Photo by Michael Young
1. Cyndi Lauper | When You Were Mine (Prince Cover)
This song was such a huge part of my self discovery as both a human being and as an artist. On a personal level, to hear the way Cyndi took this song (originally written and performed by Prince) and switched the perspective to elude to the fact that the subject of the song was a about her ex-boyfriend going with another guy... just blew my mind. How progressive for 1983? On an artistic level, I think this was one of the first times I realized that I didn't have to personally record every song I wrote myself. Sometimes a song you write just isn't for you and someone else can do a better job taking your idea and making it their own. It was a lesson in letting go of control that would inevitably take me a very long time to learn.
2. Tori Amos | Tear In Your Hand
There was an entire time period of my life I spent voluntarily hiding in my bedroom as an emotionally and sexually confused teenager. I would paint and write and relentlessly listen to certain songs over and over. This song, in particular, was one of the very few songs that could trigger a physical, emotional response from me... Tears. At that time, I had a very hard time crying. I was so used to packing away the pain I was going through from being bullied and feeling so isolated because of my sexuality that I used to put this song on any time I needed to feel a release. It always worked like a charm.
3. Erasure | A Little Respect
When I was a teenager, growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, my cousin James and I used to sneak out of our houses and catch the train to the city. We used to go to this gay club in the East Village called Crowbar. It would always be hard to get in because we were CLEARLY underage, but the guy at the door always kind of knew that we needed to be there so he'd let us in. The place was small and it was PACKED wall to wall with shirtless, sweaty guys of all ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities and persuasions. The Music was always loud and eclectic, from Disco to Punk, New Wave to Pop and everything in between. I remember hearing this song and understanding that the singer was a gay man and that he was one of the only voices this crowd could claim as their own. He was singing our torch song. It broke my heart and, at the same time, it gave me hope and made me promise myself that I would never be a closeted Pop singer.
4. Depeche Mode | Enjoy The Silence
Ahhhh! Pure Electropop BLISS!! This song inspired me to start to make my own Music and develop the sound that would eventually become my trademark. His voice was unique and perfectly imperfect and I could identify with that. The use of synths and drum programming in this song are so seductively sensual. Songs that provoke thought AND make you want to dance at the same time are always right up my alley.
5. Bronski Beat | Smalltown Boy
I first heard this song at Crowbar and I never grasped its magnitude until I saw the movie Boys Don't Cry... I walked out of that theater gutted. I was walking with a female friend just uncontrollably sobbing on the streets of NYC. There were no words to comfort me. That song still haunts me to this day. The fact that there are still so many kids out there who feels so alone, afraid and unloved just because of their gender identity or sexual orientation breaks my heart. It makes me want to work harder as an artist to reach them and let them know they're not alone.
6. The Cure | Lovesong
I've always had a soft spot for all things EMO and Goth. Boys dressed in black with black eyeliner & nail polish, talking about their feelings and thinking about their mortality? HOT. The Cure was one of the first bands I was into with a male lead singer firstly, because of their songs, second their sound, and then their aesthetic. When I heard this song I just remember being so surprised that, lyrically, it was coming from THEM! It's a beautiful song, pretty much flawless if you ask me. Very satisfying to have known the song and sentiment first and then know True Love later. I waited a long, loooong time to know a love like this. These lyrics are simple but INTENSE: Whenever I'm alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again. Whenever I'm alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again.
7. Sinéad O'Connor | Troy
Well, if you asked me what the most cinematic, lyrically visual and emotionally disturbing song I've ever heard is, the award goes to Troy. It plays out like a movie scene, every word carefully chosen. Troy portrays the bitter angst of the repercussions of poor choices made in the heat of the moment. There is a very rare live version where Sinéad screams You're still a fucking LIAR!!! that is an emotional orgasm for the listener. She has one of the most vulnerable and extraordinarily beautiful voices I've ever heard and to hear her so raw and real is just about as good as it gets.
8. Madonna | The Power Of Good-Bye
She never sounded better lyrically and vocally and this song just burns. I remember dating this beautiful boy who was soo into Madonna. One night he revealed to me that he had a girlfriend as well. Ouch! I spent one last night with him and he played the entire Ray Of Light album on repeat until we woke up in the morning and I broke up with him. For some reason I think he thought I would be OK with him having someone else on the side, but that would never fly with me.
9. Goldfrapp | A&E
What other band could make a Love song about a drug overdose sound so beautiful? When I first heard this song, I really only connected to that feeling of longing to be with someone you love soo badly. I told my husband it made me think of him. He then pointed out the lyrical content and I was floored. It's such a great example of how a song can sonically make you feel one emotion and lyrically make you feel something different. (We both love it so much that we still had the nerve to played it at our wedding reception, haha!!)
10. SIRPAUL™ | U
I wrote this as a Love song for my husband. Musically, I wanted it to have a vintage 80's Giorgio Moroder-esque feel to it. Lyrically I wanted it to speak to all of the things I would do for him because there is nothing he wouldn't do for me. I have a hard time performing it live because it gets me all choked up. I think that's a good thing.