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KIDS AT MIDNIGHT - CHICK DATE MIXTAPE TRACK LIST:
TONI BRAXTON - You're Makin Me High
TINA TURNER - What's Love Got To Do With It
LISA STANSFIELD - All Around The World
BLONDIE - Rapture
CHAKA KHAN - Ain't Nobody
STEVIE NICKS - Edge Of Seventeen
KATE BUSH - Running Up That Hill
JANET JACKSON - Rhythm Nation
MADONNA - Like A Prayer (12" Dance Mix)
BLACK BOX - Ride On Time
SADE - Smooth Operator
KATE BUSH - Wuthering Heights
This is a collection of female voices that influenced, inspired and intrigued me growing up…and a couple of words on it.
I remember thinking Lisa Stansfield had the funniest voice, I would try and emulate it before I knew anything about vocal technique and how amazing hers was. I would practice the operatic chilling howl of Kate Bush and the Stevie Nicks growl. I'd also try and sound like Bruce Springsteen but that's a story for another time.…
I learned something from all these artists. Whether it was Stevie Nicks who could be so aggressive and yet so vulnerable at the same time (mind blowing) and whose songwriting was so acutely personal. Or Toni Braxton, whose elegant use of her lower register showed me that you didn't have to squeal through your higher register to be an interesting or sexy vocalist. Sade, I still today, practice mimicking her as a vocal exercise in control and clarity. Or Chaka Khan & Tina Turner, conversely, the masters of raw power.
Or Kate Bush. Oh Kate… That otherworldly girl/woman whose exquisite twisting of imagery and vocal characterisations made her songs more than just music and lyrics. Who DOESN'T take on the character of the ghostly Cathy when they're singing along to Wuthering Heights? And the memory of her interpretive dancing, whispy like a willow bending in the breeze in that misty blurry video clip, still makes me want to get up and be Cathy at the window. She remains a haunting and untouchable presence for a songwriter.
Let's take a Ride On Time… ahem…The effect of the Black Box urban legend before the internet was properly invented, cannot be underestimated. Is the singer really not the singer? Is it true? That the girl in the video is a model? And it's not her voice? The story lingered, whispered about by kids who had an appetite for delicious pop scandal and an inkling to search out music myths, waiting waiting and hoping their mum would buy them SMASH HITS that week. The story delighted me as a kid, I remember seeing the singer from C & C Music Factory accept an award, she sang live into the mic in her acceptance speech and insinuated that unlike another act similar, she DID sing everything. What was she saying? Of course we know now that the voice in Ride On Time is that of singer Loleatta Holloway and the disco kids will especially nod their heads to that one. But back then, the whole myth of the story delighted me. It was the first time the dreamlike enigma of 'how songs are made' changed for me. Songs all of a sudden, it seemed, could be assembled from parts.
Then there's the legacy of Janet & Madonna, who changed the school oval from a pitch of slightly sandy turf to the set of a video clip (yes, video) It was so very cool to know choreographed routines to your pop songs, just like Janet & Madonna. It was cool to be as good at dancing as you were singing, just like Janet & Madonna. In fact, you should practice…and you should practice a lot! For a young dancer it meant hours of passionate recording and pausing of Video Smash Hits (yes, video)
Staying up late watching Rage, maybe Heart Of Glass would come on, and there she was Debbie Harry, glowing, illuminated. Was she floating? I remember thinking Rapture was so funny before I was old enough to know it was cool. But it's Debbie Harry… Rap about a man from mars eating cars? Sure, watch me make it effortless and cool. Ok. I still love repeating those words in that laid back Debbie Harry style and I chopped up my favourite parts from the rap in this mix.
None of these experiences are entirely or astoundingly unique to me, but they were influential, and future shaping, and filled my world with dreams and fantasies that one day I might be as cool as these impossibly cool women. For a female artist in the middle of the process which back them seemed only to exist in a world far far away, it was a lot of fun to look back and remember.
I hope you enjoy!
And if you got to the end of this, high five.