Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
The White Stripes made their major-label debut in 2003 with Elephant, garnering universal critical acclaim (evidenced by its rating of 92 on Metacritic). Opening track “Seven Nation Army” proved wildly popular, its ubiquitous guitar riff quickly becoming one of the most recognizable on the airwaves. Gearhead note: Priding themselves on his bass-less band, Jack White ran his guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave.
As if having an instantly recognizable riff weren’t enough, the music video for “Seven Nation Army,” featuring a kaleidoscopic journey through red, white, and black triangles that would entrance anyone on drugs, became just as memorable. Perhaps because of the riff, perhaps because of the allure of its paranoid and rebellious nature, or perhaps because of the video, this song continues to tempt cover-makers almost a decade after the original’s debut. Here are five of the best versions:
1. Ben l’Oncle Soul, a French soul singer, has revamped the song with retro Motown sound. Oncle Ben’s honey-smooth voice is a sharp contrast to White’s ragged falsettos, and the original’s heavy, methodic guitar has morphed into a syncopated, cheerful riff. This seven nation army drinks piña coladas and gets plenty of sun.
2. While performing a social experiment of the effects of black eyeliner in conjunction with a White Stripes cover (seriously, that’s the YouTube description), Nataly Dawn brings spatula/wine bottle percussion to this ‘00s classic. If gimmicks like this don’t capture your attention, her wistful, non-confrontational take on the song ought to.
3. Jazzy isn’t the first word that “Seven Nation Army” brings to mind. Pissed-off, maybe, but not smooth, cool jazz. YouTube-alias Chewwinggum, however, brings nothing but J.A.Z.Z. to the tune. Her slinky voice is aural seduction – which seems kind of messed up when you consider the fact that she’s singing stuff like “And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding right before the Lord.”
4. The French really seem to have a thing for this song, because this next cover comes from the Île de France-based folk band NaoSol. With a tribal drum sound and laid-back acoustic guitars, they transform Jack White’s power chords into something almost reminiscent of Rodrigo y Gabriella.
5. The biggest pull here is the way Swedish band Trunk incorporates the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish stringed instrument (look for it in the video: it’s being played by the guy who looks like Rasputin). Strangely enough, instead of adding a folksy flair, the way most traditional ethnic instruments do, the nyckelharpa pushes the cover into the realm of psychedelic rock. Or maybe that vibe comes from the totally awesome beards.
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