Herb Alpert has always been known for his jazz covers taking some detours from their source material, but, even keeping that in mind, one would hardly expect to find elements of electropop in his repertoire. That’s exactly what we get, though, in his cover of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” first recorded and popularized by big band legend Glenn Miller in 1941. Jarring as the concept may seem, Alpert executes it brilliantly.
Bruce Springsteen is famous for many things, chief among which is the sheer epic-ness of his live shows with the E Street Band (and, now, new addition Tom Morello). “Epic” may be a massively overused word, but it applies to Bruce. One of the best things, especially for cover fans, is that he seems to love performing other artists’ music as much as his own. And that’s what has landed us with this latest news – the Boss adding the classic INXS single ”Don’t Change” to his live repertoire for the first time ever.
There are a number of ways that indie artists cover pop hits – most of them involve paring the song down and bringing in a piano or an acoustic guitar and resting on the laurels of simplicity and a powerful voice. What, then, is an artist to do with a song that’s already characterized by its sadness, by a slow and steady piano and an undefeatable voice, a song like Rihanna‘s “Stay”?
These days, it seems that you can’t have a discussion of Miley Cyrus without getting into her public persona – the twerking, the outfits, the drug references, Liam Hemsworth, and so on and so forth. If there’s any discussion of artistry, it’s from the perspective of performance art, of people wondering whether her antics are just a part of the brand she’s trying to sell. But the fact of the matter is that she’s mastered a degree of artistry beyond that, and the attention surrounding her persona only serves to add a layer of depth to any sincere performance she might give.
There are two distinct elements to the Twin Peaks theme song, elements that are difficult for any artist to balance and for any listener to approach. There’s the theme song as a theme song, as Angelo Badalamenti’s mellow, dreamlike instrumentals that play over shots of Northwestern industrialism and waterfalls as the opening credits roll. Alternately, there’s “Falling” – it’s the same song, but it becomes entirely different when Julee Cruise‘s vocals and David Lynch‘s lyrics are introduced. Understandably, most (if not all) covers of the song opt for the latter. And yet, the listener is still somehow presented with the two different versions. Sometimes, like with last year’s Field Mouse cover, we get covers that are evocative of the opening – covers where the vocals are as ethereal as the instrumentals and the whole thing flows together as one ambient whole.
There’s a certain quality to some pop songs that gives them this feel of being something else entirely. You can hear it in the sound, a sound bestowed with measured calm and enormous passion that gives the sense of the song being sung a million times before. You can hear it in the lyrics, veering toward the biblical but never going all the way there and always feeling like a product of their time rather than like something plucked from bygone centuries.
The second of this year’s A.V. Undercover bands to shy away from “No Diggity,” Thao & The Get Down Stay Down opted instead for what they considered the sexiest song on the list – “Need You Tonight” by INXS. They take on the song without irony, but also without an overt subscription to one decade’s style or another. Rather, they fantastically blend the fuzzy grittiness of today’s indie and indie-pop with the neon nightclub feel of the original. It’s a wonderful new entry to the series. Enjoy.