During the ‘90s it was next to impossible to turn on the radio and not hear a Diane Warren song — it’s just that you may have never realized you were listening to a Diane Warren song. The prolific songwriter had a huge career over the past three decades penning hits for Aerosmith, Toni Braxton, Celine Dion, and LeAnn Rimes. (The same artists that dominated VH1 back in the heyday of music videos.) At one point she had seven hits by seven different artists on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time.
After awhile, Warren songs became recognizable for their distinct sound. Typically a power ballad, Warren’s music incorporated heartbreak-fueled lyrics, drippy orchestral arrangements, and—most likely—Dion’s signature wail. While Warren produced hit after hit, her songs weren’t exactly ones that you blasted at parties. Instead, you found yourself secretly singing them in the shower, or alone in the car, or even at high school talent shows—just to prove how talented you were.
Michael Bolton riffed on his movie soundtrack love-ballad singing style, with help from The Lonely Island, on this week’s Saturday Night Live. In the comedy-rappers’ SNL Digital Short “Jack Sparrow,” Bolton paid tribute not only to the protagonist of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but also to Forrest Gump, Erin Brockovich, and Scarface‘s Tony Montana (in each case costumed as the character), as the Lonely Island trio, who had been hoping for a club-rap hook, look puzzled and, increasingly, annoyed.
As far as the Lonely Island go, the contrast-gag is a bit old-hat. (They even use a callback to their short Andy Popping into Frame, with Bolton, wearing a Jolly Roger tricornet, pops into frame during a club scene to gleefully proclaim “Now back to the good part!”) But choosing Bolton as a collaborator was incredibly canny, since most of his biggest hits, particularly on 1989’s six-times-platinum Soul Provider, were co-written with Diane Warren, the undisputed champion of the film-soundtrack love ballad (“I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” is only the most famous of her many soundtrack hits). And Bolton himself sang on the soundtracks for Sing (“One More Time”), Only You (“Once in a Lifetime”), and Hercules (“Go the Distance”). “Jack Sparrow” proves Bolton to be a pretty good sport. We just hope the short didn’t upstage the epsiode’s actual musical guest, Ellie Goulding.
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