Archive for the ‘Elleen’s Essentials’ Category

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve given y’all a playlist, which is a shame. Those who know me know that this has been a CRAZY summer for me. It’s a summer I may not have sanely survived but for my loved ones and music. So let’s give a nod to the latter, and take a look at what’s been burning up my iPod during the dog days. This is a good one, so I recommend you throw these tracks on your player too – it’s way better than that ubiquitous Katy Perry crap:

Cee Lo, “F*¢k You”

Dear Grammys: Go ahead and give this man the prize for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Performance, Best Country Track – all of ‘em. Because this is the most brilliant joint that has come out in YEARS! Bravo! NSFW language, obviously.

Janet Jackson, “Nasty”

I absolutely love it when I hear a song from my childhood, and it acquires a whole new level of brilliance when you hear it as an adult. This song is a prime example. Go’on, Miss Jackson.

Kanye West, “Power”

Yep, I’m still blasting this. I’m not exactly Kanye’s biggest fan, but this is my favorite Hip Hop joint since Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” dropped. This song is directly responsible for my 10K training progress. Never run before? Put this track on repeat and see if you don’t put four miles behind you before you know it. Try it.

Mary J. Blige, “The One”

I didn’t like this song at all when it was first released. Not at ALL – mainly because the thought of a talent like the incomparable Miss Mary J. Blige using autotune offended me deeply. Then this summer happened. And suddenly – this became my theme song! It literally plays when I walk down the street. That’s right. Yeah, I’m that. Yeah, I’m that. Yeah, I’m her.

Destiny’s Child, “Soldier”

I posted this on my Facebook page after a couple of my friends, in completely unrelated conversations, told me they didn’t think I like a certain type of guy. Just FYI: I am the Rainbow Coalition of dating. Just sayin’.

Missy Elliot, “Work It”

Same point as above – in response to one friend, I quoted Missy Elliot: “Boys, boys, all type of boys. Black, white, Puerto Rican, Chinese boys.” Oh yeah, and I like to pretend that I look like a Halle Berry poster as well.

Sugerland, “Stuck Like Glue”

Ok, just so y’all don’t think I’ve become too single-minded and jaded, I’ll throw this little sweet diddy in. Love this track. So fun and happy. It’s a love song! Imagine that!

Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Hit ‘Em Up Style”

And… we’re back to jaded. But really, this is the bomb. It kicks Blu Cantrell’s version in the teeth. Thanks, Emma, for turning me on to this band!

Much, much more good stuff after the jump, y’all! => (more…)


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It’s been a while, but I have to correct a glaring omission to the Elleen’s Essentials list:

I Just Wanna Stop, Gino Vannelli. I heard this song in a store today, and literally dropped my bag. I LOOOOOVE this track !!

I totally turned into an old lady, cursing the fact that there are no artists today like my Gino. I mean really. Gino, where have you gone?! The album Brother to Brother is right up there with Aja by Steely Dan and 1999 by Prince as the greatest albums I’d ever heard.

Thanks again to my mom, and also my sister, for making me at Gino fan and the age of, oh I don’t know – maybe 3? I totally was singing this song and Wheels of Life before I could read.

Oh, and although I normally do not go for tight pants, overly hairy chest, unbuttoned shirt and excessive sweatiness, somehow my Gino made it work. If I were an adult in the 70s I TOTALLY woulda been one of these chicks rushing the stage…

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Sorry it’s been so long since I blogged. I moved (ugh!), my job never ceased to kick me in the rear, all the puppy drama left me sad, and Facebook is just too easily accessible and hard to resist.

Anyway, I think we all need a pick-me-up, don’t you? It’s too early in the morning for a cocktail, so I’ve got the next best thing – a Jukebox!

ladydI can’t believe I haven’t dedicated a playlist to this lady before. In addition to being a diva for the world, I feel like I have a personal connections to her. She was my mom’s favorite artist when I was little, which made her mine too. She is from Detroit, like me. She’s an Aries, like me. She was singing since she was a kid, like me. She designed clothes, so, you know. (Did you know she designed ALL the clothes from the movie Mahogany? ALL OF THEM!! Did you see those clothes?! Why she never put out a line, I have no idea. Look at these low budget singers out today with crappy clothing lines – I’m sorry J.Lo, do your ears burn? Crazy)

Anyway, without further ado, cuz she needs no introduction, the lady Diana.

The Boss, Diana Ross. I LOVE this song. Say what you want about disco, but Miss Diana did it right. Listen to this track and not dance. I dare you. Oh, and how CUTE is she in that white, sparkly body suit?! I love this woman. (Oh, and the French translation of things like ‘y’all’ ‘c’mon dance with me, girl’ are hilarious!)

I Thought It Took A Little Time (But Today I Fell In Love), Diana Ross. OMG, OMG, OMG, you guys! I love this song!! My second-favorite Diana track ever! If you don’t know it, (1) shame on you for not owning a Diana ‘Greatest Hits’ collection (this song is on every one), and (2) go to iTunes right now and buy it. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Love Hangover, Diana Ross. This song makes me wish I was an adult of the ‘70s. I wish I were at a basement party, my 14” afro picked out just right, wearing some cute outfit that somehow involved fringe, incense burning, wood paneling on the walls, shag rug under my platforms, just chillin’. That is the image this song evokes to me.

You Can’t Hurry Love, The Supremes. Ok, I wasn’t going to put Supremes on this list because that would make it way too long. But this clip shows lesson #476 on how badass this woman is: check out how her earring falls off, she catches it, and doesn’t miss a move so you almost miss the whole thing. It’s at 1:56. Diva! I think if I were an adult when the Supremes played the Ed Sullivan show, Diana would be to me what Michelle Obama is to me now.

Reach Out And Touch, Diana Ross. C’mon everyone: “We can change things, if we start giving, why don’t you (why don’t you) reach out and touch somebody’s haaaaaaaaannnnnd (Ba-bop, bop, bop, ba-bop, whooooaaaaa)”

Swept Away, Diana Ross. This 80s pop joint was my jam back in the day. And keep in mind this song came out 20 some odd years after the Supremes. Folks talk about Madonna’s staying power and ability to transform herself, rightly so. But Diana wrote the playbook, y’all. Oh, and this was written by Daryl Hall. There’s no going wrong.

Touch Me In The Morning, Diana Ross. Hearing the opening bars of this song can make me stop whatever I’m doing at the time, raise one hand in the air Diana-style, and sing: “Tooooooooooooch me in the mooooooooooor-ning. Thennn just walk awaaaaaaaaaayyyy.” Then I forget whatever it was that I was doing, but it’s ok!

Missing You, Diana Ross. Of course this song is about Marvin, but I can’t help but get sad all over again thinking of how heartbroken she must be over MJ. I can’t imagine.

It’s My Turn, Diana Ross. I appreciate this song a lot more now than I did as a kid. Because it’s my turn to see what I can see. I hope you understand. This time’s just for me.

DianaMarvinYou Are Everything, Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye. The Diana & Marvin album is so amazing. I know his best-remembered duets are with Tammi Terrell, but Diana+Marvin=magic. Trust.

My Mistake (Was to Love You), Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye. The only thing better than this song, is the idea of it. I’d love to say that to somebody. Too much.

Muscles, Diana Ross. Ok, before you watch the video, remember – Michael Jackson wrote this. For Diana. Before Thriller. MJ! Ok, continue:

DianabillieGood Morning Heartache, Diana Ross. Did you know Diana was nominated for an Oscar? For plying Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues? And did you know she was robbed, cuz girlfriend played the hell out of that role? If you have not seen it, shame on you! Put it at the top of your Netflix queue now!

Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You Are Going To), Diana Ross. Yes, my Essential. I know I always say Peg by Steely Dan is my favorite song in the universe, but this one comes in a verrrry close second. If this song and movie were all Diana Ross did in her whole career, I would love her just as much. (OH, and I’m STILL looking for that hat she wears at about 1:14. If y’all see one on the interwebs, send a sistah a link!)

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Diana Ross. I love the spoken word part. Oh, this song reminds me of being a kid. Love, love, love it.

Endless Love, Diana Ross. I remember when Diana Ross did her concert in Central Park in 1983 live on TV. It was an event, people. An EVENT! Nothing like that could happen today. I remember watching it with my mom like it was yesterday.

So it started to rain. Like, cats-and-dogs raining. They had to stop the show because the electric instruments couldn’t work in the rain without electrocuting folks. But the organizers were afraid stopping the show would cause the people to riot. So Diana started singing ballads – acoustic style – to calm everybody down. Then she told everybody to leave calmly. And they did! And she stayed on stage singing while they did! All on live television! It was insane! And then she came back the next day and put the whole show on again. I love this lady.

dianaalbumI’m Coming Out, Diana Ross. I forgive Puff and Biggie for sampling this, because they did a good job of it. I just hope the kids today know how badass the original was. Oh, and she was so cute on the cover of this album (which I had – on vinyl) with t-shirt on and what seemed like no makeup. Gorgeous!

One Love In My Lifetime, Diana Ross. This track wasn’t a single, I don’t think, but it’s one of my FAVORITE Diana songs. You shoulda seen me singing this in front of the mirror circa 1978. I was killin’ it, y’all!

Mirror, Mirror, Diana Ross. Oh, this was my Solid Gold-era joint! It was written by Michael Sembello (She’s a maniac!  Maniac!) so it had to be good, right? And I wish I could rock sparkly clothes like Diana. *Sigh*.

Why Do Folls Fall In Love, Diana Ross. A fun, fun remake that she nails, of course.

Upside Down, Diana Ross. We should also acknowledge the genius that is Nile Rodgers, who was behind this album. I love the funk-disco-R&B blend of this track.

Chain Reaction, Diana Ross. Ok, y’all know I’m gonna love anything involving a Gibb brother. But A Bee Gees-written song sung by Diana?! Whooo!!! This song has been in the ‘Top 25 Most Played’ playlist on my iPod since I got the iPod. Something about it makes me replay it 14 times every time it comes on. I hadn’t seen this vid in ages. How cute is she?!

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Dear Barry,

Looks like you made it to 66! Congrats!

And even though I still smart a little because you did not sing this Elleen’s Essentials ditty when I saw you in concert last year, I still love you enough to wish you a Happy, Happy Birthday. Because you write the songs that make the whole world sing!

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So this has been one tough week. The financial crisis hit way too close to home, and I had a mini breakdown followed by a mini depression. At least the weather warmed up this weekend, which gave me the opportunity to spend lots of time outdoors trying to help my dog and myself walk off some of the pounds we acquired over the winter.

I was in no mood to make a jukebox playlist this Friday, so during the walks I simply hit the ‘shuffle’ function for my tunes. But my iPod, always a good friend, chose an amazing array and songs that really, really, cheered me up. Really. I “On-the-go”ed a bunch of them and an amazing playlist ensued that I will share here. Perfectly, it’s heavy on the ’80s, with some ’70s thrown in for good measure. Play it any time life sucks for you. It’ll help.

ellenandcodyNowhere Fast, Fire Inc., (aka Ellen Aim and the Attackers). I hit replay about 5 times on this one. I’ve already professed my love for the film Streets of Fire, and this track was like manna from above this week. Oh, and can I be Diane Lane when I grow up?

What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’, Stephanie Mills. Oh, man, doesn’t this track just make you wanna go to the roller rink and do the little cross-step? Good, good times!

Burning Down The House, Talking Heads. Whatever ails you, David Byrne is the elixir.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, The Pretenders. My adoration for Chrissie Hynde knows no bounds.

I’ll Take You There, The Staples Singers. I certainly need a place where ain’t nobody worried.

Time if the Season, The Zombies. Listening to this track made me realize that it truly belongs on the Elleen’s Essentials list, because I have adored it all my life. Really. This is brilliant stuff.

Fame, Irene Cara. OMG, I can’t believe I don’t own this film!  I need to go out and buy it. Like, right now!

If You Leave, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. If the song was in a John Hughes film, chances are it is on my iPod. For good reason.

She Blinded Me With Science, Thomas Dolby. I don’t even think I need an explanation.

Shadows of the Night, Pat Benatar. Ok, if you were in Arlington, Va. yesterday afternoon, and you saw some crazy woman walking a shaggy terrier and singing this song out loud, on the street, in public – hi, that was me. “Run to my heart, but baby don’t look back, cuz we got nobody eeeelllse!!”

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So far all the songs on my Essentials list are at least 15 years old. Most are much, much older.

And you have probably noticed that I love them because they are more than just great songs – they almost all evoke happy memories for me. There is nothing like hearing a song you love and having it instantly transport you back to a happy moment in time.

Lest anyone think I haven’t been happy in the last 15 years, the next two Essential songs are each only 3 years old. Not only are they fabulous tracks, but they both remind me of a recent truly happy era in my life: when I was living in Boston, in a Jamaica Plain neighborhood I loved, seeing my dearest friends often, and working at a job that – as challenging, exhausting, and sometimes infuriating as it was – was also a lot of fun.

Bend and Break, Keane. I remember exactly where I was the first time I ever heard this track: it was on the radio as I was making that right turn from Columbus Ave. onto Centre Street in my Nissan Sentra on my way home in JP. I got home, parked as fast as I could, ran into the house, and turned the song on the stereo. Then, for the first time in my life, I called the radio station to find out what song it was. After they told me I turned on my laptop, downloaded it, and it has been an integral part of my life ever since.

Be Without You, Mary J. Blige. My absolute adoration of MJB has been well-documented on this blog. And this track is particularly special, in part because it kinda saved my relationship. Even though this particular era in Boston was indeed a happy one for me, it coincided with a bit of rough patch with my BF. There were times that I wondered whether staying in the relationship was the best thing to do. Then I listened to this song in the JP apartment we shared, and it reminded me that no matter what the bad stuff was, it was by far outweighed by the good. So thanks, Mary! Oh, and besides all that, this joint is absolutely bangin’! Best song MJB ever recorded, and that is some feat!

So if you’re down on love, or don’t believe, this ain’t for you (no, this ain’t for you!)

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One of the glaring omissions in the Rolling Stone “Greatest Singer” list made me think of  a song that totally belongs on my personal essentials list:

barbraasibEvergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born), Barbra Streisand. I think I’ve blogged before about my mom taking me to see the movie A Star Is Born when I was little. I just checked IMDb and realized that I was 3 years old at the time. But I remember it like yesterday – sitting there and being absolutely transfixed by Barbra. I wanted to be her, and I made it my mission to learn all the songs from the movie. I must have made this mission clear to my mom immediately, because on the way home she stopped at a record store and bought me the soundtrack.

I played that album on my little Fisher-Price record player endlessly (The full soundtrack is on my iPod now. Still love it!). Particularly this song, which was then – and now – just spellbinding to me. I’d put on a long dress and take my hair down, trying to look like Barbra (ok, yeah, I know, but I was 3!) and sing the song into the mirror. I knew one day I’d be on stage like Barbra singing it.

I got my chance a couple of decades later at my sister’s wedding. That makes the song even more special to me.

Trivia: Did you know Kris Kristofferson wrote Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee?

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