Jun 262013

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Hard to believe, but almost ten years have passed since Kelis released her biggest hit, “Milkshake.” Harder still to believe, it didn’t peak on the charts until December of 2003 – it seems like the quintessential summer song, full of the life and braggadocio of youth who’ve got it and know how to flaunt it.

Memorable as the music and Kelis’s vocal are, it’s that opening line that drives its hook the deepest into your brain. Odds are quite good that nobody had ever spoken the words “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” in that order before, and the sheer strangeness of that boast made a distinct impression on all who heard it. It’s the sort of line that can be adapted by any musician into any genre and still make an impact. Some may choose to mock (we’re looking at you, Richard Cheese), but more are inclined to turn the song toward their own means, and the results tend to turn out to be just as head-swerving as Kelis’s. See for yourself…

Sane – Milkshake (Kelis cover)

Sane is a Croatian band that went on Rockethub to get funds to record an all-cover album. “We’d like to go to Berlin and make a base there for playing and recording,” they told potential contributors. “Yeah, this description sounds a bit dull, but it’s just one of those days.” They further promised to use any pledges above and beyond what they requested to pay back the money they borrowed for the van, fix the broken van they borrowed money for, and get really drunk upon the album’s completion. Just over $3,000 later, they released Do Not Cover. “Milkshake” is just one example of what listeners’ money went toward.

Alyson Greenfield – Milkshake (Kelis cover)

Ever wondered what songs like “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Gangsta’s Paradise” might sound like if Tori Amos sang them with a less self-consciously pretty voice? Well, wonder no more – Alyson Greenfield’s Rock Out With Your Glockenspiel Out EP gives the piano ‘n’/or glock treatment to five songs, and if it’s too short, it’s easy enough to play more than once. In her hands, “Milkshake” (Kriss-Krossed with “Jump”) is light and fun in a whole different way than it is in Kelis’s.

Tricity Vogue – Milkshake (Kelis cover)

Tricity Vogue and her ukulele take “Milkshake” back to a time it would have naturally thrived – Prohibition. The scratchy-78 sound gives the song a twenties vibe that makes milkshakes sound like a viable alternative to bathtub gin.

The Pictures – Milkshake (Kelis cover)

The Pictures give “Milkshake” a high-energy alterna-folk turn, romping across both the fields of high grass and the asphalt that divides them. One can imagine this being a big hit on Summerisle, with Edward Woodward puzzling over its meaning as the natives dance themselves into a sexual frenzy.

Buddy – Milkshake (Kelis cover)

Richard Lewis has a line from his standup comedy days: “My grandfather used to make home movies and edit out the joy.” That’s what Buddy do in their cover of “Milkshake,” but with nothing like the negative connotations of Lewis’s joke. What’s left in this cover are the mystery, the elusiveness of the unattainable – all of the wanting, none of the having. There are no easy, ironic laughs here – one way of revealing that the song never had any in the first place.

We could teach you the original version of Kelis’s “Milkshake,” but iTunes and Amazon will have to charge.

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