Bette Midler “It’s the Girls!” Album Review

bette midler

Prime Cuts: Waterfalls, Come and Get These Memories, Mr. Sandman

Bette Midler is not a mere singer; she's an artist.  She doesn't just sing; she knows how to incarnate herself into her songs.  So that when she sings she animates the emotions and the characters of the songs she sings.  "It's the Girls!" is Miss Divine's 14th studio album and her 25th album overall.  Just like her former two non-seasonal studio albums, "Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook" and "Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook," "It's the Girls!" is another covers album.  This time, "It's the Girls!" finds Midler revisiting the songs that were first performed by the girl groups from the 1930s way until the 1990s.  Anyone acquaint with the music business would not that it's never easy to being a female in a patriarchal industry.  The music business is notorious for objectifying women and exploiting women financially, sexually, spiritually and emotionally.  Thus, even though many of these songs have a bubbly zest, underneath them are layers of unspeakable pain.  What's most winsome about Midler's take of these 15 classics is that she captures both the outwardly zipper-ish feel as well as the internal turmoil of fame's tortures.

The song choices are a little on the eclectic side.  The youngest among the bunch is Midler's take of TLC's "Waterfalls," which is already 20 years old.  Here Midler slows down TLC's version preferring to go for a piano-balladry makeover as opposed to TLC's quiet storm 90s R&B feel.   In our culture where fornication and promiscuity are earmarks of youthfulness, "Waterfalls" challenges this caricature not in a judgmental way, but in a way that expresses wisdom and hindsight.  "Waterfalls" is indeed a gem that seriously needs visiting; and in this regard Midler is to be congratulated.  Midler who has had made a music career out of covers, "From a Distance" and "Wind Beneath My Wings" being prime examples, can sometimes add a layer of meaning to the originals, making her version even better.  Here the case in point is "Come and Get Those Memories."  Martha and the Vandellas' 1963 hit "Come and Get Those Memories" gets such a glassy-eyed read by Midler that you just can't help but feel her broken heart shattering as she sings.

Her years of being in theatrical, musicals and movies have certainly given Midler a form of incarnational animation that is so needed to sing some of the more finger snapping songs like her duet with Darlene Love on "He's Sure the Boy I Love" or "Give Him a Big Kiss."  Despite being 68 years-old, Midler still sings these love songs with a girl-ish mush that brings back the naivety and dizziness of when romance takes an upper hand.  Going back to her Jewish roots, she gives a big band-styled performance to the Andrew Sisters Yiddish titled "Bei Mir Bis du Schon."  And it's a challenge to go wrong with the Chordelles' 1964 hit "Mr. Sandman."  Rivalling Emmylou Harris for the best cover of "Mr. Sandman," Midler's version also captures the dreamy and childlike qualities of the paean.

However, not every rendition works.  Midler gives a phone-in soporific version of the Shirelles'"Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."  And with "Baby It's You" she lacks the spark of excitement that is so much needed to make the song come alive.  While her banjo take of "You Can't Hurry Love" adds a ring of rustic charm to this Supreme's signature song that is passable without being geat.  Nevertheless, Midler's "It's the Girls!" not only brings back the golden era of girl groups but it showcases what a stellar interpreter Midler is.   



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