HEY YOU! NOGOODFORME.COM is now found at...NOGOODFORME.COM! You've stumbled upon our old mirror site instead. Please point your browsers to NOGOODFORME.COM instead and update your newsfeed to http://feeds.feedburner.com/nogoodforme/tYOS. Thanks and we shall see you at NOGOODFORME.COM!
Tuesday , December 14, 2010
All-Time Top 5: Cover Versions of Madonna Songs
The truth of the matter is that Madonna songs rarely get covered successfully. I don't know whether it's because of her songs' iconicity, their semiotic complexities or just the fact that they are just a bit campy sometimes -- but it's hard for others to capture that Madonna pop magic. The thing about Madonna is that no matter how hard she tries to be all avant-something and haute-artistic, she's really a populist who is deeply weird and kind of dorky. (Sort of like Prince, another Midwestern pop genius/eccentric.) The ideal Madonna interpreter is someone who gets this strange blend of pop sheen and personal dorkitude, someone who can be both archly knowing and completely sincere. (And what is dorkitude if not the utmost sincerity?) I'm not saying that these five versions below flat-out nail this tension, but they do a good job illuminating what's so awesome about the songs as well as adding their own little twist to an interpretation.
THE FLAMING LIPS: "BORDERLINE"
I actually don't really care all that much about the Flaming Lips as a band. Not that I think they're bad -- on the contrary, I am always happy to hear a Flaming Lips song in a bar or wherever. It's like running into that old friend from college that you used to live down the hall from during freshman year. But this cover of "Borderline" is really awesome; it takes a deeply familiar song and completely reinvents it. At first I thought it sounded a bit like that "In the Air Tonight" song by Phil Collins but it gets all emo, explosive and trippy in the best way possible, all while taking the song on serious enough terms to foreground the emotional suckiness of being hung up to dry. Pop-awesome.
BRITTA PHILLIPS AND DEAN WAREHAM: "I DESERVE IT"
I actually think this is a mediocre cover in many ways. It's got lackluster instrumentation and a vocal by Dean Wareham in which he can't transcend his nasality into the sleepy charm he usually possesses. But here is where the nature of the song is strong enough to carry it through. Is the original "I Deserve It" on the level of "Express Yourself" or "Like A Prayer" or "Live to Tell"? No -- compared to those pop giants, it's a relatively modest song. But it's that rare thing, a sincere Madonna song, and this cover keeps that sincerity intact, which is charming and melancholy all at once.
CICCONE YOUTH: "INTO THE GROOVE"
This is an example of all the reasons that Sonic Youth irk me as a band. They're always so removed and distant and cool, and here the distance works to "deconstruct" the song as a pop product -- when the truth of the matter is that "Into the Groove" is one of Madonna's most joyous, pure songs ever. They should have done a cover of "Like A Virgin" if they wanted to take apart the commodified nature of a pop song; that song wasn't even written by Madonna, dudes. Despite this, I still grudgingly like Sonic Youth. And I grudgingly like this treatment of "Into the Groove" simply because it's kind of fun in a stoned Cali surfer kind of way that makes me want to grab my skateboard and break someone's face open. This is why I don't get stoned anymore. It makes me incredibly violent.
SARA CULLER: "WHO'S THAT GIRL"
Madonna's songs for the soundtrack of her ill-fated (but kind of underrated) Who's That Girl movie are often overlooked in terms of greatest hits and whatever, but actually, they were pretty awesome. ("Look of Love" is probably her most beautiful song, hands down, for reals.) I love this cover for being a little spooky-sounding, like it's a ghost underwater or something.
THE RONDELLES: "LIKE A PRAYER"
This just might be my most favorite cover of a Madonna song ever. Ever, ever, ever. The original is grandiose and transcendent; this one is garage-punky and visceral and like a bouncy rollercoaster. But both retain the same sentiment: you're super-hot, make out with me and you won't regret it. (Seven minutes in heaven, indeed.) Who could resist you after hearing this highwater of sexual confidence? Simple and effective, no matter how you sing it.
Share | | | |