I Can't Make You Love Me

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For the unrelated song of the same name by Quiet Riot, see Guilty Pleasures (Quiet Riot album).
"I Can't Make You Love Me"
Single by Bonnie Raitt
from the album Luck of the Draw
Released 22 October 1991
Format Cassette single
Recorded 1990
Genre Country pop, blues rock
Length 5:33
Label Capitol
Writer(s) Mike Reid, Allen Shamblin
Producer(s) Bonnie Raitt, Don Was
Bonnie Raitt singles chronology
Something to Talk About
(1991)
"I Can't Make You Love Me"
(1991)

"I Can't Make You Love Me" is a song written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and recorded by American singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt for her eleventh studio album Luck of the Draw (1991). Released as the album's third single in 1991, "I Can't Make You Love Me" became one of Raitt's most successful singles, reaching the top-twenty on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and the top-ten on the Adult Contemporary.

In August 2000, Mojo magazine voted "I Can't Make You Love Me" the eighth best track on its The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time list.[1] The song is ranked at number 339 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] "I Can't Make You Love Me" has been recorded by a number of other artists, including George Michael, Adele, Boyz II Men, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Nancy Wilson, Nina Girado, Priyanka Chopra and many others. It has also become a popular selection for televised contestants in singing competitions such as American Idol, Canadian Idol, The Voice, The X Factor and others.

Writing and recording[edit]

"I Can’t Make You Love Me" was written by Nashville writers Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, who were well-noted for their successes in the country arena. The song was rewritten a lot of times before being finalized, months later. "We wrote, most every week, in Mike’s basement," Shamblin told Peter Cooper in an interview with the Nashville Tennessean. "And we’d worked on this song for more than six months. One day, he said, ‘Come up to the living room,’ where his piano was. He sat down and started playing this melody, and it was one of the most moving pieces of music I’d heard. I mean, it hit me in a hard way... Instantly, I knew it was the best thing I’d ever been a part of."[3] Reid and Shamblin were both country music songwriters, who according to some accounts originally wrote the song as a fast, bluegrass number. Upon slowing down the tempo considerably, they realized the song gained considerable power and thought about giving the song for three artists: Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler or Linda Ronstadt. Eventually, the song made its way to Bonnie Raitt, who recorded the track for her eleventh studio album, "Luck of the Draw" (1991). Raitt co-produced the song with Don Was, while Bruce Hornsby provided a piano accompaniment.[4]

Composition and inspiration[edit]

"I Can't Make You Love Me" was composed in the key of Bb major, with a moderate slow tempo of 72 beats per minute. Raitt's vocal range on the song spans from the low-note of F3 to the high-note of BB4.[5] The idea for the song came to Reid while reading an article about a man arrested for getting drunk and shooting at his girlfriend's car. The judge asked him if he had learned anything, to which he replied, "I learned, Your Honor, that you can't make a woman love you if she don't."[6] Raitt recorded the vocal in just one take in the studio, later saying that it was so sad a song that she could not recapture the emotion: "We'd try to do it again and I just said, 'You know, this ain't going to happen.'"[7]

A pensive ballad, "I Can't Make You Love Me" was recorded against a quiet electric piano-based arrangement, with prominent piano fills and interpolations supplied by Bruce Hornsby. The singer depicts a now one-sided romantic relationship about to end in soft but brutally honest terms: "Turn down the lights, turn down the bed/Turn down these voices inside my head/Lay down with me, tell me no lies/Just hold me close, don't patronize... don't patronize me/'Cause I can't make you love me if you don't/You can't make your heart feel something that it won't," she sings.[8]

Critical reception and accolades[edit]

"I Can't Make You Love Me" received acclaim from music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic praised the track, calling it a "strong song" and picking it as one of the album's best tracks.[9] Steve Hochman of Los Angeles Times hailed the song as one of Raitt's most elegant tracks.[10] Elysa Gardner wrote for Rolling Stone that "Raitt's gorgeously understated rendering of 'I Can't Make You Love Me,' in which sentiments such as 'I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power/But you won't' are delivered with a quiet resignation that's worth a hundred glissandi in emotional weight."[11]

"I Can't Make You Love Me" entered many lists of the greatest songs of all time. In 2000, Mojo magazine placed it at number 8 on its "100 Greatest Songs of All Time" list.[4] The song is also ranked #339 on the Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] The website "Ultimate Classic Rock" placed the song at number 24 on their "25 Saddest Songs Ever", praising Bonnie Raitt vocals, writing that "she sings in one of her most impassioned vocals ever. There's real ache in every word that drips from her pained lips."[12]

The song's popularity helped solidify her remarkable late-in-career commercial success that had begun two years before. In the time since, "I Can't Make You Love Me" has gone on to become a pop standard and a mainstay of adult contemporary radio formats. For Raitt, the song was notoriously difficult to sing, due to its required vocal range, difficult phrasing and breathing, and the emotional content involved. At the televised Grammy Awards of 1992 Raitt performed it in an even more austere setting than on record, with just her and Hornsby highlighted. As she negotiated the final vocal line, she let out a big audible and visible sigh of relief that she had successfully gotten through it. Her live performance of the song was released on the 1994 album Grammy's Greatest Moments Volume III.[13] Raitt has continued to sing the song in all her concert tours:

I mean, 'I Can't Make You Love Me' is no picnic. I love that song, so does the audience. So it's almost a sacred moment when you share that, that depth of pain with your audience. Because they get really quiet, and I have to summon ... some other place in order to honor that space.
 
— Raitt, 2002 NPR interview[14]

Chart performance[edit]

The song was a big hit for Raitt, reaching number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.[15] The song placed at number 100 on the Billboard Year-End chart of 1992.[16] In New Zealand, the song was Raitt's highest charting-single, reaching number 22,[17] while in Netherlands, the song charted moderately at number 44.[18]

Chart (1991) Peak
position
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[17] 22
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 43
US Billboard Hot 100[19] 18
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[20] 6

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1991) Position
US Billboard Year-End Chart[21] 100

Bruce Hornsby performance use[edit]

Although Bruce Hornsby had no hand in writing the song, his piano part on it became associated with him. Phil Collins described it as instantly recognizable as Hornsby's work.[22] Hornsby's own publicity material mentions his role on the "classic".[23]

On his own subsequent tours, Hornsby included the song in a number of his set lists. He sometimes let a female backing singer in his band take on the vocal.[24] Other times, he sang the song himself.[25]

George Michael version[edit]

"Older/I Can't Make You Love Me"
Single by George Michael
from the album Older
A-side "Older"
Released 20 January 1997
Format Cassette, CD
Recorded 1996
Genre Pop
Length 5:23
Label DreamWorks, Virgin
Producer(s) George Michael
George Michael singles chronology
"Spinning the Wheel"
(1996)
"Older/I Can't Make You Love Me"
(1997)
"Star People" (1997)

English singer-songwriter George Michael covered "I Can't Make You Love Me" and released as a B-side of his single, "Older", which was released on 20 January 1997 as the fourth single from the album of the same name. Michael's version was also included on his compilation, "Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael" (1998). "Older" and "I Can't Make You Love Me" both reached number 3 on the UK Singles Chart.

Background and release[edit]

After the release of his second studio album, "Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1" (1990), George Michael started a legal battle with his label, Sony Music, declaring his contract was financially inequitable and creatively stifling. Michael sued Sony to end his contract, leading to a long and costly legal battle that ended in 1995, with Michael signing to the newly launched Dreamworks Records label in the United States and Virgin in the rest of the world.[26] In 1995, the singer released the song "Jesus to a Child", which became a huge hit worldwide, followed by "Fastlove" and "Spinning the Wheel", which also became successful songs from his third studio album, "Older" (1995).[27][28]

While choosing the fourth single from the album, the title track "Older" was announced as the chosen one, with an EP also titled "Older" being released to promote the song. The EP features four tracks, including "Older", "The Strangest Thing (also from the album "Older") and two covers: the Brazilian famous song "Desafinado" and Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me",[29] which became the official b-side of the single. Since it was released as a B-side to "Older", "I Can't Make You Love Me" also entered the UK Singles Chart at number 3.[28]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1997) Position
UK Singles Chart[28] 3*

The peak position is the same of its A-side single "Older".

Boyz II Men version[edit]

"I Can't Make You Love Me"
Single by Boyz II Men
from the album Love
Released October 27, 2009
Format CD
Recorded 2008
Genre R&B
Length 5:17
Label Decca, UMTV
Boyz II Men singles chronology
"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)"
(2008)
"I Can't Make You Love Me"
(2009)
"Iris" (2009)

American R&B vocal group Boyz II Men recorded "I Can't Make You Love Me" for their third cover album, "Love" (2009). Their version was released as the album's first single on October 27, 2009. Having a more R&B approach, "I Can't Make You Love Me" received generally favorable reviews from music critics, while it has achieved minor success on the Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Background and release[edit]

After releasing their second cover album in 2007, "Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA", which was well received by critics, but failed to produce a successful single, the band announced plans for a new cover album, that features cover versions of songs by "artists I don't think people would expect us to cover," according to member Shawn Stockman.[30] On October 23, 2009, "I Can't Make You Love Me" was announced as "Love"'s lead-single.[31] The song was later released on October 27, 2009 through iTunes store.[32] For the band members, "We wanted to stay true to our roots, and it's a very beautiful song. And with our sound, we gave it an R&B twist. It's always been a favorite of ours, and we hope people will fall in love with it again."[33]

Reception[edit]

A writer for Soul Bounce wrote that "The biggest surprise on this album is the bluesy interpretation of Bonnie Rait's country hit, 'I Can't Make You Love Me.' Starting with strong lyrics and a deep fried instrumental, the Boyz make this song their own with their unique flow providing good contrast to a familiar melodic line."[34] Los Angeles Theatre called it an "impassioned" performance.[35] On the charts, the song performed very modesty, reaching number 75 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[36]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2009) Position
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[36] 75

Adele version[edit]

"I Can't Make You Love Me"
Song by Adele from the album Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Recorded 22 September 2011
Genre Soul
Length 3:39
Label XL, Columbia, Sony Music

In 2011, English singer-songwriter Adele covered "I Can't Make You Love Me" for her first live album, "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" (2011). The song was acclaimed by music critics, who praised Adele's delivery and vocals. The song has charted on the UK Singles Chart, reaching the top-forty, although it was never released as a single.

Background and live performances[edit]

While receiving positive reviews from music critics, Adele's sophomore album, "21" became one of the most successful albums of the 2010s, being the biggest selling musical release for both 2011 and 2012 and entering the Guinness World Records. While promoting the album and its third single, "Set Fire to the Rain", Adele performed on the iTunes Festival London 2011. On the setlist, Adele performed tracks from "21" and a cover of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me". Before performing the track, Adele stated that it was one of her favorite songs and described it as "perfect in every way". She added that Bonnie Raitt has a "stunning voice" and went on to compliment the lyrics, calling them "mind-blowing".[37]

After the positive response of the iTunes Festival performance, Adele covered once again the track, during her first live album, "Live at the Royal Albert Hall", recorded on 22 September 2011. She further comment over the song, saying, "It blows me away" and further adding that she thought the song was "incredibly moving". Adele also commented on the emotions the song gives her, saying, "It makes me really, really happy and really, really devastated and depressed at the same time. It makes me think of my fondest and best times in my life, and it makes me think of the worst as well, and combined, probably is a recipe for disaster, but I do love this song. It's just fucking stunning."[38]

Critical reception[edit]

While reviewing her iTunes Festival performance, David Smyth of London Evening Standard wrote that Adele sang the song "with raw expressiveness."[39] Andrew Leahey of Allmusic wrote that the cover "made all the more tender by the rarely heard frailties in Adele’s voice."[40] Donald Gibson of Seattle Pi wrote that "she breathes new life into Bonnie Raitt's 'I Can't Make You Love Me,' with similar intimacy and conviction."[41]

While reviewing her Live at the Royal Albert Hall DVD, critics lauded Adele's rendition. Andy Gill of The Independent called it an "impassioned version,"[42] while Alex Young of Consequence of Sound named it "heartfelt and stunning."[43] Kit O'Toole of Blogcritics praised her rendition, writing that it "retains its heart-wrenching, devastating mood thanks to Adele’s multi-layered voice. Hearing her perform this song, one would imagine her as an older woman who has survived lifelong heartaches instead of a 23-year-old."[44] Maria Schurr of PopMatters lauded the covers (Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love") on the live album, naming "the most successful," writing that "both seem deeply heartfelt, like Adele understands, and is the only one who can make these words that are not hers ring true."[45] Chris Willman of The Wrap called it "a classic of unrequited love that you’d have to swear she wrote if Bonnie Raitt hadn’t turned it into the ultimate female weepie back when Adele was 2."[46]

Chart performance[edit]

Despite not being released as a single, "I Can't Make You Love Me" debuted at number 53 on the UK Singles Chart week of 30 September 2012.[47] It later peaked at number 37, on the following week, 6 October 2012,[48] becoming her eighth top-forty song and first non-single top-forty hit.

Chart (2011) Position
UK Singles Chart[48] 37

Priyanka Chopra version[edit]

"I Can't Make You Love Me"
Single by Priyanka Chopra
Released 22 April 2014 (2014-04-22)
Format Digital download
Genre
Length 3:38
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Manual "DJ Manian" Reuter
Priyanka Chopra singles chronology
  • "I Can't Make You Love Me"
  • (2014)

In 2014, Indian actress and recording artist Priyanka Chopra recorded a version of "I Can't Make You Love Me" for her upcoming debut studio album. Speaking about the song, Chopra said "This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It's my ode to a classic, a song that I love, and one that says so much – this is for the actor in me."[49] Chopra's version of the song incorporates electronic dance music (EDM) and electropop in its production,.[50][51] which comes courtesy of German producer Manuel "DJ Manian" Reuter. Andy Gensler from Billboard commented on how different Chopra's version was from the original by Raitt, saying that "Chopra's more uptempo take on the song is more likely to connect with a generation of ravers with no idea of the song's origin"[52] The up-tempo version was demoed by American singer-songwriter Ester Dean at the request of Interscope Records chairman Jimmy Iovine.[52]

It was released on 22 April 2014, by DesiHits, in association with 2101 Records and Interscope Records.[53][54] It is the third internationally released single following "In My City" (featuring will.i.am), which failed to achieve airplay in the United States,[55] and the more successful "Exotic". The latter, a collaboration with Cuban rapper Pitbull, reached number 11 on the US Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart.[56] In the United Kingdom, "I Can't Make You Love Me" serves as Chopra's debut single.[51]

Promotion and music video[edit]

Chopra's version of "I Can't Make You Love Me" will be used to promote Beats by Dre. In a press release, it was revealed that the song would be used in the "launch of a new campaign for the popular Beats Pill XL portable Bluetooth speaker. Chopra and her new track will be featured in the national ad campaign, which will run nationwide from May 1st through May 25th".[57]

An accompanying music video was filmed at Los Angeles in February 2014.[58] It was conceptualised and directed by duo Jeff Nicholas and Jonathan Craven of The Uprising Creative.[54] Actor Milo Ventimiglia plays Chopra's love interest and scenes include Chopra throwing coloured paint at Ventimiglia as part of celebrations for the Indian festival of Holi, as well as embraces between the couple and solo scenes with Chopra.[58] According to NDTV, the video charts a fictional relationship that "goes from loving to hellish".[59] Behind the scenes footage was released to Access Hollywood.[60] It premiered in New York on 30 April 2014.[50] Gensler noted that the video also contained product placement for Nokia and Beats by Dre speakers.[52]

Critical reception[edit]

CNN-IBN said, "The singer certainly sounds great, so much that it's almost unbelievable it is Priyanka Chopra. The number is definitely foot-tapping and you're going to be hearing this one at every restaurant and club in the days to come" and added that Chopra had "definitely done a great job recreating the Bonnie Ratt song".[61]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart
  • Peak
  • position
US Hot Dance/Electronic Songs (Billboard)[62] 28

Other versions[edit]

Mike Reid himself recorded the song on his 1992 album Twilight Town and taped a live version that appeared on Austin City Limits in 1993. Actress Maria Bello sings the song in the 2000 film Duets as a character with a past reminiscent of the song's story. "I Can't Make You Love Me" has also been recorded by a number of other artists, including Bon Iver, Will Downing, Prince, Kevin Mahogany, Bonnie Tyler, Mary Coughlan, Kenny Rogers, DJ Tomski, Nancy Wilson, Kimberley Locke, Patti LaBelle, Sophie Milman, Boyz II Men, Tank, Ester Dean, Venice, Nelson Rangell, Jimmy Sommers, Candy Dulfer, Nina Girado, Arnee Hidalgo, Sarah Bettens, Piotr Żaczek featuring Kuba Badach, Jill Johnson,[63] Heather Peace, Gina G, Paul Carrack, Kate Ceberano, Mathai, Kelly Clarkson, Cameron Mitchell, Ian Moss and Charlotte Jones, Adele, Ginny Blackmore &Stan Walker to name some.

It has become a popular selection for contestants in televised singing competitions such as American Idol, The Voice (U.S. TV series), Canadian Idol, Nashville Star, and Rock Star: INXS. This song was performed by Idol contestants Kimberley Locke in Season 2, Constantine Maroulis in Season 4, Amy Krebs in Season 6, and Allison Iraheta in Season 8; moreover, Season 4 Idol winner Carrie Underwood and Season 6 finalist Haley Scarnato sang this song during their initial auditions. The tune was taken on by Nashville Season 5 winner Angela Hacker and Canadian Idol season 3 contestant Amber Fleury, who also recorded it for the Canadian Idol: High Notes album. Contestant Stacey Solomon sang the song during Season 6 of The X Factor.[64] Dutch X Factor finalists Adlicious sang this song in the final X Campus show. The Voice of Holland season 2 winner Iris Kroes released the song as her first single in January 2012.[65] Hollie Cavanagh sang it with four contestants left on season eleven of American Idol. Luke Edgemon used the song for his Blind Audition on Season 4 of the Voice. Klarisse de Guzman performed the song during The Voice of the Philippines season 1's fourth Live Show.

Notes[edit]

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  61. ^ http://ibnlive.in.com/news/review-of-priyanka-chopras-latest-single-i-cant-make-you-love-me-foottapping-but-doesnt-pick-up/467260-79.html
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  65. ^ Iris Kroes uit Drachten wint 'The Voice', Leeuwarder Courant, 20 January 2012

External links[edit]