Friday Playlist: Natalie Joy Johnson Shares the Most Epic, Influential Songs Ahead of Her The NJJ 40th Birthday Extravaganza Concert

Last updated May 11th, 2018 by Natalie Joy Johnson
Friday Playlist: Natalie Joy Johnson Shares the Most Epic, …

Vocal powerhouse Natalie Joy Johnson celebrates her 40th birthday and her Green Room 42 Debut in The NJJ 40th Birthday Extravaganza

on Thursday, May 24. Natalie currently tears it up in the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots, she was in the OBC of Legally Blonde and the original off-Broadway cast of bare, and made a memorable appearance in HBO’s High Maintenance.

In advance of the one-night-only concert event, Natalie curated a Friday Playlist of 20 songs that really shaped who she is at 40. Turn the volume up and get ready to sing along loudly and shamelessly.

Natalie, being the icon she is, annotated her playlist for ya. Scroll on to take the song by song journey with NJJ.

1. CURIOSITY - THE JETS: Let’s go ahead and start at the very beginning. My cousin Melissa (who is also turning 40 this year) and I grew up together. We went to the same school, we took the same dance together (ballet, tap and acrobatics—God bless, what good it’s done me now), and we spent the summers playing outside, swimming, playing Double Dare in the backyard and making up all sorts of routines and dances and fantasy worlds together. Of the COUNTLESS songs that we grew up together with, this one is a particular favorite. We had a whole 1980’s MTV music video playing out in our heads when we performed this one in her basement.

2. LAURA BRANIGAN - GLORIA: I am gently obsessed with '80s tunes and sang this song at my Legally Blonde audition when they asked me for more material. I mentioned this one, and Jerry Mitchell said, “That song changed my life”. It proved to change mine as well! Thank you Broadway debut!

3. ELECTRIC YOUTH - DEBBIE GIBSON: Debbie Gibson’s fist album, Out of the Blue gave me all of the fierce— “I am 15 and have written a million songs by myself and am so talented and am a big star and you can be too” vibes that I wanted! I got a black wide-brimmed hat so that I could dance and sing along to all my Debbie dreams in the basement. That whole album lives so deeply in my heart—but when celebrating my 40th, "Electric Youth" simply seems like the right choice. ALSO— when Deborah came backstage to say hi to Orfeh after a performance of Legally Blonde: The Musical on Broadway, I died when I got to meet her after the show. Thanks, Orfeh!!

4. I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY - WHITNEY HOUSTON: As a little girl who just loved to sing, there was no resisting singing along with Whitney Houston. I remember having a “You Learn The Hits” piano book that really allowed me to bring the story of "Saving All My Love For You" to life as a 9-year-old. And, although I love that song and its tale of no regrets adultery, "I Wanna Dance" was one that I was desperate to master. That “don’t you wanna dance, say you wanna dance, don’t you wanna dance” moment is just so exciting! And so fast! And don’t miss out on Kevin Smith Kirkwood’s Classic Whitney: Alive! later this summer at Joe’s Pub!!!

5. DIRTY DANCING SOUNDTRACK - SHE’S LIKE THE WIND: As any good private school children would be, my cousin and I and our two best girlfriends were OBSESSED with the huge 1987 film classic, Dirty Dancing. I think our connection to the film was less about it’s commentary on class, sexuality, and abortion and more about the dancing (we practiced the lift in the pool constantly), amazing soundtrack (it gave me that perfect bridge between classic pop and current artists), and undeniable sexual chemistry between Baby (played by the perfect Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (played by the even more perfect Patrick Swayze). Okay…maybe the sexuality had something to do with it. But so did that dancing! And so did that Patrick Swayze! If I can only choose one song from the DOUBLE DISC that was the full release (!) of this classic film’s soundtrack, then I have to pick the one recorded by Johnny Castle himself.

6. LOCOMOTION - KYLIE MINOGUE: Before Kylie was THE KYLIE that we all know and love now, she was living this dream back in 1988. This was one of the first CDs we had in our house (thank you, Dad!), and it hit such a sweet spot for me. I have always loved oldies tunes (cause that’s what we listened to in Dad’s car), so this gave me that sweet cover satisfaction, with the new and fun '80s synths vibe on it. This was MY JAM on the roller rink, and I distinctly remember crying when I fell skating to this song at Sportsman’s Hall.

7. FOREVER YOUR GIRL - PAULA ABDUL: Again, it seems impossible to pick just one song from this tape. That is correct—this CASSETTE TAPE! This tape gave me SO MUCH LIFE!! And it gave the world so many hits—"Straight Up", "Cold Hearted" (snake, oh, look into his eyes…), "Opposites Attract" (featuring MC Scat Cat and Paula in a fabulous cartoon/live action video moment). But if I can only choose one, we have to go with the title song, the one that splashed Paula onto the scene, "Forever Your Girl."

8. HOLD ON - WILSON PHILLIPS: My cousin Melissa and I recorded this in one of those “Sing Like A Star” recording booths in Ocean City, MD. I was really feeling myself during the recording, and when we got to listen to the final product, it was clear that I had a lot to learn about signing in “cans”. It was tragic, and my particular take on the lyric— “Don’t ever let anyone step all over you” will forever haunt me. Nevertheless, I love this song so much.

9. DOES HE LOVE YOU - REBA McENTIRE & LINDA DAVIS: My first job was in my aunt’s hair salon, and there was a sweet spot between like, 1992-1994 when the salon made the switch from listening to the top 40 station on the radio to country station. I enjoyed all of the ladies of the day—Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, Lorrie Morgan. But this song—written by Billy Stritch!!!!!—featuring Reba in all of her fierce velvety twang, is the standout of that time for me. And if you’ve never seen the video for this one—do yourself a favor. You WILL NOT be disappointed. Incidentally, I got a karaoke machine for Christmas around this time. Somewhere, there exists a tape of me singing BOTH parts of this duet, along with all four parts of Tradition from Fiddler on the Roof.

10. LITTLE GIRLS - ANNIE: I got my first taste of musicals in middle school. I had sung in Christmas pageants and concerts at school and church, but in seventh grade I got cast as Miss Hannigan in our review of Annie. This was the moment when my mother was like, “Oh! Natalie might be good at this!”. 12 years old, playing an older drunken floozy…my life as a character actress began there, in the cafetorium of Ascension Church and School.

11. THE GLORY OF LOVE - BETTE MIDLER: Obviously, we loved this movie, even though it made me sob every single time I watched it. I particularly loved the Miyam Bialik moments at the top, and was obsessed with her up tempo version of this song. But when I finally started taking singing lessons and saw this as an option, we went full Bette ballad style.

12. HELLO, DOLLY! - RIBBONS DOWN MY BACK - KATE BALDWIN: I played Dolly Levi my senior of high school. And although I got to sing so many great songs, "Ribbons" haunted me for years. Such a gorgeous song! And then when I saw Kate Baldwin serve it with her perfect tone and sassy sexy Irene—I fell in love all over again.

13. SUNDAY IN THE PARK - WE DO NOT BELONG TOGETHER - ANNALEIGH ASHFORD & JAKE GYLLENHALL: SUNDAY was the first Sondheim show I ever did, my freshman year in college. The moment where George takes off the little girl’s glasses always struck me as a testament to Sondheim’s creative genius. But, "We Do Not Belong Together" took me over the edge. It’s so deep, so beautiful, so sad and it is one of my all time favorites. And to have a recording of one of my favorite humans singing it (Annaleigh, duh!) is simply too much.

14. RENT - TAKE ME OR LEAVE ME: RENT came out during college, and changed us all. I saw the original cast and we slept out in the cold on 41st street for tickets. I always loved and wanted to play Maureen—and this duet is just the tits.

15. ELLA FITZGERALD - SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE: I branched out listening to jazz in college when I found a fun Great Ladies of Jazz compilation cd on sale at Best Buy. Ella was obviously represented and I looked for more of her music. I found the Sunshine of Your Love album and recognized the song title from years of oldies with my dad, and had to hear it. This album, and his particular track is one of my all time faves. The horns and the arrangement, as well as Ella’s mad vocals are out of control!!!!

16. STRIPPED - WALK AWAY - CHRISTINA AGUILERA: Top five desert island albums of all time for sure. One of the absolute best. I was OBSESSED with this cd—back when you took a discman on the train and had to listen to the entire album. This particular song holds a special place—as it was the first sing I sang at Joe’s Pub for the “Bare’s Back” concert.

17. BONNIE RAITT -I CAN’T MAKE YOU LOVE ME: Always a classic, from childhood even —I would sing this at auditions and when I worked at Ellen's Stardust Diner.

18. GUESS WHO I SAW TODAY - NANCY WILSON: Thank God I finally found Nancy Wilson!! She is simply, EVERYTHING. Her voice, her storytelling, her humor, her sexuality—it is all live and on display. What she can do with a whisper or singing through a consonant just brings me so much life. And this song— this to me is the epitome of her fierceness. That, and her band is pretty amazing too.

19. ABBEY ROAD - THE END - THE BEATLES:Fave Beatles album and this song just says it all. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.