Archive for the Live Performances Category

Whitney’s 50th birthday: her 15 best live performances (cover songs)

Posted in Live Performances, Whitney Houston with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

Today would have been Whitney Houston’s 50th birthday, so to mark this date and to commemorate not only the fact that she was such a flawless and consistent live vocalist and performer but also the number of artists she looked up to and was influenced by, I have compiled 15 of her best cover versions of other people’s songs that she performed live (not ones she recorded and/or re-released, except for “A Song For You”, which she performed long before recording it). Whitney was amazing at taking other people’s songs, paying tribute to them and making the song her own with her own vocal styling that was usually always at least just as good as the original, as she proved many a time in her cover versions that she recorded over the years. I’ve just put them all here alphabetically rather than trying to order them according to how good they are and instead of me going on about each one individually, you can just sit and watch them in awe for yourself.

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A Song For You

Whitney sings her version of this classic song, originally by Leon Russell (1991).

And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going (from “Dreamgirls”)

Whitney sings one of the most vocally challenging songs she’s attempted (1994).

Aretha Franklin medley

Whitney singing a medley of songs popularised by her godmother, Aretha Franklin (1997).

Diana Ross medley

Whitney singing a medley of songs popularised by one of her friends, idols and contemporaries, Diana Ross (1997).

Dionne Warwick medley

Whitney singing a medley of songs popularised by her cousin, Dionne Warwick (1997).

Gonna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Whitney singing one of her favourite Michael Jackson songs (1986).

Home (from “The Wiz”)

Whitney singing this song on her first televised appearance in 1983 (above) and again just over a decade later in 1994 (below) – pay attention to the vast difference, maturity and improvement in her overall voice and style in the two versions.

How Long Has This Been Going On

Whitney sings this jazz standard, written by George Gershwin and popularised by Ella Fitzgerald (1995).

I Am Changing (from “Dreamgirls”)

Whitney singing this vocally demanding song at the age of 21 in 1984 (above) and again in 1986 (below) – take note of the maturity of her voice, the improvement in her technique and her trademark style of playing with the notes and melody that had blossomed within those two years.

I Loves You Porgy/Summertime

Whitney sings these classics popularised by Nina Simone (1997).

Love’s in Need of Love Today

Whitey sings her version of this Stevie Wonder song (1994).

Lover Man

Whitney covers this jazz classic popularised by Billie Holiday (1991).

Never Too Much

Whitney mashes the lyrics to this Luther Vandross classic with the melody to “For the Love of You” by the Isley Brothers (1987).

Sweet Thing

Whitney singing (rehearsals) this Chaka Khan classic (1987/88).

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Whitney sings this classic Aretha Franklin song (1994).

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Vocal Spotlight: Come As You Are by Beverley Knight

Posted in Female Vocalists, Live Performances, Music, Songs with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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Beverley Knight has always been one of my favourite female vocalists with her amazing voice that could put the likes of Adele and Leona in their seats and a strong gospel-influenced sound and soulful flavour to her music. It’s always baffled me at how she is still so underrated and relatively unknown throughout even the UK, let alone the world, compared to them and others.

Of her many songs that feature elements of pop, gospel, soul, funk, jazz and blues music, 2004’s “Come As You Are” (no, not the Nirvana song) – from the album “Affirmation” – is one of my favourites and is probably her biggest hit to date (it peaked at No.9 in the UK) alongside “Shoulda Woulda Coulda”, “Keep This Fire Burning” and her version of Erma Franklin’s “Piece Of My Heart”. This upbeat, rock-tinged soul and funk song, co-written by Robbie Williams’ right-hand man Guy Chambers, is reminiscent of old-school James Brown, with a more modern feel to it that fitted well, commercially speaking. When you listen to the song you can’t help but want to sing, clap and tap your feet along with it, particularly the middle eight, which has gospel shouts that hark back to Knight’s roots, and she really gets into it and gives it her all when she performs it live (see below). “Summer’s begun” the lyrics say, and yes, it really is a brilliant, soulful summer track. However, it’s her vocals that really shine throughout and prove her prowess and talent as one of Britain’s best – I mean, check out the G#5 she belts out with perfect technique, a great tone, as well as clarity, resonance and a lot of power that even Jessie J would be in awe of, for proof of her abilities.

And lastly, check out this amazing remix with a new vocals that she did and hits an effortless A5. Need I say or show you more?

Christina’s Best Live Vocal Performances by year (1999-2013)

Posted in Christina Aguilera, Live Performances with tags , , , on June 19, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

As much as I love Christina Aguilera, as a live performer her vocals are quite inconsistent and there is always a lot of debate about her voice in many of them, whether it be the health of it or the style in which she sings. However, here I have listed the 15 best live vocal performances throughout her career so far from 1999 to 2013 – one for each year, except 2009 when she didn’t perform. Instead I have put a video of her from her MMC days to show how far she’s come. Many of them cemented her as one of this generation’s finest and most talented vocalists with a unique “mixed” style (taking different styles and genres of singing from her various idols and influences and putting them together to create her own style) that has in turn influenced a legion of other young singers after her.

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Please note, there are some performances that I haven’t included in here that some fans might consider to be good (for example her tributes to James Brown at the 2007 Grammys and Etta James at her funeral), because I believe they were emotionally great but not so much technically. I also haven’t included any performances from her mini-concert at the Time 100 Gala (pictured above) since there are still no full-length videos available, even though the short snippets did sound good, but check out my choices below:

1993 – Mickey Mouse Club

“I Have Nothing” on the Mickey Mouse Club show

Since there isn’t a 2009 performance, here’s one from 1993 when she was nearly 13, singing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing”. It may be in a lower key and has no key change but she still does really well for someone her age – especially a song like this and shows she really had a lot of potential, talent and star power at that age. Poor Britney…

1999 – Self-titled début

“Reflection” on the Donny and Marie Show

Here she was still young and still finding herself as a singer before her first album came out. I believe if “Reflection” had been released as her début single it would have done her more justice and given her more credibility, rather than joining in with the teen-pop hype of the time.

2000 – My Kind of Christmas

“The Christmas Song” live at Christmas in Washington

Christina’s Christmas album was a mixed one – her voice was in fine form and her tone was great and pure, but it featured a lot of over-singing. This version of “The Christmas Song” however, was good and she managed to show off her voice for the President without going too overboard.

2001 – Mi Reflejo

“Pero Me Acuerdo De Ti” and “Falsas Esperanzas” at the Latin Grammy Awards

A lot of Spanish-speaking people believe Christina sings great in Spanish and sometimes better than in English. Her voice was getting better around this time and was a good chance for her to practice singing and dancing together more, which she manages to do well here. There is also some great use of her falsetto too.

2002 – Stripped

“Fever” with the Pussycat Dolls at the Roxy Theatre

Christina can sound really sexy and sultry when singing in a bluesy way using her lower register, as she does here for the song “Fever” with The Pussycat Dolls, and she does well to keep it straight and simple too.

2003 – Stripped

“Come On Over (All I Want Is You)” in London (Stripped Tour)

The test of a true artist is to see if they can take an old song of theirs and re-work it to make it sound fresh and different, which is what she does here with “Come On Over (All I Want Is You)”. She keeps the vocals clean and simple, yet playful, and her tone is beautiful.

2004 – Hiatus

“Walk Away” on Letterman

Soulful and sultry vocals, this performance had everything – perfect tone and control throughout and lots of emotion. Definitely one of her best from this era.

2005 – Hiatus

“A Song For You” on Ellen

This is not long after Christina recovered from strained vocal chords and in the build up to her next album, but her voice sounds stronger and richer than it has done before and when she proved she really excels at singing jazz-type records.

2006 – Back To Basics

“Ain’t No Other Man” at the MTV Movie Awards

Here Christina’s vocals were in top form and was probably her best first performance of a lead single from an album. Right from the first opening note through to the end, she kept the momentum going whilst moving around in heels, which is always something to be in awe of.

2007 – Back To Basics

“Makes Me Wanna Pray” in Adelaide (Back To Basics Tour)

This is when Christina’s voice was at its peak. This tour was very vocally demanding for her, especially this last leg when she was about 3 months pregnant. She really gets into the soulful feeling of this song and shows why she should do more gospel-influenced numbers like this.

2008 – Greatest Hits

“I Loves You Porgy” at the Grammy Nominations concert

A simple yet great vocal performance, Christina really shows off her lower register without showing off her voice too much. Her control is great and tone is smooth and warm, even if it does show that her voice has already begun to deepen a lot.

2009 – Hiatus (no performances)

2010 – Burlesque/Bionic

“Lift Me Up” at the Hope For Haiti telethon

Again, using her lower register where she now seems the most comfortable, this one and only performance of “Lift Me Up” had great control and technique throughout most of it. This era itself was one her weakest vocally, but this performance was beautiful.

2011 – Hiatus

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” at Disney Park Parade

After a spell of performances that were more miss than hit, this is definitely one of her best vocal performances in the past few years. Beautiful tone and great control throughout the entire song and her registers, probably thanks to the vocal training she had been receiving in the months prior to this.

2012 – Lotus

“Beautiful” at the Hurricane Sandy Appeal concert

There have been many performances of “Beautiful” that are worthy of being mentioned, but this one was really good. Again her tone is smooth and she has good control of her voice, as well as evidently showing a real connection to the song when performing it.

2013 – Lotus

“Blank Page” at the People’s Choice Awards

Unfortunately, many of the performances so far throughout the “Lotus” era have been average at best, but “Blank Page” was a gem. Her vocals weren’t perfect all the way through, but it definitely showed that she’s still got it and improvement since her other performances in the months before this one.

Vocal Spotlight: Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over) by Donna Summer

Posted in Female Vocalists, Live Performances, Music, Songs, Vocal Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on June 2, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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Donna Summer was not only the Queen of Disco, but during the 70s she was one of the best vocalists around (in fact, ever, really) – she had a beautiful tone, great technique, and was very versatile too. Disco songs don’t necessarily need singers with big voices but when Donna sang them, she not only cemented the title of the ultimate “Disco Diva” but also managed to bring an element of both sexiness and soulfulness to them that others couldn’t. One of her lesser known songs, but one that proved how great, yet underrated a vocalist she really was is “Can’t We Just Sit Down (And Talk It Over), which was released along with the bigger hit “I Feel Love”. Even though “I Feel Love”‘s popularity overshadowed this slow jam ballad and was of course amazing too, this song shouldn’t be forgotten about, so here I am to bring your attention to it if you’ve never heard it before.


The lyrics speak of not wanting a relationship to end and Summer asks her lover to, well, as the title suggests, sit down and talk it over. Her vocals are smooth, warm and full of emotion as she croons and pleads with all her heart, soaring effortlessly as she hits each and every note, both high and low, with ease. Vocally it may not be a hard song to sing but to pull it off in the same, soulful yet not “overdone” way Donna did it, is a tough thing to do. She rarely performed it live but below is a video of one time when she did and had the audition watching her in silent awe.

Vocal Spotlight: Higher Love by Whitney Houston

Posted in Live Performances, Music, Songs, Vocal Spotlight, Whitney Houston with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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“Higher Love” is probably the most famous song of Steve Winwood’s career; released in 1986, the song was an award-winning hit worldwide. There have been a few covers of the song since, but what many people (including myself, surprisingly) don’t know is that Whitney Houston recorded a version of it for her 1990 album “I’m Your Baby Tonight”. Unfortunately, the song was cut from the final track list but was included as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album. Why? I have no idea. Since hearing the song I have come to the conclusion that it is one of her finest vocal performances, especially on an uptempo number. Her version incorporates the dance-pop genre she was delving into in the early 90s (as heard perfectly clear on the album’s lead single “I’m Your Baby Tonight”) as well as harks back to her gospel roots with a choir singing backing vocals, which is quite fitting for the song’s title and lyrical content. Musically, the song is reminiscent of the gospel-influenced “How Will I Know” but with that definite typical 90s post-disco sound.

A lot of covers Whitney has done in the past (“I Will Always Love You”, “I’m Every Woman” and “Step By Step”, for example) have always at least matched or even surpassed the original and “Higher Love” is no exception. I really like the original of this song by Steve (with accompanying vocals by Chaka Khan), but of course Houston’s crisp, well-delivered vocals, immaculate tone and pure soul speaks (or sings, as the case may be here) to me more; you can feel the spirit of the song taking over her as she gets further into it and is singing along with the gospel choir. It is quite clear from this song and the album that Whitney was in her vocal prime at this time, before the toll of working too much (and other problems) began during “The Bodyguard” tour as she effortlessly belts notes higher and more consistently than she has done on other records. Houston also performed the song live on tour around the same time and in the video below, although she wasn’t 100% well (reportedly had a cold), she still puts in 100% effort and sounds great.