Nichole Nordeman, Wide Eyed (1998)
This woman will forever be one of the greatest singer/songwriter/pianists on the planet. Her honest lyrics, hauntingly moving chord choices and beautifully pure voice elevate your soul to a new, better place than you were before. It was in high school that I discovered Christian music, and Nichole was a huge reason. I would
listen to every song, practically without skipping, which you cannot say about many. Nichole was one of the main artists who inspired me to play piano and write songs. I was too busy with cheerleading, show choir and dancing to sit down and practice piano — I’m better by ear — but it was over once I got one of her sheet music books.
OneRepublic, Dreaming Out Loud (2007)
Ryan Tedder is one of the most talented vocalists, songwriters, producers and musicians alive. Aside from his own tracks, he’s aided with production and background vocals on countless others’ hits. My then-boyfriend/now-husband, Trent, was interning on the final season of MTV’s TRL when he met them and gave me this record. I was absolutely blown away. The first track is my favorite, “Say (All I Need).” Its opening
ethereal, chopped-up, almost chant-like vocals; Ryan’s prominent,
hip-hop-influenced clap drum loops; and his amazing vocal lines convict
my heart more than almost any Christian album ever did. Amazing.
Mariah Carey, Greatest Hits (2001)
songs were definitely the soundtrack to my childhood! However, her
voice, the songs and the production were so first-class that when I go
back and listen now, they’re timeless. Carey’s music was so much fun, a
lot of later pop doesn’t measure up. Throughout the album, Mariah’s
voice soars above and below and all over the place — seamlessly,
effortlessly and beautifully. In my book, she and Whitney Houston will
never be beaten vocally. My favorite track, “Fantasy,” uses a sample
from Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” and is an incredible example of an
already infectiously feel-good groove made into a complete masterpiece
of a pop song. In my single, “Find Me,” we sampled “Mr. Sandman” by The
Chordettes, in hopes of doing the same.
Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox (2012)
Mars is making some of today’s best music. I was living in L.A. when a
lot of what you heard on pop radio was all the same: hip-hop,
often-generic club hits — great to dance to, but not what I always want
to hear in my car. When Bruno hit the airwaves, it was the perfect mix
of the piano pop I had been writing, and I said, “I could make music
like this!” I loved his debut album, but this new one is even better.
I’m a sucker for pretty harmonies, and he’s got ’em. “Locked Out of
Heaven” has such a catchy throwback beat; “When I Was Your Man” is one
of the most soulful, stripped-down piano ballads to make it on the radio
since Billy Joel, and “Treasure” brings back the joy of the Donna
Summer disco days. He’s inspired me to not suppress great music for the
sake of what sells, but instead to package great music in a way that’s
appealing to the masses.