#BILLCSTop30 #571, September 30/19

Rounding out September and as we sail into the Autumn months, I’m definitely one guy who isn’t looking for dreary, downtempo music.  And as such, the top of the new chart stays the same – at least the Top 3.  Gradual change is afoot, which means that songs on the rise outside of the Top 10 will soon make their presence felt.  Four new entries by artists who have all previously appeared on the chart also make it interesting!

So it’s the mesmerizing pulse of “Push” (above) by Ukrainian dance group Kazaky that continues up top for a third appearance (six weeks), and I still cannot endorse its amazingly choreographed video enough!  “Higher Love” by Whitney Houston in a Kygo reboot remains at #2, while L.A. producer Eric Sharp and vocalist Zhao also stay put at #3 with the cool house of “Monday Blues”.

The power of Avicii continues as “Tough Love” (above), featuring Agnes and Vargas & Lagola, climbs 5-4.  

My fellow Canadians Loud Luxury arrive in the Top 5 moving up 8-5 with “I’m Not Alright”.  Featuring Bryce Vine on vocals, the lads had a great appearance with James Corden last week, above.

New to the Top 10 are Simon Curtis’ “Graduate” (13-9, above), with one of Simon’s finest vocals in recent years – it’s only Simon’s 17th appearance in the Top 10 as lead or featured act!! – as well as the power trio of producers Ken Summit and Eric Kupper with vocalist Amy Douglas for the bassy 90’s house of “Give Me Love” (12-10, below).

Looking to make inroads in the Top 10 next week is “Like Like” by UK indie singer/songwriter Lostchild, currently on a brief tour in the US.  The brilliantly fun OKJAMES remix soars 19-11 (above, video of its original version below).

Australian singer Peter Wilson is looking splendid on the chart in the Stormby edit of “Don’t Break My Heart” which rises 22-16.

Right behind are the hedonism delights of “Poolside Vibe” (above) by Pretty Sister and MarcLo, gliding 24-17.  The prolific pair of producers renown have since released two similarly-themed tunes, “New Fire” and “Tequila” (both below) which you should check out to keep the summer vibes going.

UK singer/songwriter Benedict Cork breaks into the Top 20 with his fabulous voice in “Breaking Hearts” (27-20).

Not far behind, The Knocks and Kah-Lo’s ode to everything positive, “Awa Ni” (above), moves up 28-22, while NYC-based producers and brothers Anden climb 29-23 with “Flicker” (also above), totally tailored for the NYC nightlife.

Leading the four new entries is the more-than-dynamic pairing of talents from completely different decades who sound so natural together.  Reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys’ own previous meet up with Dusty Springfield is the new connection to Years & Years in “Dreamland”, which bows at #21.  I can’t be more excited to hear what PSB and Y&Y might continue to concoct together.  “Dreamland” is an amazing start!  It’s Years & Years’ 8th chart entry.

MAX returns to the chart after the #4 success of “Love Me Less” (now available in various remixes and also featuring one with Kim Petras) with the enticing “Acid Dreams”, featuring rapper Felly, bowing at #24.  Check out the colourful, eye-popping video above, which also features MAX’s wife Emily.  It’s MAX’s 8th chart entry, too.

Toronto’s Ryan Shepherd is back with his third chart entry and the slick house of “Who’s Gonna Love U”, which features singer/songwriter Heather Janssen.  It arrives at #26.

After scoring a #1 Billboard Dance Club Play chart entry with Vassy called “Concrete Heart” not long ago, Nick and Danny, aka The Disco Fries, land on the chart with their retooling of Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” at #27.  It’s fast, furious and fun!

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! Click on this link to take you there, and follow me on Spotify: BILLCS Top 30 Songs

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#BILLCSTop30 #570 – September 16/19

Right now I have so many favourites out there.  Just a little insider information – I have a new music playlist of about 60-70 that includes these 30, which I play regularly during the week.  To keep track of my submissions and new songs I want to hear, I have a Spotify playlist – at least for those songs on Spotify.  So I’m usually always checking something out that’s new in the week when I’m not writing!  

The new chart has a lot of smaller moves and songs holding steady that I enjoy, but in two weeks that’s likely all to change, with so many new faves waiting in the wings.

Ukrainian dance group Kazaky hold tight at #1 with the Depeche Mode-influenced “Push”.  The song doesn’t sound like much out there right now, which makes its 80’s and 90’s influences all the more refreshing.

So what is wrong with US radio?  “Higher Love” by Kygo and Whitney Houston should be one of the year’s biggest hits, as it is worldwide, particularly in England, where, like on this chart, it has reached #2.  The dance music crowd loves it though and it is topping dance charts everywhere.  Check out the recent video for the song above.

The cool synths of “Monday Blues” by Eric Sharp and Zhao allow it to continue to move up a notch to #3.

“Tough Love” by Avicii, Agnes and Vargas & Lagola climbs 9-5.  It’s both Avicii and Agnes’ second Top 5 on this chart.  Avicii got to #3 in 2013 with “Addicted To You”, while Agnes reached #1 back in 2009 with “Release Me”.

Canadians Loud Luxury lands in the Top 10 for the 4th time with “I’m Not Alright” (12-8, above) with US vocalist Bryce Vine, while Australian producer Throttle gets his first – outside of his #1 remix of Troye Sivan’s “My! My! My!”  – with the thoughtful “Dreamer” rising 13-9 (below).  Also below, you can check out Throttle’s latest release “Japan”.

 

The fastest riser on the chart belongs to US production duo Midnight Kids with “Those Were The Days”, which soars 18-10.  In the past few weeks, vocalist of the song, Jared Lee, posted a video of him singing the song live in the studio accompanied simply by piano, always a true test to find the great singers behind the complex production of many songs.  Check out the original above, and the acoustic version below.

The deep bass beats of “Give Me Love” continue to climb the chart for producers Ken Summit and Eric Kupper with vocalist Amy Douglas.  The throwback to late 90’s club music rises 16-12.

Another thoughtful song with a really terrific vocal and honest lyrics is “Graduate” by singer/songwriter/author Simon Curtis.  It moves up 17-13.  I can’t tell you how I love that Simon is back making great music after a protracted absence.

All of the previous five debuts move up steadily, and are still led by the fun OKJAMES remix of “Like Like” by UK indie singer/songwriter Lostchild.  It moves up 23-19.

Right behind it is the song that uses a Finnish acapella performance to sample and form its key hook.  It’s called “Run Wild” by L.A.-based producer PLS&TY, and it rises 24-20.

The chart had room for three debuts, and they changed a number of times when creating the chart.  While there are a slew of fantastic new songs that will help last out the year, the three that premiere have all actually been on release for a number of weeks.

First up at #27 is British singer/songwriter Benedict Cork with “Breaking Hearts”, which I have been playing for months and richly deserves more attention as the highest debut.  Benedict has one of those instantly likeable, pristine voices that can make short work of just about any song.  And this original quickly gets stuck in your head.

Next up is the first entry by TheKnocks in 2019, the fun charmer that is “Awa Ni”, featuring singer Kah-Lo, which arrives at #28.  “Awa Ni” appears to be an expression of praise in Kah-Lo’s native Nigerian.  The song’s lyrics have an interesting disconnected train of thought about them, but it all comes together as summery, festive, and joyous. It’s also The Knocks’ 7th entry since 2012.  The prolific duo have released another four singles since “Awa Ni” first appeared in July.

The last debut is a dark and progressive song for late nights that club DJ’s will totally dig.  It’s “Flicker” by NYC-based producers (and brothers) Anden at #29.  Pete and Tom previously appeared on the chart back almost three years ago as remixers of Satchmode’s “Undertow” (#12).

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! Click on this link to take you there, and follow me on Spotify: BILLCS Top 30 Songs

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#BILLCSTop30 #569 – September 2/19

September marks a big change-up on the new chart.  Not only is there a new #1 which more people need to discover, there are five new entries.  And it was a tough decision as to which songs debuted as there is quite a line-up of chart-worthy recent releases.  So while leaves will begin to tumble and the cooler air sets in where I am in Toronto, the music on the chart is free-flowing and most deserving of your attention!

It’s Ukrainian dance ensemble Kazaky who reign supreme on the chart now with “Push” and its stunning video (above).  It’s rare that you will see such physical choreography, and much of it danced in stilettos, so these guys must be so disciplined and committed.  Plus it’s a great song with early 90’s Depeche Mode all over it married with modern synths.

Kygo’s redux of Whitney Houston’s 1990 recording of “Higher Love” climbs to #2.  I must say I’m calling out radio in North America for not supporting such a great record.  The rest of the world indeed has much better taste these days, and so do dance clubs, where it’s already been a #1 hit.

“Time” is my favourite song from the Emanate album by EMAN8 (Brandyn Burnette). He’s been in my Top 10 numerous times over the last five years, but “Time” rises 9-6, his first time this high on the chart since “Run” got to #4 a little over a year ago.

Three songs climb into the Top 10, and they are Sam Dickinson’s joyous “All We Are” (11-7, above – all of Sam’s charted songs have reached the Top 10!), Avicii’s “Tough Love” (13-9, also above) and Italian musical mirth-makers Eric Zava & DJ Mirko B with “Even In Confusion” (12-10, below).

There’s lots of activity immediately below the Top 10, as the dark and mysterious deep house of “Alone Again” (above) by Mahalo and Polish producer Milkwish climbs 16-11.  Right behind is Loud Luxury and Bryce Vine with their huge Canadian radio hit that deserves to spread worldwide, “I’m Not Alright” (below), moving up 18-12.

The fastest riser on the chart is the highest debut from two weeks ago, “Dreamer” by Australian producer Throttle, which soars 22-13.  I’m hoping this is Throttle’s breakout record – dance music radio really needs to jump all over its refreshing sound.

The other debuts from the last chart also make progress.  Nashville duo Apollo LTD have one of my favourite albums of the year called Out Of Body, and their song “On The Way Up 2.0” (above) rises 24-20.  Then the unexpected dream team of Tiësto, Jonas Blue and Rita Ora move up 26-21 with “Ritual” (below).

The highest of five premieres this week belongs to England’s Lostchild with the charming and fun “Like Like” in its OKJAMES remix arriving at #23.  Lostchild reached #5 last year with the equally engaging “Blacklist”, so watch for great things for “Like Like”.  Both OKJAMES remix and the video for the original version of the song are above.

Someone else who is no stranger to this chart is Florida-born producer PLS&TY, whose latest engaging single “Run Wild” bows at #24.  Its repeated sample of a Finnish acoustic song is infectious and refreshing.  The Morgan Page of PLS&TY’s “Down For Me” got to #6 last year.

Chicago’s Win & Woo make their debut on the chart as lead performers with possibly their best single to date so far, which is the biting “Here U R”, featuring and co-written by singer Sara Skinner.  It arrives at #26.  Win & Woo’s other chart appearance was in 2016 providing a good-natured remix of Brandyn Burnette’s “Made Of Dreams” (#5), which I still play a lot.

Australia’s Peter Wilson returns to the chart after getting to #2 last year with Sean Smith in the unique duet called “Verona”.  It’s the Stormby edit of “Don’t Break My Heart Again” that bows at #27 from the EP of remixes for the song.  You’ve also seen Stormby on this chart before, with one of my favourite remixes of this decade, Kaden’s “Black Light”, which got to #1 in 2013.

The fifth debut will keep the heat of the summer continuing, in music anyway.  It’s the soulful, lazy melody of “Poolside Vibe” courtesy of two gents usually known as producers, Pretty Sister (Zak Waters) and MarcLo (Marc Lomax of The Monsters & The Strangerz collective), entering at #29.

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! Click on this link to take you there, and follow me on Spotify: BILLCS Top 30 Songs

Check out and ‘like’ the BILLCS Music Projects Facebook page 🙂

#BILLCSTop30 #567 – August 5/19

As a bunch of Spring favourites are now on their way to departing from the chart, the big question is: Which song will succeed Illenium & Jon Bellion’s “Good Things Fall Apart” at #1?  The emotional electronic song of summer nails its 4th appearance (8th week) at the top, making it the longest running song at #1 since A-Trak & Todd Terry’s “DJ’s Gotta Dance More” at the start of the year.  And with his tour on deck, Illenium’s released two songs within the last two weeks which warrant your ears – “Takeaway” with The Chainsmokers and Canadian singer Lennon Stella, and “Blood”, with vocalist Foy Vance.  Both are below.  Illenium’s third album “Ascend” arrives on August 16.

With all songs ranking 4-11 on the rise, there are many current challengers for #1 in two weeks.  Most obviously, Timmy Trumpet’s “World At Our Feet” (above) stays at #2, while Halifax’s Famba also remains at #3 with “Swear To God” (below).

“Higher Love”, Kygo’s retake of Whitney Houston’s 1990 cover of the Steve Winwood hit that was not released in most of the world, glides 9-4, as it becomes a UK Top 10 hit as well as a dance club hit in North America.

Then, we go out of order to look at the Fastest Riser on the chart which is very #1 worthy indeed.  “Push” by Ukrainian dance music group Kazaky soars 21-8 and will appeal to anyone who enjoyed the dark electronic music of the early 90’s by the likes of Depeche Mode.

Three other songs rise into the Top 10:  Eric Sharp & Zhao’s “Monday Blues” (above) climbs 12-7 to match the peak of their song “The Thirst” about two and a half years ago.  Manila Killa’s “Atypical” (also above) steps into the #9 spot, while Showtek have their first Top 10 since 2013’s #1 “Cannonball (Earthquake)” with the A-Trak remix of “Listen To Your Momma” (14-10, below), featuring British singer Leon Sherman.

It’s easily relateable to anyone who hears it, and EMAN8’s “Time” breaks through the middle of the chart to climb 18-11, from the multi-talented singer/songwriter’s album Emanate.

Also well on their way toward the Top 10 are Italy’s Eric Zava & DJ Mirko B with singer Daniel Gorash on “Even In Confusion” (above) up 19-13, as well as Sam Dickinson’s winning and thoughtful “All We Are” (also above) climbing 20-14, and Avicii’s “Tough Love” (below), from the posthumous TIM album, rising 27-19 and featuring vocalists Agnes and Vargas & Lagola.

The three debuts are earmarked for much play throughout the rest of the summer.

Canada’s Loud Luxury returns to the chart, this time bringing fun singer Bryce Vine with them, for “I’m Not Alright”, which arrives at #26.  It’s the first appearance for Andrew and Joe since their last entry “Body” got to #2 in early 2018, and their 4th entry overall.

L.A.-based Simon Curtis follows up the #6 “Love” with more music for your heart and head, “Graduate”, which bows at #27.  It’s Simon’s SEVENTEENTH song to appear on the chart since “Delusional” (which reached #1) arrived at the end of 2009.

And at #28 is the debut entry for both producers/remixers Midnight Kids and vocalist Jared Lee with “Those Were The Days”.  Midnight Kids are Kyle Girard and Dylan Lee (son of Tommy Lee and my fellow Canadian, Pamela Anderson).

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! Click on this link to take you there, and follow me on Spotify: BILLCS Top 30 Songs

Check out and ‘like’ the BILLCS Music Projects Facebook page 🙂

#BILLCSTop30 #566 – July 22, 2019

Trying to get through all of the songs I hear every two weeks is always worth it because some of them ultimately become new favourites.  And while #1 is a lock again, other songs rise up to challenge perhaps for the next few charts.  There are three striking debuts, one by a veteran dance group in comeback mode.

Illenium and Jon Bellion continue to reign supreme at #1 with “Good Things Fall Apart”, making it the emotional soundtrack for an intense summer of music.  And now Illenium and The Chainsmokers are tweeting about another collaboration which this time will include my fellow Canadian Lennon Stella, who is touring with the ‘Smokers this Fall.  I’ll watch to see what becomes of these promo teases!

Timmy Trumpet’s anthem “World At Our Feet” soars 7-2 to challenge “Good Things Fall Apart” for #1.  Like many electronic dance music artists, Timmy was performing at Tomorrowland in Belgium this past weekend.

Halifax’s Famba climbs 6-3 with “Swear To God”, as the song inches towards becoming his second Top 10 radio hit in Canada.  

MAX holds for a 4th appearance (8 weeks!) at #4 with “Love Me Less” (above) featuring Quinn XCII.  This song, like “Lights Down Low”, has a lot of lasting power, and I’m hoping MAX’s light-hearted new single “Acid Dreams” (featuring hip hop performer Felly) will do similarly.  Take a listen below!

A smashing trio indeed land in the Top 10 for the first time.  Mark Ronson & YEBBA move up 11-8 with “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” (above), while Kygo & Whitney Houston have the Fastest Riser on the chart 16-9 with the timely cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” (below).  And Switzerland’s Luca Hãnni moves 15-10 with his Eurovision entry that ended up fourth overall, “She Got Me” (also below).

Making short work of climbing up the chart is “Monday Blues” by L.A.’s Eric Sharp with vocalist Zhao, which sails 18-12.

“Time” is easily my favourite song on EMAN8’s debut album, also called Emanate.  It moves up 22-18 for the L.A. based singer/songwriter, also currently on release with Molly Moore as Cosmos & Creature with “The Wonder”, about which I recently wrote.

“Even In Confusion” is sophisticated European deep house from Italy’s Eric Zava and DJ Mirko B featuring singer Daniel Gorash, and climbs 23-19.

Sam Dickinson’s thoughtful and bubbly “All We Are” is well on its way to becoming the biggest release for Sam yet.  From his new EP From The Glass House Pt. 2, “All We Are” rises 26-20.

The Highest Debut on the chart belongs to comeback kids Kazaky, the Ukrainian dance group led by Artur Gaspar that has now expanded to five members.  With their big heels in full effect and amazing choreography in their new video, “Push” arrives at #21.

Bowing at #27 is the gorgeous posthumous release by Avicii featuring fellow Swedish singer Agnes as well as long time friends and producers Vargas & Lagola called “Tough Love” from the album TIM.  While it’s bittersweet to hear, TIM is a fine album that was done right and featuring all kinds of talent including Imagine Dragons, A R I Z O N A, Joe Janiak, and Bonn.  “Tough Love” is only Avicii’s second appearance on the chart, following 2013’s “Addicted To You”, while Agnes marks her third entry but her first since 2011.  Her song “Release Me” got to the top in early 2009.

Veteran producers Kenny Summit and Eric Kupper land at #28 with “Give Me Love”, a 90’s flavoured dance track for the late night club crowd featuring vocalist Amy Douglas.  Eric recently helped Parralox to #11 with his remix of “Paradise” featuring Marcella Detroit, while Amy featured on Horse Meat Disco’s “Let’s Go Dancing”, which reached #14.

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! Click on this link to take you there, and follow me on Spotify: BILLCS Top 30 Songs

Check out and ‘like’ the BILLCS Music Projects Facebook page 🙂

#BILLCSTop30 #565 – July 8/19

There’s a lot happening on the new chart.  And it’s a bit of a strange week, because most of the debuts from two weeks ago don’t move up very much, except one, which is the Fastest Riser on the chart.  That’s because a number of long-term favourites are still very much in play up near the top of the chart, and they’ve created a bit of a roadblock which will ease over the next month.  But two classic singers reappear on the chart along with a strong independent release on the rise.

Not about to let go of #1 anytime soon is “Good Things Fall Apart”, the definitive slice of emotional electronica which seems to have increased in popularity this year, by Illenium and singer/songwriter Jon Bellion.  

Nashville’s Mokita has a song about reconciling his feelings for a past relationship called “Kiss And Tell” (above) that advances to #3, which is where his previous song “London” peaked a couple of months ago.  And he’s followed up “Kiss And Tell” with a gentle new electronic pop song called “ICLYA”, which stands for “I Can’t Love You Anymore” (below).

Canadian producer Famba has his second solid radio hit locally with “Swear To God”, and it becomes his second Top 10 song on this chart, moving 11-6.  “Right Here Right Now” got to #2 back in late 2016.

A number of veteran dance producers are releasing some of the best music of their careers this year, and Australia’s Timmy Trumpet is one of them.  The compelling “World At Our Feet” (above) climbs 13-7.  Check our Danny Avila’s spot-on remix below.

Another producer making his Top 10 debut on the chart is France’s Kidswaste, with vocalist KOLE, with the slight melodies of “Sleeping Pills” climbing 12-10.

The next song is definitely competing with other strong songs from Mark Ronson’s Late Night Feelings album, including songs featuring Lykki Li and Camila Cabello.  But it’s “Don’t Leave Me Lonely”, featuring the stunning YEBBA, which takes hold of this chart and moves up 17-11.

Manila Killa recently announced another leg of his 1993 tour, which will actually stop this time in Toronto at the Velvet Underground in October 🙂  In the meantime “Atypical” (featuring GiGi) climbs up a few more notches 16-13.

Breaking through all six of the new entries from two weeks ago to become the Fastest Riser is “Monday Blues”, the super cool house track from L.A.’s Eric Sharp and vocalist Zhao.  It soars 25-18.

Also making a big move is “Even In Confusion” by Italy’s Eric Zava and DJ Mirko B featuring singer Daniel Gorash, rising 28-23.  Mirko previously appeared on the chart at the top of 2017 with “#Bomber” (#17) with Beatmarthz.

The Highest Debut at a stellar #16 is “Higher Love”, the cover of the 1986 #1 hit by Steve Winwood as recorded by Norway’s Kygo, who was given the opportunity of working with archive tapes from the estate of Whitney Houston to bring her classic voice, circa 1990, to a new audience.  It’s a timely release for its message; Arista Records wouldn’t include it in the I’m Your Baby Tonight album at the time because they wanted her to get away from recording cover versions, and the original was still fairly fresh at the time.  But bravo to Kygo and those on the estate who trusted him to represent the singer well – which he does perfectly 🙂  Strangely, it’s Kygo’s first appearance on this chart.  Last year’s “Remind Me To Forget” with Miguel should have charted but I didn’t hear it till well after it peaked.  Whitney only appeared three times on the chart in her lifetime, with “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” and “My Love Is Your Love” (both #9) in 1999, and the underrated duet with Enrique Iglesias, “Could I Have This Kiss Forever” (#15), in 2000.

After reaching #5 on this chart late last year with “Wild Sun”, UK singer/songwriter Sam Dickinson is back with the hearfelt “All We Are” at #26.  This one is receiving regular BBC radio play and hopefully its audience will grow with each spin.  Like with “Higher Love”, the message is extremely timely.  It’s from Sam’s new EP From The Glass House Part 2.  “All We Are”, like “Wild Sun”, is also available on an EP of a variety of remixes for your dancing pleasure.

The third debut is from a performer who last appeared on this chart in 2003, which to date has been her only appearance.  That’s Celine Dion, whose new song “Flying On My Own”, is nothing short of inspiring and bows at #29.  Her previous entry on the chart?  Her cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “I Drove All Night”, which in its Hex Hector remix version reached #16. Watch the live performance of “Flying On My Own” above.

View the full BILLCS Top 30 right here!  Click on the hyperlink on the song titles to hear the songs or watch the videos!

Listen to the BILLCS Top 30 Songs on Spotify! Click on this link to take you there, and follow me on Spotify: BILLCS Top 30 Songs

Check out and ‘like’ the BILLCS Music Projects Facebook page 🙂

Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” becomes reflective and @YearsandYears’ “Desire” full of intense longing, both in ballad form by @JonMclaughlin

JON MCLAUGHLIN, “So Emotional” and “Desire”

As readers of this blog are aware, I am not big on cover versions and they really have to impress me to write about them.  So when a singer/songwriter like Indiana’s Jon Mclaughlin decides to release a cover version – or two – then some undivided attention is a must. 

Jon boldly takes on Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” (above) as a reflective ballad, and its transformation is a brilliant success.  It’s not sombre by any means, it has become a story about a past lover and the resulting feelings from that relationship.  Ballads can be sped up and dance songs can be slowed down, but it has to be done right.  And with his on point vocal and piano playing, “So Emotional” is given real credibility as a ballad. 

Also be sure to check out Jon’s cover of Years & Years’ “Desire” (below), which is the second part of this double-A sided single release.  I’m still a bit too attached to the original of four years ago but slowing down this particular dance song fleshes out the intense longing of the lyrics.

Whitney Houston: Remembering the Early Performing Days

I’m not going to dwell on the recent and mainly unhappy past of Whitney Houston, but rather I’ll focus on the brilliant start to her career.

If you knew 70’s dance music, you probably didn’t know that a 14 year old Whitney sung on a now obscure Michael Zager Band song called “Life’s a Party”.  You may know that she did contribute backing vocals a year later on Chaka Khan’s seminal “I’m Every Woman”, which Whitney herself later turned into an even bigger hit.  The first lead vocal by Whitney appears on avant funk band Material’s One Down album from 1982, but it’s on a tender ballad called “Memories”, which was very unlike Material’s other songs.  Listen below to the pure vocal.

She then did lead vocals on the late Paul Jabara’s 1983 “Eternal Love” from the Paul Jabara & Friends album (also recorded by Stephanie Mills), and performed that song in concert a number of times in the 80’s.  The first charted hit with Whitney billed was Teddy Pendergrass’ 1983 song “Hold Me”.    It reached #46 on the Billboard Hot 100, a rather plain introduction to the world if you ask me.  Our introduction to Whitney solo, from her debut self-titled album, was “You Give Good Love”.  And it got to #3.  But what followed, starting with “Savin’ All My Love For You”, were 7 consecutive number one songs, and the rest is simple history.

Shortly before her debut album was released, RCA Records Canada hosted an intimate industry-only party at Club Blue Note in Toronto.  I had been publishing my own magazine called Vinyl Performance with my partner-in-crime James Rogers, and got invited to attend by the RCA rep.  None of my music aficionado friends was available to attend at short notice, so Peter Russell was my lucky ‘plus one’.  Whitney performed about five or six songs from the album, singing live to backing tracks.  I remember “Thinking About You”, featuring Jermaine Jackson, sounding really good and like a possible hit (I think it ended up as a ‘B side’), along with my still-favourite “How Will I Know”.  After her set, I got to meet Whitney briefly.  We greeted and she put her arm around my upper back and asked “Would you have a picture with me?”  I have that photo somewhere, I must have hid it good when I last moved house.  She was cute, warm, and bubbly, and brimming with talent.

In lieu of that photo, as my memory of Whitney from 1985, I found the original RCA Records Canada press kit.  What follows is the text (rather than a scanned in copy).  Click right here to see the cover photo of that press kit.

There is in every decade one young performer whose inevitable rise to stardom is predicted by everyone with whom that artist comes in contact. In the 1980’s, that performer is Whitney Houston.

Stephen Holden in the New York TIMES said “She is a talent with tremendous potential”.  The VILLAGE VOICE first enthused “She has the looks, the voice and style of Lena Horne when she was that age.  Star Material. Sensational word-of-mouth has been going around about Whitney Houston.”  Later, they described her as “a chic-looking young Billie Holiday with a gorgeous vibrato.  She has a big voice, the kind that makes you laugh and weep at the same time.”

Nelson George in BILLBOARD Magazine labeled her “a thrilling young singer who performs beautifully.  Whitney has the pedigree and style to be a major vocalist.”

And that’s some pedigree!  Her mother, Cissy Houston, has been one of the most well-regarded singers in R&B for more than twenty years and Dionne Warwick is her first cousin.  Whitney has been in the studio as a background singer since she was twelve years old and recently has been featured as a backup vocalist on LP’s by Chaka Khan, Lou Rawls, The Neville Brothers and soloed on “Eternal Love” from Paul Jabara’s LP.  On Material’s “One Down” album, she did a solo called “Memories”, which Bob Christgau in the VILLAGE VOICE called, “one of the most gorgeous ballads you’ve ever heard.”  When she was 15 years old she toured Japan with her mother, Cissy Houston.  Whitney’s style, in part, echoes her mother’s gospel-rooted soulful delivery but contains a cool, pop quality all her own.

Even with the family exposure and the instant success that she has had both as a Wilhelmina fashion model and a singer, her controlled self-assurance is amazing in a nineteen year-old.

And yet, “amazing” is a comfortable fit for Whitney.  She has appeared on the cover of SEVENTEEN Magazine and appeared in GLAMOUR, COSMOPOLITAN and YOUNG MISS.  She has done national television commercials.  At a time when almost no new artists are being signed to record companies, Whitney has just been given a contract with Arista Records by its president, Clive Davis, one of the most highly regarded judges of talent in the music business.  In Arista’s own words, it was “an agreement that represents a major commitment to the young artist.  Her signing was one of the most eagerly sought at Arista in recent years.”

What is she like as a person?  She will tell you, emphatically, that her first love is singing and that above all else that is what she wants to be doing the rest of her life.  Whitney, whose “greatest influences, besides my own family, were Aretha, Natalie Cole, Donny Hathaway, and Quincy Jones,” wants to travel and perform all over the world.  Somehow, in the midst of all this, she’d also like to work toward a college education.  What’s more, she probably will.

Warm, observant, careful, ambitious, a charming balance of reserve and fun – Whitney sees singing, modeling and acting as her job.  She likes it, but she can take the glamour in stride and is only too aware of the pitfalls along the way – after all, you might say it’s the family business.

Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm  Comments (2)  
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