A few years ago I attended a musical variety show with bunch of artists playing a few songs apiece. Eric Bazilian, frontman for ’80s new-wave band The Hooters, played a couple Hooters hits for his set before closing with a surprise cover: Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” (as in, “What if God was…”). His version was revelatory, loud and rocking and fun, a far cry from the self-serious lite-FM ballad that dominated airwaves in the mid-’90s. It totally reinvented the song, doing everything a great cover should.
I only learned later that it was not, in fact, a cover. Bazilian in fact wrote the song for Osborne, never properly releasing it himself. But his version made me reappraise a song I had grown to hate through overexposure (no knock on Joan, a talented song-interpreter on several terrific soul-covers albums who gets unfairly tarred by the “one-hit wonder” brush).
Julien Baker’s cover might also make you reappraise the song, though from the opposite direction. Where Bazilian amped “One of Us” way up, Baker strips it way down. She reportedly only performed it after a $50 bet from a fan who dared her to – which makes for a hilarious backstory, but not necessarily a good cover. But against all odds it is good, as slow, quiet, haunting as Baker’s own music.
Watch it below, with Baker accompanied by Adam Torres on guitar and harmonies. Then, for good measure, a more energetic Eric Bazilian performance of the song.
Check out more Julien Baker at Bandcamp.