Somehow You Do by Reba McEntire
Listening to good, impactful music becomes more than a habit or a behavioural necessity for an avid listener. It becomes a source of transcending constraints of personal hardships and temporal concerns.
A song like SOMEHOW YOU DO is in the classic tradition where a movie soundtrack ( in this case, the stirring drama FOUR GOOD DAYS starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis) introduces us to it and further a live performance on a global stage like the Oscars ceremony gives it a new lifestream. This is, hands down, a beautifully sung ode to the conventions of rising against the tide, bringing ace songwriter Diane Warren and Reba McEntire’s collaboration to a spiritual high.
It is soul stirring, in the most simple and lucid presentation of ideas and themes.
Orville Peck’s BRONCO
This masked cowboy has provoked a new renaissance of the country genre and I have been according plaudits to his consistent output ever since PONY and SHOW PONY entered the cultural lexicon.
The excellent modulations and vocal range stand out along with the variety of compositions on new album BRONCO that releases love notes, a tryst with emotional catharsis and coming out with dignity and pride as one’s authentic self as its biggest draws.
C’MON BABY, CRY, HEXIE MOUNTAINS, LET ME DROWN, DAYTONA SAND and THE CURSE OF THE BLACKENED EYE are the singles that ride high on melodies, meaningful lyrics and unflinching honesty. The first three songs especially arrest us by the sheer power of their style of articulation besides overall quality, bordering on the mythic Western tropes made sensitive and new-age here.
In no time, BRONCO will emerge as among this year’s best. I am already invested in Peck’s inimitable legacy which he has honed for his new innings. There is a sophistication to go with the rough and tumble ways of the cowboy persona here, lending it a mature form of individual personality.
Both Sides Now by Emilia Jones
The Oscar winning CODA has indeed achieved its stripes by highlighting an earnest tale about being specially abled and a young person’s future ambitions toggling between the present reality of finances and family ties.
BOTH SIDES NOW, an universally beloved Joni Mitchell standard, finds the film’s breakthrough star Emilia Jones holding her notes and the emotional value of this particular rendition in a youthful vocal turn. Her take truly brings home the song’s message of unprejudiced, non- pessimistic innocence to us most admirably.
My Love by Florence and The Machine
Florence Welch is at her uninhibited best, as usual, on this catchy single from upcoming album DANCE FEVER.
Not to hark back to bygones but the sustained introductory quiet and then the building rhythm are reminders of the qualities that made QUEEN OF PEACE such an uplifting triumph. MY LOVE becomes an individually pleasant listening experience from there on.
Miley Cyrus’ Attention
This album comprising Cyrus’ live performances from L.A. in the winter of 2021 is true to her spontaneous, always captivating stage presence, issued just in time to take us back to her predisposition towards classic covers. Her own hits, many of them from her wonderful 2019 album PLASTIC HEARTS, occupy its content.
The Climb, Jolene, her go-to cover of all time, High( an emotional standout from PLASTIC HEARTS), Bang Bang( My Baby Shot Me Down) make up one part of ATTENTION; Like A Prayer, Wrecking Ball, Nothing Compares 2 You cover the remaining gamut of classic features from eras past and contemporary. In essence, every live performance makes a standard charge into the current consciousness.
ATTENTION hence is charged by Cyrus’ capacity to hold her own and make her singing prowess reach new ears with alarming regularity.
HALL OF FAME
Gloria and Self Control began an era of rediscovery which has further been held consistent with other worthy gems from Laura Branigan’s infectious discography.
Distinct 80s beats, synths in particular, and an expressiveness almost extinct from music in general today, make the triumphant power of SOLITAIRE ( written by songwriter extraordinaire Diane Warren in one of her own earliest hits), THE LUCKY ONE, melancholic HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU? and the sultry and moody SHADOW OF LOVE simply unforgettable.
You listen to them again and again and the relationship that gets formed with the singer is of her voice which is arresting but never too out of focus.
Listeners of the streaming era, avail of this chance and add Laura Branigan’s oeuvre to your playlists now. Otherwise, you would be missing out on an unjustly underrated artist whose influence on the charts was meteoric in her heyday.
If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher
Another Diane Warren songwriting feat conflates seamlessly with Cher’s iconic pipes, on this classic dose of synths and rock guitars that make it more than just a pop song for the ages or an artifact of a prolific musical era.
If you listen closely to the solo guitar in the third half of the song then it may remind one of Slash’s signature work on Guns N Roses. Besides that and an aura of rectifying past mistakes and lost opportunities in relationships, the level of energy here is spot on.
Pink’s iconic performance of GLITTER IN THE AIR at the 2010 Grammys, recently uploaded in all its awe-inspiring glory by the Recording Academy on its official YouTube channel, brought me to a piano ballad of characteristic beauty and understated vocals.
There is also I DON’T BELIEVE YOU, an unforgettable melody that again brings primacy of guitars to the singer’s vocal heft. Both make up her album FUNHOUSE’s roll of honour comprising of classic cuts like SO WHAT, PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME and SOBER. Listening to these additional songs gives the record a new, sensitive light.
In the last few weeks, I finally made my vow of listening to a definitive Tori Amos playlist come true. She’s an artist among mere stars; such is the naturalistic and spiritually pure core of her songwriting feats and imagery. It’s like her music was touched by the elements and baptised by a soul stirred but never stricken by the weight of this world’s creative aspirations.
Which is why songs that are blessed with a life-force distinct to her include such titles as MERRY WIDOW, JACKIE’S STRENGTH, MUHAMMAD, MY FRIEND, SILENT ALL THESE YEARS. Then the hush of her serenity and piano give ICICLE and PRETTY GOOD YEAR a mystical charm while WINTER is complemented by strings and her lyrical import to become an epic of its own stature.
As a connoisseur of the minute aspects, Amos’ discography is unparalleled and I urge listeners to be immersed in her worldview. It’s rare and absolutely riveting.
Shania Twain’s enduring legacy
When I was in the trenches of uncertainty and depressive pallor, Shania Twain came to my rescue, to refill that empty space with joy and a celebratory air I sorely needed.
FROM THIS MOMENT ON and YOU’RE STILL THE ONE have always been touchstones for me, faultless and peerless in their beautiful, bountiful melodies. But MAN, I FEEL LIKE A WOMAN!, THAT DON’T IMPRESS ME MUCH put me in a funky mood of sheer joy that has been in flux since the last few days especially.
There are the other hits like YOU LAY A WHOLE LOT OF LOVE ON ME, LOVE GETS ME EVERY TIME, WHEN, COME ON OVER, I’M GONNA GETCHA GOOD, FOREVER AND FOR ALWAYS and WHEN YOU KISS ME.
A recent Coachella performance of MAN.. with Harry Styles has put her iconic discography to the centrestage. Personally, I think her music is essential in all its various forms and sounds to revive our appetite for a Happiness Index we seek but seldom find.