This never ceases to entertain me October 23, 2014
… and I love how, no matter how often he does it, Alfonso Ribeiro always seems to enjoy himself. He’s having fun. It never gets old.
If you’ve never seen The Graham Norton Show you really need to check it out. Graham is great and you get so many funny moments and wonderful stories from his guest panel. It’s always entertaining.
Cover Battle – “Alison” October 17, 2014
The ballad “Alison” was written and originally performed by an artist whose music I’m really growing to enjoy – Elvis Costello. It comes from his first album, My Aim is True, which is also a line in the song. Mr. Costello is a skilled musician and a prolific songwriter, and has been entertaining multitudes of fans in a variety of genres for decades.
I’m not really all that into the studio release; it just seems there’s too much thrown into it. I’m partial to the live versions. They’re simpler, less cluttered and much more reflective (or introspective). Everything you hear has a purpose, as opposed to just being melodic filler, like the studio production.
When Elvis appeared on the Jonathan Ross chat show, we got an impromptu acoustic version. The first part of the video is an interview then at the 5:05 mark he performs a bit of the song.
The song was covered by Linda Ronstadt in 1978. Not my favorite. Generally, I’ve been a fan of a lot of her songs, but I don’t think this one worked for her. More importantly, it didn’t work for the song. It takes something away from it. And there’s a weird little saxophone periodically in the background, and then fading out at the end. Like – wtf is that even doing there?
Another version I can get behind comes from a favorite of mine, Holly Cole. She does it in her elegant torch song manner with a touch of a slower tempo. It’s quite nice.
The live performance from American Football is just … not good. I’ve never heard them before but I’m hoping this was just a really off day, and the singer had a bad cold because this was just … not pleasing to listen to. It was kind of messed up, actually.
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Cover Battle – “Drunk in Love” September 26, 2014
“Drunk in Love” is a stupid ass song.
There I said it. It is. The first time I heard it, well … sort of heard bits of it, I was like “What is this? This is the song everyone’s so crazy about? Really? No wonder I don’t listen to current music. Okay, Beyonce, we get it – you luuuuv your husband, Jay-Z; you have great sex; you do it in the tub; you get on top and ride him “like a surfboardt“. I mean, it does sounds drunk and horny with all the random rambling repetitiveness, so I guess it’s … effective? Whatever. Ugh. Enough already.
Postmodern Jukebox does a vintage swing-band type version. They make it sound cool and jazzy. They definitely elevate it to something noteworthy. It’s sexy yet classy, not trashy. And thank god – no rap segment!
British artist Ed Sheeran does this live on a radio morning show. I really like this. It’s more melodic and sounds a lot less random than the original. It almost sounds romantic. Plus, as the dj Elvis Duran mentions, you can actually make out the lyrics.
Brit singer Lily Allen doesn’t do a cover in her appearance at the G.A.Y. Heaven nightclub in London. What she does is a full-out Beyonce shtick – in blond wig, black bikini/sheer cover-up, grinding gyrations, and lip-syncing to Beyonce’s recording. Don’t quite get the point of it all. Is it an homage or an outrageous mockery?
Cover Battle – “Bohemian Rhapsody” September 19, 2014
“Bohemian Rhapsody“. What words can I use to describe it?. Epic. Operatic. Dramatic. Theatrical. Performed by the legendary group Queen, this … masterpiece is like nothing you’ve ever heard. It sweeps through different tempos and stylings and vocals and levels. Excuse my French, but, it’s mother-fucking-brilliant! As such, this is one of those songs you think of as untouchable, not that others haven’t tried. But for most, they’d consider it sacrosanct – not to be tampered with, redone, reimagined, or covered. Except by The Muppets. Theirs is the only alternate version I would even deem worthy. It’s totally cute and hilarious and fun. But that’s it. Up until last week, that is.
During the season episode of the final season [ :-( ] of Sons of Anarchy, the ending montage begins – a variety of scenes with a musical underscore – I’m looking at the screen, and listening to the music. I hear the opening words, and they sound familiar, and I’m like “wait – what? No. No way; they did not do this” But yes, they did: they covered “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The musical director for SOA, Bob Thiele, has always been incredibly adept about finding just the right songs for the show. They’ve redone a few other songs over the years, that I never thought I would like as covers and they’ve blown me away each and every time. This was no different. I was floored by the audacity, but it was so well done, and so appropriate, that I loved it.
As mentioned above, the cover done by The Muppets is a true joy. Not only do they cover the song, but they pretty much recreate the stance of the original Queen video. They do change the words in some parts to fit into the whole Muppets world, but it’s still pretty perfect.
In checking the internet, I also found another really fun one. It’s a parody version with a Star Wars basis. It’s well executed, with a lot of attention to detail. I’m sure it would go over big at any Comic Con.
The group Panic! At the Disco does a live version which, surprisingly, I actually like. I don’t think it has the same force and power as Freddie Mercury’s vocal with Queen, but it’s really, really good. And I’m not just saying that because the lead singer is shirtless, I swear.
Actor and singer Adam Lambert performs parts of the song on stage with the surviving members of Queen. During the performance they play major portions of the original video, then Adam and the band come back in. It’s very effective and captivating. It gave me chills.
Adam actually performed the song for his audition on American Idol. Leading judge Simon Cowell clued into his theatricality and flair, and seemed a little unsure of him being a good fit for the competition. He ultimately gave him a “yes” vote. As did the other 3 judges, enthusiastically, because Adam is a good singer. The drama and exuberance is just a thrilling bonus.
In addition to performing the song with Adam Lambert, the band also did a performance of it with Elton John, tackling the earlier, more ballad-like section, and Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose, taking on the later raucous role. They come together for the very end. I like hearing Elton’s voice. There’s a true respect and admiration for the material, the band, and Freddie that’s evident in his care with the song. Axl gives the later hard rock section his usual all-out frenetic gusto. It’s a respectable job.
A few years ago, a new hotel, The Cosmopolitan, was opening up in Vegas and they brought out a series of really … interesting commercials. (Their tag line was “Just the right amount of wrong”.) One of them featured the song, acted out, in a very dramatic way, using only the lyrics. The guitar riffs and whatnot were brought in at the end. I thought it was very creative and successfully done.
The most unexpected cover has to be the one from Jake Shimabukuro’s 2010 TED Talk presentation. On the ukelele. It’s unbelievably cool. This video is longer than the other versions only because they tack on a 3 minute Rolex commercial at the end. So, unless you’re seriously into Rolex watches you can shut it off after the 7:03 mark.
As they tend to be, cover versions done by William Shatner are usually pretty out there and have a strongly WTF? flavor. But this has to be one of the most batshit crazy things I’ve heard in quite some time. I think medication might be in order. For him, and for me.
I found a documentary on the making of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that you might also be interested in. It runs just under an hour.