made his directorial debut with the film and also directed the music video, which features close-ups of Houston singing and includes scenes from the movie. Several US theaters used the clip as a trailer to promote the movie.

R&B singer Robin Thicke covered the song in 2012 shortly after Houston's death.

In an interview with Songwriter Universe magazine, Babyface explained his ability to write songs from a female perspective: "When I wrote for female artists, I knew from being in relationships or having my heart broken, what the woman was feeling, because I would be feeling the same emotions. So when I wrote for a female, I could understand how to write from their perspective, because it was from the heart."


Most definitely not to be confused with the classic of the same name made famous by Elvis Presley, "Heartbreak Hotel" was written by Kenneth Karlin, Tamara Savage and Carsten Schack. Recorded in September 1998, it was released on the Arista label on December 15. The album version runs to 4 minutes 41 seconds, the radio edit to 4 minutes 8 seconds. Though not a particularly memorable song, it may well become Houston's epitaph, because she died in a Los Angeles hotel room on the eve of the February 2012 Grammy Awards.

The song features R&B vocalists Faith Evans and Kelly Price, who offer empathetic vocals alongside the heartbroken Whitney. Faith Evans is best known to many for her contribution to Puff Daddy's tribute to her late husband, Notorious B.I.G, "I'll Be Missing You." Kelly Price also has a connection with the fallen rapper, having provided the female vocals on Biggie's hit single "Mo Money Mo Problems."

Whitney performed the song with Faith Evans and Kelly Price for the first time live on the November 23, 1998 episode of The Rosie O'Donnell Show.


This was written by songwriters Michael Masser and Linda Creed. Linda Creed was recovering from breast cancer when they wrote the song in 1977. Originally recorded by George Benson, his version went to #24 in the US. In 1985, the song was revived by Whitney Houston, and on May 17, 1986, it went to #1 for the first of three weeks.

Creed's cancer claimed her life on April 10, 1986. She was later inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on the strength of this song and the many hits she co-wrote for The Spinners, The Stylistics, and other acts on the Philadelphia International label. Phil Hurtt, who also wrote for the label, told us, "There are thousands of ways to say I Love You, and the difficulty is trying to find a nuance, a new way to say what's been said thousands of times, and Linda Creed is someone who was able to do that."

Masser and Creed wrote this for the 1977 film biography of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, and the song first appeared on the film's soundtrack recorded by George Benson. Ali played himself in the movie, essentially recreating his defining moments intercut with clips of his actual fights. Ali was the heavyweight champ at the time of the film's release.

Houston's version was originally the B-side of "You Give Good Love" but the amount of airplay it received persuaded Arista to release it as a single


Dolly Parton wrote this and did the original version in 1974, which went to #1 on the Country chart that year. She recorded another version for the 1982 movie The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, which also hit #1 on the Country chart. She wrote the song after the breakup of the musical partnership she had with country singer Porter Wagoner. They were never romantically involved.

The lyrics are sad in the sense that the singer will always love the person she is singing to, yet she knows they are not right for each other and must let him go. It is often misinterpreted as a song about people who will be together forever, and even gets played at some weddings.

This was featured in the movie The Bodyguard, which Houston starred in with Kevin Costner. Houston played a famous singer and Costner her bodyguard. Of course, they fall in love. Costner picked it for the movie.

Whitney originally intended to cover Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" as the lead single from The Bodyguard. However, after she found out the song had been used just one year earlier in the 1991 film Fried Green Tomatoes, Costner suggested she record Dolly Parton's country hit instead. Houston loved the choice but Clive Davis, the Arista Records boss who acted as mentor for the singer throughout her career, was puzzled by the selection. Costner, who also produced the film, knew it would be perfect for the picture and stuck to his guns. "I said, 'This is a very important song in this movie,'" he recalled to CMT. "I didn't care if it was ever on the radio. I didn't care. I said, 'We're also going to do this a cappella at the beginning. I need it to be a cappella because it shows a measure of how much she digs this guy - that she sings without music.'"

Parton's original version was a country ballad. Houston's recording had more lavish production and became a pop, soul, and adult contemporary hit. The tremendous crossover appeal meant that radio stations of many different formats played the song, giving it a huge audience. It ended up being a groundbreaker, but it was a big risk, as there wasn't much crossover between the country and R&B audiences. "Truth be told, the musical side of her camp was very unsure about this little country song," recalled Kevin Costner.

While she was crushing the convention that a soul singer shouldn't do country, Houston also proved that her fans would accept her in an on-screen interracial romance, which she had with Costner in the movie. In the film, the race issue wasn't mentioned.

This stayed at #1 US for 14 weeks, a record at the time. In 1995, this record was broken by "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, which held the top spot for 16 weeks. "I Will Always Love You" does hold the record for the most weeks at #1 for a song that first appeared on a soundtrack.

For a time, this was second only to "We Are The World" as the biggest-selling single ever. It was bumped to #3 n 1997, when Elton John's new version of "Candle In The Wind" became the biggest.

Houston performed this at the Grammys in 1993. It won for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The song also won the 1992 Soul Train Music Award for R&B Song of the Year.

It did not, however, win an Oscar, since it was not eligible for the Best Original Song award. That award can only go to songs that are written specifically for a film.

According to Kevin Costner, he really wanted Whitney Houston to star in The Bodyguard with him, so much so that he postponed shooting for a year until she was available. Costner was one of the few people in Hollywood who could convince a movie studio to do this; he had lots of sway after his movie Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1991.

The Bodyguard is the best-selling soundtrack of all time.

In 2002, while the US was preparing to go to war with Iraq, Saddam Hussein ran TV and radio ads using this song as he prepared to be re-elected. Houston's record label filed a complaint with the Iraqi mission to the United Nations.

Elvis Presley wanted to record this song but demanded half the publishing rights. Dolly Parton refused and was vindicated when years later Whitney Houston's version earned her $6 million. Parton commented to Observer Music Monthly April 2008: "'I think stories like that are the reason why younger female artists say I've influenced them."

In an interview with UK music magazine Q, Dolly Parton said she "was blown away" by Whitney's version. She said: "The way she took that simple song of mine and made it such a mighty thing, it almost became her song. Some writers say, 'Ooh, I hate the way they've done that to my song or that version wasn't what I had in mind.' I just think it's wonderful that people can take a song and do it so many different ways."

David Foster produced this song. When the decision was made to record it for the movie, Foster went to a record store and bought the Linda Ronstadt version so Whitney could learn the song. When he called Dolly Parton to let her know they were using her song, Dolly told him something very important: the Ronstadt version leaves out the last verse ("I wish you joy and happiness..."), which changes the tone of the song. Parton gave him the lyrics and Whitney recorded the full version. Foster had to tell the film's director, Mick Jackson, that he needed an extra 40 seconds of screen time, as it had been placed in the film minus the last verse.

Foster, who has produced Michael Jackson, Celine Dion and Michael Bublé, called it "The love song of the century."

The song returned to the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart following Houston's death. Its comeback was fueled by an enormous resurgence in digital sales in the week after her passing of 195,000, an increase of 6723%, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The song was performed by Amber Riley on the 'Heart' episode of Glee. The tape of the show was delivered to the Fox network the day before the untimely death of Whitney and broadcast four days after her passing. Riley's character Mercedes sings the ballad as part of a plot line revolving around her indecision over two romantic interests.

When this reached #3 in the Hot 100 in 2011, it became the fifth song to become a top 10 hit in two different chart runs. So, what were the other four? They were:

"The Twist" by Chubby Checker - #1 in 1960 and #1 in 1962.

"Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and The Cryptkickers - #1 in 1962 and #10 in 1973.

"Stand By Me" by Ben E. King - #4 in 1961 and #9 in 1986.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen - #9 in 1976 #2 in 1992.

After Houston died on February 11, 2012, "I Will Always Love You" was used in many tributes to the singer, as it was her best-known song. The night after Houston's death, Jennifer Hudson sang a moving rendition in honor of Houston at the Grammy Awards ceremony.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pride Month: Diana Ross/ The Supremes Song Facts


This was written by the Motown husband and wife songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson. Nick Ashford was inspired by an experience when he first moved to New York. He was walking down a Manhattan thoroughfare, determined that New York City would not get the best of him; the words "Ain't no mountain high enough" popped into his head.

She had many hits with The Supremes, but this was Diana Ross' first US #1 solo hit.

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded the original hit version peaking at #19 in the US in 1967. Uriel Jones of The Funk Brothers, who played the drums on Gaye and Terrell's original version, recalled in Mojo magazine February 2009: "Ashford and Simpson had written the song and they always came to the studio with charts. This time was no exception; they came with the song fully written out. The lyrics were written out too. They were one of the few producers and writers who had full charts and made us work from them. They knew 95 percent what they wanted to hear. Johnny Bristol and Harvey Faqua were the actual producers in charge of the recording. We did the rhythm track first, then they put the horns on second. Then they recorded Tammi Terrell's vocal, then they did Marvin Gaye's next. Each vocal was done separately, the singer in the studio with the producer on their own, and they put it all together at the end. You know, I never heard the finished song until I switched on the radio and it was playing."

Amy Winehouse's 2007 single "Tears Dry On Their Own" is based around the backing instrumentation of this song. Ashford & Simpson were also credited on Jessica Simpson's 2006 transatlantic Top 20 single "A Public Affair," as towards the end of the song, the background vocalists can be heard singing a few lines of "aaah, aaah, aaah" in a clear duplication from "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

Diana Ross' second husband, Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Næss, Jr., died in a South African mountain climbing accident in 2004.

With a message of overcoming any obstacle, this song is a great fit for politicians seeking office. Hillary Clinton used it a great deal in her 2016 campaign for president, especially when courting male voters who might not connect with her main campaign song: "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten.

The informal contraction "ain't" is frowned upon by strict grammarians, who would also cringe at the double negative that is "ain't no," but "There Isn't Any Mountain High Enough" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Michael McDonald covered this for his 2003 Motown covers album, titled Motown. His version reached #111 in the US and got a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (he lost to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River."

This song has popped up in a number of movies and TV series. The Diana Ross version shows up in these:

Good Times ("The Break Up" - 1976)
Designing Women ("The Rowdy Girls" - 1989)
The Wonder Years ("The Pimple" - 1989)
Nip/Tuck ("Joel Gideon" - 2004)

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Chicken Little (2005)

The Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell version appear in these films:

Stepmom (1998)
Remember the Titans (2000)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - This was big: It was part of the soundtrack, which went to #1 in America. Chris Pratt's character plays a mixtape given to him by his mom (the Awesome Mix Vol. 1) throughout the film. Near the end, he discovers Vol. 2. When he pops in the tape, this song plays.

Other movie uses of the song include:

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), where a Michael McDonald DVD plays the song.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), where the nuns, including Lauryn Hill, sing it over the end credits.

In TV, Nia Peeples and Janet Jackson sang it in a 1985 episode of Fame, and Will Smith did it on a 1992 episode of his series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.


This was the theme song to the 1975 movie Mahogany, staring Ross as Tracy Chambers, a woman from humble beginnings who becomes a glamourous fashion model using the name "Mahogany." The movie was directed by Berry Gordy Jr., who worked with Ross as head of Motown Records.

Mahogany was Ross' second film; in 1972 she played Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. Both films also star Billy Dee Williams.

Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser wrote this song. Goffin was married to Carole King, and wrote many famous songs with her, including "The Loco-Motion" and "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman." Masser wrote "Touch Me in the Morning" for Ross in 1973, and wrote several hits for Whitney Houston.

This song was not written for the movie; Goffin and Masser wrote it in 1973 and had Thelma Houston record it, but her version was never released (it did appear on YouTube). When Berry Gordy asked Masser to compose music for Mahogany, he revisited "Do You Know Where You're Going To." The verses were changed a bit to suit the storyline, but the major elements of the song - including the arrangement and chorus - were kept intact.

For Houston, it was another tough break, as she had been recording for years without a hit. She finally came out on top with her 1976 disco hit "Don't Leave Me This Way," which went to #1 in the US.

The song is about evaluating life's journey, asking if what lies ahead is what you really want. It's appropriate for the film, as Ross' character finds that fame and fortune may not be what makes her happy.

This song caused a kerfuffle when it was deemed "qualitatively ineligible" for an Oscar, meaning it wasn't good enough to even be nominated, even though it was one of the most popular songs of the year. The ensuing uproar led to this decision being revoked, and it was nominated for Best Original Song, losing to "I'm Easy" by Keith Carradine (from the movie Nashville).

Diana Ross was on tour in Europe, but performed the song live via telecast, becoming the first singer to do so at the ceremony. She was in Holland and sang it while walking the streets of Amsterdam.

This song makes the bad grammar category because it ends a statement in a preposition. Proper grammar would be "Do you know where you're going?," but that wouldn't scan very well.

Along with Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance," this was one of the most requested graduation songs.


After this song was recorded, the group's name was changed to Diana Ross and the Supremes, something the other Supremes were not happy about. This was their first song to be released under that name.

This was written by the Motown songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland.

Diana Ross loves this song. When the Supremes re-formed in 2000, they used this to open their Return To Love tour. Ross also sang it on her 2004 European tour.

This was the first foray for The Supremes into Psychedelic Pop. The trippy sound effects on this song were created with a custom oscillator designed by one of The Funk Brothers, who were session musicians for most Motown songs of the period.

This was released during The Summer of Love (1967) when the Vietnam War was raging. This made it an appropriate choice for the theme song of the TV series China Beach, which was set in Vietnam during the war. The series ran on ABC from 1988-1991.


This was the Supremes' first number #1 hit not written by the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. They had left Motown.

Motown founder Berry Gordy wrote this with staff songwriters Deke Richards, Pam Sawyer, R Dean Taylor and Frank Wilson. Instead of writing about love, they come up with a much more controversial song about a child born to unmarried parents.

A year after this came out, The Supremes released a sequel song called "I'm Livin' In Shame," which told the story of the child growing up embarrassed by her mother.

Neither founder member Mary Wilson nor more recent addition Cindy Birdsong (replacing Florence Ballard) sang a note on this single. The test run with Motown session group The Andantes as back-up singers was issued as the single. Mary claims that this was a move by Berry Gordy to make clear to her and Cindy that they were expendable and further establish his power over them as well as playing up to his protégé/lover Diana Ross. Mary further says that the miming to the number for the Ed Sullivan Show was particularly difficult in view of this.

When The Supremes performed this on The Ed Sullivan Show, they appeared in sweat shirts and bare feet as opposed to the glamorous gowns and wigs they were known for. This look was more suited to the song.


When Diana Ross left The Supremes in 1970, the group continued with Jean Terrell replacing Ross alongside Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. Motown head Berry Gordy was much more interested in Ross' solo career, and pulled resources away from The Supremes. With Frank Wilson in charge of producing the group, they defied expectations and had a hit with "Up the Ladder to the Roof." They followed it up with "Stoned Love," which Wilson wrote with a 17-year-old songwriter named Kinney Thomas, who he heard on a talent show on the Detroit radio station WJLB. Wilson tracked down Thomas and asked him if he had any songs. Kinney played him "Stoned Love," and Wilson loved it. He recorded the track with an orchestra, and had The Supremes add their vocals in another session, with Terrell singing lead.

The Supremes' biggest hit without Diana Ross; it was a #1 R&B hit. It was also their last US Top 10 hit.

According to Kinney Thomas, who wrote this song, it has nothing to do with drugs. It's really about the social issues of the time, including the Vietnam War, and the need for compassion. "Stones are forever," said Thomas. "They don't break or come apart. Love will be here forever."

Thomas wasn't unique in assigning an alternate meaning to the term "stoned." Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, and the Chi-Lites are some of the acts who have recorded songs with different meanings of the term.

The song's writer Kinney Thomas was credited on this track as "Yennik Samoht" (Thomas's first and last name spelled backwards respectively). This was something Stevie Wonder had done (credited as Eivets Rednow on his recording of "Alfie"), and Thomas also liked how it sounded a bit like the name of one of his favorite singers: Nina Simone.