“Watch out, you may get what you’re after,” David Byrne sang in 1983’s Talking Heads classic “Burning Down the House.” Byrne is not shy to collaborate with artists he admires across a vast array of genres and levels of fame, including St. Vincent, Selena (RIP), Fatboy Slim, Caetano Veloso, and more. It seems Choir! Choir! Choir!, a Canadian choir that went viral for their rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in 2016 – and a large crowd of fans – got what they were after last Saturday in New York when the choir performed with David Byrne.
Longtime Prince fan and admirer Meshell Ndegeocello recently released a cover of the 1986 film soundtrack Parade, “Sometimes it Snows in April” from her upcoming covers album, Ventriloquism. This was the final song on Parade, which was the soundtrack to Prince’s directorial debut Under the Cherry Moon.
After Prince’s death in April 2016, “Sometimes It Shows in April” was said to have become Prince’s eulogy in some ways. Ndegeocello’s heartfelt rendition feels natural and native; like she’s sung the lyrics hundreds of times, and is conjuring up the soul of Prince through the opening hazy bass and guitar.
You may have heard rising British star Jorja Smith on a couple of tracks on Drake’s latest album. And just last month, she recorded a soulful version of “Lost” by Frank Ocean; not in (to quote the lyrics) “Miami, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Spain…Los Angeles, India…[or] on a train”– but in London’s Metropolis Studios, for Spotify Sessions.
Smith’s rendition is what one imagines the writers’ original version sounded like pre-production: soulful, stripped-down, and emotional. With lyrics about a woman who’s lost her way, this cover aims right for the heartstrings while Ocean’s version – written and produced by Malay (who has also produced Sam Smith, Lorde, and John Legend) – is upbeat and contradictory to the lyrical journey.
Fans were on pins and needles at last weekend’s FYF in Los Angeles, fearing the elusive Frank Ocean may not show up again.
Ocean is a rare talent catalogers and writers have a hell of a time classifying. In fact, any one of his albums can fit into multiple musical genres: contemporary pop, hip-hop, psychedelic pop, R&B, alt-R&B, soul, avant-garde, etc. There are multiple Reddit threads dedicated solely to debating how to categorize his music.
Given his range, when this ultra-versatile musician and music lover, whose playlists show a wide-ranging taste, covered a 1984 hit from the Nigerian disco star, Steve Monite, the sound felt natural and fit right into Oceanic soundscapes.
Carla Bruni, the former model, actress, and first lady of France, has released a beautiful rendition of Depeche Mode’s oft-covered “Enjoy the Silence” as the first single off her upcoming English-language covers album, French Touch (out in October).
The song remains one of the legendary British band’s most recognized and beloved contributions to the beautiful soundscape they have created in the four decades they have been active. There have been tons of covers of “Enjoy The Silence” since its release in 1990, but Bruni’s version is sure to be independently admired, as she has treated this piece like an original, stripping it down to a very intimate level.
Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed”, from his Blonde album, has been a popular song to cover, with a great recent take from Stormzy. But it’s even more special that James Blake would cover the song that samples his own “Always”.
Blake, who’s been a mastermind and contributor to a lot of other great artists, including Kendrick Lamar, produced, arranged and made keyboard contributions to Ocean’s original “Godspeed”. It is safe to assume the performance on May 14th in Arizona was not Blake’s first time playing the song. In a solo piano set, Blake performed an even mellower, more somber version of Ocean’s song.