Normally, I don’t appreciate anything too musically pretty.
Even if it’s a formula love ballad, I like a little bittersweet quality sprinkled in there–or preferably something just plain bitter.
But there are some lovely standards that I can’t help adoring because it’s just so much easier to surrender to their melodic charms than to be a hideous, slimy grinch and fight back.
*“You Light Up My Life” sung by Debby Boone.
This song is lilting, it’s seductive, it slays me every time. I know it’s crap (despite having won an Oscar) but it’s really good crap. And no, unlike Boone, I don’t think of God when I sing it. I think of my electrician.
*“You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker.
So tooth-achingly sweet, but the rawness of his voice and the surprise of his spasms lend it an edge. Give in. Turn pain into acceptance. The song..is…so…beautiful…beautiful…to me.
*“Beautiful”, sung by Christina Aguilera.
So nice, so pretty, so uplifting—all the things I hate. But it’s a great message about the need to look behind the skin and embrace humanity. What the fuck, just shut up and like it.
*“Hero”, sung by Mariah Carey.
A total Hallmark experience about finding the hero deep down inside, blah blah blah, but it’s got a lilt and builds to some knockout notes. And as with the Aguilera song, anything that champions the underdog deserves a little respect. Impressively, I can sing this exactly like Mariah–but only in the shower.
*“Someone Like You”–Adele
I normally can’t stand this level of nobility–again, give me bitter or give me death–but the song’s haunting realness fills its prettiness with lots of soul. A landmark achievement in power balladeering.
*“She’s Like The Wind” by Patrick Swayze, featuring Wendy Fraser
I actually make no apologies whatsoever for loving this one. It reeks of a dewy-eyed sincerity that expunges any potential ickiness. Swayze sang it beautifully and I love the counterpoint with Fraser towards the end, making it all go by like a nice breeze. (And at least she didn’t pass wind.)
Or maybe it’s just me. Are you vomiting?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 9, 2012