Try listening to electropop artist Haddaway‘s “What Is Love” without bobbing your head. First recorded in 1993, the song garnered most of its popularity with the help of the 1998 comedy, A Night at the Roxbury, and, nowadays, it’s a staple on any ’90s dance-club music playlist. While Haddaway’s version is more made for dancing, Italian band Hot Gossip’s cover – posted for free in preparation for their soon-to-be-released album, Hopeless – is a lot more indie.
“What Is Love?” has had a special place in my heart ever since a friend and I requested it at a sweet sixteen party and turned the dance floor into the most Night At The Roxbury-esque mosh pit ever. So, when I read that Old Amica’s cover was slowed down and acoustic, I was concerned – what would become of my beloved synthpop ridiculousness?
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
A happy birthday to Howard Jones, who turns 66 today, 59 years after he learned how to play the piano. He got his start on radio in college, taking care of the night shift on Piccadilly Radio. According to his website, “Every 20 minutes between Midnight and 6am he would play a selection of his own music, on a synthesizer. The sessions were supposed to be purely instrumental, but on occasions Howard could not resist singing, and as a result had several phone calls… to complain!!!”
Those complaints weren’t the last Jones would hear about his music, but it doesn’t seem to have affected him. In a 2006 interview he said, “I wasn’t fashionable. I never got good reviews. But I’m proud of the fact that I wasn’t liked by the media… Pop music is so reactionary and bigoted. And I found that what’s ‘cool’ is often very shallow and transient.”
“Uncool” Jones had hits worldwide, and they get attention from cover artists to this day. Let’s take a listen to some great covers from one of the key figures of ’80s synth-pop.
The Axis of Awesome bill themselves as “Australia’s Most Awesomest Musical Comedy Sensation.” With their 2011 viral video hit “4 Chords” nearing four million views, they are certainly trying to earn that title. The trio features Benny Davis on keyboard and vocals; Benny was an original member of the Aussie sketch comedy troupe “The Delusionists” and is a virtuoso on keyboard. He has taken on a side-project featuring his uncanny skill-set as The Human Jukebox.
Two weeks ago we brought you a Serbian a capella group covering Rammstein. Now a Danish a cappella group has put together a ’90s dance medley. Is this some sort of new trend? European a cappella groups expertly covering forgotten hits from the ’90s? If they’re as good as these two, we say “bring it on!” The most striking thing about Local Vocal’s medley of ’90s club hits is that they managed to pick some of the most annoying songs from that time period. You probably never wanted to hear “Scatman” or “I Like to Move it” again, but somehow they have been worked into this arrangement without making your ears bleed. In fact, you might be fooled into thinking those songs weren’t actually so bad.
Duncan Sheik had one of the 1990s’ more enduring songs in “Barely Breathing,” which hung around the Billboard Top 100 charts for a full year. As they say in (what used to be) the radio business, it tested well. Six additional albums have followed, but Sheik has spent much of the past five years composing scores for Broadway productions and winning both Tony and Grammy awards in the process. Long before he was halfway to an EGOT, though, Sheik spent his teenage years in the 1980s. On Covers 80s he reflects the influence that a wide range of synthpop bands and tracks had on his formative years.
This is no John Hughes soundtrack compilation and if you’re looking for a “Walking On Sunshine” feel-good nostalgia trip, you’ll likely be disappointed. While a few big hits are represented, Sheik offers a deeper and somewhat darker journey back into his past. Although he grew up in New Jersey, Sheik does not include any American bands on Covers 80’s. He says that the litmus test for inclusion was “did I really, really care about it when I was 15 or 16?” Apparently what Sheik really, really cared about back then was the electronic, indie and New Romantic pop of the second British Invasion and Covers 80s benefits greatly from Sheik’s choice of source material.