It’s “ALL RIGHT” With Me

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From top left: Janet Jackson, Jamiroquai, Darius Rucker and Christopher Cross. They all have something in common musically.

Ok folks, this week I decided to have a little fun with song titles.  Last week, while researching for my last article about hip-hop lyrics, I did a Spotify search on the song “Alright” to get a listen to Kendrick Lamar’s latest single.  After the song played, Spotify naturally played the next song in the search queue, which was another tune called “Alright,” this one by the English alternative rock band Supergrass.  That track sounded decent and vaguely familiar, so I let it play to completion.  Then the next song in the search results played…another tune titled “Alright,” this one by rapper Logic (featuring Big Sean).  Then the next one played.  “Alright” by country singer Darius Rucker (formerly of Hootie & the Blowfish for all those who don’t remember).

Before I could reach for the pause button and change my search criteria, I realized that this collection of “Alright” songs wasn’t half bad.  In fact, they were collectively pretty good.  And boom!  Just like that, I had my next article topic.

In the history of popular music, many songs have shared the same song titles.  After all, the English language only has so many words (although some musicians seem to be creating new words each year), and musicians would likely rather spend their talent on creating the songs than on laboring over what to call them.  Why reinvent the proverbial wheel when there have already been so many titles that have already proven successful?

Certainly, the shorter the title, the more likely it is to be used again in some other song.  And when it comes to short titles, the 2010s take the cake.  Musicians (and record companies) have found that the shorter the title, the easier it is for fans to remember and the quicker it’ll come up in search engines as people have turned more and more to streaming sites to hear or view their favorite tunes.  As a case in point, at various points in the past year or so, one- or two-word titles have dominated the top ten on the Billboard pop charts.  On the entire Hot 100 this week, only five songs have titles that are longer than five words.  You won’t find long sentences or phrases like “Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Round the Old Oak Tree),” “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” or “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” on this generation’s charts.

The most familiar repeated non-remake titles in pop music are songs like “Lady” (take your pick of top-40 hits by Styx, Little River Band, Kenny Rogers, D’Angelo, Lenny Kravitz) and “Hold On” (again, you know the familiar ones by En Vogue, Wilson Phillips, Santana and Ian Gomm to name a few).  But “Alright” and its grammatically more appropriate form, “All Right,” have been used in many song titles as well.  In fact, I found that it’s one of the most commonly used song titles in music, which got me to thinking, how many other different songs share that same title (excluding remakes)?  So I re-entered “alright” and “all right” in my search engine and came up with a nice playlist of 26 songs I thought would be interesting to write about…and to rank in order of which ones I thought were the best.

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“Alright” is an adverb that is used in phrases like “He played alright.” While “everything is going to be all right” is the more appropriate use of that phrase.  Most musicians inappropriately use “alright,” but that’s one grammar correction you won’t likely see, because even scholars feel it’s ‘alright’ to use the terms interchangeably.

As usual with me, you’ll get to hear that playlist if you click this link.  But you’ll also get my commentary about each song in the following paragraphs as I count the top twelve down from 12 to 1.  The other 15 are listed below the top twelve as near-misses.  Some you’ll be familiar with, others you won’t.  And if you’re a true music fan like me, you may find a gem in this list somewhere.  But if you’re not,  hopefully, you’ll be entertained nonetheless.

So if it’s “all right” with you, I’ll begin this “Alright”/”All Right” countdown now.

12.  “All Right”Christopher Cross.  This pop singer from Texas was the first Chris Cross to chart in Billboard (rap duo Kris Kross came 12 years later).  This star of the early ’80s gave us hits like “Ride Like The Wind,” “Sailing” and “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do).”  When his middle-of-the-road adult-contemporary “All Right” debuted at #29 on the Hot 100 in January 1983 (a pretty high début for that time), it looked as if the tune was going to be his next top ten single.  But it never climbed higher than #12 and Cross would have to wait until 1984 (“Think of Laura”) before getting what would be his last top-10 hit.  Check out this YouTube clip of his performance of the song in 1983.

11.  “Alright” – Jamiroquai.  Despite the lifeline that reads “1974-1979” on the tombstone for what was once known as disco, the fact remains that dance music in its various forms has never really left.  Jamiroquai helped prove that point in the mid-1990s when they (yes, Jamiroquai was a band – not a solo artist) brought their brand of dance music to the table, culminating with their biggest album, Traveling Without Moving from 1996.  “Alright” was the third single from the album and the only one to make the Hot 100 chart – an anomaly attributed to the fact that the more popular “Virtual Insanity” was not available commercially as a single (CD, cassette, 12-inch or 45), which was a requirement of Billboard magazine at the time.  Jamiroquai is probably the band/artist who has come closest to approximating the feel of late-1970s disco in the 35 years since it “ended.”  And this single is no exception.

10.  “All Right”Donavon Frankenreiter.  Frankenreiter is a lesser known artist who does double duty as a surfer and a musician.  In 2010, he recorded the album Glow (his fourth studio album of original material) on which his “All Right” was included.  The song is listed as being of the folk-rock genre and it clocks in at 3:07, making it one of the shortest “alright” songs on this list.  It begins with a programmed calypso-like drum machine before acoustic guitars settle in and validate its folk labeling.  Overall, it’s not a bad tune.

9.  “All Right”Carolyn Malachi.  When you’re feeling “all right,” you’re usually feeling pretty good about things.  As you might imagine, most of the songs on this list are easy-going, feel-good songs about…well, just being all right.  This jazzy, neo-soul track from relative newcomer Malachi is no exception.  Malachi is an R&B singer who hails from the Washington, DC/Baltimore, MD area’s blues, jazz, spoken-word, gogo and R&B scenes (according to her website) and this “All Right” is just a glimpse of what she has to offer.  The song is awash with violin flourishes throughout, which give a fine accompaniment to Malachi’s soothing vocals.  And she adds a rap bridge to boot.  Very eclectic, and very much all right.

8. “Alright” – SoulChillaz.  This is five minutes of chill-out music at its best.  It comes from a 2007 album entitled La Musica and is mostly instrumental, with one line mostly repeated throughout.  It’s soft, danceable beat is built for the massage table, the beach or the late-night bar lounge you might find yourself in when you just want to relax and unwind.  You won’t find SoulChillaz in Wikipedia, but if you listen to some of their tracks (I did in researching this), you’ll find that many of their songs put you in that same mood, the mood to just chill.

7. “Alright” – Unforscene.  This up-beat, jazzy, and highly percussive production was released in May 2008 to somewhat positive reaction.  It features low-key vocals by the group’s members, Will Bower, Ben Bower and Benji Muscat, who recorded the song for independent label, Tru Thoughts.  The song follows a unique, but repetitive melodic pattern, never breaking for a bridge or change-of-chord chorus, but it’s effective nonetheless.

6. “Alright” – Ledisi.  Perhaps the most soulful, jazz-influenced artist on this list, Ledisi has never reached the Billboard Hot 100 – and that lack of commercial success has her most loyal fans questioning everything from double-standards to higher hurdles in the music industry for dark-skinned sisters who can really sing – but the fact is, she can really “sang.”  And it’s unfortunate she doesn’t get more props in the music industry.  But, as Ledisi sings, she doesn’t have time to cry, because “everything is everything, and it’s alright.”  That said, she gets props here, as this admirable début single from her 2007 album, Lost & Found, ranks in my top twelve list of “Alright” songs.

5.  “Alright”Kendrick Lamar.  The song that started this whole thing.  Lamar’s  “Alright” is the latest single from his critically acclaimed Number One album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and it doesn’t disappoint (except for the overuse of the n-word, which Lamar obviously uses to remain in step with his contemporaries and to over-emphasize his points).  Lyrically, it doesn’t stray far from Lamar’s current themes of resentment about police brutality and other sources of oppression in the black community.  But it punctuates those lyrics with contrasting words of hope in the chorus, with “we gon’ be alright” capping each line.  At the end of the song, Lamar also famously speaks to the ghost of the late rapper, Tupac Shakur, further adding to its complexity and appeal.  If you haven’t already heard To Pimp A Butterfly, it really is one of the best hip-hop albums of this decade and (arguably) the millennium.

See the message-filled, groundbreaking video for Lamar’s hit by clicking here.  Or you can watch the provocative opening act performance from this year’s BET Awards below.

4. “Alright” – John Legend.  Lyrically, this is a bold statement of a song from one of this generation’s most accomplished R&B singers.  His “Alright” is inspired by a little somethin’ that he likes in “skin-tights.”  Co-written by Kanye West, a fellow up-and-comer from 2004 when this song was included in Legend’s début album Get Lifted, the song explores Legend’s brash side as he makes advances on the object of his attraction while daring her man to intervene.  The song was not officially released as a single, while the more radio-friendly “Ordinary People” took the spotlight, but “Alright” is a superior song that illustrates what Mr. Legend can accomplish when he’s not trying to over-sell the melodrama that his vocals too often convey.

3.  “Alright” – Supergrass.  The tune begins with a rapid piano riff which continues throughout and drives this upbeat, uptempo ode to youth.  “We are young, we run green…” are the opening lines and the song doesn’t stray much from that theme.  The tune was released in 1995 as the fifth single from the alternative band’s album, I Should Coco.  It didn’t do much here in the U.S., but it peaked at #2 in the U.K.  It took on a life of its own in more recent years as it was featured in films like Clueless, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Alien Autopsy and LOL, as well as various TV commercials (including one for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes).  It’s probably the most feel-good song on this list.  (A not-so-bad remake was done by Michelle Simonal, which also came up in my search.)

2.  “Alright” – Freeway (featuring Allen Anthony).  This “Alright” has its share of references to the hood, drinking, getting high and the n-word.  On first listen, it may come across as your typical ghetto anthem.  But the production gets it over, with a loosely used but very effective sample (or more accurately, an interpretation) of “Mystic Brew” by funk and jazz organist Ronnie Foster.  The melody brought by “Mystic Brew” to the rap track underscores the emotion carried by Freeway (a Philadelphia native who authoritatively delivers the song’s themes).  Released in 2003 from his début album, Philadelphia Freeway, this happens to be one of my favorite rap songs of the 2000s.

1.  “Alright” – Janet Jackson.  You knew this new-jack-swing hit was on the list, right?  It’s likely the most famous of all the ‘alright’ songs on the countdown.  As with so many of the other songs on the list, Janet misuses the form of “alright” as she spells it, but we’ll overlook that because, well…she’s Janet.  Here are some facts about this hit from her Rhythm Nation 1814 album you probably didn’t realize:  “Alright” was the fourth single released from the album, and the first not to reach #1 on the R&B singles chart (it peaked at #2).  It also was the lowest-peaking hit from the album on the Hot 100 pop singles chart, stopping at #4.  The other six Rhythm Nation singles all reached #2 or better on the pop chart.  The song’s video featured some famous names in the entertainment world who are now all deceased:  rapper Heavy D., legendary actress/dancer Cyd Charisse, jazz bandleader, Cab Calloway, and the Nicholas Brothers – a duo of tap-dancing brothers who had success in the 1930s and beyond.

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You can catch the original video for Janet’s “Alright” here.  Or you can watch this live performance from a concert in Hawaii in 2002.

As I mentioned before, you can catch all of these “all right” songs on my special djrob playlist by clicking here.

In addition to those dozen songs is the following list of 15 other “all right” songs that didn’t make the top twelve, but which you may want to investigate for yourselves (they’re included in the playlist):

“All Right”Capleton.  The only reggae/dancehall artist on this list.  Rapid-fire lyrics spit by this veteran almost helped it into the top 12, but I resisted the urge.
“All Right”Toad the Wet Sprocket.  Remember them?  This is no “All I Want,” but it’s not half bad.
“All Right”Lost Boyz.  From their huge 1995 album, Legal Drug Money, this one sounded like all their big hits, but wasn’t one of their big hits.
“All Right”Freddie Joachim.  Less than two-and-a-half minutes of instrumental mood music.  Bypass it if you’re expecting more.
“All Right” KRS-One – not one of hip-hop’s best storyteller’s best story-telling moments, but you’ll feel somewhat compelled to listen.

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“Alright”Tocadisco feat. Lennart A. Salomon.  Electronic dance music, but not the EDM you’re used to.
“Alright” Walk Off the Earth.  Anthemic, 2015 power pop at its mediocre best.
“Alright” Hot Chelle Rae.  This one is your standard power pop rock track from the veteran rock act, but it’s nothing to write home about.
“Alright” Groove Armada.  I can hear this one playing at a late-1980s/early-1990s dance club (after all, it is over 8 minutes long).
“Alright” Mark Knight.  Another club banger, this one mixes rap and high-energy dance music to get people really feeling alright.
“Alright” Pitbull. – Pretty much the same ultra-fast, dance-club party fare you’ve come to expect from this Latino hip-hop star.

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“Alright” Logic feat. Big Sean.  Rapid-fire lyric-spitting song that details Logic’s attempt to get his “mind right.”  It’s not bad, and almost made the top ten.
“Alright” Darius Rucker.  Standard four-chord country pop by former Hootie singer.  Rucker has definitely done better.
“Alright” D’Angelo.  Not a bad song, but there’s a reason this one remained an album cut (instead of being released as a single), there were too many other good cuts on its parent (début) album, Brown Sugar.
“Alright” Lowell Pye.  Gospel gets into the mix with this rousing, upbeat number by Pye.

As always, thanks for all the love and support!

DJRob

And remember, if life seems to be bringing you down,

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