This week’s Song Lyric Sunday is about songs originally offered to one or more artists and got turned down only to be recorded by someone else resulting in the song becoming a big hit. Researching this subject I found plenty of songs that were recorded fairly recently and I was surprised at how many hits by Rihanna were actually intended for someone else. Same goes for Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, even Adele. I was trying to find something from much earlier but did not, so I’m hoping a fellow blogger will surprise me here today.
My thanks to Fandango for hosting today’s SLS while Jim takes a vacation.
The song I have chosen is a Santana and Michelle Branch collaboration, the Game of Love, which Santana had originally wanted Tina Turner to record with him. However, record producer Clive Davis, rejected the idea because he wanted someone younger to appeal to a more youthful audience. Although Songfacts doesn’t mention it, there was a suggestion, from another source, that the song was offered to Rob Thomas. He evidently turned it down because he thought it would be regarded as Smooth 2, his earlier mega hit with Santana. Who knows for sure? As it turned out Clive Davis was right. The finished product with Michelle Branch’s lovely voice and Santana’s magic made it a big hit.
Gregg Alexander, who records as The New Radicals (“You Get What You Give”) wrote this song with Rick Nowels, whose co-writes include “Standing Still” for Jewel and “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” for Belinda Carlisle. Alexander recorded a demo, and the song sat around for about a year until Nowels’ manager sent the song to Clive Davis, head of Arista Records, when Santana was looking for songs. With no Latin flavor, it was an unlikely song for Carlos Santana to record, but he went for it, making it the first single from his group’s album Shaman, the follow-up to their 1999 blockbuster Supernatural.
This song is about the conflicted emotions that go along with love. The way this story plays out, it was love at first sight (“One kiss and boom you’re the only one for me”) but now they’re apart. The soothing melody belies a dark lyric, as the singer seems kind of dependent:
You roll me
Please hold me
You guide me
Divide me into me
She figures it’s all in the game of love, but he might have other ideas.
Michelle Branch is the lead vocalist on this song. She earned an audition through the song’s writer, Gregg Alexander, who suggested her – members of his band The New Radicals also played in Branch’s touring band. “I didn’t think I got it,” Branch told Songfacts. “I was really nervous. I went on tour and thought that was the end of it, and then I got a call saying they loved my version and they had decided that I was the singer.
The next thing you know, I was going to Chicago to film the music video. The first time I met Carlos was on set for ‘The Game Of Love.'”
Branch was still a teenager when she recorded her vocal, but she had the poise and confidence to suggest a change to the lyric. Instead of “a little bit of laughs,” she wanted “a little bit of lust,” and the line “I’m telling you my babe” changed to “I’m turning in my bed.” Her suggestions were politely declined.
In her Songfacts interview, she said: “I was thinking of being lovesick, unable to sleep, turning in the bed. Like lusting after someone. But they wanted it a little more lighthearted. But I love the song and I’m honored that I was chosen to sing it.”
Tina Turner was reportedly Santana’s first choice as vocalist and even recorded it with him. Details are sketchy, but it seems label boss Clive Davis rejected Turner and went with Branch for youth appeal; most of Santana’s hits around this time were with vocalists a generation younger than him, like Rob Thomas and Wyclef Jean.
The Tina Turner version was finally released in 2007 as part of the Ultimate Santana collection. When it was issued, Santana made this statement to the Associated Press:
“Queens come and go – there’s only one Tina Turner. I love Michelle, and she did a great interpretation of it. It’s just that with all honor and respect to Michelle, there’s the girl and there’s the woman, and Michelle is unfolding into a woman. But it takes time to go from a girl to a woman.”
Michelle Branch released her breakthrough album The Spirit Room in 2001 when she was 18. “The Game Of Love” gave her next one, Hotel Paper, released in 2003, a nice push – it went to #2 in the US and sold a million copies.
The video was directed by Paul Fedor, who was known for darker fare like Alice in Chains’ “Get Born Again” and Marilyn Manson’s “The Nobodies.” The “Game Of Love” video shows Santana and Branch performing the song on the streets of Chicago as a number of couples suck face.
Michelle Branch was an excellent pairing for Santana. She was a TRL favorite with a young, female fanbase, but sounded great to the ears of Santana fans, who were much older. Branch wrote her own songs and was a student of emotions, able to sing convincingly about romantic love before she had experienced it herself. She could also play acoustic guitar, providing a nice symmetry in the video while Carlos Santana played electric.
Branch did so well that when Santana released their next album, All That I Am, in 2005, she once again got the call to sing the first single, “I’m Feeling You.” She was the only guest vocalist to appear on both the Shaman and All That I Am albums.
The song’s co-writer Gregg Alexander was a bit of mystery man around this time, having moved to London where he wrote songs under assumed names. For this one, he used Alex Ander.
Michelle Branch joined Santana from time to time to perform this song on the group’s 2002 tour; they first performed it together in Los Angeles on October 12.
Branch was thrilled to record with Santana; her mom used to play their 1970 album Abraxas in the house.
Courtesy of Songfacts
Tell me Just what you want me to be One kiss And boom you're the only one for me So please tell me Why don't you come around no more? 'Cause right now I'm crying outside the door of your candy store It just takes a little bit of this, a little bit of that It started with a kiss Now we're up to bat A little bit of laughs, a little bit of pain I'm telling you my babe It's all in the game of Love is Whatever you make it to be Sunshine Instead of this cold lonely sea So please baby Try and use me for what I'm good for It ain't saying goodbye It's knocking down the door of your candy store It just takes a little bit of this, a little bit of that It started with a kiss Now we're up to bat A little bit of laughs, a little bit of pain I'm telling you baby It's all in the game of love It's all in this game of love You roll me Control me Console me Please hold me You guide me Divide me Into me So please tell me Why don't you come around no more? 'Cause right now I'm dying outside the door of your loving store It just take a little bit of this, a little bit of that It started with a kiss Now we're up to bat A little bit of laughs, a little bit of pain I'm telling you my babe It's all in the game of love All in this game of love It's all in the game of love Let's play the game of love Roll me Control me Please hold me I'm out here on my own On my own Writer/s: Gregg Alexander, Richard Nowels Publisher: BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Spirit Music Group Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind