Oct 272011

Zuccotti Park has had its fair share of musical guests since Occupy Wall Street began, from Kanye West simply walking through to Pete Seeger performing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ On October 23rd, Sean Lennon and Rufus Wainwright joined that group with an acoustic rendition of Madonna‘s “Material Girl.” Continue reading »

Aug 022011

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

ben folds cover songs

A real argument can be made that, in a couple decades’ time, Ben Folds will be seen as one of the key singer-songwriters of our generation (that is, if he’s not yet claimed that position). His flawless blending of painful honesty and quirky humor speak to legions of fans in a way that few artists can manage, and the sheer breadth of his various projects and collaborations (recording an album with author Nick Hornby, a permanent judge spot on NBC’s The Sing-Off, the impressive 8-in-8 experiment with Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Damian Kulash) ensure that we won’t be getting bored of him anytime soon. Continue reading »

Mar 182011

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “was it really as bad as all that?”

When the Watchmen movie came out in March 2009, my primary job consisted of owning and operating a comic book store. Because that film is based on one of the most acclaimed graphic novels of all time, the few weeks that followed its release saw me inundated with complaints about its content. The number one gripe: an overabundance of Dr. Manhattan’s junk. Number two: “Why did they play that corny ‘Hallelujah’ cover during the sex scene?”

As anyone familiar with that scene can attest, of course, Watchmen — in keeping with its mostly retro soundtrack — employed the original Leonard Cohen track from 1984’s Various Positions. In fact, that instance marks one of the only major uses of the original recording in a mass-media production. Thanks to Shrek, The O.C., X Factor and a host of others, though, the song’s become inescapable via its many covers. Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang and more have all had their say on this one. In a 2009 interview with Jian Ghomeshi of The Guardian, Cohen revealed that he’d felt sympathy for a review of Watchmen which asked for a moratorium of “Hallelujah” in popular culture. Quoth Cohen: “I think it’s a good song, but I think too many people sing it.” Continue reading »

Feb 252011

Sonos is not your typical a cappella group. Due to the lack of a bass voice in the group, they incorporate an octave pedal. They use a loop station in order to create sonic layers of beatboxing. In concert, they add an array of other electronic gizmos, from harmonizers to delay pedals. All of this adds up to a vocal performance more musically akin to Björk‘s Medulla than Andy Bernard’s nerdy band in The Office. Their first album, SonoSings, met with critical acclaim and received a bump due to the Glee craze and a live performance on NPR. Continue reading »