Wednesday, October 24, 2018

"Somewhere" by Barbra Streisand

Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2568
Date:  12/14/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  43
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Standards

Pop Bits:  As 1985 rolled around, Streisand was at a bit of a crossroads. Although her 1980 album Guilty would be her best selling studio LP and her directorial debut Yentl was a success, her 1984 album Emotion was a disappointment. Streisand's mainstream pop/rock career, which took off with 1971's Stoney End, had a lot of ups and a few downs, but she seemed to be able to keep up with music trends. Yet, the 80s brought on more drastic changes with new wave and synthpop leading the way and even though she tried to stay on-trend with aspects of Emotion, it just didn't work out and it was a signal that perhaps she needed to reevaluate her place in the day's music scene. What Streisand did next confounded many folks including her label. She decided it was the right time to return to her original roots and make an album of Broadway songs that she personally loved. Appropriately titled The Broadway Album, Streisand forged ahead with the recording despite naysayers and even filmed the process for a TV special. This West Side Story song complete with a modern arrangement by producer David Foster was selected to be the first single. As expected, the tune did well at AC getting to #5. The single couldn't quite get inside the Pop Top 40, but its #43 peak was still considered a success due to the style of the song and the fact that none of the singles from Emotion did that well. It helped lure folks to the album, which shot to the top of the chart becoming Streisand's sixth #1. It would end up selling over four million copies and be considered one of Streisand's best albums.

ReduxReview:  I think when I heard this song for the first time I nearly shit my pants. Yes! Finally! Streisand bucking trends and recording the music she wanted to do. And not only that, but doing it with such power, grace, and emotion. It was spectacular. I'm one of the few folks who kind of liked the Emotion album, but even I knew that it just wasn't working and no matter how hard they tried, Streisand was not going to become an MTV generation synthpop diva. It was time for her to shift gears in her career and she certainly did with The Broadway Album. Everything about it was perfect - the timing, the songs, the arrangements, the production, etc. This song in particular was brilliantly done. I have a love/loathe relationship with David Foster, but he really took this classic tune and transformed it into something magical and ethereal. Of course, Streisand's last note is the kicker. She can hold a note nearly forever and I've always hoped that she actually did hold out this note until she turned blue and that there was no studio trickery involved, but either way, it worked. I nearly wore out the grooves on my copy of the album and I still consider it one of my all-time favorites.


Trivia:  Quad Shot!  1) The album would earn Streisand a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. It was her fifth win in that category. David Foster would win a Grammy for his arrangement of "Somewhere." The album would be nominated for Album of the Year.  2) This song was composed by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim for the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story. In the stage version, this song is actually performed by an off-stage vocalist during a ballet scene. In the original Broadway production, Reri Grist sang the song. She also played the role of Consuelo. In the 1961 Oscar-winning film version, Maria and Tony (played by Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, but voices dubbed by Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant) sing the song as a duet.  3) A slew of artists would cover the song but only four would reach the Pop chart with a version: Streisand, singer P.J. Proby (#91, 1965), blue-eyed soul singer Len Barry (#26, 1966), and the cast of the TV show Glee (#75, 2011). Phil Collins did a version in 1996 that made it to #7 on the AC chart and the Pet Shop Boys reached #16 on the Dance chart with their 1997 take, but neither song reached the Pop chart.  4) In 1964, The Supremes recorded an album of show tunes and standards titled There's a Place for Us. One of the tunes they covered was "Somewhere," sung by Diana Ross. Their version featured a spoken word monologue that when done in concert could be changed to reflect on a particular place or event. The album ended up getting shelved even though the trio would perform some of the songs in their concerts, especially "Somewhere." One particularly memorable performance of the song came in 1968 when Diana Ross & the Supremes appeared on the Tonight Show the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The spoken word section was altered for the occasion.


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