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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Who Did It Better? Whatever You Want

Who Did It Better? 
Whatever You Want

Today, we take a look at yet another example of an artist writing a song only to have another artist make it a hit first. Granted, this is a rather minor hit and there is a full two year gap between the two versions, but it is a fun story and I figure, if you wrote it and sing it? It's not a cover version because - no matter who else sings it - it will always be your song because you're the one who wrote it.

Now, 1996 was a strange year for Taylor Dayne. After three well-performing albums for Arista (two double platinum and one gold) and a 1995 Greatest Hits package... she found herself without a record label. Surprising? Well, yes, considering she'd come out of nowhere and stormed the charts with hits like Tell It To My Heart, Don't Rush Me, and Love Will Lead You Back - nine Top 40 hits, including seven Top ten and one #1.

But Dayne's years at Arista were marred by disagreements with management, namely Clive Davis. She saw herself as a certain kind of artist, namely one who writes her own material. Clive saw her as a moneymaking jukebox machine who was to sing what she was told to sing. So, the two eventually decided to part ways.

In any event, sans a contract? Dayne was adrift. Busy writing, of course, and hoping to record a new album someday soon. In the meantime, she had her songs; one of which, written with Arthur Baker and Fred Zarr, caught the ear of Tina Turner and producer Trevor Horn (Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Relax). Whatever You Want was slated to be the lead single (released March 23, 1996) from her ninth studio album Wildest Dreams (released in Europe on April, 22, 1996). Sixth months later, the album, in a somewhat altered form, would be released stateside.

While Turner's fortunes in the US had cooled a bit, she was more popular than ever in the UK. There, Whatever You Want would peak at a respectable #23, while hitting #18 in both Switzerland and The Netherlands while going Top Ten in Finland and Italy. The album, Wildest Dream, would spin out a total of five charting hits, helping the album to peak at #4 in The UK and The Netherlands, #2 in Germany and Austria, and #1 in Switzerland, resulting in a double platinum album in the UK.

Turner's version of Whatever You Want would be remixed for the clubs by the legendary Terry Todd and also one of the song's co-writers, Arthur Baker - the man who'd brought the song to Turner and Horn's attention.

All that airplay, press, and royalty money eventually got Dayne the chance she'd been waiting for, and on October 6, 1998, two years after the stateside release of Turner's revamped Wildest Dreams album, Dayne released her fourth album, Naked Without You, on the independent Neptune/River North/InsideBlu label.

Her version of Whatever You Want, remixed by Soul Solution, soared up Billboard's Dance Chart, eventually peaking at #6. 

Well, there's the story.

Now on to the Battle Royale...

The Song: Whatever You Want
The Competitors: Tina Turner vs. Taylor Dayne

Whatever You Want - Tina Turner
(Trevor Horn - European Version)

Whatever You Want - Taylor Dayne
(Soul Solution Remix)

Tina Turner
A very subtle opening, although there is a lot of noise going on in that mix. That's Trevor Horn to a 'T'. Ah, Turner's voice. No one sings like her. It's a bleating, pleading, gospel-powered thrill; riding above all that subdued ruckus, and with a tad of reverb, she sounds powerful, a  true warrior. And then, kaboom, Horn throws in the kitchen sink. Man, that is some dense stuff - sounding, not merely industrialized, but also a tad militaristic. And all that happening at a little over the one minute mark? Where do we go from here? 

Turner's turned all the way up and I can't imagine Horn adding anymore to this mix - so my guess is we turn it back down... but no! We go techno. I love that insistent synth and guitar, hitting us like an angry cardiogram. Aww.. but then we do turn the fire down. Hard to argue with those vocals. Turner is always on target. Love those strings that enter on "love takes"... a nice bit of warmth. And then Horn throws everything he's introduced so far in at once at the 2:40 mark and his production overwhelms both the song and the vocalist. I adore tension between a vocalist and an arrangement, but this is not a fair fight. So much going on, my ears don't know what to listen to. It's that simple counter melody that Horn has added - on top of everything else? It is too much. Oh, dear... here come the back-up singers. Hmm. Can these tracks carry this overloaded locomotive home? Let's find out... 

Ooo... I love the breakdown. It's nasty. Those synth guitars. Nasty fun. Aww.... doesn't last long enough. So, at the four minute mark, Turner wraps it up nicely. And that should be it. I'm sorry... there are very few songs that need to be longer than four minutes. I can think of a few classics that would be nothing without their epic length... this song? Is not one of them. It is nice, but it isn't Bohemian Rhapsody. It isn't Stairway to Heaven

So, allow me to insert a bit of historical context... at this time Massive Attack and their world wide hit, Unfinished Symphony had a huge impact on pop music. Madonna got on board, and Turner even covered Unfinished Symphony for this album. So that's what's influencing Horn, here. In other words, whether you want it or not... here comes the fourth act.

Ahh... I might be wrong. I mean, Turner's vocals are turned up to ten already... she has no where to go, and yet she powers through, creating additional textures to liven things up. Horn also does his part. That sweeping down-scale string section? Very effective. Even the backing vocals - surprisingly subtle, add nicely to this storm. And that is what Horn has created here: whipping up gale winds for Turner to sing into - an act that would be foolish and futile in the hands of a lesser vocalist, but Turner, who has always been in touch with her unique abilities, has the chops to take on the challenge. 

Ah, another chill down. Lots of space for Turner to fill and recalibrate. Horn is still bringing in elements - that acoustic piano tinkle, for example, some synth washes. Oh, strange, a touch of Hammond organ... where is this going? Oh. Apparently nowhere. Really? Ten seconds of silence at the end? Hmmm. 

Wow. That was a lot to take in.

Taylor Dayne
So, for Taylor's version, we are going with the Soul Solution remix that hit the charts. The album's version is much, much different; slowed down much too much so for my taste. This mix is lively from the get go. It's old-school house and we know where we headed, boo; to the dancefloor!

I am immediately struck by the similarities between the two vocalists. Dayne's voice was one I could never quite place, but next to Turner's, I now see where it falls. Dayne's is the more melodic. She holds her vowels sounds open. However, she also has a tendency to cover her sound with a kind of sneering hood.

Wow. Vocally, she has brought so much to this already, and we are only 45 seconds in. I am amazed at how easily and quickly she slides in all that melisma. And I love that she uses that gift as something to color the proceedings, rather than make it the whole meal, like... umm... some divas (Mariah and Xtina, I am looking your direction, girls).

Wow... this takes me back. I was running miles and miles during this time and this is the kind of music that powered me through it. Dayne is having so much fun. Listen to "SEXual-ell-ell". How fun. Yep. This my groove. I dunno. It old school... but I am loving it.

Dayne's vocals are like that moment when a rocket achieves lift off - but over and over again. I am so glad this mix exists. Those backing vocals (most likely Dayne, herself) just before the minute and a half mark? So much fun. "I know what I want, I know what I need". See... this is what we used to refer to as 'going to church'. Mmmm hmmm. Oh, a little Hammond Organ in there! Coincidence?

I love this tempo. It struck me as a bit too hot when we started, making it feel artificially manipulated, but now I'm head bopping with it. Lots of tasty bits and pieces bubbling in and out of this mix.

So, the downside to remixes like this? Always the drum machine beats. They sound slight and lack warmth. There's not bottom to them. Still... you color that stuff up with the occasional scatter beat fill and I am so riding that train. I used to club without drugs... and it was music like this that made my night. That extended note from Dayne riding over the top... on and on and on... yeah, that's manipulated but terribly effective. It's like riding the train into the tunnel, if you know what I mean (hee, hee).

So, essentially, this is over at the 3:30 mark. But, this is a remix, so we get more... breaking things down and pulling stuff out. Oh, the rest flies by fast. Wow. So much fun.

The Verdict 


I love them both. I forgot how much I like music from this time period. This stuff is over 20 years old! Oh my word! But this was my time. I had just discovered my wings, though I had no earthly idea what to do with them. I must say, I am rather gobsmacked - that I can't choose.

Whatever You Want - Tina Turner
(Terry Todd Remix)

So, to be fair, I am including Turner's Terry Todd Remix of Whatever You Want. This is the version played in the clubs. I believe I prefer it to Trevor Horn's original mix, although, the problem with Terry Todd is he lays down a drum machine track and it carries the whole damn affair. I do like the fun he's having cutting and pasting Turner's vocals. But, ultimately...

I prefer Taylor Dayne's Soul Solution Remix. They are both incredible vocalists. Without a doubt. So, this comes down to which arrangement and mix lights your fire. Me? I want to soar with Dayne. I think she has more fun with it. 

And you know me... I am all about the fun! 

And you know what? Turns out I like this song. I was a little cold on it at first. I mean, I remember it from both ladies' albums, fondly... but today?  I do not care for the Taylor Dayne album version (which I was listening to the other day and is the reason I am writing about this song today). And the Soul Solution remix was not included on it... so this is the first time I am hearing this. Also, the American mix on Turner's Wildest Dream album is not the Trevor Horn mix, so I had never heard that before either.

Well, the more you know. 
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Okay. Your turn. Leave your thoughts in the comments section. 

I had forgotten how much I love listening to music... as in, really listening closely. This series has been bringing that back. 

Hope you enjoy it, too.

Until next time... thanks for reading.

Whatever You Want - Tina Turner vs. Taylor Dayne


Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I love Tina Turner. Love her. Her voice is unmistakable. There's nobody like her. The sneer. The pain. The soul.
And I love Taylor Dayne. I've seen her live. Her voice is also incredible. For the longest time I thought she was a Black artist. I can't with her now and her being a MAGAt and going Mar-A-Trasho, but that's another thing.
As for this song, I cannot decide. Especially after you brought up the two remixes. I'm a sucker for House remixes of songs. And these two are bops.
I declare a tie. And now I want those remixes.


whkattk said...

I think I really need to give it to Tina.... Just personal taste.

Mistress Maddie said...

Tina Turner!!!!

Taylor Dayne always sounded like a cat in heat singing. The only time her songs sounded good was remixed for club house music. And the bitch is desperate for coin to perform for a non mask wearing party for the Trump's Nye party this past year.

Mistress Maddie said...

And on another note Todd Terry is legendary girl!!!!!!!

SickoRicko said...

Tina, always.