Nov 202020

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

4 Non Blondes covers

4 Non Blondes were fine with not fitting in. They even named their group after a pointed run in with a blonde family in San Francisco that made that fact very clear. Although they only made one album and disbanded after five years, the group made a splash while they were together. They were particularly influential in the LGBTQ+ community, getting their start in various bars throughout San Francisco. Since the breakup, lead singer Linda Perry and guitarist Shaunna Hall have written and produced with other artists, and drummer Wanda Day continued to drum in other bands until an accident made it too difficult to continue playing.

Their second single, “What’s Up?” was a success all over the world, reaching higher spots on the charts outside of the US than even inside. And although it may be considered a one-hit wonder, the song is one that remains relevant when you are just feeling a bit run down. Some may call it a pre-chorus, I just call it my daily routine.

Here we have five covers of “What’s Up?” trying all the time to live up to the original. All of the covers begin with a different instrument leading the way. I dare you not to sing along.

Jil is Lucky — What’s Up (4 Non Blondes cover)

A ukulele takes over the intro, but the earnestness in the strums is still there. Once this cover gets going, it’s a little less lackadaisical in tempo; this version really moves. The harmony in the “hey”s gives us a “we’re all in this together” vibe. Sure, no one knows what’s going on, but there is a chipper break down of “ooh”s before the final push towards the ending that raises our spirits anyway.

Love Raptor — What’s Up (4 Non Blondes cover)

This time we get a driving bass line kicking us off and maintaining the funk that this cover promises. Matching that vibe, the chorus delivery ends up asking “what’s going on” in a more “how you doin” way. And even if “What’s Up?” was never really your jam, there is still a guitar solo to groove to.

P!nk — What’s Up (4 Non Blondes cover)

P!nk’s live cover stays true to the original instrumentation with assertive guitar strumming. Her version leans heavier on the deeper vocals rather than hinging on the higher parts of the song. There’s nothing like hearing the crowd sing the chorus to make you miss the concert experience, and the back and forth between P!nk and the crowd is how I picture the perfect karaoke set going post-pandemic.

Lady Gaga — What’s Up (4 Non Blondes cover)

P!nk is not the only mainstream powerhouse to take on this cover live. Lady Gaga takes a different approach, though. A very “piano man” piano intro starts us off, then a guitar joins in as requested. Lady Gaga then really commits. She provides killer emphasis to really push this song’s protest-anthem elements. This version of the song is certainly an emotional roller coaster with both rock and roll buildup and  tired, resigned moments. Gaga gets many a second wind before the ending, building up and scaling back multiple times before closing in calm.

Unwoman — What’s Up (4 Non Blondes cover)

We’ll close with Unwoman, who starts off with the sparsest of plucks but then raises you a full orchestra. This cover is full of contrast. The discrete plucks give way to short, choppier string strokes that balance the smoother string accompaniments. Tremolo then contrasts the smoother vocals in the powerful aforementioned pre-chorus. Yes, the vocals are almost overshadowed by the big string sound at times, but maybe that sound is that infamous “big hill of hope”?

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  4 Responses to “Five Good Covers: “What’s Up” (4 Non Blondes)”

Comments (4)
  1. Honorable mention should go to Slackcircus’ “Fabulous Secret Powers” as it’s entirely possible that’s the version most people these days are familiar with.

  2. Here’s the greatest cover of “What’s Up?”. Trust me, I’m a cover expert.

  3. I would also recommend Soap & Skin’s rendition

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