Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pride Month: (Popular song facts part two)

TRUE COLORS by CYNDI LAUPER

This was written by the songwriting team of Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, who also wrote Madonna's "Like A Virgin," Heart's "Alone," and Lauper's "I Drove All Night." The song is about looking below the surface to see what a person is really like.

In our interview with Billy Steinberg, the lyricist explained: "On 'True Colors' I had this verse and it was written about my mother: 'You've got a long list with so many choices, a ventriloquist with so many voices, and your friends in high places say where the pieces fit, you've got too many faces in your makeup kit, but I see your true colors shining through,' then it went on with the same chorus that the song has.

I often employ a sort of stream-of-consciousness lyric writing style and I remember writing that verse. The verse came first. So the 'true colors shining through' came out of the line that preceded it, 'You've got too many faces in your makeup kit.' We wrote that verse and chorus, Tom and I, and Tom said to me, 'Gee, that chorus has tremendous universal appeal, it could be sung by anyone to anyone. It could be a parent to a child, a friend to a friend, could be for or about anyone. On the other hand, the lyric to the verse you've written, although it's very poetic and very interesting, it seems to be specifically about someone with friends in high places.' He thought it had less universality and I agreed with him. In spite of the fact that I had written that verse about my mom and that it led to the chorus lyric and I was proud of it, I agreed to rewrite the verse lyric and then of course the song would need a second verse lyric.

I really got writer's block when it came to rewriting it. I remember I had something about sad eyes or something, I think Tom even said, 'Well how about 'you with the sad eyes'?' He kept encouraging me, 'Let's finish that song, it's a great song.' I said, 'Let's write something else, I can't do it, I'm stuck.' The song kind of languished because I just didn't know how to rewrite these verses. We had done a very rough demo of the song with the original verse and the chorus and I don't know how this happened, but somehow George Martin, The Beatles' producer, heard our very rough demo and Tom heard back that he loved it. Then Tom really got on my case to finish those lyrics. Tom and I sat together and I finished the lyrics with his help."

This was the only original song on the album that Lauper didn't help write.

Steinberg: "Tom sang the demo, it was based on a piano and it had gospel-flavored background vocals. I remember feeling that somehow there was something incomplete about the first verse. I always felt there was something wrong with it but I was just happy to have it done. On the other hand, the second verse, the part about, 'Don't be unhappy, can't remember when I last saw you laughing...' That second verse, I remember I was very happy with that, those first four lines of the second verse. And I was pleased when the Cyndi Lauper record came out because during the solo section she speaks the lines, 'Can't remember when I last saw you laughing.' She sort of says that again and it pleased me that she grabbed a line that I liked and spoke it rather than picking out something I didn't like."

Steinberg: "One of the things that one contends with as a songwriter is that when an artist records your song, unless you're producing it yourself or somehow involved in the production, you have very little input into how the song's being arranged and structured. Sometimes an artist will copy your demo exactly as you present it. That would be the case with 'Like a Virgin' or 'Alone' by Heart - the records copied the demos. In 'True Colors,' more than any other song, Cyndi Lauper came up with a very, very creative departure from our demo. The demo was sort of rooted in the Gospel ballad tradition of a song like 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', 'Let It Be' or 'Lean On Me,' that sort of thing with the piano. Cyndi completely dismantled that sort of traditional arrangement and came up with something that was breathtaking and stark. Tom and I were both elated when we heard her record of it because it was so much more adventurous than our demo, and to her credit, she produced it and did a beautiful job. That song, more than any other song I've written, has had tremendous life. I guess more than any other song that Tom and I wrote, that one seems to have the most universal appeal."

In the UK, this was released as "True Colours." It gave the title a little more British flavour.

This was used in a Kodak campaign to advertise their film processing.

Phil Collins recorded this for his 1998 Greatest Hits compilation. His version was released as a single and became very popular on Adult Contemporary radio stations.

This was covered by Australian country music star Kasey Chambers and used as the 2003 Rugby World Cup theme song.

Fredro Starr and Jill Scott reworked this into a song called "Shining Through," which was used as the theme song to the film Save The Last Dance. On "Shining Through," Jill Scott sings the first bit of the chorus - "I see your true colors shining through, I see your true colors and that's why I love you," and Fredro Starr adds a rap to the song.

In 2007, Lauper launched the "True Colors Tour" in an effort to support gay rights and fight hate crimes. The 2007 tour featured Erasure, The Dresden Dolls and Debbie Harry of Blondie. In 2008, artists included Joan Jett, Regina Spektor, and Tegan and Sara.

Justin Timberlake teamed up with actress Anna Kendrick in 2016 to cover this song for the soundtrack of the movie Trolls. Timberlake voices grey troll Branch in the film, while Kendrick plays a troll called Popp.

COME TO MY WINDOW by MELISSA ETHERIDGE

A song with a Shakespearian level of passion, "Come to My Window" finds Melissa Etheridge baring her soul to her lover, letting her know that she will go that she will go to great lengths just to be with her. Etheridge is imploring her to sneak in through the window (much more romantic than using the spare key) so she'll be there when she gets home.

At this time, Etheridge had been seeing Julie Cypher for a few years, and she was smitten. Many of her songs express her feelings for Cypher in some way, and in this case, it's amorous anticipation.

Yes I Am was a breakthrough album for Etheridge, selling over six million copies in America and launching her to arena-level stardom. "Come to My Window" was the first single, followed by "I'm the Only One." Both songs got extensive radio play across a variety of formats and were put in heavy rotation on VH1, where Etheridge was a core artist.

"Come to My Window" stayed in the Hot 100 for 44 weeks, peaking at #25 in August of 1994. "I'm the Only One" spent 40 weeks on the chart, peaking at #8 in January 1995. This made Etheridge the first artist with back-to-back singles that spent at least 40 weeks on the chart.

Etheridge came out as gay in early 1993, and the Yes I Am album title is a reference to this admission. Her songs of passionate longing were now revealed to be directed toward another woman, but most listeners had no problem with this. Any backlash came not because Etheridge was a lesbian, but because this song and "I'm the Only One" were inescapable, each holding a spot on many radio station playlists for nearly a year.

The black-and-white video stars Juliette Lewis, who recites some lines from the song at the beginning of the clip and in a break in the middle. In the video, Lewis plays a locked-up mental patient in various states of crazy (the following year, she would play an unhinged serial killer in the film Natural Born Killers). It was directed by Samuel Bayer, who was one of the most prolific directors of the '90s. His work includes Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Blind Melon's "No Rain."

This won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and was nominated for Best Rock Song. Etheridge performed the song on the telecast.

When Etheridge recorded this song, she almost left it off the album, since she thought it was "too simple." Her friends convinced her it was worthy, and Etheridge learned a valuable lesson: simplicity can be very effective.

Etheridge opened her set at Woodstock '94 with this song.

BATTLE CRY by ANGEL HAZE

This song was produced by Greg Kurstin (Kesha, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson) and features Dirty Gold's only guest, Sia, who handles chorus duties. Haze told Billboard magazine of the Australian singer. "I had no clear she even knew who I was. And out of nowhere I'm doing a Greg Kurstin section and he's like 'Sia really wants me to play you something, but if you don't want to hear it we'd totally understand.'"

"We play it and the song ends up being so epic," Haze continued. "So she's one of my all time favorite artists ever, and that was amazing for me. Legitimately."

Explaining her decision to work with Sia, Haze said that she is a fan of her 2004 single "Breathe Me," adding: "When I was feeling suicidal, I'd go to sleep with that song on. And I'd either feel like my entire world was closing in on me or, in some strange, euphoric way, I was becoming stronger."

HANG WITH ME by ROBYN

This is the lead single by Swedish pop singer Robyn, from her sixth studio album Body Talk Pt. 2. An acoustic version of the song was previously released on Robyn's set Body Talk Pt. 1.

The song was produced by Robyn's friend and musical collaborator Klas Ahlund, who also co-wrote Britney Spears' "Piece Of Me." It was originally recorded in 2003 by Ahlund's ex-wife Paola Bruna on her album Stockcity Girl.

Robyn told the story of the song to MTV News: "Klaus wrote it but it sounded very different. It's a song that he recorded with his ex-wife! He re-wrote it and I was bombarded by him with his old music. And out of that came a few songs. It was more like a ballad in the beginning. It's a sweet song. Beautiful and bitter sweet, It's about falling in love and being scared."

Robyn explained the song's music video to MTV News UK: "I wanted to see if it could be organic too, Like Twitter and my website. We decided to make something simple that gives the feeling of touring intensity. Max Vitali directed it and I wanted a video which connected back through the touring which I'm doing all year."

MICHAEL by FRANZ FERDINAND

This is about one of the band's friends who was drunk and ended up dancing with a man.

The lyrics, "Come and dance with me, come and dance with me, so come and dance with me" are repeated throughout this song, mostly leading into the chorus. However, at a live performance recorded at the Amsterdam Paradiso in 2003, Kapronis sings instead, "come and dance with me, come and dance with me, so come all over me." If you look at the lyrics printed in the official Franz Ferdinand album booklet, the line, "So come all over me" is crossed out, and is not sung on the official album recording.

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