Monday, October 17, 2016

10 Famous Songs You Didn’t Know Were Covers

It’s no secret that the music industry is rife with imitation – and in most cases, it really is the highest form of flattery. From samples to remakes, artists pay homage to others in myriad ways – but you may not know that some of our most beloved pop songs are outright covers.

Here are ten popular songs that we all know and love, that are not as original as we may have thought.

1. Tainted Love by Soft Cell
Easily one of the most recognizable synthpop tunes ever, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” is an iconic 80’s anthem. But what if we told you that not only was the song first recorded by a soul singer named Gloria Jones, but that it’s not a 1980’s song at all? The first recording of “Tainted Love” was, in fact, released in May 1965.

2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper
It’s hard to imagine “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” being sung by anyone other than Cyndi Lauper, and even harder to imagine it being sung by a man. But the song was actually first recorded by Robert Hazard in 1979. Cyndi made a few minor lyrical changes to tell the story from a female perspective, and turned the song into a smash hit.

3. Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
The song that catapulted Natalie Imbruglia into superstardom wasn’t originally hers. It was first released by Los Angeles-based alternative rock band Ednaswap in 1995, but very few people ever heard that version of the song on the radio. A few years later, it was virtually impossible to be stuck in traffic without hearing Natalie’s cover at least once.

4. Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Conner
One of Sinead O’Conner’s most powerful ballads was written by Prince – and while you may have already known that, you probably didn’t realize that the song was also recorded by someone other than Sinead first. In 1985, Prince’s side project The Family made the original.

5. Step By Step by Whitney Houston
British soul singer Annie Lennox originally recorded and released this song in 1992, but it didn’t take off the way she likely wanted it to. Instead, it gained far more traction after Whitney recorded a cover for the chart-topping soundtrack for The Preacher’s Wife.

6. Superstition by Stevie Wonder
No, don’t worry – we’re not saying that Stevie Wonder didn’t write this song. He did, but as a commission piece for guitarist Jeff Beck. Jeff created the drum beat and recorded the track in 1972 – but at the insistence of his record company, Stevie took the song back and recorded his own version. And the rest is history.

7. Cum On Feel The Noize by Quiet Riot
One of the hair rock movement’s most celebrated anthems is typically associated with Quiet Riot, whose breakout hit lit the airwaves on fire in 1983. But “Cum On Feel The Noize” was actually first recorded a decade earlier, by the British glam rock band Slade.

8. It’s My Life by No Doubt
The catchy, upbeat rock anthem released by No Doubt in 2000 instantly became a favorite of karaoke bars and road trip sing-a-longs. But have you ever sung along to the original? It was first released as a new-wave synthpop song by British band Talk Talk in 1984 – and once you hear that version, you might just fall in love with it as well.

9. Time Is On My Side by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones released “Time Is On My Side” in 1964 but just a year earlier, someone else beat them to the punch. Soul singer Irma Thomas recorded the original vocal version – and just a year before that happened, trombonist Kai Winding and his orchestra played an instrumental version of the song. Listen to all three versions in chronological order for an illuminating musical experience.

10. Whatta Man by Salt-n-Pepa
Would you believe us if we told you that one of Salt-n-Pepa’s most famous songs was originally recorded by a white girl? Well, it’s true. Linda Lyndell sang the original for Volt Records in 1968, over two decades before the hip hop trio put their funky spin on the song.

For more fun facts and updates from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records.

Monday, October 3, 2016

No Trick, All Treat: The Best Music Festivals This October

Whether you’re seeing (or feeling) the evidence or not, summer’s officially over – and with it the hectic, jam-packed summer music festival season. But as we begin to slow down, stay in and prepare for winter’s chilly approach, let’s not miss out on the great seasonal events happening across the country. From indoor music festivals to fall concert series, there are plenty of ways to enjoy your favorite genres in good company.

Here are our picks for the best music festivals happening this October:

Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention (10/07/2016 – 10/08/2016) in Athens, Alabama
Just as you’d expect, this event is for lovers of the fiddle – and there are apparently a lot of you, as the convention attracts around 15,000 people each year. Expect to enjoy 150 arts and crafts booths, excellent live music, and the main event: the Alabama State Fiddle Championship competition, with additional categories in harmonica, mandolin, bluegrass banjo and dulcimer.

Daytona Blues Festival (10/07/2016 – 10/09/2016) in Daytona Beach, Florida
For red-hot blues in a scenic setting, look no further than Daytona Beach in the fall. Each of this festival’s three nights features a fantastic lineup of world-class musicians including Shura S’aida, Carolyn Wonderland, Joe Louis Walker, Marcia Ball, Victor Wainwright & The WildRoots, and the Sugaray Rayford Band. There will also be quite a few food and drink sponsors, so plan to come hungry.

The Woodlands Jazz Festival (10/8/2016) in The Woodlands, Texas
A one-day festival featuring some of the finest local and national artists, this event promises great fun for all ages. Attendees may enjoy food, art, beverages and unique activities while reveling in the smooth sounds of live jazz. The lineup features Vandell Andrew, Bobby Lyle, Ruben Moreno, Vel Lewis, Joe Carmouche and The Bruthers. Tickets are currently available for purchase online and kids age 12 and under are free.

Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival (10/13/2016 – 10/23/2016) in Avalon, California
As if you needed another reason to book an island getaway… Catalina, located off the coast of Southern California, is hosting the 30th Annual Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival this October (10/13 – 10/16 and then again 10/20 – 10/23) and it’s sure to be an incredible event. Unplug under the stars on Descanso Beach while listening to the likes of Peter White, Marc Antoine, Keiko Matsui, the L.A. Collective and more perform acoustic and alfresco.

Musicfest El Dorado (10/14/2016 – 10/15/2016) in El Dorado, Arkansas
Winner of the Arkansas Festival of the Year Award a whopping seven times, this much-anticipated event is once again returning to Downtown El Dorado and bringing with it a full weekend of fun and live music. This year’s lineup includes America’s Sweethearts, Sugar Ray with Mark McGrath, David Nail and other popular acts, as well as appearances by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Dallas Cowboys Tailgate Nation.

Arbuckle Mountain Fall Bluegrass Jam (10/16/2016 – 10/22/2016) in Wynnewood, Oklahoma
Amid the beautiful scenery of Arbuckle Mountain Park, festival-goers are treated to a laidback and lively festival atmosphere. Feel free to join in and play (acoustic instruments only) or sing, or just sit back and enjoy the music. Live bluegrass, gospel and old time country jams are the focus here, but tours, instrument workshops, a golf cart parade, and the Bluegrass Queen contest will round out the weekend.

Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival (10/19/2016 – 10/23/2016) in Sun Valley, Idaho
Many styles of jazz are represented at this music festival. From vintage to contemporary, cabaret to Western swing, big band and zydeco to blues, you’re sure to hear some tunes you love and have a wonderful time. And if your idea of listening to live music includes dancing, make sure to check out the festival’s fun-filled dancer’s package (more information available on the event’s official website.)

Nebraska Country Music Festival (10/21/2016 – 10/22/2016) in Aurora, Nebraska
Country, gospel, variety music entertainment – you’ll find that and more at the Nebraska Country Music Festival. The annual event also features dances both nights, a banquet and Hall of Fame inductions. Previous Hall of Famers will also be performing! Don’t miss the special performances by Ray Mullen, Bill Chrastil and Jr. Hall of Fame member Alexa Kriss.

We hope you’re able to attend one of these fine events, and that you have a beautiful October. Remember to keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records as we continue to bring you news and updates from the American music industry.

Friday, September 16, 2016

It Takes Two: Ten of The Best Duets of All Time

We’re not surprised when we hear that a songwriting endeavor was collaborative. With creating art, as with many other things, two heads can be far better than one – but when it comes time to perform, the spotlight tends to shine on one pair of pipes, even when a lead singer is accompanied by other members of a band. So when a great duet comes out, we take notice.

Over the past few decades, we’ve seen (and heard) quite a few incredible pairs, who prove that a song can become exponentially more powerful when sung as a duet. Here are just ten of the most powerful and successful duets of all time.

Don’t Know Much (1989) by Linda Ronstadt feat. Aaron Neville
Play this emotional duet at the end of the night in any local dive bar, and you’re sure to have a roomful of people passionately singing along. What they might not remember, though, is that this song marked somewhat of a comeback for Linda Ronstadt; while she racked up a number of hits in the late 70’s, she didn’t reappear on the charts until 1987 (with another duet, “Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram.) “Don’t Know Much” reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 and won a Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group.

(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life (1987) by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
If you’ve seen the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” – and even if you haven’t – you know the significance of this song. It’s the one that closes out the box office hit, and it was memorized by pretty much every girl who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. The song won the 1987 Academy Award for Best Original Song, and has been used in DJ club remixes across the country.

Dilemma (2002) by Nelly & Kelly Rowland
Kelly Rowland’s first hit after leaving Destiny’s Child, “Dilemma” proved that she was a force to be reckoned with on her own – or, rather, with Nelly. The single enjoyed a whopping 10-week run at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was probably stuck in the heads of radio listeners everywhere for just as long.

Islands In The Stream (1983) by Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton
At a time when both Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton were wildly famous, with a combined 22 No. 1 hit country songs between them, the two decided to kick things up a notch and release a duet written by the Bee Gees. Unsurprisingly, “Islands In The Stream” was a massive success. It topped the Hot 100 chart for two weeks, and also soared to the top of Country Songs and Adult Contemporary.

Reunited (1979) by Peaches & Herb
A sweet, melodic ballad that speaks to the hopeless romantic in all of us, “Reunited” tells a tale of making up. Upon its release, the song quickly became a crossover hit, topping both the R&B Singles and Hot 100 charts. It’s also been covered numerous times over the years, most famously by David Hasselhoff, who sang the song at the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

Ebony And Ivory (1982) by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
A timely, political song that is still relevant today, “Ebony And Ivory” was recorded for Paul McCartney’s “Tug Of War” album. It’s “Can’t we all just get along?” message struck a chord with listeners everywhere, and became the longest-running solo No. 1 for both McCartney and Stevie Wonder.

Say Say Say (1983) by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Just a year after “Ebony And Ivory” was released, Paul McCartney struck duet gold again – this time with pop music icon Michael Jackson. The song stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks, and was followed up by “The Girl Is Mine” by the same duo. While the pair eventually drifted apart, it’s safe to say that their brief songwriting partnership produced some pretty incredible music.

Up Where We Belong (1982) by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
While it may have been written for the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” this song’s influence reaches much further. Not only did it stay at the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 for three weeks in 1982, but it also took home both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in 1983.

The Boy Is Mine (1998) by Brandy & Monica
Released at a time when both Brandy’s and Monica’s stars were on the rise, and when the two pop singers were rumored to be in the midst of a feud, this song had all the makings of a smash hit – and it was. The R&B hit stayed at the No. 1 spot for a stunning 13 weeks; at the time, it was one of only seven singles to ever achieve such a feat.

Endless Love (1981) by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
The biggest hit for both Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, “Endless Love” stayed on the charts for an incredible 27 weeks. It was written by Richie for the Brooke Shields movie of the same name, and it was his brilliant idea for Diana Ross to accompany him on the track. Years later, in 1994, Luther Vandross and Mariah Cary covered the famous love song; their version reached the No. 2 spot, allowing the original to reign supreme.

Want more news, fun facts and important updates from the American music industry? Keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Great Summer Send-Off: September’s Best Music Festivals

We’re in the final stretch of longer days and warmer nights, and many of us only have about a month left to enjoy the outdoor festival season – so let’s go out in style!

Chicago Jazz Festival (9/1/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Chicago, Illinois
Widely loved for its originality and artistry, the Chicago Jazz Festival is a popular way to spend Labor Day Weekend in the Windy City. To get festival-goers in the holiday spirit this year, the event’s official website has a Festival Playlist featuring hits like Charlie Haden’s “Not In Our Name” and “Broken Shadows” by The Bad Plus.

Tri-State Bluegrass Festival (9/1/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Kendallville, Indiana
As the largest parking lot picking festival in the Midwest, the Tri-State Bluegrass Festival is excited to present over 30 hours of live music in a unique setting. Attendees may also enjoy a square dance on Friday night, a band scramble on Saturday, and educational workshops.

Moab Music Festival (9/1/2016 – 9/12/2016) in Moab, Utah
Famous for being home to two spectacular national parks, Moab makes an incredible venue for a music festival. Amid stunning acres of desert landscape, festival attendees will enjoy hours upon hours of live jazz, traditional folk, chamber, Latin, and contemporary music.

Smoky Mountain Folk Festival (9/2/2016 – 9/3/2016) in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
Now in its 46th year, this beloved annual tradition just keeps getting better. Enjoy two nights of the southern Appalachian region’s finest traditional music and dancing on the scenic shores of Lake Junaluska. From string bands to ballad singers, square dance teams to banjo players, the array of performers offers something for everyone.

Kentucky Bluegrass & Bourbon Experience (9/2/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Louisville, Kentucky
If any place knows how to host a “Bluegrass & Bourbon Experience,” it’s Louisville, Kentucky. The lineup this year features Hickory Vaught, Volume Five, The Bluegrass Sweethearts, The Wayfarers, and Packway Handle Band – and the “bourbon” portion of the event will be perfectly paired with all the barbecue and fair food you can eat.

Mississippi Delta Blues and Heritage Festival (9/17/2016) in Greenville, Mississippi
Supposedly the world’s oldest continuously running festival, this annual event is always held on the third Saturday of September. It began in 1977, and is now the largest blues festival in the Delta. This year’s performers include Bobby Rush, Eden Brent, Karen Wolffe, Dexter Allen, and other renowned acts.

Monterey Jazz Festival (9/16/2016 – 9/18/2016) in Monterey, California
With over 500 top artists performing on eight stages spread throughout the Monterey Fairgrounds, this impressive music festival is not to be missed. Make the most of the event by buying a Full Weekend Arena Package, which includes reserved seats for all five shows on the Jimmy Lyons Stage, access to all seven Grounds Stages, and entry to the nightly Arena concerts.

Latin Music & Food Festival (9/17/2016 – 9/18/2016) in West Palm Beach, Florida
Hosted in part to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, this lively music festival (held indoors, and air-conditioned!) promises to be the best of its kind in South Florida. It combines delicious food, folkloric dances and unique activities (including soccer and domino tournaments) with plenty of live music sure to make you want to join in the Latin-themed fun.

Savannah Jazz Festival (9/18/2016 – 9/24/2016) in Savannah, Georgia
All types of jazz are well represented here, from Dixiland to traditional swing to straight-ahead to bop. Local, regional, national and international acts will also play a great mix of melodic standards as well as funky down-home blues at this free festival held in picturesque Forsyth Park.

Americanafest (9/20/2016 – 9/25/2016) in Nashville, Tennessee
Part music festival, part industry conference, Americanafest serves to bring together seasoned artists, rising stars, music industry professionals and the general public for a fun and educational weekend. The lineup this year features an impressive variety of artists, from the Indigo Girls to Johnny Appleseed to The Lonely Heartstring Band.

Bay Area Blues Festival (9/24/2016 – 9/25/2016) in Martinez, California
What happens when you combine the Downtown Martinez Italian Street Painting Festival with San Francisco’s Polk Street Blues Festival? A success, apparently. Now in its fifth year, the annual Bay Area Blues Festival is definitely finding its footing – and locals love its variety of vendors, music, artists, and other attractions.

Austin City Limits Music Festival (9/30/2016 – 10/9/2016) in Austin, Texas
While most of Austin City Limits takes place in October, it technically begins this month – and we just couldn’t bear to keep it off the list. Featuring over 130 bands on eight stages over three days, this long weekend of live music is one of the best in the country. And, of course, this year’s lineup is incredible; it’s got Radiohead, Mumford & Sons, Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem, Willie Nelson, Miike Snow, and so many other top performers sure to draw a crowd.

Looking for more music festivals near you? You got it:

Back Forty Bluegrass Festival (9/1/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Curryville, Missouri
County Bluegrass Festival (9/1/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Fort Fairfield, Maine
Blues in the Bay (9/1/2016 – 9/5/2016) in Alexandria Bay, New York
Stanley-Sawtooth Cowboy Poetry & Music Gathering (9/2/2016 – 9/3/2016) in Stanley, Idaho
Oak Harbor Music Festival (9/2/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Oak Harbor, Washington
American Music Festival (9/2/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Rhythm & Roots Festival (9/2/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Charlestown, Rhode Island
Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival (9/2/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Woodstown, New Jersey
Detroit Jazz Festival (9/2/2016 – 9/5/2016) in Detroit, Michigan
Memphis Music and Heritage Festival (9/3/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Memphis, Tennessee
Hot Springs Blues Festival (9/3/2016 – 9/4/2016) in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Chicago World Music Festival (9/9/2016 – 9/25/2016) in Chicago, Illinois
Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival (9/10/2016 – 9/11/2016) in Guerneville, California
Bluegrass by the Bay (9/15/2016 – 9/18/2016) in Gloucester, Virginia
Indy Jazz Fest (9/15/2016 – 9/24/2016) in Indianapolis, Indiana
Michigan Bluesfest (9/16/2016 – 9/17/2016) in Lansing, Michigan
Davis County Bluegrass & Old Time Country Festival (9/16/2016 – 9/18/2016) in Bloomfield, Iowa
Nothin’ Fancy Bluegrass Festival (9/22/2016 – 9/24/2016) in Buena Vista, Virginia
Delmarva Folk Festival (9/23/2016 – 9/24/2016) in Hartly, Delaware
Country In The Pines Bluegrass Fest (9/23/2016 – 9/24/2016) in Perry, Florida
American Music Festival For the Lake (9/24/2016 – 9/25/2016) in Lake George, New York
International Folk Festival (9/24/2016 – 9/25/2016) in Fayetteville, North Carolina

For more information on festivals and events happening near you, visit – and for more fun updates and news from the American music industry, keep checking back with us here at HillTop Records. Happy September!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Silicon Valley’s Influence on the Music Industry

If you read the news today, you might think that the industries of music and technology are at war with one another. But while the two may have a few differences of opinion, music and tech intersect in many ways – and Silicon Valley loves music just like the rest of the world.

Home to companies like Dolby Laboratories, Pandora and Smule, Silicon Valley is constantly turning out new ways to discover, make and listen to music. They’re even home to a non-profit organization specially designed to help technology professionals (and those who want to be) lend their efforts and expertise to the music industry. Real Industry offers informative courses that teach students how to create new music apps, produce music, and even design new instruments. It and similar programs serve to combat the opinion that Silicon Valley’s corporations are at odds with music and art.

If you live in Silicon Valley, you know that good music isn’t hard to find. The area is home to fantastic live music venues like the TrianonTheatre in downtown San Jose, the Fox Theatre in Redwood City, Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, and Stanford’s Frost Amphitheatre. San Francisco is, meanwhile, a short drive away.

However, what really makes the music scene in Silicon Valley – and, for that matter, around the country – special these days is how it is affected (and even molded) by the area’s main export – and while naysayers may insist that music and tech can’t get along, a new generation of startups is out to prove them wrong.

Here are just a few of the newest, most exciting companies blurring the lines between music, tech, and things in between:

In an industry known for cloud-based innovation and intangible products, Heard Well does the unthinkable: It makes physical products. The company sells compilation albums hand-picked by the company founders and popular YouTubers on iTunes as well as actual things like CDs, vinyl and T-shirts – and it’s doing well, proving that nostalgia still plays a large role in how we buy, listen to and love music.

Headed by a former designer at Nokia, The Sync Project has a lofty mission “to develop music as medicine”. Its website offers “a million songs to unlock the health benefits of music” and its plans are backed by extensive research on the profound cognitive effects that music has on the brain. From pain to fatigue to anxiety, music has been shown to help treat a variety of ailments – but this should come as no surprise to any music lover.

Virtual reality has been getting a lot of press lately (Pokemon Go, anyone?) and this well-funded startup brilliantly sets the technology to music. Its main offering is the unique ability to “experience” a live concert from the comfort of your own home (or, well, anywhere.) Paul McCartney, Jack White and other world-renowned artists have already come on board to produce virtual versions of performances.

In the same vein as WhatsApp and Snapchat, La-La looks to change the way we communicate with one another. Instead of sending written words, however, users message snippets of songs that they like to their friends (and they have the option to include a photo as well.) Consider it a fun, new way to discover fun, new songs.

For more updates and news from the American music industry, be sure to keep checking back with us at HillTop Records