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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The best & worst of Diane Warren

Diane Warren has written more pop hits over the past 20 years than anyone, much to the dismay of those with actual taste in music. Her bland, formulaic ballads have been giving mainstream music a bad name since 1985. But no one is all bad. So here are my choices for the best and worst Diane Warren songs.

1. "If I Could Turn Back Time," Cher, 1989
This song transcends its Diane Warren-ness to become a pop music classic, thanks to a great performance (and greater music video) from Cher.

2. "Everything Changes," Kathy Troccoli, 1992
This one makes the list because it's so completely inoffensive. It's like the lesser of several evils. While the song doesn't make me jump up and down and cheer, there is nothing to dislike about it. It's a catchy little dance-pop number performed by a singer with a great voice. Kathy Troccoli has gone on to become a hugely successful Christian artist, which makes me like this song even more - it's almost like enjoying the song is kind of a taboo thing because she's an artist in a genre that we are supposed to dislike. (I like Michael W. Smith's "Place in This World" for the same reason.)

3. "When I See You Smile," Bad English, 1989
One of my favorite power ballads ever. In another band's hands, maybe it wouldn't have been so impressive, but big-haired vocalist John Waite nails it. It's sweet and simple, which are the two most desirable elements in a love song, in my estimation.

4. "Rhythm Of the Night," DeBarge, 1985
A classic fun '80s pop song, it was also one of Diane's first hits. Perhaps she should have stopped while she was ahead?

5. "Don't Turn Around," Ace of Base, 1994
I had no idea that the Ace of Base recording was the fifth different version of this song. Tina Turner actually sang it back in 1986, and Bonnie Tyler and Neil Diamond were among the others who gave it a shot before Ace of Base's quirky Tetris-like rendition became a smash hit.

1. "Music Of My Heart," *N Sync & Gloria Estefan, 1999

This one gets the nod because it’s not only a horrible song, the actual performance is just as bad. Gloria appears in the second verse and gives hope that maybe she can save the song, but then Justin and JC sing all over her verse and ruin it. I dare you to sit through the entire song/video.

2. "I Could Not Ask For More," Edwin McCain (also by Sara Evans), 1999
Sometimes a song comes along that you absolutely despise, even if you can't put your finger on why you despise it. This is such a song for me. I just can't stand Edwin McCain's voice on the song, which is odd because I liked Edwin's previous hit, "I'll Be." The fact that Sara Evans remade it the very same year and it became a country hit too just infuriated me more, because it got double the airplay.

3. "Completely," Michael Bolton, 1994
Michael Bolton has recorded a ton of Diane Warren songs, and I actually like a few ("How Can We Be Lovers," "Missing You Now.") But this one is the worst. It never really attempts to have any melody whatsoever, and the chorus is just Michael wailing away without any direction.

Video unavailable, dammit!

4. "Nothing Broken But My Heart," Celine Dion, 1992
Diane has always been Celine's go-to songwriter. They've had several hits together but this was one of the most unremarkable, a middling ballad that is almost exactly the same in melody and structure as one of Diane's previous songs, "If You Asked Me To." Some of Diane's songs at least have a catchy hook or an interesting lyric, but this one has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

5. "I'd Lie for You (And That's the Truth)," Meat Loaf, 1996
This isn't the worst song Diane wrote for Meat Loaf - that distinction goes to "Cry Over Me," a horrifying ballad from this Year's Bat Out Of Hell III. But "I'd Lie for You" is on the list because of the shameless way in which Diane wrote it to emulate the style of Meat Loaf's regular songwriter, Jim Steinman. It has signature Steinman elements, like the lead piano, male/female lead vocals, operatic background vocals, and even has a guitar solo - since when do Diane Warren songs have guitar solos? It's sorry that someone as accomplished as Diane would feel the need to ripoff someone else.


BeckEye said...

Yikes, I HATE that Bad English song. But not more than "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," which I can't believe didn't make your list.

Scott said...

I don't mind that song too much... I'm more mad at Aerosmith for selling out by singing it, than at Diane for writing it.

Eric S said...

The Aerosmith definitely should have been #1 on the worst list. Horrible horrible song. They did it once again on Idol tonight. I throw it every time I hear it. Worst song by far by Aerosmith.

Anonymous said...

There is not a Diane Warren song I like. I don't get it. Lyrics are so cliche and boring and the melodies are so uninspiring.

I like pop music. But I don't understand why she's so successful.