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Anyone Who Ever Dreamed
That Fatal Mailing List #82: "Anyone Who Had A Heart" (1998)
It’s easy to belt.
If you’ve got any kind of singing voice, the most direct path from your throat to the heart often involves volume–in other words, belting. Adele is a belter; Mariah Carey is a belter; there’s many others. Our friend Elvis Costello is a belter sometimes.
But some songs demand more than just the outer limits of loudness. Some songs demand nuanced emoting, not just dynamics between the “soft part” and the “noisy part.”
Dionne Warwick is a master of nuance. When she inhabits a song, the story is told just as much by what she isn’t doing as it is by what she does. She can belt vibrato with the best of them, but when she holds back, when she’s just a few inches from the way she’s really feeling–that’s where her brilliance lies.
Costello performed “Anyone Who Had A Heart” with Burt Bacharach when the two were promoting and touring behind their album together, Painted From Memory. He acquits himself well; he maps the emotional journey effectively. You feel it in your gut.
But I think even he would admit that the definitive version of “Anyone Who Had A Heart” is Warwick’s. Others have tried, and come close. Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Wynona, even Luther Vandross have all given it a go. Lake Street Dive has a really interesting version that deconstructs the song and rebuilds it around a series of shifts in tempo.
Warwick surpasses them all. She’s always been the definitive interpreter of Bacharach, especially when he was paired with lyricist Hal David. There’s something so emotionally naked about David’s words here; anyone who had a heart could surely not be responsible for breaking one, right? If you know someone loves you, how could you not care for them, knowing that your own heart is capable of such feelings?
Her nuanced approach, the depth of feeling she conveys with every jump and dip from phrase to phrase, serves the song in ways that are remarkable and at times even surprising. And yes, she does belt. But that belting is earned and comes with its own complexities. She’s an unparalleled interpreter of song.