k.d. lang's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

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k.d.lang in Chicago on November 27, 1992.

At first, nobody quite knew what to make of k.d. lang. When she started her career, she at first tried to make it in the world of contemporary country music. To an extent, she succeeded in that. She notched a pair of gold-selling albums that were highlights of the format during a time where the music scene was a bit more open to different sounds, but radio never really caught on--her biggest single only hit No. 21. Still, even as her style was so different from other artists, at the time, there was something about that voice. managing to hold her own with the legendary Roy Orbison on a moving cover of “Crying.”

A few years later, the world caught on to the music of k.d.lang, as “Constant Craving” became an international award-winning hit, and the rest has been history, with a career that has been second to none in the world of critical acclaim. Simply said, she is that damn good. A look at the k.d. lang song catalog is a reflection of a woman and her talent that just might be too good to be mortal! Admittedly, many of the ten songs on this list are from her early days, but we did try to mix things up a bit – including a Leonard Cohen cover that will bring you to your knees.

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10. k.d. lang – “Western Stars”

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Many of the tracks off of lang’s 1988 disc Shadowland were covers of songs from the 60s and before, but perhaps one of the set’s best performances came on lang’s powerful take on a Chris Isaak song from 1985. The song, which kicked off the disc, was the perfect intro for what became a gold-selling disc. Her vocal is so effective, moody, and haunting on the track, which you can imagine playing on a small radio station in the middle of nowhere along a deserted road at night. It’s a true classic, that not many have heard.

9. k.d. lang – “Big Big Love"

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 A joyful track from her 1989 Absolute Torch and Twang album, the singer once again tipped the covers hat on this song, which was made famous by California honky-tonker Wynn Stewart some three decades prior. The song was making a bit of a comeback among current artists at the time of Lang’s recording – appearing on Barbara Mandrell’s 1988 disc I’ll Be Your Jukebox Tonight.

8. k.d. lang – “Sexuality”

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There was nothing even slightly subtle about the lyrics of this 1995 recording from her All You Can Eat disc. Truly, this song sparked the imagination in a way that few artists have done before or since. It doesn’t matter your orientation, the lyrics of this k.d. lang song still steam up the mind – over twenty years later. In addition to her own album, this song was featured on the Friends soundtrack from 1995.

7. k.d. lang – “Maybe”

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Another track from All You Can Eat, this cut featured such a dreamy pop arrangement to it, and should have been released to a wider audience. The song’s lyrics touched upon a woman who wasn’t quite sure of the emotions that she or her significant other were feeling. The production on this track was nothing short of amazing. Do us a favor. Check this one out now. You won’t be sorry.

6. k.d. lang – “If I Were You”

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In topping the dance chart, this song became the only chart-topper of her career, peaking at the pinnacle of the listing in 1995. The expressive performance also earned her a worldwide hit, hitting the Top-30 on the overall chart in Australia.

5. k.d. lang – “Hush Sweet Lover”

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In a unique twist, lang was the only artist featured on the soundtrack of the 1993 Uma Thurman film Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. Despite a varied cast such as Keanu Reeves, Angie Dickinson, and Sean Young, the film was universally panned – except for the music from lang. Esteemed movie critic Leonard Maltin from Entertainment Tonight stated “k.d. lang's score is the picture's sole worthy component.”

4. k.d. lang – “Trail Of Broken Hearts"

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lang penned this ballad of heartbreak and longing with frequent collaborator Ben Mink for Absolute Torch and Twang.  It was a little more current of a sound than Shadowland, owing much to some of the late ‘70s work of Linda Ronstadt. Even with its decidedly country feel, thanks to the steel work of Greg Leisz, this track still managed to become a minor Pop hit in her native Canada.

3. k.d. lang – “Lock, Stock, and Teardrops”

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For Shadowland, Lang teamed up with the legendary Owen Bradley, who had worked with one of her biggest influences in Patsy Cline. In fact, as the story goes, Cline had decided to record this Roger Miller-penned number before her tragic plane crash in Camden, Tennessee. Other artists – Miller included – recorded the song, lang made it her own, but being so influenced by Cline, one has to listen to this track with a sense of what might have been had Cline landed at Cornelia Field Airport on the evening of March 5, 1963.

2. k.d. lang – “Hallelujah”

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In July of 2004, lang put together an album titled Hymns of the 49th Parallel, which featured songs written by her favorite Canadian songwriters. So, this Leonard Cohen song became a k.d. lang song. That’s a big statement, but listen. Just listen. That’s all we need to say on this one.

1. k.d. lang – “Constant Craving”

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 lang had been a consistent record seller for a few years, but this single – written again with Mink – was a song that once it was heard, it was pretty apparent what was going to happen. And, indeed it did. This changed the game significantly for the performer, hitting No. 2 on the AC chart, and earning her a Grammy in the process.