May 012024
ray laurel somewhere over the rainbow

Judy Garland’s signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” was introduced to the world through her performance of it in The Wizard of Oz, for which composer Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg won an Oscar. It is perhaps equally well known in the 21st century for its incorporation with “What a Wonderful World” in a very popular cover by the Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.

British singer Ray Laurél has only been releasing music for a short time, with two EPs over the last two years. But the makers of the new BBC One drama This Town tapped them for their soundtrack, which features covers over each episode’s closing credits.

Laurél starts things off slowly with some resonant solo piano chords. When their voice finally comes in around the 40 second mark, it sounds muli-tracked, but it could just be the resonance. They pick up the pace as they starts singing and play around with the melody. Partway through the bridge, they add backing vocals. When they returns to the refrain, they deviate even more from the melody and add more and more instruments, though it’s primarily their vocals and drums and percussion which get the most prominence as the song builds to a crescendo.

It’s a nearly complete transformation of the song, at least from the second refrain on, and it sounds nothing like either Garland’s original version or that ukulele one. But, though the sound is very different, the yearning for a better life in a better world is very much sill present.

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