FFWDing to the Best Part: “That’s the Way It Is,” Celine Dion (1999)

After everyone in my entire life recommended it, I joined Spotify a few months ago.  For $10 a month, I have instant access to any song in the world — the lone exception I’ve found, oddly enough, is the Joan Jett version of “Do You Wanna Touch Me” (There. Where.).  Like Pandora, you can create radio stations based on a song, artist, or genre.  You can create playlists and share them with your Spotify “friends.”

And therein lies the tricky part.

Your friends can see your listening activity, even if said activity reveals you listened to “Loser Like Me” from Glee 14 times in a row.  Sure, you can mark your streaming information as “private,” but where’s the fun in that?

I recently created a playlist called “All Time Faves” but quickly began using it as a repository for any song I kind of want to hear in that precise moment.  So while the list includes standards that are true classic favorites, there are also songs that dance across my brain that I have an itch to access that particular second.

Driving back from my parents’ house this past weekend, I needed some tunes to take me across 365 miles of frozen tundra.  So while paused at a “Travel Plaza” — among the most grim places on the planet — I added several tunes to the aforementioned playlist, including today’s featured song.  And then shivered at the notion that all Spotify friends would see the notification: “[Lucy] added ‘That’s the Way It Is’ by CELINE DION to her All-Time FAVES playlist” (capital letters mine). Slightly less embarrassing than that moment in 2000 when a co-worker told me I looked like Celine Dion.

While I recognize that Celine has a great range, and solid vocal control, and is wildly successful among a certain demographic, I’ve never been what one would call a “fan.”  Sure, I will listen to “My Heart Will Go On” out of continued obsession with affection for Jack and Rose. But this song is something different.  It’s catchy, energetic, it makes me smile.  Why, one wonders … ?

Celine, Max Martin

Max Strikes Again

Well, that makes sense.  This effing guy.  He can take highly lampooned musical punchlines and make them seem marginally hip.

Best part? It’s not just her outfit in the video, which is uncharacteristically stylish and flattering, by 1999 standards.  Or her hair, which looks oddly fantastic. (Max probably had a say in the video-shoot aesthetics, as well.)

As the close approaches, post-Backstreet-Boysish-dramatic-key-change at 2:48, Celine shows off those pipes, going on a run from 3:08 – 3:17 that was rather impossible for me to duplicate as I cruised through the barren wasteland of Northern Indiana.  This vocal flourish, and all that surrounds it, is guaranteed to up the serotonin levels of anyone that bothers to listen to it.

I will no longer be ashamed of my affection for this sunny tune! (But maybe I will use my iPhone if I choose to listen to it on repeat mode.) 

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FFWDing to the Best Part: “I Drove All Night,” Cyndi Lauper (1989)

Why is Cyndi Lauper so unusual? Because she’s just genuinely awesome and universally adored by the world’s good people.  She’s smart, compassionate, philanthropic, sassy, and a consummate professional. One of my favorite recent stories — and by “recent,” I apparently mean nine years ago — was how Cyndi was performing outside, had a bird defecate INTO HER OPEN MOUTH, and just kept right on effing singing.

Those divas in Kings of Leon could stand to learn a lesson or two.

And quite frankly, I don’t think Cyndi is recognized for her sheer vocal talent as much as she should be. Probably because her biggest hit is her stupidest, and was part of every bouquet-tossing spectacle until “Single Ladies” emerged. (Does Cyndi resent Beyonce, or thank her, one wonders.)

Sure, “True Colors” and “Time After Time” get their due commendations, but to me, her pipes have never sounded better than on “I Drove All Night,” from her third studio album. The song was intended originally for Roy Orbison (if he’s considered a crooner, then he’s my favorite crooner of all), so you know there are some challenging vocal runs inherent in the thing.

Best part? 4:13 – 4:38. There are a lot of good demonstrations of Cyndi’s skillz here. The progression out of the final pre-chorus, the sheer octave range from fore and aft, and her controlled dynamics throughout.  But what gives me pause — and a scorching case of envy — is that note she holds into the fade-out.  For a full 25 seconds.  It’s possible that they looped it, but I don’t think Cyndi would have such shenanigans.  Roy would be proud.  Celine Dion would cover it later — OF COURSE SHE WOULD — and well, it sucked in that sterilized but still-very-pretty way that most Celine music tends to do.