Song of the Day #3,414: ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face (Unplugged)’ – Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was the first artist to release an MTV Unplugged appearance as an official album. His 1991 set was heavy on old-school covers with a few Beatles and solo tracks in between.

“I liked the idea that there was a show that reduced music to its bare essentials,” he said, and he took that concept to heart. While previous performers used acoustic instruments plugged into amplifiers, McCartney opted to play his instruments truly unplugged.

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Song of the Day #3,413: ‘Can I Kick It? (Unplugged)’ – A Tribe Called Quest

In April of 1991, MTV Unplugeed featured its first rap artists, with LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest taking the stage backed by a live band.

The performance was hailed as both a breakthrough for the genre and an excellent live set, with most of the kudos going to LL Cool J’s rendition of ‘Mama Said Knock You Out.’ Sadly, that performance is not available on YouTube in the United States.

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Song of the Day #3,412: ‘Tears in Heaven (Unplugged)’ – Eric Clapton

Many artists released album version of their MTV Unplugged performances, but none was as successful as Eric Clapton. His 1992 release sold 26 million copies, making it the all-time top-selling live album. It also won three Grammys, including Album of the Year.

Critically, it wasn’t as well-loved. Many critics bemoaned the sleepy treatment given to raging guitar classic ‘Layla,’ while the Chicago Tribune called it a “blues album for yuppies.”

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Song of the Day #3,411: ‘The Night Before (Life Goes On)’ – Carrie Underwood

My appreciation of country music doesn’t extend to the generic country pop featured on Carrie Underwood’s 2005 debut album, Some Hearts. I like the harder-edged sound of hit single ‘Before He Cheats’ well enough, but something like today’s Random Weekend SOTD leaves me cold.

That said, I do think this song has merit lyrically. It depicts the relationship between a young woman about to head off to college and the small town man she’s leaving behind.

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Song of the Day #3,410: ‘Family of Me’ – Ben Folds

I like when animated movies make interesting musical choices. Rufus Wainwright delivered a delightful theme song for Meet the Robinsons, Jack Johnson’s ‘Upside Down’ from Curious George is my favorite song of his. The Shrek films feature a treasure trove of excellent song picks, including Counting Crows’ addictive ‘Accidentally in Love.’

In 2006, Ben Folds got into the game, contributing several songs to the soundtrack of Over the Hedge. It’s a sweet, admittedly forgettable, movie but a great showcase for Folds’ pop chops.

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Song of the Day #3,409: ‘So. Central Rain (Unplugged)’ – R.E.M.

R.E.M. appeared on MTV’s Unplugged twice, a decade apart, in 1991 and 2001. The band was arguably a bigger deal on the earlier performance, which followed the release of the multi-platinum Out of Time and hit single ‘Losing My Religion.’

They would go on the achieve massive success through the mid-90s but by the new millennium things had changed. Drummer Bill Berry left the band and their most recent releases sold less than anything they’d recorded since joining a major label.

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Song of the Day #3,408: ‘Moscas en la Casa (Unplugged)’ – Shakira

MTV was hip to the huge Hispanic music audience earlier than most, featuring its first Spanish-language artist on Unplugged in 1995 ( Los Fabulosos Cadillacs received that honor).

They did one or two per year after that, with the most popular coming in August of 1999 when Shakira recorded her acoustic session in Manhattan. Shakira ended up releasing this set as an album which sold 5 million copies worldwide and won a Grammy for Best Latin Pop album.

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