While promoting his latest album, A New Testament, Christopher Owens recorded an in-studio session for the University of Minnesota college station Radio K. During the session, the former Girls frontman pulled out a sentimental and stunning cover of Jackson 5‘s “I’ll Be There.”
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“I Want You Back” was such a perfectly written song it would have been a hit no matter who did it first (Gladys Knight & the Pips were early candidates, as was Diana Ross), but the world lucked out by discovering it through the Jackson 5. Michael Jackson, still a couple years away from his teens, delivered a vocal Dave Marsh called “just beyond belief, nuanced and knowing but at the same time, young and innocent.” Backed by a musical track that combined the sounds of Motown and Sly & the Family Stone with a double dose of sunshine, Michael and his brothers were never going to miss the target, but who knew their arrow would embed itself so deeply in the bull’s-eye?
Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.
In “Hold on to Sixteen,” New Directions and their rival glee club the TroubleTones compete in the Sectionals competition. Meanwhile, Quinn (Dianna Agron) plots to get Shelby (Idina Menzel) fired and an old friend returns to McKinley High.
Just last week I was thinking about how, in the future, we’ll be able to look back and pinpoint lackluster Glee episodes with an alarming degree of certainty based solely on the presence of Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet), a character who appeared only in season two, which seems generally agreed-upon as the worst of Glee‘s output to date. It should be no surprise, then, that when Sam returns to the show this week he brings with him a very season two-styled episode that feels the need to rush through a whirlwind of plot points without really doing justice to any of them. Even though “Hold on to Sixteen” is one of those special “competition” episodes that brings plots to their culmination by design, everything about it feels so hurried that nothing really has a chance to land – it’s 20 minutes of plot, then 20 minutes of performances, then a tacked-on happy ending. Honestly, I did not enjoy it.
At last weekend’s Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil R&B sensation Janelle Monáe and her band launched through the Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back,” honoring the late Michael Jackson. While Monae usually sticks to her funky, sci-fi influenced prog-pop style, she also unarguably possesses one of the most impressive voices in pop today, giving her the freedom to cover some of the most challenging and beloved songs in the rock songbook.
Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
The Civil Wars have made a reputation for themselves as great live performers. The duo, Joy Williams and John Paul White, inaugurated the band by recording their second show ever. They released it as a free album, Live at Eddie’s Attic, which has become a grassroots success with over 100,000 downloads. So it’s no surprise that they’ve done a series of standout live covers since they formed in 2008. Williams says, “We happen to have a great affection for covers…we sort of noodle around trying to find which song sings back to us in the midst of trying to cover a song.”
Jackson 5 covers were so Summer 2009. When Sun Kil Moon (aka. Mark Kozelek aka. Red House Painters) releases his take though, all Michael Jackson oversaturation goes out the window. We already know the man’s cover skills are without parallel. His 2005 album tenderly reinterpreting Modest Mouse songs as mournful ballads is a must-buy.
Sun Kil Moon released Admiral Fell Promises in July. Now it comes with a bonus disc: the I’ll Be There EP. Along with the Jackson 5 title track, it includes versions of Stereolab’s “Tomorrow” and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s “Natural Light.” We’ve got the M.J. & co. tune below. Like everything he does, it’s a heartbreakingly beautiful downer.