Never felt this way before.
I swear, I actually have, this is the smile on the face enjoyment music engenders when it’s only itself, when it’s absent the trends of commercialism, when you’re singing and listening just because IT FEELS SO GOOD! When Chris Stapleton opens his pipes your jaw will drop, you’ll be transported from everyday life, you’ll believe in magic once again.
“Dirty Dancing.” A small movie that became a phenomenon. We didn’t go to see it. But in the old days of video stores, you’d peruse the titles, and they got to the point where they had more stock of the hitters and we picked it up and my ex watched it three times in twenty four hours. Sometimes when you shoot low and hit it it’s far superior to when you shoot high and barely miss. It was just supposed to be a stupid movie about summer romance, but somehow it ended up so much more.
Credit Jennifer Grey. And Patrick Swayze. You actually believe they were both those people. Grey was a cloistered girl who wanted to break out, who wanted to leave the family behind and be her best self. And this is what summer camp and summer vacation trips are all about, separating from your parents, flexing your muscles, spreading your wings. And we all want to be a member of the cool group.
As for Swayze, he came from the wrong side of the tracks, he was working for a living as opposed to vacating like Baby. It was a job. But ultimately something more. You see we all need something to believe in, and in Swayze’s group it was dirty dancing. Does dirty dancing really exist? WHO CARES! It’s a movie, you suspend disbelief, when done right you go along and believe.
And the film became so big that it tugged the soundtrack along. There were some oldies and some newbies, like Eric Carmen’s “Hungry Eyes,” an unexpected comeback that I cannot burn out on to this day. But the piece-de-resistance was the duet, by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”
Now Medley was a relic of the sixties, he hit his peak with Phil Spector and hadn’t come close to that since. As for Warnes, she’d had success with 1976’s “Right Time Of The Night,” but her most well-known cut was also a duet, with Joe Cocker, on “Up Where We Belong,” from the 1982 smash hit “An Officer And A Gentleman,” which swung harder with a bigger budget but ultimately hit the same note as “Dirty Dancing.”
And now Medley and Warnes were united on a cheesy closing number that…
Brought tears to your eyes. I’m tingling writing about it right now. It’s something everybody who was alive back then knows by heart, even younger generations who’ve caught up on the film on video.
So, with Chris Pratt hosting the Kimmel show…
Which is kinda funny, Jimmy’s not afraid of losing ground, he doesn’t have to hog the spotlight, he’s talking a clue from Johnny Carson way back when, adding some spice to the show while he takes a breather.
And the truth is late night is all about virality, creating a clip, but that’s all Fallon does, when he fawns, and Colbert is more about the jokes, but Kimmel’s more about the moments.
So watch this video. I know, I know, the intro is long, but it’s all just buildup until…
Chris Stapleton starts to sing.
It’s a lark, not serious, hijinks for late night. And then…
‘Cause I’ve had the time of my life
AND I OWE IT ALL TO YOU!
You can’t believe it. We’re no longer used to excellence, we’re no longer used to melody. The big beat rules and people oversing on competition shows but they lack soul, it doesn’t come from within them, they’re there to impress, but Chris Stapleton is channeling the gods.
We saw the writing on the wall
As we felt this magical fantasy
Chris doesn’t seem in on the joke. At this point he can’t make fun of the song, can’t throw off a vocal, it’s like he’s on stage at the Ryman and every word comes straight from the heart, like it’s life or death.
Now with passion in our eyes
There’s no way we could disguise it secretly
So we take each other’s hand
‘Cause we seem to understand the urgency
That’s love. Like you have for Stapleton’s performance. It’s got that passion, that urgency of the greats.
He’s the one thing I can’t get enough of and then comes the magic moment, the one that seals the deal, when Stapleton leans back, swings his arm and belts:
NEVER FELT THIS WAY!
Eeegads, this is the real thing.
He’s reading off the Teleprompter. He’s not doing one of his own songs. The hipsters decry the mainstream song he’s singing, yet somehow he makes it his own. Substitute a woman with pipes for Chris Pratt and you have a hit record, one that makes all listeners feel good, that they cannot get enough of.
And the credible rockers of yore wouldn’t do this, they disdained TV.
But just like them, Stapleton arrives in his regular outfit, he’s not dressing up just for the gig.
But Stapleton gets the joke. And he knows the song. And it’s a great melding of what once and in this case, still is.
Sure, at the end you realize this was rehearsed, since Stapleton flies.
Or maybe it was all done in post. Hell, Chris didn’t seem that prepared, he didn’t know the words, he was just caught up in the moment.
And you will be too.