May 112021

“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.

rush rush paula abdul covers

Despite topping the charts in 1991 – for five weeks, no less – Paula Abdul’s “Rush Rush” was not a song with legs. I myself had never even heard of it, being a couple years too young to be paying even peripheral attention to popular music at the time. It was named by music journalist Alfred Soto to his list of the “Worst Songs Ever,” but I’d say it’s less aggressively terrible than supremely unmemorable. Well, the song that is. The video, featuring floppy-haired Keanu Reeves, is something:

“Rush Rush” didn’t last long in the covers world either. It got a burst covers in its day, but now is mostly the province of a few YouTubers. But let’s take a look at what’s out there, and see if anyone can redeem this song!

Jake Conception appears to be the first artist to cover the song, which he turned around quickly in 1991. And if Paula’s “Rush Rush” isn’t one of the Worst Songs Ever, you know what is? This smooth-jazz sax cover. Woof.

“Rush Rush” got a couple translations at the time too, one into Portuguese by popular Brazilian singer Elaina and one into Chinese by Cantopop singer Cass Phang. Other than the lyrics, they don’t change much, keeping Abdul’s ’90s-lite-R&B production that now sounds extremely dated.

The next notable cover – and the first one I would say is pretty good – comes from Portland pop-punk band Sexton Blake. They included the song on their 2007 covers album Plays the Hits! They give it a rockier arrangement that has the feel of those Pop Goes Punk compilations, but a little more mellow. The production still sounds a little chintzy, but kudos to one of the only bands to try something different – and one of the only bands to even remember “Rush Rush” in the 21st century!

“Rush Rush” has longer legs in Asia. A number of the more recent covers come from Asian artists, including this pleasant acoustic version by Filipino duo MYMP, which apparently stands for Make Your Momma Proud. (Update: It was only after writing this that I discovered their Wikipedia includes a more recent section titled “Blackface Controversy.” So much for making your momma proud.)

I’ll skip most of the YouTuber covers, the rest of which are almost as shlocky as the original. The one that jumped out was Stringspace String Quartet‘s version. String quartet covers of pop songs have been done to death, but they deliver a pleasant spin on the formula, and kudos to them for finding a pop hit the prolific Vitamin String Quartet hasn’t tackled yet. The quartet version came out in 2017, then they doubled down just this February with a violin-and-guitar arrangement.

Finally, bluehaired Jamaican dancehall star Spice released her cover as a single in 2019. While it too doesn’t veery wildly far from the original, it updates the dated production for the modern era. If some Abdul-esque artist had a hit with this song in the 2010s, it likely would have sounded more like this.

Check out more “Covering the Hits” installments here.

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