I felt that 2014 was a pretty great year for singles and individual songs, but not so hot for albums. Only a handful really grabbed my attention, and then what was funny about those that did – none of their individual songs landed in my Top 20 songs of the year. A strange occurrence, to be sure, but I guess that’s how the year shook out.
Such is the case for the Bette Midler album, It’s The Girls! I am not normally a huge Bette Midler fan so under usual circumstances, I wouldn’t have even bothered to give a new album from The Divine Miss M a second glance. But I was intrigued by her cover of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and one thing led to another and before you knew it, I was listening to the entire thing. Even more surprisingly, I found myself really enjoying the thing. The album is Midler’s tribute to girl groups of the last 50 years, from the Shirelles to the Supremes, the Ronettes to the previously mentioned TLC. I think what really helps the album is Midler’s approach to the songs. She clearly treats her source material with respect, but she also infuses them with her own brand of humor. Some of them are campy, like The Marvelettes’ “Too Many Fish In The Sea” and The Shangri-Las’ “Give Him A Great Big Kiss.” Other songs like “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and “Be My Baby” are played more or less straight.
Probably my favorite song on the record is her cover of The Shirelles’ “One Fine Day.” She doesn’t mess with the arrangement very much, but that hardly matters. It’s probably one of those songs that made #21-25 on my year end list. It never fails to bring a smile to my face every time I listen to it.
I can see how this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Even long time Midler fans might not like it if they don’t care for the era of music that she’s covering. I think that I have a soft spot for this record because of how much it took me by surprise – something that’s really hard to do nowadays when it comes to music. Since its November 4th release, I’ve listened to more Bette Midler than I probably had in the previous 10 years. I’ve even found myself listening to “From A Distance” which I just can’t explain and is not exactly defensible in any way or form.
Midler is on tour this year – inexplicably touring arenas which I just can’t imagine her being able to sell out. I would see Bette at the Civic Center, but not at Wells Fargo Arena. Still, as was pointed out to me last night, this could easily be her last tour so it’s likely that more people might turn out for this than I’m thinking might. I was rather stunned to find out that Midler is nearly 70. I would not have thought that but I suppose it makes sense. If It’s The Girls! turns out to be her swan song, it’s a fitting endcap to a career that has been pretty remarkable, even if I haven’t always liked everything she’s done.
Next up on the album list – an old favorite surprises me with a new album of old songs…