Sunday, December 11, 2011

10 Comebacks I'd Pay Money to See

Sometimes, when I'm wide awake in dreamland (to quote the title of one of Pat Benatar's '80s albums, her final one to go gold), I fantasize about a world where Benatar is a chart superstar again.

But that's one dream that won't likely be coming true. I once had a conversation with a publicist for EMI Records, an affiliate of Benatar's then-label, Chrysalis Records (a publicist who, incidentally, later married Curt Smith from Tears for Fears, speaking of comebacks that would be most welcome) right around the time that Benatar's 1993 Gravity's Rainbow album flopped. I asked if she thought Benatar would ever return to her '80s chart glory. She shook her head, sadly. Nope. It's over.

I thought to myself, "We'll show her," but we never did. Now, with Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Nicks and Benatar out of regular circulation, it's been decades since female rockers regularly ruled the charts. Pink called herself a "rock star" on "So What," and the other day I heard Sheryl Crow calling herself one on The Marriage Ref, but then, Shaun Cassidy once had a Top 3 hit with an Eric Carmen song called "That's Rock 'n' Roll," which was as rock 'n' roll as "Hey Deanie," another late-'70s hit sung by Cassidy and written by Carmen. Pink and Crow are pop singers who accessorize with rock & roll swagger. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

But as usual, I digress. Here are nine other comebacks I'd like to find under the Christmas tree this year, or next.

Cyndi Lauper Back when it was all about Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper in 1984, who would have guessed that the less-talented singer would be the one still charting high this century? If Lauper's 2008 album, Bring Ya to the Brink, one of the best of the '00s, couldn't resurrect her chart career, I'm afraid that ship that sailed circa 1989 isn't returning to port.

Ciara She never had the greatest voice, and she always had a bit of an image problem (as in, not really having one), but over the course of four albums, Ciara has released some of the most consistently solid R&B of the last decade. Alas, with rap and Eurodance-inflected R&B currently hogging the crossover field, it's been way downhill saleswise for Ciara since Goodies, her 2004 triple-platinum debut. "Work," her brilliant 2009 collaboration with Missy Elliott (4:13 was one of the best musical moments of that year -- thank you, Danja), couldn't even touch Billboard's Hot 100. Hopefully, she can get back to where she started without having to slum with David Guetta.

George Michael His recent brush with pneumonia -- and death -- made me realize how much we need to value our musical treasures. Michael has released far too little music in the last two decades, and he had to cancel his recent tour featuring symphonic versions of his previous work (how Sting of him) due to his illness. I say he scrap it for good, offer full refunds and get back into the recording studio as soon as his health allows. As sublime as I'm sure it would be to hear Michael performing his past work with new orchestral arrangements, now that he has so much real-life fodder to draw from creatively, why revisit past glories when he can be recording new ones and (hopefully) topping the charts all over again?

Christina Aguilera She's had a glimpse of what it's like to be back on top as a featured artist on Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," so it only seems fitting that Aguilera get there on her own now. And let's face it: on the charts, Katy Perry vs. Lady Gaga vs. Rihanna will never be half as exciting as Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera was at the turn of the century.

Soundgarden I'm hoping that my favorite grunge act's upcoming reunion album will be one of the few that succeeds commercially, and that just as grunge led to a revival of old-time rock & roll on the charts in the early '90s, it will do so once again in 2012. After an extremely lackluster post-Audioslave solo run, Chris Cornell, owner of one of the best voices in hard rock, deserves it.

Duffy Was the sophomore jinx that befell 2010's Endlessly the beginning of the end for my favorite Welsh performer since Catherine Zeta-Jones? May she return from her current hiatus inspired, rejuvenated and ready to create music as magical and undeniable as Rockferry once again.

Donna Summer If they're never going to induct her into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, can we at least get one surprise late-career hit a la Cher's "Believe" for the woman who helped make Madonna and Lady Gaga possible?

Dionne Warwick A legend as classy and classic as Warwick deserves to be best remembered by the 20-to-40 crowd for something other than Psychic Friends Network and Celebrity Apprentice. Maybe Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach could write her an entire album similar in musical spirit to their 1998 collaboration Painted from Memory, leading to a late-in-life revival Tony Bennett-style.

Amy Winehouse If only she were alive to enjoy it. 

And five I just want to come back!

1. Fiona Apple

2. David Bowie

3. Shania Twain

4. Everything But the Girl

5. Shara Nelson

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