PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Singer Natalie Weiss, of "Breaking Down the Riffs," Shares Her "Riff List"

By Michael Gioia
October 30, 2013

Natalie Weiss, who is known for her various YouTube performances and her web series "Breaking Down the Riffs," will make her 54 Below debut Nov. 1. In anticipation of her upcoming concert, Weiss shares her "Riff List" as part of Playbill.com's Playbill Playlist



The 11 PM concert promises "brand-new arrangements of pop favorites, highlights from her EP and maybe even an interactive 'Breaking Down The Riffs' segment."

Weiss, who has been seen on Broadway in Everyday Rapture and recently completed a two-and-a-half year run in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Misérables, has also been seen in the national tour of Wicked and Season Four of Fox's "American Idol."

The singer-actress, who breaks down various vocal embellishments (or riffs) note by note on her popular YouTube web series, picked her favorite "riff-tastic songs" as part of this week's Playbill Playlist and told us why they made her list. 

54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. For more information and tickets, visit 54Below.com.

"Big White Room" (Jessie J). In 2009, I used to have the video of Jessie J singing "Big White Room" in her bathroom on REPEAT. I had NEVER heard a voice like that before. Such agility. Such an amazing tone. An amazing moment for me was when I saw her private industry showcase in NYC before she was really big in the U.S. I screamed out "BIG WHITE ROOM!" because I wanted her to sing it. She looked at me and said (in her heavy British accent), "Didn't you cover 'Big White Room' on YouTube? This girl's got more hits than me!" I DIED. She's the coolest.

"One Sweet Day" (Mariah Carey featuring Boyz II Men). This is one of those songs that you REMEMBER exactly where you were when you first heard it. I was at my grandma's house in Florida in 5th grade. I used to go around imitating Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey. It's definitely one of my favorite songs of all time.

"When I Saw You" (off of Mariah Carey's "Daydream" album). My friend and I were on a road trip a few years ago, and it came on shuffle. We were dying laughing over the fact that both of us could sing every single riff, note for note, just like Mariah. We hadn't even heard the song in 10 years! I guess riffs just come back to you!

"Weak" (Jojo). First of all, my JAM was the original version by SWV back in third grade. I used to go around the house singing it and my mom would say, "Okay, Natalie, that's enough..." HA. Jojo's voice is a mystery to me. It just moves so fast!

"God Is Able" and "Nothing Without You" (Smokie Norful). When searching for riffs to breakdown on "BDTR," I used Smokie Norful's "famous" riff in "God Is Able" (Episode 6 of "BDTR"), but another song that was FULL of them was the song "Nothing Without You." I literally have eight riffs cut, ready to be to be broken down, on my iTunes playlist from THIS song alone. He is truly a force to be reckoned with.

"Home" (Jazmine Sullivan's version from The Wiz at age 11). There were so many amazing ones in this version that I had to break down 3 different riffs in a "BDTR" episode ("BDTR" Episode 3)! I cannot believe that she was only 11 here. WHAT????

"Ain't No Way" (Brian McKnight and Shoshana Bean at the Lady of Soul Awards '05). TWO RIFF GODS singing together = HEAVEN.

"God Bless the Child" (Katharine McPhee). I think this is my favorite "American Idol" audition of ALL time. It is PERFECTION.

"Call Me Maybe" (Scott Hoying and Luke Edgemon featuring Kevin Olusola). Two SICK riffers in one video: Scott Hoying is in the Pentatonix; Luke Edgemon and I met while doing "The Voice." Kevin is the SICK cello/beatboxer also from the Pentatonix. Some of the riffs they come up with absolutely BLOW MY MIND.

"PYT" (Tori Kelly). I've been following Tori Kelly since she was on "America's Most Talented Kid." I'm so happy she's finally making it big! I broke down the riff at 2:22 on Episode 8 of "BDTR." She's so sick!