Same song, different feeling
October 15, 2017 10:53 PM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions of songs with alternative arrangements or cover versions that interpret the same lyrics with different emotional notes: breezy, slightly off-putting, sad/deary/Sinister.

I'm working on a performance piece where I'd like to dance to the same song but in three different styles to reinterpret the same lyrics. It starts off cozy/breezy/normal, then the same song becomes a little off-kilter or suspicious, then it goes into "secretly sad" or "this sounds sinister".

(The performance is based on personal mental health stuff; the idea is that different states of mental health can make the same words or situations feel very different emotionally.)

I doubt there's one song that does all I want at once, so I'm interested in songs that have covers or alternate arrangements that hit the other notes. I'd imagine it's easier to find happy songs with sad cover versions than the reverse, but I'm open to any combination!

The songs/artists/covers don't have to be famous or recognisable, though that could help if it's particularly poignant. Any genre is fine, though preferably in English since this is for an English-speaking audience.
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
You got this rather mellow, sexy version of Nothing Compares to You (written by Prince) - versus the heartrending Sinead O'Conner version.
posted by karmachameleon at 11:01 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Born in the USA, 2 ways:

Album version
12-string version
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:03 PM on October 15, 2017

The song “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, covered by Devo, and covered more disturbingly by the Residents.
posted by ejs at 11:06 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ooh! And one more Born in the USA, by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone!
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:06 PM on October 15, 2017

Owner of a Lonely Heart, original by Yes, or as covered by Grizzly Bear.

In My Time of Dying (Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed), by Josh White, or as covered by Led Zeppelin. (There are many more versions of this song and lots of other blues-folk songs, covered by rock bands).

Gin and Juice, by Snoop or a country version by an ?unknown? artist.
posted by stillmoving at 11:13 PM on October 15, 2017

In general, the Residents are excellent at this sort of thing.
posted by potrzebie at 11:16 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've always been partial to Travis' lovely and melancholy cover of Britney's Hit Me Baby One More Time.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:39 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Florence + the Machine turned Robert Palmer's ostentatious, lackadaisical "Addicted to Love" into something that sounds more like a saloon shootout between Raphael's cherubs.
posted by armeowda at 11:39 PM on October 15, 2017

Not sure how well Spotify playlists link, but there is a pretty nice list of covers called, Take Note of These Covers that has 92 cover songs on it. Might be a place to start.
posted by wile e at 11:43 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you have particular thematic constraints for the lyrics?

The first really sinister cover of a danceable pop song that came to mind was Thanatos's "That's the Way (I Like It)." Just googling a bit, I see a number of options for it: breezy acoustic, metal, original, the Michael Jackson version with an extra vocal part, Dead or Alive, and more.

I know "Love Will Tear Us Apart" also has a zillion covers in different styles, e.g. an upbeat but off-putting version, a sort of breezy version, a happy version, an even more maudlin version, a slow, soft acoustic version, etc.
posted by Wobbuffet at 11:53 PM on October 15, 2017

by an ?unknown? artist.

the gourds
posted by poffin boffin at 12:27 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, a poignant example that came to mind of the artist radically changing the emotional tone herself: Cyndi Lauper, "She Bop" (video version) vs. "She Bop (The Body Acoustic Version)." For off-putting, there's Matisse or, uh, GWAR ... Others' "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" covers often shift the tone too, e.g. Ben Gibbard (Death Cab) vs. Chromatics vs. Postmodern Jukebox.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:45 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Que Sera Sera by Doris Day (breezy) and by Pink Martini (slightly sinister).
posted by misteraitch at 12:46 AM on October 16, 2017

light and sweet "Night & Day" by Ella Fitzgerald
super creepy and stalker-y "Night & Day" by U2
posted by alchemist at 12:59 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Nancy Sinatra's original These Boots Are Walkin is breezy.
The Del Rubio Triplets version is a little more intense and off-kilter.
David Byrne's cover is desperate and a little unhinged
And then along comes Crispin Glover with a totally deranged cover.
posted by yankeefog at 1:34 AM on October 16, 2017

The Pere Ubu Surfer Girl; The Beach Boys’ Surfer Girl. The latter breezy and crisp, the former heavy and creepy.
posted by lasagnaboy at 1:38 AM on October 16, 2017

Richard Cheese covers a multitude of other songs in a lounge singer style. It is all quite funny.
posted by koolkat at 1:43 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also, The Girl From Ipanema has a million different covers with many different feelings. The wistful nature of the song means there's probably a trace of sadness even in the breezy versions, but if you're OK with that, here are a few examples:

BREEZY: Frank Sinatra
Amy Winehouse
Astrud Gilberto

OFF-KILTER: Dictionaraoke
A band called Toydeath has a weird version recorded entirely on children's toys-- it has a very sad/creepy clown feeling. I can't find an MP3 online but message me if you're interested (or hit the band up on Facebook.)

SAD: Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto

And if that's not enough, here's a list of many different covers of the song.
posted by yankeefog at 2:04 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Breezy and sassy: Love For Sale by Anita O'Day
Smooth and alluring: Love For Sale by Ella Fitzgerald
Desparate and haunting: Love For Sale by Elvis Costello
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:04 AM on October 16, 2017

Lots of Radiohead Creep covers out there. Here are 10 ranked according to someone or other.
posted by UnoDosTresEsto at 2:30 AM on October 16, 2017

Best answer: Poignantly (as it was produced by edgeways who has since passed away) this is a lovely wistful version of You Spin Me Round by Dead or Alive.
posted by billiebee at 2:41 AM on October 16, 2017

Adding to Stillmoving, there's this cover of Gin and Juice.

You may want to review a bunch of Richard Cheese's oeveur - I always thought of it as the 'happy face being put on for the world by a depressed person', including their cover of "Down with the Sickness":

Original by Disturbed
Richard Cheese
A close-to-the-original version with acoustic guitars that sounds very different
posted by mephron at 3:27 AM on October 16, 2017

"I kissed a girl" has several different versions. jill sobule's is touching, poignant, and.. From the Clueless soundtrack. Huh.

Katy Perry's is brash, reminds me of club girls, and absolutely not poignant.
posted by Jacen at 3:55 AM on October 16, 2017

The cover album Ultraglide in Black by The Dirtbombs may have something for you if you need the loud and tough to counter some funk and soul.
posted by Gotanda at 4:10 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wistful: "Summer Breeze," Seals & Croft
Off-kilter/sinister, "Summer Breeze," Type O Negative
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Coffee by Sylvan Esso partially covers Hanky Panky by Tommy James in a melancholic tune.
posted by buttonedup at 4:31 AM on October 16, 2017

Oh, and Johnny Cash's version of NIN's "Hurt."
posted by stillmoving at 4:38 AM on October 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Toxic, the original, by Britney Spears.
The cover by Yael Naim that is a lovely, melancholic reworking of the same.
Sorry, on the phone, cannot post links, but both available on Apple Music.
posted by Nieshka at 4:42 AM on October 16, 2017

There is only one great answer to this question.

Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys "God Only Knows" is a song about eternal love, right?

Not exactly.

In the hands of Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet, "God Only Knows" becomes a biting acidic treatise of "I would have been better off without you," but like, wrapped in a melodious fluffy pillow.

It's the sort of twist that will really fuck you up.
posted by jbenben at 5:02 AM on October 16, 2017

Response by poster: Wobbuffet: Do you have particular thematic constraints for the lyrics?

I'm pretty open, but I'm thinking mostly in the vein of "could be a generic pop song" lyrically. Like, Mad World isn't going to work because it's too on the nose and gives away the story too quickly, and Born in the USA has its own strong narrative. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is a good suggestion because the lyrics can be quite relevant. But yeah, anything where the lyrics don't necessarily stand out unless you're paying attention to them/hear them in a different emotional context would be good!
posted by divabat at 5:40 AM on October 16, 2017

Response by poster: "I kissed a girl" has several different versions. jill sobule's is touching, poignant, and.. From the Clueless soundtrack. Huh.

Katy Perry's is brash, reminds me of club girls, and absolutely not poignant.
posted by Jacen

They share a title but are two completely different songs!
posted by divabat at 5:43 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Dirge-like" rendition of Fame by our own chococat, vs Irene Cara's from the movie.
posted by jaruwaan at 6:37 AM on October 16, 2017

To add to Yankeefog's list (BTW that Kompressor was AWESOME),
200+ versions of These Boots Are Made For Walkin'. Many different moods.
posted by JulesER at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

How about My Body is a Cage by Arcade Fire and then covered by Peter Gabriel.
posted by eisforcool at 7:17 AM on October 16, 2017

What about Radiohead's "Morning Bell"? The versions on Kid A and Amnesiac are so different that I didn't even realize it was the same song for an embarrassingly long time.
posted by saladin at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sonic Youth covered Superstar by The Carpenters with a stalkery vibe.
posted by soelo at 7:41 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

My fave might be Springsteen's re-visioning of Blinded by the Light. (Original)
posted by booth at 8:05 AM on October 16, 2017

Jennifer Paige's Crush is a silly pop song from the nineties.

The Dismemberment Plan's version is just depressing.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Glen Hansard did sparse, lyrically-focused covers of Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" (Original) and Britney Spears's "Everytime." (Original) Each of them are beautiful, and bring out the emotional weight of the lyrics. (In her defense, Britney's version is pretty sparse, too. Maybe it's my fault that I can't hear her voice and treat it with sufficient gravitas.)
posted by AgentRocket at 8:57 AM on October 16, 2017

Jose Gonzalez's wistful, melancholy acoustic version of Heartbeats is the best known, and assumed by many to be the original. It's actually a cover of a more wild and desperate electro dance track by The Knife.

Speaking of electro dance, Fischerspooner's cover of The 15th vs. the original version by The Wire might scratch this itch too.
posted by capricorn at 9:14 AM on October 16, 2017

You got this rather mellow, sexy version of Nothing Compares to You (written by Prince) - versus the heartrending Sinead O'Conner version.

And then the totally bonkers, genderbent, Little Richard-styled cover by Big Daddy!

Please consult Big Daddy for all your novelty '50s-themed cover song needs.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:49 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

A-ha remade their own "Take on Me" recently, as discussed here. The original is bright and poppy and the new version is soft and soothing.
posted by jhope71 at 9:57 AM on October 16, 2017

For some reason I keep going to Disney for this. Which you may be able to work to your advantage - Disney songs have the extra weight of cultural baggage attached to them in the original, so it can somehow be even more subversive when you spin them. There was a super-creepy version of "I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio that I heard used in a movie trailer once - I don't know the artist but it was probably one of these folks. There was an entire tribute album of Disney covers some years back, which includes a Tom Waits cover of "Heigh-Ho" from Snow White. Which is bound to be a mind-fuck.

Another source to check out - either of the "Super Hits" albums by the German artist Max Raabe. He does German 1920s style big band dancehall stuff, and the "Super Hits" albums are that style covers of contemporary pop songs. His cover of "Oops I Did It Again" is bonkers. I don't know how menacing any of the other covers would be, but they're odd enough that some people may be freaked out (or it could round out a selection that you've already got).

Side note upon reading this thread - Glen Hansard did a cover of Cry Me A River???? I gotta listen when I get home from work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some extreme varieties of style, if not necessarily emotional content:
Avriel and the Sequoias - Hey Ya
The Cleverlys - Gangnam Style

I would check out Johnny Cash's American Songs collection -- many of those have something of a departure in emotions from the original.
posted by daisystomper at 3:44 PM on October 16, 2017

Oh!! and has no one mentioned Postmodern Jukebox yet? (wait yes, someone did. Linking it anyway.)
posted by daisystomper at 3:51 PM on October 16, 2017

Adalita’s cover of “Burning Up” turns Madonna’s fun poppy dance track about having the hots for someone into an unsettling and creepy ballad about an unhealthy relationship (song starts about 55 seconds in to the YouTube link).
posted by arha at 3:58 PM on October 16, 2017

My first thought was Ryan Adams's cover of Taylor Swift's album 1989. Those are all very different versions--his slow, ballad, sad versions of her high-energy pop songs. Like, check out their two versions of Blank Space, and then I got this one by googling around. Bad Blood is another one that has several versions that are very different in tone.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:44 PM on October 16, 2017

True Faith

New Order
George Michael
Lotte Kester
posted by moira at 8:28 PM on October 16, 2017

I love First Aid Kit‘s cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s America.
posted by bendy at 10:02 PM on October 16, 2017

Chris Cornell’s cover of Billie Jean is amazing and so complex compared to the original. You could also add his cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” to the suggestions from the first post and you’d have your 3 versions right there. (Sorry can’t link, on mobile).
posted by sealee at 12:02 AM on October 17, 2017

"All Day and All of the Night": The Kinks, Hanne Hukkelberg
posted by John Cohen at 3:28 PM on October 21, 2017

A little late to this question but I like this one:

Like a River Runs

Bleachers (uplifting/pop-y)

Sia (mournful and epic)
posted by space snail at 4:05 PM on October 22, 2017

Response by poster: I ended up going with You Spin Me Right Round (inc the edgeways version). This is what it was for! (note: there's nudity towards the end)
posted by divabat at 10:28 PM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

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