The Horrible Crowes are the new side project of Brian Fallon, the man best known as being the singer and songwriter of the Springsteen-revering New Jersey punk band The Gaslight Anthem. His new outfit played a sold-out show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom last night, focusing mainly on the group’s new record, Elsie. However, The Horrible Crowes found the time to work an unexpected cover into their set: Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream.”
Indie acts have been cheekily covering Top 40 songs for as long as there have been Top 40 songs to mock—Travis‘ cover of “Baby One More Time” remains a high-water mark in this genre—but instead of following that pattern, The Horrible Crowes decided to flip the script. Rather than mocking the song’s inherently anthemic qualities with, say, insincere fist-pumping during the chorus, Fallon instead infused the song with a sense of lovelorn regret, totally transforming its entire nature. In Perry’s version, the song is a come-on; in Fallon’s haunting take, it seems as if the narrator is reminiscing about his better days and a love that’s long since faded away. Suffice to say, if the Horrible Crowes ever decided to put this song on wax, it could do for “Teenage Dream” what the Cowboy Junkies once did for the Velvet Underground‘s “Sweet Jane.”
Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of the critically acclaimed band Wilco, is not really known for his sense of humor. That’s not to say he’s a humorless fellow; rather, it’s just that when he chooses songs to cover, it’s generally because he’s paying homage to artists who have meaning (see: the two records he made with Billy Bragg comprised solely of Woody Guthrie covers).
That was not exactly the case in Chicago last night, where Jeff Tweedy performed at a book party for the release of Dan Sinker‘s The F***ing Epic Quest of @MayorEmanuel. Instead of going the somber route, Tweedy kept with the evening’s light-hearted nature and proved his comedic chops by busting out a solo acoustic cover of the Black Eyed Peas smash, “I Gotta Feeling.” We presume this decision had something to do with the fact that this song was played during the real Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s election party back in February, and the cover was delivered with exactly the right amount of irony that you’d expect from a Generation X icon like Tweedy. He warns listeners early on that his BEP cover “is gonna be bad, gonna be really bad,” but after the seeing the final results, we beg to differ with his assessment.
LIL WAYNE SPRINGS A LEAK, THREATENS TO KIDNAP BEYONCÉ
Where’s the beef? On Lil Wayne’s just-leaked Tha Carter IV, that’s where! According to Blackbook, Weezy’s new track “It’s Good” features this bar directed towards Jay-Z: “Talkin? ?bout baby money, I got your baby money/Kidnap your b****, Get that ?how much you love your lady?” This is apparently in retaliation to a verse that Jay sung on “H.A.M.” that dissed Young Money. First Game disses Jay, now Wayne? Sh*t’s about to get real, son! [Blackbook]
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT PAYS HOMAGE TO KURT COBAIN
The 20th anniversary of Nevermind is just around the corner, so Nirvana-mania is clearly in bloom (drum roll). At a concert in Seattle last night, the Inception star played a cover of “Lithium,” which he punctuated with this off-the-cuff dedication: “You know it seems like everytime people bring up Nirvana, people wanna talk about how Kurt Cobain killed himself. But I gotta say, it doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter that he’s dead, it doesn’t matter how he died, his songs are f***ing awesome, that’s what matters.” [Everybody Loves Our Town]
Now, thanks to our friends at Vulture, we find out that Taylor Swift’s knowledge of hip hop history extends beyond today’s Top 40. At a recent performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan, T-Swizzle broke out her acoustic guitar and, much to the delight of the crowd, tore into the first verse of Eminem‘s Mitten State anthem, “Lose Yourself.” And you know what? Even the most vehement Swift haters would agree that she didn’t totally embarrass herself; her performance, while understandably less intense than Em’s in 8 Mile, is delivered in a manner that’s both playful and convincing. Color us impressed. Next stop: “Yonkers”!
Mark Ronson is, it would seem, a firm believer in the old saying, “the show must go on.” Less than thirty-six hours after he attended the funeral of his dear friend and musical collaborator Amy Winehouse, he and his band The Business Intl. were slated to play an open-air concert as part of the weeklong Greenwich Summer Sessions festival, and rather than cancel the engagement, he dedicated the show to his late friend and played several of her songs, including “Valerie”:
The song was already part of the band’s repertoire, but last night’s performance was particularly poignant. “Usually when we sing this song, Kyle [Falconer, previously of The View] sings it,” Ronson said, introducing the song, “But you know what? I think the only thing that would be right tonight is if you guys sing it.” He then introduced Winehouse’s two backup singers: “We’re gonna help you?I’m not gonna say that Zalon and Ade don’t have much better voices than all of you?but it’s not really about that. We want you to sing this s?t as loud as you can.” The crowd gladly obliged. The band?and crowd?were also joined on vocals by Dave McCabe, who’d originally written “Valerie” for his band The Zutons.
Ronson’s tributes spanned the entire evening; while DJing before his set, he played “Rehab,” and he later related a quotation from Tuesday’s service while speaking to the crowd: “There was a rabbi that spoke, and he said that somebody’s life is measured in deeds and not years, and that’s the best thing I heard yesterday.” Near the end of his performance he returned again to Winehouse’s catalog, performing “Back to Black,” which is viewable below.
The Kidz Bop Kids’ new video for “Born This Way” raises so many questions that we don’t even know where to start. Are the kids in the video even the same kids on the vocal track? (Does it matter?) How much money did this video cost (and how much did they save by shooting the commercial for Kidz Bop 20 at the same time)? Will this guaranteed-viral video approach the number of views (and for that matter, number of thumbs-down votes) that Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reached before it was pulled from YouTube? Is that an Orange amp onstage?? (Did a metalhead Kidz Bop employee get a pretty convenient write-off from this shoot?)
What’s really bugging us, on first blush, is the ways in which the song has been edited, presumably under the rationale of “suitability for child consumption.” We have defended the Kidz Bop series from easy aesthetic mockery simply because pop music is infectious and social and sometimes contains material that parents of the target 5-12 year old audience might find objectionable. (Kidz Bop 20 also contains versions of the radio edits of Cee Lo’s “F?k You” and Pink’s “F?king Perfect.”) But just because a parent might not want to answer a five-year-old’s questions about the mentions of racial background or sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily mean that Kidz Bop ought to have completely defanged the song.
The removal of mentions of sexuality is particularly problematic. We don’t necessarily agree with the removal of “You’re black, white, beige, chola descent/ You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient” (though in fairness, the word “Orient” in particular probably shouldn’t have made the cut for the original song), but we can understand that, say, the word “chola” has layers of meaning that might be beyond the understanding of children. Possibly the reason for eliminating mentions of race is in fact that race is a social construct, and thus, people are not “born” that way! (Okay, probably not.)
But the mentions of sexuality are merely labels, without specifics, and can be explained without any discussion of sex, by eliding the specifics of the words’ definitions into a simple explanation of what types of people “like” what types of people. And even if they felt the need to remove those lines, couldn’t they have left the practically innocuous “don’t be a drag, just be a queen” refrain alone? That omission is particularly glaring considering it can easily be read without connotation.
We’re curious whether Lady Gaga will take this up as a cause c?l?bre. She has no legal right to stop the Kidz Bop Kids from covering and releasing her song, but she can certainly condemn the edits, or maybe even donate the songwriting royalties she’ll receive from sales of the cover version to an appropriate organization. When she allegedly denied “Weird Al” permission to parody her song, the story blew up. And in a similar case of editing for children, Lee Hall’s opera Beachedbecame national news in the United Kingdom when a school district protested to lines about queerness (spoken by an adult to an adult, even).
We’ve listed all the lyrics that the Kidz Bop version of “Born This Way” excises below:
Nevermind 20th Anniversary coverage dominates Spin‘s August 2011 issue, which hits newsstands in a week. Cover story “What Nevermind Means Now” is supplemented by Newermind, a track-by-track cover version of Nevermind. Cobain favorites Meat Puppets and The Vaselines share billing with new kids on the block like Surfer Blood, whose guitarist told the magazine, “Kurt Cobain was dead before I could tie my shoes,” and Jessica Lee Mayfield, who admits, “I found out about Nirvana through the Foo Fighters. I’m sure I’m not the only one who walked that discovery trail.”
The bands who have been most directly influenced by Nirvana are the most reverent in their takes, although Telekinesis, at least, has an excuse: their contribution was last-minute, “when one someone?no need to name names, so let’s just say it was Wavves?went AWOL.” On the other end of the spectrum, we’re rather fascinated by Foxy Shazam‘s transformation of “Drain You” into a glam epic complete with horn section.
The album is available for free download now in exchange for “liking” Spin on Facebook and giving an email address; non-Facebook users can get the tribute directly from Spin‘s site on July 26 when the issue streets.
Everyone loves a good comeback story, and Demi Lovato‘s recent return from a stint in rehab (where she dealt with “emotional and physical issues”) seems poised to make her an even bigger star than she was before she sought treatment. Her new song, “Skyscraper,” is fast becoming a Millenial anthem due to its powerful (and, we should note, very timely) theme of remaining resilient in the face of bullying, and earned praise from the likes of Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian and fellow Disney product, Selena Gomez.
As is wont to happen these days, dozens of covers of “Skyscraper” are starting to pop up on YouTube, most of which are being sung by teens in their bedrooms into their webcam; one such cover, by YouTube user zeldaxlove64, has already racked up over 1.5 million streams. However, earlier today, a “Skyscraper” cover by none other than a former winner of American Idol hit the popular site. That’s right, Idol Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks sat down in front of her webcam, hit record and subsequently published her spin on Lovato’s empowerment anthem. It’s sort of a sign of the times: Instead of a big recording studio, an army of producers and engineers twiddling the knobs, and an expensive video shoot, it’s just a girl with a big voice and a webcam and a YouTube account. (Yes, we’re aware that a trio of high-priced songwriters penned the track, but still.) It’s hard to argue with the results!
We’re fans of the A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series, in which bands visit their offices and play a cover song off a pre-selected list; the limitation means that sometimes the covers are uninspired, but at least as often they force bands to provide an interesting take on a well-known pop single. Even still, we’ve really only linked these clips as part of Last Lap roundups. Today’s entry, however, begs to be shared on its own. The reunited Get Up Kids powerslide their way through a straightforward yet compelling cover of Blur‘s “Boys & Girls,” long a Britpop fave of ours. Enjoy!
School’s out for summer in most of the Northern Hemisphere. That means it’s Alice Cooper season! We spent most of our holiday weekend relaxing, but the legendary shock rocker spent it jetsetting around Europe, making guest appearances at big shows, like Ke$ha‘s in Oslo, Norway yesterday. (Actually, he’s opening a couple of Scandinavian Iron Maiden shows this week, but it’s more fun to think Alice Cooper went to Europe to pop up on stage with Ke$ha.) Above, watch his appearance during her cover of “School’s Out.”
The young pop star tweeted excitedly about the appearance afterward: “ALICE F?KING COOPER. or what i call him, dad,” then “thanx for coming to Oslo to do SCHOOLS OUT with me dad #alicecooperisaLEGEND pictures coming soon. ; ) LEGEND. F?KING LEGEND.”
Ke$ha may be the closest any pop star has come to being a spiritual heir for him, but hers wasn’t the only concert that Cooper appeared at: just three days earlier, he joined Foo Fighters onstage in Milton Keynes, an hour north of London. Dave Grohl gave him a lengthy adulatory introduction, insisting, “If it wasn’t for [Alice Cooper], Pat Smear would’ve never bought a guitar.” Here they are performing “School’s Out” and “I’m Eighteen”: Read more…