A few years ago we wrote about how “Bette Davis Eyes” was not originally a Kim Carnes song but actually a Jackie DeShannon song. But DeShannon’s original sounds nothing like Carnes’ cover. And it’s Carnes’ cover that was the hit and also the iconic version. Covers of the song inevitably reference Carnes, rather than DeShannon, probably because most people don’t know about DeShannon’s original upbeat R&B version.
Such is the case with the brand new cover of “Bette Davis Eyes” by brand new French band EMPRS (pronounced Empereurs), whose debut EP came out last week. Even though it’s a completely acoustic cover of a song that can rightly be called “synth pop,” it adheres fairly closely to the arrangement of Carnes’ version and there is no trace of the original up-tempo arrangement in the performance.
EMPRS’ cover is indeed completely acoustic, no synths or drum machines here. The band play a couple of guitars, acoustic bass, drums and percussion. The tempo is slower than the Carnes version but, otherwise, the feel is remarkably similar until the verse, which is significantly more laid back. Replacing Carnes’ famous rasp is a pretty thick male French accent, with a laidback delivery. Your mileage on that may vary but it does give the cover a slight Uncanny Valley feel that might be missing from a more straight-ahead aping of Carnes’ famous delivery.