Jul 222019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

OutKast played a major role in putting hip-hop from the South on the map. The duo, made up of ATLiens André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, have won numerous awards, including multiple American Music Awards and Grammys. Before Speakerboxxx/The Love Below brought us “Hey Ya!,” Stankonia brought us “Ms. Jackson.” OutKast’s first single from Stankonia was “B.O.B.”, which didn’t get as much attention as anticipated due to its controversial subject matter. “Ms. Jackson” was the second single, and that was the one that propelled the album, winning the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. 

The idea for the song came from Benjamin’s experience with Erykah Badu (his baby’s mama) and her mother (his baby mama’s mama). Although the song is upbeat, with a catchy chorus and fast rap lines, it tells a rather sad story, not unlike the later “Hey Ya!”

In my search for the top “Ms. Jackson” covers, I looked for a particular trifecta:

  1. a strong start with “this one right here goes out to all the baby’s mamas’, mamas,”
  2. a powerful stress on the “ooh”s after “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson,” and
  3. the delivery of the crucial line: “forever, forever, ever, forever, ever?”

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Jul 032019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

With its distinctive mandolin intro, “Losing My Relgion” is arguably R.E.M.’s most instantly recognizable song, certainly the most recognizable ahead of needing the never-more-idiosyncratic vocal of Michael Stipe to nail the ID-ing. It’s also their most successful, marking the band’s only visit into the hallowed Top Five of Billboard‘s Hot 100. My only disappointment with the song is that I find I cannot frame a Five Good Covers piece around it.

Oh, it has certainly been covered enough – upward of 77 chronicled in the covers bible, Second Hand Songs – but sadly, tragically even, most are poor anodyne recreations of the original, to my mind lacking the charisma and charm that make the original by these four Athenians such an iconic piece of work. And then there are a few that try to imbue a whole different ambience, failing pyrrhically in the process. (Yes, that’s you, Rozalla.) Throat singing death metal, anyone? Gregorian chant?

But here are three that take some liberties, yet manage to add rather than subtract from the joy inherent in the melody.
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May 282019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Although Paul Simon embarked on his farewell tour last year, we haven’t seen the last of him. Simon announced that he will be playing Outside Lands Fest in San Francisco at the end of the summer, donating the proceeds to an environmental charity. Perhaps we can hope for a few more appearances at benefit concerts in the future.

Throughout his musical career, solo Simon and the duo-ed Simon with partner Art Garfunkel have had many popular hits that have inspired a wide range of covers. Despite sixteen Grammys, two spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Simon, Simon & Garfunkel), and many other accolades, Simon surprisingly only had a single number one Billboard hit on his own: “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” The album by the same name was nominated for record of the year but ironically did not contribute to his Grammy count.

“Don’t need to discuss much,” these three covers pay respectful homage to Paul Simon while contributing their own style to the song.
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May 212019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Let Go

Frou Frou is officially back! After a fifteen-year hiatus, we can look forward to new music and a tour from Imogen Heap and Guy Sigsworth. And although true fans may prefer some deeper cuts, we are all united by the nostalgia triggered by the distinctive opening bars of their most popular song, “Let Go.” Whether the song takes you back to the ending scene of Garden State, or you experience it anew in Wiz Khalifa’s “In the Cut,” Frou Frou’s “Let Go” speaks to the overworked, the overwhelmed, and the overcautious.

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Jan 252019
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

This is the year Roxy Music finally gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Babies have been born since they were first eligible who are now old enough to legally drink. Would that they were also being introduced to the stylings of Bryan Ferry and company, who married prog and glam and were New Romantic before New Romantic existed. How is it possible that a band had to get rid of Brian Eno because he was holding them back?

Eno was more than gracious about that – he’s declared Stranded, the first Roxy Music album without him, to be his favorite. His taste proves impeccable once again – Stranded has a (UK) hit single in “Street Life,” a perfect ode to heartbreak in “A Song for Europe,” and one of the greatest centerpieces of all ’70s rock albums, “Mother of Pearl.”
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Jul 202018
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

There was nothing that preceded it. I didn’t have those words. I didn’t have that melody. And I was playing chords and all of a sudden, I sang that. And I couldn’t believe it. I was dumbstruck…. I have no idea where that came from. It was far about the level I was writing at the time…. I was sort of conscious that it was a gift. And I was very emotionally moved by it.

Paul Simon knew he had something special when he wrote the first two verses of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Since Simon wrote the song in a higher key than he was used to singing, he also knew the song was meant for one man and one man only to sing. Art Garfunkel demurred at first (“You have a nice falsetto, Paul, why don’t you sing it?”), out of a giving spirit more than anything else; it didn’t take long for Simon to talk him into it. The song needed a third verse in order to properly build up (Simon whipped one up in the studio), and it took seventy-two takes to record, but “Bridge” came together beautifully. Simon may have felt that Garfunkel’s gospel touch was “more Methodist than Baptist,” but Clive Davis, head of Columbia, knew what they had immediately. Even at a longish (for a single) five minutes, he announced that it would be the first single, first track, and title song of their next record.

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