We’ve all encountered it…the right song, just the wrong way. Like hearing a Muzak rendition of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” in the elevator. Or Pat Boone doing a metal album. Or what I heard today over lunch at my favorite Chinese buffet…a slack-tuned, Asian-instrumental arrangement of “Reel Around the Sun,” the opening number of Riverdance! Celtic does not sound good when played on a erhu, pipa and qin. It’s just…wrong.
Anybody else had an encounter with such an abomination?
Barbra Streisand singing “Happy Days (Are Here Again)” like she’s wading through taffy. Compounding her sin, she once performed it as a counterpoint to Judy Garland’s singing “Get Happy” similarly down-tempo, wrecking both songs.
All of the Festival covers of songs from “Evita” except for “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” Speaking of which, Sinead O’Connor includes a breezy jazz instrumental version of DCFMA on an album of covers, and it simply doesn’t work.
Frente’s abominable cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” is proof that God Exists And He Hates Us.
Back when Paul McCartney’s “Off The Ground” album was still on the charts, I was in the grocery store, and it struck me that I was hearing a clarinet-led Muzak rendition of one of the album’s tracks - “Biker Like An Icon.” Not only wasn’t it a hit, it failed completely to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under list. It doesn’t even have much of a melody for a clarinet to play with. It was a very weird choice of (then) contemporary song to cover! But with clarinet and a string section… that was just wrong.
Once, when I was on choir tour (back in college), I got on the bus and heard “Yellow Rose of Texas” playing on the radio. It was bright, upbeat, in the country style…
…and in Norwegian.
More recently, when tATu had their one hit, some enterprising Japanese producer put together a cover version, complete with faux-lesbian Japanese girls. I couldn’t decide which version was worse, and I didn’t want to listen repeatedly to find out.
Kenny Rogers did a cover version of Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You.”
There was once a recording of the music to “West Side Story” with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as Maria, and Josè Carreras as Tony. Somehow, Tony with a Spanish accent doesn’t seem right. (The performances were good, though.)
The Sailor Moon version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
I could go on, but I need to listen to some good music now…
I once heard a muzak version of the traditional Russian Troika, done with traditional Chinese instruments. In a Chinese restaurant. Then it ended and moved on to Santa Claus is Coming to Town, still in Chinese instruments.
Sometimes the wrong music works well for a given movie. The Scott Joplin music used in The Sting was outdated and old fashioned by the mid-1930s in which the movie was set, but it seemed perfect for its mood, and led to a major ragtime revival in the 1970s.
I somewhere have a reggae version of Pink Floyd’s Wish you were here. It’s in English but in such a heavy Spanish accent that you’d wonder if the guy actually understands the lyrics he’s singing. IMO it’s not so much wrong as funny but I think people often have a quite some emotional investment in that song and I wouldn’t be surprised if it would really set their teeth on edge.