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TNOCS’ Worst Nightmare? Thirty Songs From Diane Warren

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I’ve a confession to make. 

One that might shock TNOCS:

No, it’s not about “Backstabbers” (which is still a 10), or Olivia’s “Magic” (which, I’ve recently said, is third to Pilot’s and the Cars’). 

Rather, it’s something our pal Tom Breihan got me thinking about recently.

In a non-TNO Stereogum piece, Tom wrote about Diane Warren’s track record of nominations but losses in the Best Original Song category at the Oscars. He ranked the compositions.

That got some of us at TNOCS talking about the much-maligned songwriter.

It also sent me to my copy of Fred Bronson’s Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits, 4th Edition. Specifically, to the list of Diane Warren compositions to remind myself of her hits and misses.

Yes, No. 1 was a big miss: Toni Braxton’s ungrammatical, chart-topping slog, “Un-break My Heart.” Also in the top 30 were songs I consider among the respective acts’ worst: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and Chicago’s “Look Away.”

At the same time, there were songs I genuinely enjoy. Like Michael Bolton’s “How Can We Be Lovers?” and Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”

Others – ballads more typically associated with her – are, to my mind, well-done: Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” and LeAnn Rimes’ “How Do I Live?”

So, using Bronson’s list as a foundation…

… and getting some help from Wikipedia (confirming the citations on Spotify), I came up with my own playlist of 30 Diane Warren songs that I like.

I realized my favorite Warren songs fell into a few kinds:

The (over?)-emotive pop/rockers:

In addition to the Starship and Bolton songs, other Warren songs like Rimes’ “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” Kathy Troccoli’s “Everything Changes,” Cheap Trick’s “Ghost Town,” and lots of Cher singles fit here.

Cher actually edges out Bolton in this countdown, with her four to his three. I wrestled with whether to include “Time, Love and Tenderness,” but his shoutfest with Patti LaBelle, “We’re Not Makin’ Love Anymore,” was just too much fun not to include.)

Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” is No. 1 in my Warren playlist.

The R&B/pop ingenues:

Aaliyah, Brandy, Samantha Mumba and the group Xscape all place singles in the Warren playlist. (Monica and Christina Aguilera could have, too, but I didn’t really care for their singles.) And a few R&B/pop stars who were a bit too mature to be considered ingenues, Whitney Houston, Regina Belle (with James “J.T.” Taylor) and Natalie Cole, also shine here.

The surprises: (also known as: “That’s a Diane Warren song?”

In some cases they’re co-writes, in others: her own compositions.

But whatever the case, I was surprised to learn Michael W. Smith’s “I Will Be Here for You,” Laura Branigan’s “Solitaire,” Milli Vanilli’s “Blame It On the Rain,” and Gloria Estefan’s “Live for Loving You” all featured Warren credits.

The expected ballads:

Even among what most people recognize as a Diane Warren song, there are performances that elevate the track.

Aaron Neville’s “Don’t Take Away My Heaven,” Celine Dion’s “Love Can Move Mountains,” Edwin McCain’s “I Could Not Ask for More.” are examples.

Take a listen to the playlist – if you dare – and share what tracks you love, hate… or are surprised to learn she wrote or co-wrote.

Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote! 

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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Virgindog
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April 4, 2024 9:31 am

My favorite category here is “That’s A Diane Warren Song?” I never would have put her together with Milli Vanilli but it totally makes sense now that you say it. Nice job, Chuck!

JJ Live At Leeds
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April 4, 2024 11:41 am

Excellent alternative take. I know I should be more open minded but I’m not sure I can bring myself to give that playlist a go, even though there’s quite a few of them that i dont know. There’s too much inbuilt prejudice to give her a fair go. If I had to pick a favourite, it’d be Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now. It’s no We Built This City though.

I’ll second Bill’s surprise that she penned a Milli Vanilli song.

I haven’t seen the name Clive Griffin in a long time. Never quite made it despite the brooding good looks and having Diane writing a song.

Pauly Steyreen
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April 4, 2024 11:47 am

I have to grudgingly admit there are a few Diane Warren songs that aren’t so bad. Not a single song I really love, but a few I have warm feelings toward, like Un-Break My Heart, If I Could Turn Back Time and Solitaire. I

I’m glad there’s someone out there in the world fulfilling the public’s insatiable need for tripe, and Diane Warren is a very rich woman for her efforts. But I’ll stay over here on the other side of the tracks, thanks. 🙂

spacecitymarc
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April 4, 2024 12:12 pm

For me, it’s not even close.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usGlQ6gBaOE

LinkCrawford
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April 4, 2024 6:44 pm

This is a worthy article. I actually enjoy being a bit of a contrarian to the collective opinion every once in a while. (Glass of warm milk, anyone?)

I like to pick on Warren, too, but your list reminds me that there are a few songs by here that I really do like. She can write a good chorus. There are plenty of songs that have verses that I like, but then the chorus is lame. Most of the Warren songs I like are because of the chorus, including my favorite, “Because You Loved Me”. (I would like to hear a more sensitive version to contrast Celine’s overbearing vocals). I feel the same about “I Could Not Ask for More”.

No love for “Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge???

lovethisconcept
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April 4, 2024 10:35 pm

If I Could Turn Back Time and Solitaire are my picks. I would never have associated Diane Warren with either. I also had no idea that Cher had recorded so many of her songs. Michael Bolton was expected. Cher not so much.

lovethisconcept
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April 4, 2024 10:37 pm

And Aaron Neville can do very little wrong to my ears.

cappiethedog
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April 5, 2024 1:44 am

I defended “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”. I have a soft-spot for Starship. In the same post, I also defended Armageddon. I got one upvote. I upvoted “How Do I Live”. Partly because Kevin Rowland likes it. And partly because the late Elliott Smith said that Celine Dion was the only person who talked to him at the Oscars. Dion’s music is beside the point. Fan for life.

My favorite Diane Warren song is “I Get Weak”. I also like “Some Hearts”. It’s from Marshall Crenshaw’s last studio album, Good Evening. According to Crenshaw, he was just fulfilling his contract. I can’t tell. I guess the record company felt the same about him. They didn’t release “Some Hearts” as a single. Pre-grunge period? It had a fighting chance to chart. Oh, wait. I almost forgot “Careless Heart”. That’s Warren’s best song, not “I Get Weak”.

spacecitymarc
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April 5, 2024 9:21 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

It’s from Marshall Crenshaw’s last studio album, Good Evening.

Huh?

1000004406
cappiethedog
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April 5, 2024 2:49 pm
Reply to  spacecitymarc

Whoops. I meant major label.

Real life gaffes on mothership:

  1. Misidentified Bryce Dessner as Bruce Dressner.
  2. Thought “Gloria in te domine” was Gaelic.
  3. Openly asked who Nina Totenberg was.
  4. Thought Crash Test Dummies’ Ellen Reid won the Pulitzer for music.
  5. Defended The Rembrandts.
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