By Emily Carney
5. Billy Joel’s “Big Shot,” performed by Ben Folds
I have the most beautiful older sister. She related to me that when she was in high school during the 1980s, many famous pop solo artists tended to be older people, like Elton John or Billy Joel. She told me the most hilarious story about a bunch of teenage girls in her gym class shrieking over seeing Billy Joel in concert. I find it hard to believe any teenage girl would get physically excited over seeing Billy Joel live in concert. . . but hey, we all have different tastes.
By the time I got to high school in 1992, Billy Joel was considered the apex of completely dorky taste in music. The popular “cool” kids listened to stuff like Jodeci and Stevie B., while the indie “hipster” kids listened to Pavement and Sebadoh. So I figured Ben Folds, who was considered “acceptable indie listening,” should have covered Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” to totally electrify the way-too-jaded indie kids. What better way to make the Piano Man more palatable to impressionable, young hipsters? Like they would have known the difference anyway. . .
4. Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” performed by LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem are one of my favorite bands, partly because of their ability to make fantastically danceable songs while still maintaining their sense of humanity (just listen to “All My Friends”) and definitely their sense of humor. I’ve always thought “Once in a Lifetime” would particularly benefit from the LCD Soundsystem treatment with its deadpan vocals, synth squiggles, and simple bass guitar patterns.
In addition, LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy seems to be a nice, unassuming, unpretentious fellow (he most infamously lampooned indie “I did it first!” pretentiousness in the LCD song “Losing My Edge”). In contrast, apparently Talking Heads frontman David Byrne was not such a nice guy, and was extremely fond of threatening remaining Talking Heads’ band members with lawsuits. So, with LCD Soundsystem, you get all of the musical greatness without the litigious douchebaggery! Now I call that a good deal.
3. Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” performed by M.I.A.
“Electric Avenue” was a MASSIVE tune when I was a small child. I knew it then as a happy, poppy hit with synth bleeps and a brightly colored, cool MTV video. As I got older, I began to realize what the song was really about; there was quite a lot of violence going down on Electric Avenue, along with no money, and no food. I find it quite striking that this song (along with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message,” which was big around the same time) became so huge with such insanely dark lyrics.
I envision M.I.A. (the artist associated with the gunshot-festooned summer 2008 hit “Paper Planes”) doing the mad real version of “Electric Avenue.” This cover version requires incidental sounds associated with the Ghetto Apocalypse: kids crying, samples of dissonant voices begging for food and money, and (of course) sporadic gunshots. I hold M.I.A. up to the challenge of making a truly rage-filled rendition of this Eddy Grant pop hit, because it is pretty obvious listeners didn’t get it the first time around.
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