Listen to this week’s playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.
Q-Tip said it best on “Excursions,” “… don’t you know that things go in cycles? The way that Bobby Brown is just ampin’ like Michael.” Music works in cycles of reinvention, and what better way to explore them than by looking at songs and reinvented versions of them? This week’s mix takes a journey through the fluidity of song and the powers of embracing sonic differences over time.
Use Me (Bill Withers, 1972) vs. Use Me (Grace Jones, 1981)
First up on the docket is “Use Me.” Bill Withers’ original version employs a stripped-down instrumental consisting of a repeating guitar, simple drums, and a subtle bassline while Jones’ version touches on her Jamaican roots with an electronic reggae approach. Both songs employ their own sense of drama in the vocals, as Withers wrote this song narrative on cross-class relationships as a commentary on classism.
OG vs Cover: In the case of “Use Me,” Bill Withers’ soulful original cuts deeper, though I love Grace Jones’ take.
I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On (Cherrelle, 1984) vs. I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On (Robert Palmer, 1986)
“I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” is the brainchild of Minneapolis heavyweights Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, most famous for their work with Janet Jackson. Cherrelle’s version makes the story of the song more believable, while Palmer’s rendition gives the track a cool edge. Both songs employ a strong percussion and possess synthesizer grooves that are emblematic of the ‘80s, making this a hot battle between these tracks.
OG vs Cover: Both songs are endlessly fun, but I’m giving the flowers to Cherrelle this round. Original for the win.
All I Do Is Think of You (The Jackson 5, 1975) vs. All I Do Is Think of You (Troop, 1989)
It’s incredibly hard to cover a group with as many hits as The Jackson 5, but Troop manages to deliver an updated version of “All I Do Is Think of You.” Where the Jackson 5 version is driven by the instrumentation, the Troop version intensely focuses on the harmonies of the group over a softer backing track.
OG vs Cover: With “All I Do Is Think of You,” the Troop version holds my heart. The answer here is cover, without a doubt.
How Deep Is Your Love (Bee Gees, 1977) vs. How Deep Is Your Love (PJ Morton and Yebba, 2017)
“How Deep Is Your Love” was originally composed by the Gibb brothers as a part of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and was covered by PJ Morton and Yebba for Morton’s 2018 live album Gumbo Unplugged. The version by the Bee Gees is soft like a summer breeze, while Morton’s is filling like gumbo. However, each version brings a soulful and heartfelt approach to this love song.
OG vs Cover: Here, it’s honestly a tie between versions because both are just so damn velvety.
I Will Always Love You (Dolly Parton, 1974) vs I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston, 1992)
Battle of the divas here. Dolly Parton wrote this song and “Jolene” on the same day, crafting a perfect ballad for a strong talent such as Whitney Houston to sing years later. While Parton’s version of the song is much more lowkey with Parton carefully choosing moments to display her prowess, Houston’s recording showcases her full vocal range from start to end.
OG vs Cover: Whitney. Always. End of discussion. Period point blank.
Always and Forever (Heatwave, 1976) vs Always and Forever (Luther Vandross, 1998)
Written by British hitmaker and Heatwave member “The Invisible Man” Rod Temperton, “Always and Forever” is a Black wedding slow dance standard, standing the test of time. The original version is highlighted by Johnnie Wilder, Jr. ‘s delivery of the main vocal mixed with the careful arrangement, while Vandross’ cover is faithful, but focuses on his vocals rather than the instruments.
OG vs Cover: Something about the original version is so timelessly electrifying, so I’ve got to give it to Heatwave.
I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt, 1991) vs I Can’t Make You Love Me (George Michael, 1997)
Blues singer Bonnie Raitt recorded “I Can’t Make You Love Me” with Bruce Hornsby accompanying her on piano for her eleventh album Luck of the Draw, while George Michael covered it as a B-Side to his single “Older.” Both songs rely on the steady escalation of their vocalists in order to capture the sorrow of the lyrics.
OG vs Cover: George Michael’s version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” wins out here because the use of guitar perfectly goes along with his passionate singing.
Feel Like Makin’ Love (Roberta Flack, 1974) vs Feel Like Makin’ Love (D’Angelo, 2000)
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” can only be described as alluring. Originally recorded by Roberta Flack in 1974, this song is tantalizing without being explicit in nature, with Flack’s delivery soaking in subtlety to deliver its sensual message. D’Angelo’s cover was produced by J. Dilla, employing D’Angelo’s signature croon to stay in a similar lane as the original.
OG vs Cover: Now y’all know I’m not about to play with Ms. Flack. The original is the clear victor here.
The summer is officially upon us! Remember what Rae Sremmurd said, “safe sex and paychecks.” For your hot girl/gay/they summer, here are some links to free condoms and STI/HIV testing throughout the city. Stay safe, stay smart, and look out for the summer edition of 14 Beats.
Header image by Jake Runnion