BATTLE OF THE BANDS – Valentine’s Edition: I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS by Foreigner

Hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day! I’m keeping the Love theme going with today’s Battle of the Bands featuring “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. 

A quick refresher because it’s been since (yikes!) November that I had a battle here. I’ll introduce the song and feature two contenders doing cover versions. You give a listen and then vote in the Comments section on which cover version you like better (and if you care to share, let me know why you made that choice). Then I’ll be back in 6 days to post the battle results. Stephen McCarthy pretty much runs the battle hop (although he denies that) so if you’re interested in participating, get in touch with him over at his place.

Now, let’s get started:

This amazing Foreigner power ballad is one of my all-time favorite love songs. The very nature of power ballads are that they are an emotional style of music that often deal with romantic and intimate relationships, and to a lesser extent, war (protest songs), loneliness, death, drug abuse, politics and religion, usually in a poignant but solemn manner. (Example: Wind of Change by the Scorpions and several U2 songs). Ballads are generally melodic enough to get the listener’s attention.

“I Want to Know What Love Is” is plenty melodic. It was one of the several songs I featured in my Monday’s Music Moves Me post of favorite Rock Love Songs. But I didn’t share all that I learned about the song in that post. Here’s another interesting tidbit relayed by Mick Jones, who in 1976 formed Foreigner with Ian McDonald and recruited lead singer Lou Gramm; he also co-produced all of the band’s albums and co-wrote most of their songs with Gramm. And Jones wrote the band’s most successful single, “I Want to Know What Love Is”:

Foreigner recorded for Atlantic Records, and their 1981 album 4 spent more weeks at #1 than any album released by the label. Ahmet Ertegun, who was the head of Atlantic, cried when he first heard this song. Mick Jones explains: “Part of my dream at the beginning was to be on Atlantic Records, because of the heritage: all the R&B stars of the ’50s, people like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. It meant so much to me and my growing up in music. So it meant a lot to have Ahmet Ertegun, who had been a part of that magical era and a person who I respected and looked up to, come into the studio. I took him aside and I said, ‘I have a song to play you, Ahmet.’ I took him into the studio, and we just sat there in two chairs, and I put the song on. Halfway through I looked over and indeed, there were tears coming out of his eyes. I thought, Whoa, this is a major moment for me. I’ve been able to impress this man who has heard some of the best, and produced some of the best music in the world. And here he is, and I’ve reached him emotionally. By the end of the song we were both in tears. Wonderful moments like that, they’re just very meaningful.”

Indeed, Foreigner’s song is meaningful. Here is their #1 hit “I Want to Know What Love Is” for your enjoyment only; Don’t vote on this one. The battle contenders are below. Foreigner’s song features backing vocals from the New Jersey Mass Choir affiliated with the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday, and featured keyboard work by Thompson Twins frontman Tom Bailey. The choir also appears in the song’s music video. You can read more about the choir’s moving involvement in the making of the music video at my Best Rock Love Songs post.

Now, on to today’s battle:

Battle Contenders:

Tina Arena – “I Want to Know What Love Is” was covered by Australian singer Tina Arena and her recording was released as a single in 1998 from her album In Deep. Arena’s version of the song was produced by Foreigner band member Mick Jones, who wrote the song. This version of the song includes a previously unrecorded bridge between the second and third choruses, specifically written for Tina Arena by Mick Jones.

The song peaked at #13 in France and finished 60th on the end-of-year chart of 1999.

This is a magnificent cover:

 

Another fabulous cover by:

Wynonna Judd – “I Want to Know What Love Is” was covered by American country singer Wynonna Judd and her recording was released in August 24, 2004 from her album What the World Needs Now Is Love as fourth single. Wynonna’s version of the song was produced by Narada Michael Walden, known for his work with Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and George Michael, and Wynonna. This version of the song was included in a popular Brazilian soap opera, Senhora do Destino.

In the US, Wynonna’s version peaked at #14 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. On the Hot Dance Club Songs of Billboard, it debuted at #50 and peaked at #12. It is also her first single to chart in Sweden, where it debuted at #67 and peaked at #15.

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back on the 21st to post the results. Until then, let us know if you know what love is