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Trisha vs LeAnn: “How Do I Live” Turns 20

The inescapable 90s ballad ‘How Do I Live,’ theme song for Con Air, and Billboard’s #1 song of the decade, turns 20 this year. Both Trisha’s version and LeAnn’s version were released as singles on May 27th. The short story on how both versions came out is that songwriter Diane Warren was commissioned by Touchstone Pictures parent company Walt Disney Studios to write the song for the film Con Air (produced by Touchstone). She wrote it with LeAnn in mind to sing it. Disney didn’t like LeAnn’s more pop-tinged version, and felt she was too young, so behind everyone’s back, they took the song to Trisha, who cut her version. She didn’t know that LeAnn had already recorded one. Disney released Trisha’s in association with the movie, then LeAnn’s management released hers almost immediately.

But what is the better version? Let’s dive in…

Trisha’s Version

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Trisha’s is the official film version. It’s the one that got the Oscar nomination (though that goes to songwriter, not performer, but that’s neither here nor there). Now LeAnn was 14 when she cut her version, and we’ll get into what all that entails in her entry, but there’s a level of maturity to Trisha’s version that really drives the song home. In her voice, in her soaring vocals, you really get the sense that this is a woman who suffering from the absence of her one true love. Which is a pretty major theme in the film. Monica Potter gets her love, Nicolas Cage, back after he served as an Army Ranger, only to have him ripped away again due to the prison sentence. His one goal is to get back to his wife & daughter, whom he’s never met. Trisha’s take on the song is really evocative of that long lost love. She’s much more forlorn than LeAnn.

The emotion of the song aside, Trisha was able to ride the wave of the song to wins at the Grammys, CMAs and ACMs, and a performance at the Oscars. I think the song probably could have won had it not been for Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic.

LeAnn’s Version

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Yeah, maybe Trisha won the awards for it, but LeAnn had the staying power. Billboard (which bases rankings on sales) ranked it as the #1 song of the 1990s. It was ranked as the #4 song of all time. It spent a then record 19 weeks in the top five, 32 weeks in the top 10, and 69 weeks on the charts all together. It accomplished all this, yet never went #1. It had the misfortune of coming out at the tail end of ‘MMMBop’s’ dominance, and right before Puff Daddy’s tribute song to Notorious B.I.G. rose to the top. But it had that staying power.

And to Disney’s point that they felt she was too young for the subject matter of the song… they’re not wrong. But they’re not entirely right, either. Sure Trisha’s take on the song adds a certain depth to it that better fits the theme of the film, but LeAnn’s youth lends a hopeful, first love kind of vibe to it. There’s optimism in the immaturity (which in this case is not a bad word). It’s that different approach, that different sound, that makes it a slightly different song, even though they’re both singing the same words.

Brodie’s Final Decision

Trisha. All the way. Both are very good songs. Both stand on their own merits. Critically, commercially, and the actual quality of the songs. But unfortunately for LeAnn, there’s still that maturity factor. Trisha hits the right emotional notes to pack the appropriate punch. So Trisha has the edge.

Do you agree? Vote in the poll.

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