In The “King of Tears” episode of his podcast Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell argues that country music is better at genuine emotions than rock and roll. To prove this point, he goes after The Rolling Stones’ classic “Wild Horses,” comparing it to “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” As one of my favourite Stones’ ballads, this episode irked me to no end. Gladwell argues that specificity in lyrics is better to convey emotion, and that country music is better at specific storytelling than rock and roll. He argues that “Wild Horses” is just too vague. I don’t disagree with Gladwell about lyrical specificity being more effective more often than not, but I sure think he picked the wrong Rolling Stones song to try to prove his point. (For one thing, this is one of the Stones’ most famous attempts at country. So it’s sure weird to say rock doesn’t do specificity as well as country, but then to pick a country-ish song from a rock band.)
I have no idea if opera-singer-turned-pop-singer Elly Kace is aware of this episode of Revisionist History, or even if she’s aware Malcolm Gladwell has a podcast, but I challenge Gladwell to listen to her stunning new cover of “Wild Horses” and maintain this is not a heartstring-pulling song.
Though Kace doesn’t stray much from the melody of the song, she almost completely upends the arrangement. Her cover is made up almost entirely of her own voice, with only a pedal steel guitar (of course) and, perhaps, subtle organ to accompany all her vocal parts. The pedal steel keeps the song in vaguely country-ish territory but everything else Kace does moves it into another, more ethereal realm. Kace’s own lead vocal performance reaches some pretty incredible heights, but you don’t want to ignore all the neat backing parts she’s creating to support that lead vocal. It’s a little bit like Petra Haden’s a cappella cover of The Who Sell Out on vocal steroids.
Check it out below.