Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Michael Jackson’s sixth solo album Thriller exploded onto the music scene in 1983. A year later, he released “Beat It” as the album’s third single and won two Grammys. As of September 2010, “Beat it” has been downloaded over 1.6 million times. The music video is just as iconic as the song; there is no other instance where a knife fight between tough gang leaders could devolve into synchronized arm flaps/pelvic thrusts and still be taken seriously.
While Michael’s death last year sparked a flurry of YouTube tributes to the King of Pop, “Beat it” has generated a wide range of interpretations ever since its debut. Ranking #337 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, its popularity has inspired artists worldwide, from off-key amateurs to Fall Out Boy (ft. John Mayer, no less). Here are five of the best.
1. We start with California indie jazz/indie rock band Pomplamoose. Multi-instrumentalists Natalie Dawn and Jack Conte have created a version that sounds like Feist and Regina Spektor getting together and making a Michael Jackson baby:
2. Doing a complete 180 from Pomplamoose, Greek melodic death metal band Inactive Messiah turns “Beat it” gothic by using an orchestra, a choir, and ripping power chords:
3. Igor Presnyakov, a Moscow-born inhabitant of the Netherlands, arranges an instrumental acoustic version. It’s the perfect mix of classy and Jacko (not that crotch grabbing can’t be classy):
4. Naturally, there have been quite a few live covers of Michael’s songs, especially immediately following his death. “Beat it” offers loads to choose from, but Bruno Mars’ take is particularly good. He rocks a pretty mean reggae-fied version and almost manages to pull off the trademark Michael Jackson falsetto:
5. Sean Watmore (known as coconuttoes on YouTube) strums a folksy rendition of the classic. It’s not just another tribute that acousti-fies the electronic instruments and Michael Jackson’s voice. Watmore gives the melody and tempo enough of a twist that the super-danceable tune is transformed into a low-key, wistful lullaby:
Bonus. Chinese internet video director Hu Ge worked a Chinese cover into his 2007 film 007 vs. Man in Black. I have no idea if the translation is accurate, but I don’t think it really matters. The dancing is awesome (in an Asian-Gangsta-meets-Bob-Fosse way):
Want more Five Good Covers? Check out previous installments here.