Summer and songs. They fit together like Santa and snow, like sex and the city, like Coldplay and Rihanna in the Princess of China single and video, which both acts no doubt are hoping will be the song of the summer of 2012. (And if it’s not, Rihanna’s got another shot anyway, with Where Have You Been, the fifth single from her Talk That Talk album.)
But the songs of summer aren’t just about the latest, greatest hits when warm weather starts to roll around. If they were, we all would have been stuck with Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass and LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem on an endless beach loop last summer (and certainly some of us were). The hottest season has been figuring prominently into pop since the beginning of time, regardless of the temperature outside.
This year, it will be no different. So while the rest of the world is sweating it out to Rihanna and Coldplay, or Rihanna on her own, or brand new music from Justin Bieber, Usher, Chris Brown, or Fiona Apple (my personal beach pick), feel free to pad your summer mix with these ten entries, some of the best summer’ songs ever.
So sang then-ex-Eagle Don Henley in 1985. Ironically, “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” Henley’s third great solo Top 10 hit, was neither particularly danceable nor was it actually about about a woman who lived to shake her groove thing underneath the strobelight (no matter what the video says). The careless, carefree dancing queen was a metaphor for a United States that was more concerned with buying thrills than curing societal and political ills.
More than twenty-five years later, in the world of pop music, it’s all about movement”and not as an ambitious political metaphor. With the possible exception of Bruno Mars (who’s really going to have to toughen up and speed up the tempo if he’s ever going to get my love), all everyone”male and female, from Lady Gaga to Rihanna to Foster the People”wants to do is dance (and make romance). Red Hot Chili Peppers even closes its latest album, I’m With You, with a song titled, fittingly, “Dance Dance Dance.”
When Henley offered his biting political commentary with a beat, “disco” was still a dirty word. That’s probably why he was able to use it as a stand in for hedonism and get away with it. The truth, though, is that disco never really left the building: In the ’80s, a number of artists”from Michael Jackson to Madonna to Prince to Janet Jackson”were incorporating it into their pop.
Every great screen biography of a music superstar needs three key ingredients to really sing: 1) An icon with the greatest story never told. 2) A talented lead actor or actress gunning for an Oscar nomination”singing talent and striking resemblance optional (Angela Bassett didn’t sing a word in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and she looks nothing like the film’s subject, yet she was Tina Turner). 3) Kick-ass songs.
Fantasia Barrino as gospel great Mahalia Jackson is coming soon. The Elton John Story (aka Rocketman) is reportedly finally in the works (I’d cast Justin Timberlake over mentioned favorite James McAvoy and pray that he can nail a British accent), as is Aretha Franklin’s (with or without Halle Berry, the Queen of Soul’s No. 1 choice), Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland and Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury.
Robert Pattinson was announced as a possible Kurt Cobain at one point last year, but it’s hard to imagine that we’d get the true story as long as Courtney Love is around to kill it or put her spin on it. Ryan Gosling has the chops to pull off Cobain, but he’s already in everything and he’s several years older than Cobain was when he committed suicide. Note to aspiring biopic producers: One doesn’t have to cast a “star” as the star. Some biopics (Amadeus, starring Tom Hulce as Mozart; La vie en rose, with Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf) do just fine without huge names.
Now that she’s gone too soon, too, it’s probably only a matter of time before we get Amy Winehouse‘s “untold” story. Note to aspiring biopic producers: Tabloid-era stars are best left alone unless, as with Eminem’s 8 Mile, the focus is on life before they were famous. Otherwise, we’ve already seen the action play out in the pages of Us Weekly and People magazine.
But what about those biopics in various stages of development and non-development? Here are six that I’m dying to see.
1) David Bowie: The star. The spectacle. The songs… Iman. I can’t think of a rock icon whose story is more deserving of the screen treatment. It would be a shoo-in for the Best Costume Design Oscar, and with a star like Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who already played a Bowie-esque figure to perfection in the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine), an actor worthy of the material.
How do you get him to go away? Pay for the pizza.
It’s cruel and inhumane jokes like these that surely led the following musicians to come out from behind the kit and take center stage. Please note that it was difficult and pointless to rank these artists against each other, so they are listed in no particular order.
10. Steven Tyler
Let’s not talk about what Aerosmith has become, and focus on the good times, when they made great records and rocked faces off with regularity, all while totally zonked on drugs. You know, the good times. Anyway, Tyler was and, okay, kind of still is a great frontman, but he got his start on the drums, pre-Aerosmith. While singing and songwriting were clearly his calling, he still bangs it up from time to time.