HomeLists10 Great Songs featured in the film ‘Diane Warren: Relentless’

10 Great Songs featured in the film ‘Diane Warren: Relentless’

Diane Warren is the songwriter behind countless chart hits and film soundtrack smashes, from DeBarge’s 1983 hit “Rhythm of the Night,” to 2022 Tik Tok sensation “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” recorded by Paloma Faith, to this year’s Academy Award-nominated “The Fire Inside,” from the film Flamin’ Hot, recorded by Becky G. Diane has won Emmys, Grammys, and Golden Globes, as well as an Academy Honorary award. 

A recent documentary film, Diane Warren: Relentless, directed by Bess Kargman, examines Diane’s life and work. It’s a remarkable film that ascribes the arc of Diane’s life, from her childhood in Van Nuys, CA, through her early success as a songwriter, and her eventual establishment of one of the most valuable publishing companies in the music industry.

The film features a number of her songs, that have been recorded by some of the top artists in the business, as well as the stories behind some of those songs. She’s written nine #1 songs and 33 top-10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100, and her compositions have been featured in more than 100 films. You can read our interview with director Bess Kargman (or watch it on our YouTube channel) at the end of this article, but first let’s take a look at ten of Diane’s songs that are included in the documentary.

“Rhythm of the Night” – DeBarge

1985
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #3

Released when she was 28 years old, “Rhythm of the Night” was Diane’s first big hit. Foreshadowing her future success writing for films, the song got a boost when it was featured on the soundtrack of the Motown film The Last Dragon. The single version eventually became DeBarge’s highest charting, not only reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but also climbing to #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and US adult contemporary charts. The party was just beginning for Diane.

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” – Starship

1986
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #1

Diane didn’t have to wait long to achieve her first #1. This song was also featured in a movie soundtrack, Mannequin, and recorded by the reconstituted remains of Jefferson Starship (which had been cobbled from the remains of Jefferson Airplane). Diane shared writing credit with Albert Hammond, and received her first of many Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song.

“If I Could Turn Back Time” – Cher

1989
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #3

Perhaps Diane isn’t a singer/songwriter for a reason. Her demo of this song turned Cher off so much that the pop legend initially refused to record it. Diane and Cher confirm in the documentary that Diane did indeed get down on her knees and beg Cher, holding her leg down in the studio. Eventually Cher acquiesced, saying something akin to, “Fuck you, bitch! You’re hurting my leg! OK, I’ll try it.” Diane also produced this track, along with Guy Roche.

“When I See You Smile” – Bad English

1989
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #1

Bad English is one of those bands that didn’t seem to warrant figuring out who the hell they were at the time. Former members of The Babys and Journey, by the tail end of the ’80s, was pretty tiresome. Diane by now had really honed her power ballad chops, and these guys were tailor-made to bring the power-chord energized tender sentimentality this song demands. They rode this ray of light to the top of the Billboard chart.

“Blame it on the Rain” – Milli Vanilli

1989
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #1

Frankly, the Milli Vanilli lip-synching scandal almost seems quaint these days, given the ever-advancing influence of artificial intelligence. Even back then the public didn’t seem to care, as much as we just moved on to the next pop confection, after we’d chewed the flavor out of Rob & Fab. But it was another #1 for Diane. The song was originally intended for family pop group The Jets, who had a string of top-10 hits in the late ’80s.

“Don’t Turn Around” – Ace of Bass

1994
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #4

Diane once again teamed with Albert Hammond for this reggae-tinged breakup/kiss off anthem. Once again, Diane nails the heartbreak of separation and spices it with defiance. Ace of Base resembled a ’90s version of ABBA, and was just as appealing. No less than legendary Stax Records house guitarist Steve Cropper was quoted in Guitar Player magazine, “This Ace of Base is killing me.” British reggae group Aswad had previously taken this song to #1 on the UK singles chart in 1988.

“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” – Aerosmith

1998
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #1

The documentary details how Diane was inspired by the way actor James Brolin spoke of his love for Barbra Streisand on a TV chat show. “I don’t want to fall asleep, cause I’ll miss you.” Despite all the success Aerosmith had in the ’70s and in their ’90s resurgence, the band had never notched a #1. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” was the theme song of the 1998 space disaster film Armageddon (which also starred Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv Tyler), and finally the venerable rockers rode this asteroid to the top of the charts.

“Un-Break My Heart” – Toni Braxton

1996
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #1

“Un-Break My Heart” is as poignant a ballad as they come. For someone who has largely stayed out of love’s treacherous snare, Diane’s emotionally resonant lyrics and melodies about heartbreak and longing rarely miss their mark. It became a massive hit for Braxton, winning her a Grammy. Braxton plays the song on piano in the documentary and expresses her gratitude to Diane.

“Because You Loved Me” – Celine Dion

1996
Billboard Hot 100 chart peak – #1

At a recent wedding of a good friend’s son, the kid and his mother danced to this tear-jerker. It seemed appropriate, since it’s explained in the documentary that Diane wrote the lyrics as a tribute to her father. Her mother never believed in her dreams of songwriting, thinking it more appropriate for a young woman to pursue a career as a secretary. Diane’s father never wavered in his support for her, even arranging meetings with music business people he knew to help get her started. Hollywood helped again, as this was the theme to the Robert Redford/Michelle Pfeiffer love story Up Close and Personal.

“Only Love Can Hurt Like This” – Paloma Faith

2014
UK Singles chart peak – #6 in 2014; #58 in 2022

With this soulful ballad, Diane once again delves deep into the intense pain of love and heartbreak. Recorded by British singer Paloma Faith, the song was a hit in UK and elsewhere, but failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. However, in 2022, the song went viral on social media platform TikTok. Paloma subsequently released a version of the song with a slower tempo, which also went viral on the platform.

BONUS TRACK ALERT!

“The Fire Inside” – Becky G

2023
did not chart on Billboard Hot 100

While “The Fire Inside” isn’t referenced in the film, it’s the latest example of Diane’s long string of Academy Award nominations without winning a competitive Oscar – 15 in all. Diane wrote “Fire Inside” for Mexican-American artist Becky G, and it was featured in Eva Longoria’s 2023 rags-to-riches film Flamin’ Hot. Diane lost this time to Billy Eilish’s “What Was I Made For” from the film Barbie.

 This is a very select list of some of Diane Warren’s most successful work. To be truly amazed, have a look to the Wikipedia entry of all the songs Diane has written over the course of her 40+ year career. She is one of the most prolific songwriters of our time, and has been ridiculously successful. And she’s learned her lessons and been smart about her career – she owns the rights to all her songs. She has indeed been relentless.

Learn more about Diane’s songwriting career on her publishing company’s website: realsongs.com

Read our SXSW premier interview with director Bess Kargman

SXSW Film Spotlight – ‘Diane Warren: Relentless’ director interview

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