Today we’re all about #tbt. Throwing back to the greatest non-hits that have yet to grace our ears. This playlist is dedicated to songs of the past to songs of the not-as-distant past. This is a playlists of artists you know and songs you don’t. Let’s go mining for platinum in the past!
Cinderella – Britney Spears
I’m not gonna lie, I got this from a Buzzfeed listicle. I know, I can’t believe I sank so low either. Still, what a find. On an album defined by angsty, hormonal jams like “Overprotected” and “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”, this song was sadly overlooked. It looks like we are all going to have to compensate for all the hours we didn’t spend rocking out to this song. Time to take a day for binge listening.
Way Over Yonder – Carole King
Hopping eras a little bit, I was thinking of Carole King this week watching Sara Bareilles’ Facebook page. Not only is Bareilles publishing a book in the fall (!) and not only did she do a duet with King at last year’s Grammys, but she is currently writing the music and lyrics for a new musical based on the independent film Waitress. This musical features Jessie Mueller in the title pie-baking role, who won a Tony for her portrayal of King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. For a songwriter known for writing hits for Motown girl groups like The Shirelles, this song has a lot of down-home country realness. This song comes from Tapestry, an album chock full of classic hits, but this song keeps up with “So Far Away”, “Beautiful”, and all of those other classics.
Whatever You Do, Don’t! – Shania Twain
If you don’t love Shania Twain’s fun, frilly pop-country sound, you have to appreciate her very liberal use of punctuation marks in her song titles. She is currently on her “farewell” tour going all over the world, and this song from Come On Over is just as singalongable as “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” and “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”. Farewell is in quotation marks because no farewell tour is really a farewell tour. Cher’s had about three farewell tours. It’s like that store in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan called “Going Out of Business” that isn’t actually going out of business. She’s not singing this song on tour, but it’s a true gem. Watch for the uber-cheesy and shamelessly great key change in the middle of the last chorus.
(Keep Feeling) Fascination – The Human League
I know what you’re thinking: The Human League has other songs?! I’m shocked too. Sure, this song is not nearly as fun as “Don’t You Want Me”, but that is a pretty hard bar to reach. This song has a similar energy to “Don’t You Want Me” and the synth and saxophone riffs are fun and danceable in the most ‘80s way possible.
America – Jewel
0304 is the weirdest album ever. After unexpectedly hitting #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart with “Serve the Ego”, the final single from her previous album, Jewel decided to forgo her previous singer/songwriter style and exchange it for hip, of-the-moment, urban dance-pop made in the most sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek way possible. It then went on to become the highest-debuting album of Jewel’s career with a huge radio hit in lead single “Intuition”. This song is buried in the album and manages to recreate the fizzy energy of “Kids In America” in a way that only the original can top. This is truly one of the weirdest (and best) pop-culture moments of the millennium and must be celebrated accordingly.
Wake Up Alone – Amy Winehouse
I hope everyone brings two Xanax in their back pocket when they go see this Amy Winehouse documentary in theatres now. I haven’t seen it, but it looks plain gloomy. I’m nervous that I’m going to need a whole pint of ice cream to get over watching it. So I haven’t yet. However, it seems like part of the intention of the movie is to remind people of why Winehouse was famous in the first place. She was truly one of the most gifted singers and songwriters of her (or really any) generation, and this song from Back to Black is just one of the many ways she showed us just how great she was. This song is also super gloomy, but gorgeous from both a vocal and a songwriting perspective.
Baby Be Mine – Michael Jackson
This song is on Thriller, yet gets overshadowed by virtually every other song on the album. This album plays like a Greatest Hits album, because it basically is. Still, don’t count this song out. It is classic MJ: funky, slinky, of-the-moment while remaining totally timeless. Now you can say that you know every single song on Thriller.
Infatuation – Christina Aguilera
OK, so this song was sung at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Olympics. Still, it was never released to radio and was shelved as a single in favor of arguably more marketable singles like “Dirrty”, “Fighter” and “Beautiful”. This song seamlessly blends Latin influences with the kind of urban R&B that was popular around that time. The storytelling here is also shockingly strong for a song that got buried on an album that was WAY too long. The harmonies here are also very tight and powerful, and Christina is a flawless vocalist, as usual. Check this out. Just don’t make babies to it. The irony would be too much.
Zanzibar – Billy Joel
My first concert was Billy Joel & Elton John at Nationals Park. It was AWESOME. Billy Joel played this song as part of his set. This song is beautifully complex rhythmically and harmonically, but it still manages to be fun and singable. It is classic Billy Joel. Maybe you’ll be able to catch him singing this at his residency at Madison Square Garden. Maybe.
I’ll Fly Away – Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss
The soundtrack has emerged in recent years as one of the greatest sources for mining new pop hits. One must only look at recent soundtracks for The Hunger Games movies as well as The Fault In Our Stars to find some of the biggest hits of those years. This recording is a version of an old spiritual by two of Americana’s greatest voices featured on the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which won Album of the Year in 2002 and ignited a revival of bluegrass and traditional American folk music. Fun fact: this spiritual is quoted in the Dixie Chicks hit “Sin Wagon”, among other old folk songs including “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”.
Bonus track: When I’m Gone – The Carter Family
Sound familiar? This song was already mined and certified platinum in recent years by Anna Kendrick for her performance of the song with a cup in the film Pitch Perfect. Compare and contrast to your heart’s content.