By Margareta Svensson Riggs
1. Gimmi! Gimmi! Gimmi! – ABBA
Growing up in Sweden, it would be strange if ABBA wasn’t a big part of my influences. My first strong memory where I was really taken with music and knew what I wanted to do in life was when I watched ABBA win the Eurovision song contest. ABBA’s songs have very strong melodies and chord progressions, which is why their music of course lives on (not the least in the musical Mamma Mia!) If I had to choose one, I would choose “Gimmi! Gimmi! Gimmi!” from the album Voulez-Vous, which has so many great songs.
I heard an interview once with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulveaus where they said they would sit in a little hut with a piano and write. They wouldn’t record their ideas; the next day, they would go back out to the little hut, and whatever they remember from the day before is worthwhile keeping. Whatever they don’t remember had obviously not been good enough in the first place. That has always stuck with me as great advice for writing strong songs that could become hits.
2. No Tears Left To Cry – Ariana Grande
3. Domino – Jessie J
I am obviously not the only one who has had ABBA influence my writing, making, and appreciating music. Madonna used “Gimmi! Gimmi! Gimmi!” as part of her track “Hung Up” in 2005, but Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin also gives ABBA credit. I tend to like most everything Max Martin has done, so these two songs are typically what I like to listen to in my car.
4. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
I love when country artists have great upbeat dance/pop songs. LeAnn Rimes’ “Can’t Fight the Moonlight,” is an old favorite, but I’m choosing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” because of the great lyrics, great vocals, and great hook. It just makes me feel good when I hear it.
5. Chunky – Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic I think is a very important album all together, not only because I like it. It brings decades together in a way that makes the songs have a timeless quality to them. I love the clipping, great rhythmic vocals, funky bass, and the overall display of top musicality.
6. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Someone else that is a strong influence for musicianship and genius as well as a client and friend of mine is Stevie Wonder. The energy, the groove, the precision… he just makes timeless songs. He is a full package, and as a singer-pianist, I relate and value that enormously.
7. Make It Happen – Mariah Carey
Someone else who is an exceptional singer and has written many great songs is Mariah Carey. She has a lot of great ballads, but here is a favorite track that is a super fun and uplifting song.
8. No More Tears (Enough is Enough) – Donna Summer feat. Barbra Streisand
Disco queen Donna Summer is also a female artist who has written and recorded so many great timeless songs. I had a tough time choosing between “On the Radio,” which I love for the piano throughout, “Love is in Control” with Quincy Jones as producer, and this duet with Barbra Streisand. I picked “Enough is Enough” both for Donna Summer’s characteristic upbeat disco songs and great voice as well as Barbra Streisand breaking out of her usually ballad-oriented style. Barbra has always been an inspiration and role-model for me as a singer and artist for her control and level of professionalism.
When Summer: The Musical came out, Donna Summer’s music got new life again, specifically with the choreography of my friend and colleague Sergio Trujillo from CBS’s The World’s Best.
9. Sexbomb (Peppermint Disco Radio Edit) – Tom Jones feat. Mousse T
I loved to see the “old Las Vegas” when I was a brand new performer, specifically how easily and great headliners would handle their audience. Tom Jones is another friend, but a true legend that I have learned so much from in that regard. Tom is a wonderful example of someone who loves what he does, has kept working hard his whole life, and figured out new avenues as he has gone along. “You’ve got to have a hit,” he said to me once. This certainly became a big hit throughout most of the world.
10. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Michael McDonald
There are so many more songs and artists I would like to play for you and it is so hard to choose just ten. But somehow, I think it would be wrong if I didn’t include some classic Motown. Michael McDonald’s version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” resonates with me again as a singer-pianist, but also for the excellent musicianship, vocals, and feel.