“Cry Baby,” Madonna. This is a little novelty song from her Dick Tracy soundtrack album. It’s a pre-rock pop pastiche with Madonna vamping like Betty Boop. The song is about a wuss, basically and Madonna’s narrartor expresses dissatisfaction and irritaiton with her guy. It’s funny because when singing this song, Madonna adopts a slight faux Brooklyn drawl – she’s gone to too many matinees of Chicago. It’s not a great song, but, Madonna’s pretty funny – the fake crying in the bridge is a bit stupid. Obviously, this was left off any of her greatest hits albums.
“Eternal Flame,” the Bangles – this 1989 song – a huge hit – was the reason the Bangles broke up. And it’s easy to hear way – it’s terrible. The Bangles were cool because they were slightly garage-band-like, a more mainstream Go-Go’s, if you will, so it’s a bit weird for them to sing on a track that Whitney Houston would’ve shouted over. The wall-to-wall synths and pillowy harmony vocals are pretty enough, but the production is terribly dated – the chiming bell, the Casio-like keyboard. I accidentally loaded this onto my iPod because I burned a greatest hits collection of the Bangles. Still, there’s an element of nostalgia when I hear this song.
“The Man That Got Away,” Ella Fitzgerald. This song is better known as a Judy Garland standard, but Fitzgerald’s version is predictibly excellent as well – though much different. Where as Garland sings the song with her trademark tremulonous that crescendo with her patented roaring belts, Fitzgerald performs in a much more relaxed, mannered voice, allowing her beautiful, prehensile voice to scate carefully on the song’s haunting melody. Her laid-back, jazzy style removes much of the torchy blues that Garland stamped on the song. It’s a gorgeous, if radically different interpretation.
“The Lady Is a Tramp,” Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa – Tony Bennett’s recording this song a few times in his long career, but it’s fun to hear him sing it with dance-pop diva, Lady GaGa. She’s surprisingly adept at singing in a more natural setting without the crutch of Auto-Tune, synthesizers and dance beats. She gets imbues the song with her winking personality, but it’s not a jokey performance – instead it’s a smiling, funny one that matches Bennett, who has lost little of his vocal power and none of his interpretive skills.
“I’ll Know,” Barbra Streisand. This is a song from the musical Guys and Dolls. Streisand’s very young – this was recorded for an album of love songs in the late 1960’s. It’s funny because the first time I heard her sing this song was on the soundtrack to her 1994 concert tour, in which she gave a goofy performance of this song with a televised Marlon Brando (who starred in the film version of the show). It’s a pretty song – a bit nondescript and not a particularly singular, but still enjoyable. The production is pretty restrained for 60’s vocal pop (there are still the syrupy strings and somewhat over-excited orchestra that wouldn’t feel out of place on a TV variety show).