Some hearts have the stars on their side: best of Diane Warren

With a career that spans from Milli Vanilli and Taylor Dayne to Gaga and Aerosmith, Diane Warren has a decent memoir in her if she writes better prose than lyrics. “Meanwhile, her discography and stylistic scope as a writer is astonishing,” a Billboard writer testifies, a euphemistic way of defining “generic.” Carrie Underwood and Marshall Crenshaw sang “Some Hearts,” recall.

The performances below are triumphs common to cineastes: Bette Davis in late 1930s Warner Brothers claptrap, Robert Ryan for most of the 1960s, Gene Hackman during his so-called Bush I-era alimony period, maybe Helen Mirren now. Stars wring pathos out of banality, at the risk of courting soul death. Every song listed below has interchangeable parts: verses could have been choruses, choruses could have been verses, Shanice can be Al Green, just for one day. Her bridges, though: I get gooey when I hear the “Tonight this ain’t the night to be stayin’ home” bit in “Rhythm of the Night,” or “Like a wave you keep pulling me under” in “I Get Weak.” So much depends, however, on the cracks in Carlisle’s voice and her vibrato, or the young adult ardor in El Debarge’s three-octave tenor. They’re the lucky ones. A majority of the tunes from this list I sampled in a half hour float or at best bob: REO Speedwagonn’s “”Can’t Lie to My Heart” becomes Kathy Troccoli’s “”Can’t Lie to My Heart,” or Aaron Neville’s “Can’t Stop My Heart from Loving You (The Rain Song)” molders into Mariah Carey’s “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme),” the parenthetical phrase a shrewd touch, for who can tell the difference?

So here’s to a legacy of monastic staggering averageness, graced with humility. Addicted to work, happily single, Warren loves her clients; to Warren, Taylor Dayne and Toni Braxton bring similar levels of commitment to her songs. Hiccups occur. Once in a great while, a Warren song gets a Toni Braxton.

1. Toni Braxton – Un-Break My Heart
2. Debarge – Rhythm of the Night
3. Ace of Base – Don’t Turn Around
4. Taylor Dayne – I’ll Be Your Shelter
5. Cheap Trick – Ghost Town
6. Marshall Crenshaw – Some Hearts
7. Cher – Just Like Jesse James
8. Al Green – Your Heart’s in Good Hands
9. Belinda Carlisle – I Get Weak
10. Joe Cocker – When the Night Comes
11. Trisa Yearwood – How Do I Live
12. Aaliyah – The One I Gave My Heart To
13. Ciara – I Got You
14. Shanice – Saving Forever For You

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