Randy Newman

Randy Newman

Feels Like Home is a lovely song written by Randy Newman. Who sang it best?

This morning, I was writing a review of Feels Like Home, an album Linda Ronstadt released in 1995. I was left with a somewhat mediocre impression of Ronstadt’s version of the title song, which I had originally heard sung by Bonnie Raitt on the soundtrack of Randy Newman’s Faust. Linda Ronstadt had also performed on that album, which featured an all-star line up of singers, including: James Taylor, Don Henley, Elton John, and Randy Newman. I used to listen to Newman’s Faust all the time when it first came out and really enjoyed everyone’s performances. Bonnie Raitt played sort of a loose woman named Martha, while Ronstadt’s character, Margaret, was sweet and virtuous. It seemed to fit. And yet, Bonnie Raitt’s loose character, Martha, sang the very sweet number “Feels Like Home”, a song that is becoming sort of a wedding standard.

In my opinion, “Feels Like Home” is a really great song, even though I read somewhere that Randy Newman didn’t think it was particularly special or meaningful. The lyrics are about a relationship that makes the singer feel very comfortable and “at home”. It’s kind of the way I feel about my husband, Bill, who manages to make me feel beautiful and loved no matter how batshit crazy I get at certain times of the month. In fact, I even recorded my own version of this song for Bill on SingSnap.com. He doesn’t mind. He’s had to listen to me sing ever since we got married over ten years ago. Besides, he knows when I sing this song for him, I sing it with heartfelt devotion and true LOVE…

But what about the other singers? I can think of six different interpretations of this one song. They’re all different and, I’m sure, each version speaks to different people in a different way. So today, I want to compare and contrast the many stylings of Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home”.

Version #1- Randy Newman

Randy Newman wrote this song and he included it on his 2008 album Harps and Angels. Bill gave me that album as a Christmas gift one year, knowing that I really enjoy Randy Newman’s music. No, he’s not the greatest singer in the world, but he’s witty and charming and his piano playing has a certain recognizable character. Here’s his version of his song, “Feels Like Home”.

Listening to this, I hear that Randy Newman’s quirky vocals are not particularly tuneful. And yet, there’s something kind of moving about the way he sings this song. He sells it with his quirkiness. I also like the key he sings this in and the subtle orchestral backing to his piano. I think songs often sound better when they’re sung by the person who created them. Randy Newman knows what he was thinking of when he wrote this. Still, he wasn’t the first one to make “Feels Like Home” popular.

Version #2- Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt sang this for Faust and here she is, singing it on Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show circa 1997.

I think Bonnie Raitt’s vocals are very warm and heartfelt when she sings “Feels Like Home”. I like the way she keeps it sweet and simple. And of course, this is the very first version I was exposed to, so it has a special place in my heart. On the other hand, if you are familiar with Newman’s Faust, you realize that this song is not as sweet as it seems, especially given the character of Martha, who was a bit of a ‘ho. Martha was being deceptive when she sang this love song for Faust; it was intended to trick him. Seems kind of funny, now that it’s a wedding standard.

Version #3- Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt covered this song on her 1995 album Feels Like Home.

Linda Ronstadt sings this in the same key Bonnie Raitt did and has help from Emmylou Harris on the chorus. I think she did a nice job on this song, though it seems a bit bloodless and sterile to me. Obviously, it’s about perfect in terms of Linda’s singing, but I don’t get the same sense that Linda was as into it as Bonnie was. But that’s just me.

Version #4- Chantal Kreviazuk

Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk sang a version of “Feels Like Home” that appeared in the films The Notebook, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, and The Terminal, as well as the television show, Dawson’s Creek.

I must confess I first heard this version of Randy Newman’s song when I saw the film The Terminal. While I love the key she sings this in, I’m not that wild about Chantal Kreviazuk’s take on “Feels Like Home”. She has a very thick accent that is distracting to me. Still, this arrangement turns the song into an emotional love song and I can see why so many people are using it at weddings.

Version #5- Edwina Hayes

Edwina Hayes’ version of “Feels Like Home” was used in the soundtrack for the 2009 film, My Sister’s Keeper.

English singer-songwriter Edwina Hayes sings a gorgeous version of “Feels Like Home”. I have goosebumps when I hear her sing this song, even though I didn’t actually see the film it was featured on. I like the simple guitar arrangement. This makes me want to seek out more music by Edwina Hayes. As this ends, I have a lump in my throat, which means it got to my heart.

Version #6 Raul Malo and Martina McBride

This duet version appeared on Raul Malo’s 2006 album, You’re Only Lonely.

I heard this version for the first time this morning. I think Raul Malo and Martina McBride both have beautiful voices, but I don’t really feel like they have a lot of chemistry on this song. When they sing it, I don’t believe it. Still, it’s technically very good. I’m not that familiar with Raul Malo, who is the frontman for The Mavericks and a member of Los Super Seven. I might have to seek out more of his music, too.

The verdict

I think my favorite version of “Feels Like Home” is probably still Bonnie Raitt’s, but that might be because her version was the first one I ever heard. I also really love Bonnie Raitt’s voice, which sounds so real and warm to me… like it comes from someone who has really lived. I’m very impressed with Edwina Hayes’ version of “Feels Like Home”, though the sheer perfection of her vocals is almost more than I can stand. Randy Newman’s version, while technically imperfect, touches me because the words and music are his and he knows just how he wants to sell it. I also love the way he plays piano.

Ordinarily, I love a lot of Linda Ronstadt’s music, though I’m left a little cold by her version of “Feels Like Home”, even though she had some help from Emmylou Harris. And while Chantal Kreviazuk has a lovely voice and I love the key she sings “Feels Like Home” in, I am distracted by her thick accent and breathy emotion. On the other hand, I think her reading is probably what really put this song on the map. Raul Malo and Martina McBride turn “Feels Like Home” into an appealing duet, though to me, the chemistry between them is a bit lacking.

My version

You get extra credit if you listen to my version of “Feels Like Home”. And there’s really no need to compare it to those sung by professionals!