How Four Old Elton John Songs Became a New No. 1 Hit
His recent collaboration with fellow British pop singer Dua Lipa, "Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)," currently sits comfortably at No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart, making it John's 33rd Top 10 song of his career and his first No. 1 in 16 years.
"A lot of it is, of course, due to Dua Lipa's popularity and the brilliant PNAU remix, but I feel very, very content and happy that I'm relevant," John recently told Billboard, speaking to the song's success. "I've always tried to be relevant. I think a lot of that is due to my [Apple Music] show [Rocket Hour]. My object when I do that is to play new music by new artists. I've come into contact with them, promote[d] them and become friends."
It was John who reached out to Lipa once the pandemic lockdowns were put in place. He inquired after a potential remote collaboration and the result, "Cold Heart," which will appear on John's upcoming The Lockdown Sessions album, arrived not long after. "She’s given me so much energy," John said of Lipa in a press release. "She’s a truly wonderful artist, and person, absolutely bursting with creativity and ideas."
Watch the Video for Elton John and Dua Lipa's 'Cold Heart (PNAU) Remix'
But while "Cold Heart" may be a brand new hit for John, it leans on the tremendous success of his past. Incorporating elements from his 1989 ballad “Sacrifice,” the 1972 hit “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time),” 1983’s “Kiss the Bride” and 1976’s “Where’s the Shoorah?," John and Lipa, (along with Australian dance trio PNAU, who remixed the song), created not just a fresh hit single, but a flashback through John's illustrious career.
We're taking a look at the four songs that make some subtle, and some not-so-subtle, appearances in "Cold Heart."
Off the bat, John enters with lyrics from "Sacrifice," the second single from his 1989 album, Sleeping With the Past: "It's a human sign when things go wrong / When the scent of her lingers and temptation's strong." John's co-writer, Bernie Taupin, had expressed high hopes for the song. "Elton came up with a brilliant melody, and his performance on it gives it a lot of integrity and meaning," Taupin told Music Connection shortly before the track was released. "It's not a surface song, and I think you'll probably see that one in the coming months becoming a big, big hit."
It didn't quite work out that way. When the single was first released that October, it stalled and stuck at No. 55 on the U.K. charts — it wasn't until the following spring that the song received steadier airplay, resulting in a spot at No. 1 in June 1990.
2. "Rocket Man"
Lipa soon enters, singing lyrics from one of John's most memorable tracks, "Rocket Man." "And I think it's gonna be a long, long time 'til touchdown brings me 'round again to find / I'm not the man they think I am at home, oh no, no, no." Originally inspired by a short science fiction story, The Rocket Man by Rad Bradbury, John's song described a lonely spaceman, yearning to return to Earth where his family and friends await. Three years after the first American set foot on the moon, Taupin was envisioning a world in which extraterrestrial excursion would be as common as commuting to work in a car. "It was a pretty easy song to write the melody to," John said in 2016 of the track, "because it's a song about space, so it's quite a spacious song."
3. "Kiss the Bride"
"Cold Heart" only borrows a few short lines from 1983's "Kiss the Bride." "Well this is what I should have said," Lipa sings, "I thought it but I kept it hid." The song first appeared on John's 17th studio album, Too Low for Zero, a record that featured Taupin writing all the lyrics for the first time since 1976, as well as a return to John's core backing band members: Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone.
"All the songs, really, were written on synthesizer, which is a real first for me," John said of the album in 1983. The decision paid off. Too Low for Zero, which included the hit song "I'm Still Standing," became a comeback LP for John and his best selling album of the '80s.
4. "Where's the Shoorah?"
Towards the end of the track, "Cold Heart" includes one more cleverly hidden part of a John song, "Where's the Shoorah?" which was included on 1976's Blue Moves. In Hebrew, "shoorah" refers to a Biblical verse, so in the original song, the narrator's mother may be inquiring what verse her son and his girlfriend will read when they get married. "Shoorah" can also mean "council," so she could also be asking when the council will allow him to marry outside his religion. It is the song's gospel-style backing choir that is sampled in "Cold Heart."