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Cover Battle – “Shake it Off” November 21, 2014

 

Oh dear Lord –

 

I LIKE A TAYLOR SWIFT SONG.

 

 

Yeah, let that shite sink in, why don’t you.

 

Shake it Off” is one of those perfect little pop songs that will just not leave you alone. It’s got a really catchy hook, and it actually says something. Swift is basically taking all the crap that people say about her (“I go on too many dates; But I can’t make them stay; At least that’s what people say“) and basically saying “whatev”: that no matter what you do people are gonna say what they want to say (“haters gonna hate hate hate hate“) and I’m just gonna do me. That is such an excellent message for young girls, who are her chief fan base, and for people in general. I like that.

 

And I recently saw her on The Graham Norton Show, with John Cleese and cricketer Kevin Pietersen. She was intelligent, well-spoken and very engaging. She was funny, and she held her own – with John Cleese, for goodness sakes!?! And … and … she named her cat Olivia Benson, after the Law & Order: SVU character played by Mariska Hargitay! How cool is that? She’s probably like a really good best friend. Also a bit of an annoying best friend ‘cuz she’s so sweet and so charming, and so good at stuff and ugh, my god. Okay Taylor – I almost kinda like you. Sort of. Gosh darn it!

 

Kelly Clarkson put a gospel-tinged, bluesy-soul spin on the opening lines of the song. It’s unexpected, but it works. I would have liked to hear her do the whole thing that way, but I’m not sure it would have fit. After that first chorus she brings it back to the original pop sound. There’s a quick section, around the 4:00 mark where she and her backup singer trades licks and really throw down. Over all, it’s a nice fun cover.

 

All About That Bass” singer Megan Trainor sounds very light and sweet in her live radio performance. It’s just her and an accompanist playing guitars in the studio.

 

At first look I wasn’t sure about this parody video, by Youtube user Lisbug: the lyrics sung were so snotty and rude, but then I realized what was going on. She perfectly illustrates the message of the song by using some of the negative comments that she herself has received in the past, but then ‘shakes it off’ with the positive encouraging comments she’s also gotten. It’s a shame that people can’t just dislike something and move on; they have no problem saying ugly disgusting things. I would love it if we could all just be a little more human to each other.

 

Another parody video, from MyLifeSuckers, is pretty cute. It’s basically about mommy guilt from not being perfect and getting everything done. Her vocal skills aren’t all that stellar, but that’s not really the point. Everybody’s having fun, so it’s all good.

 

The last parody video I have (’cause there are quite a few out there) is from morning show Live with Kelly and Michael, featuring Michael Strahan and Kelly Ripa. It’s not even a parody, really; it’s pretty much a faithful recreation of Taylor’s official video. Same lyrics, setups and moves. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, though.

 

The cut I found from Alex Boye & Changing Lanes is listed as an “African Hipster Version”. It rocks, it swings, and it’s seriously fabulous. It’s even more up-tempo than Taylor’s version. I love this so much.

 

The loveliest and classiest cover is an instrumental violin version from the stylish ladies of Chargaux. They definitely elevate the composition to something more, yet they still keep it relatable and modern.


 

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “Seven Nation Army” July 18, 2014

 

Both the video and the insistent pounding rhythm for “Seven Nation Army“, by The White Stripes, are striking, hypnotic and kind of trippy. It’s one of those songs that makes you want to discover all the nuances. and track down the meaning behind the lyrics, and the story behind the metaphors. The video is almost messianic and the song itself is anthemic. But beyond that, it’s just a fabulous rock song. I found myself hitting repeat many times.

 

On my first listen I didn’t feel that lead singer Jack White was that great of a vocalist. I thought it would get in the way of me really getting into the song, but after several replays the roughness fits for me. I’ve actually heard a couple of things he’s done with other artists, and I’ve been impressed and intrigued by him. In the documentary “It Might Get Loud” we can see Jack jamming on the song with legends Jimmy Page and The Edge, and it’s a thrilling goose-bump moment.

 

The first time I actually heard this song was from a live performance, in Montrieux, by Living Colour. They are most definitely at the top of my list of phenomenal musical acts. They’ve been in the game for years, and they’re still going stronger than ever. The guitar work and drumming on this is so fierce. They put their own spin on it by taking a great song and making it even more badass than the original. I’m so used to hearing the band with Corey Glover doing lead, but I like the gruff rawness of Vernon Reid.

 

New artist Zella Day does this in a totally different way than anyone else. Her version is backed with a simple guitar and sounds much sweeter than the two covers noted above. Even though hers is less throbby and percussive it still stays with you. It’s not unsettling; it’s just haunting and a plays to a mystery within the song. So far we have 3 renditions I wouldn’t mind listening to multiple times.

 

I have another live performance for you, this time from Argentina. It’s done by the group The Pretty Reckless, fronted by actress Taylor Momsen. She played Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. (Yeah, that makes me feel old, too). Their version brings it back to the hard rocking, and wailing guitar feel. This one, I think, is even more punk-like. (If I know anything about punk. Which I probably really don’t, but whatever). However, I don’t find that they keep the mystery of the song, and with this version I wouldn’t really be compelled to explore the meaning behind it. It’s done really, really well, though, and I wouldn’t mind hearing it again if I want a real head banging, hard driving good time.

 

 

A remix was done, by The Glitch Mob, for the movie G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation. I’m not really a fan of remixes in general because they tend to draw you in with a familiar rhythm and then just beat it into your ears with an aural crowbar until you actually get sick of hearing the original song that drew you in, in the first place. I don’t know the technical term but whatever is on top of the vocals – (reverb, distortion, techno, whatever) is annoying and grating. It’s over powering. It might be great for the G.I. Joe movie or a tie-in video game, but goodness I couldn’t wait for this to be done.

 

A favorite of singer Kelly Clarkson, the song pops up in her live shows quite often. She rocks out to this very well. The specialness is in the song itself, but she doesn’t really add anything. Other than a good live performance.

 

I don’t really think Audioslave adds anything more to this either. The audience seems to enjoy it, but it didn’t do it for me. Just a lot of atonal screaming.

 

X-Factor contestant Marcus Collins released this as his first single, and I’m just like … NO! The video is just horrible and he turns the song into some light fluffy joke devoid of anything worthy of being listened to. It’s ridiculous. He should have just stayed in his lane. Or better yet, just stayed home and not even attempted it. Bad Marcus. Bad, bad Marcus. Now go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve. And keep your mouth closed.

 

I’m not really sure how I feel about what The Oak Ridge Boys did with this. As part of an interview for Sirius XM radio they did this in studio, vocally recreating the familiar guitar riff during the song’s intro, as well as in other spots. It’s dramatic and well-harmonized, but … maybe a little melodramatic with a dash of kitsch? It’s … odd.

   

   

 

Cover Battle – “No Scrubs” December 27, 2013

 

 

No Scrubs” is a song that’s fun, smart and sassy, just like the group that originally recorded it, the Grammy award-winning TLC. It has a nice bouncy beat that gets me moving (in my desk chair, never vertical because that would be embarrassingly bad). It’s a great example of the wonderful songwriting and harmonic skills of the ladies. It also features a rap by the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

 

Singer Kelly Clarkson does the song live, in the “Fan Request” part of her concert. We only get a portion of the song but you can still tell how well she does on it. The song actually doesn’t start until about 2:40. Before that it’s a lot of concert patter, but it’s very cute. Her “back up dancer” is too too funny, so I think you’ll still enjoy the non-singing segments of the video.

 

The Chipettes version sort of makes me want to stab my ears after listening to it for awhile. It’s a rendition that’s totally faithful to the original, just screechier. I know that’s what the Chipettes* are but it just sounds extra, super duper screechy, which can be hard to take.

 

The next version brings an all-male vocal to this song, by a group called Bastille. They do a live on-air performance, with a keyboard, guitar and drum machine. No big production and a nice little accent in the lead singer’s voice. It’s really well-done and they bring some tenderness to the song.

 

The last version is from the improbably named Scout Niblett. The music underneath the vocals almost makes it sound like “House of the Rising Sun“. It’s considerably slower and much more dramatic in tone, but it works.

 

   

   
   

*Interesting side note: Unlike their male counterparts the Chipmunks, the Chipettes have no body hair. But then why should they? They’re female. Can’t have anything natural on them like body hair, right? Heaven forbid they should look like anything other than the generally accepted norm, right? Okay, perhaps this is a rant for another time


 

 

Cover Battle – “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” October 4, 2013

 

Songstress and legend Whitney Houston left us in early 2012. She was a multi-talented artist who, sadly, couldn’t escape the troubles and demons she had previously conquered.

 

Whitney left a legacy of anthemic songs and stunning performances. I think “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”, the theme from the movie Waiting to Exhale, is overlooked, though. It’s subtle and graceful, warm and embracing. This song provides a wonderful showcase for Whitney’s gifts. No overdone vocal gymnastics or overbearing orchestration. It’s lovely and infinitely listenable. In a word – Perfection.

 

I’ve been a fan of Robin Thicke’s for awhile now. I used to think he should be just as popular as another purveyor of genuine white-boy soul, Justin Timberlake. I have to admit, though, that lately Robin’s been seriously wearing on my nerves. And the more I see and listen to him, the cheesier he’s sounding to me. I mean don’t even get me started on the whole “Blurred Lines” business and some of his comments in general.

 

But anyway, back to the song. Robin’s heartfelt tribute to the late Whitney Houston is beautiful and gives me chills. No cheesiness factor at all, just an honest homage and respect throughout. Very well done.

 

American Idol alums Kelly Clarkson and Tamyra Gray performed the song, live on stage. It’s nicely done as a duet, by two very engaging singers. Very powerful and sincere.

 

The version by The Chipettes is … a little weird. It’s not a cutesy, funny song so I don’t think a cutesy-voiced cover makes any sense at all.

 

I also found this video of the song’s writer, Babyface, on The Oprah Winfrey Show, singing a snippet of the song (at 1:07).

   

   

 

 
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