Natalie Imbruglia returns with a beautiful rendition of Daft Punk's
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Natalie Imbruglia returns with a beautiful rendition of Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush”

16 March 2015 17 Comments
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natalieimbruglia-instantcrushWhen we hear that one of our favorite artists is returning with a new “covers” album, we cannot help but feel substantially less excited than we would feel if the same artist is slated to return with new original material. The limited excitement stems from a perception of “depleted” novelty since we have heard the songs before – but just not the new treatment (vocally or sonically) of them. For the most part, we have felt that recording covers is rather pointless since in doing so, nothing new is being offered to the discerning music aficionado. The first exception to this assertion is the one in which a fundamentally new treatment is given to the song. The innovation could be in the vocal delivery or by giving the song the cloak of a new genre altogether. The second exception is the one in which the cover version being recorded is of a song that is relatively obscure. Breathing new life into the song with a new vocal or stylistic interpretation could bring it out of obscurity. Fortunately, Aussie pop star Natalie Imbruglia appears to have a fairly good grasp of both these exceptions as she returns after six years with her first new single titled “Instant Crush” (a song originally recorded by French electronic duo Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas).

Many hail “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk as 2013’s “album of the year”. We feel differently, since the robotic and processed vocals over almost an entire album became quite monotonous. Furthermore, they diluted music that in its embryonic form, was probably very beautiful. Noteworthy examples of songs that suffered from this treatment are “Game Of Love” and “Instant Crush“. It appears that Natalie Imbruglia may have recognized the immense potential of the latter as she successfully brings out its inherent beauty through her interpretation of the song.

The song opens as a down-tempo affair with a beautifully layered arrangement featuring an acoustic guitar, piano, and strings. It serves as the perfect sonic preamble to Natalie’s beautiful and emotional vocals. In fact, Natalie’s vocals are better suited to the mildly wistful lyrical content of the song than those of Julian Casablancas. She demonstrates an expanded vocal range which truly shines as she sings the line “One thousand lonely stars hiding in the cold“. The song reveals a stylistic schizophrenia wherein the verses are given a down-tempo treatment whereas the chorus is given a more mid-tempo rock treatment that is reminiscent of the sound that dominated Natalie’s debut album “Left Of The Middle“. Those that are familiar with the original version of this song will know that this type of variation was absent on the original.

The production, in particular of this song, is fantastic in that it achieves the right mix of rich and understated. Its greatest moments are the background piano on the second verse and the violin “out-tro”.

While it is fairly obvious that we enjoy the song, a part of us has to wonder if it is the best choice for a lead single. We have always been quite critical of Natalie’s choices for lead singles off every album since “White Lillies Island“. While “Instant Crush” does have its mid-tempo moments, we cannot help but wonder if something that is uptempo from the beginning to the end would have made a better choice for the lead single off Natalie’s new album. That being said,  we do believe that Natalie has succeeded in her endeavor to breathe new life into a relatively obscure track through her beautiful and fundamentally distinct rendition of it. If more artists took this approach to recording covers, we would probably be as excited about such endeavors as we typically are about newly written material. Furthermore, if this innovative spirit is showcased on the rest of her new covers album titled “Male” (slated for release on July 28, 2015), she might have a winning album on her hands. We are excited to see Natalie Imbruglia return to the pop spotlight and hope she can “right the wrong” that she was at the receiving end of with the ill-fated but beautiful and criminally under-rated “Come to life” album (released in 2009). Here is a full-length audio clip of “Instant Crush“:

STAR RATING: 4 out of 5 stars


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17 Responses to "Natalie Imbruglia returns with a beautiful rendition of Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush”"

  1. Sam says:

    I had never heard the original, so for me this *is* a new listening experience. I really like this, and I agree with your rating.

  2. @Sam: The issue of covering a popular song is that your perception of novelty is diminished. I think I had heard the original but it wasn’t remarkable enough to stick. Natalie Imbruglia’s rendition actually might make it stick. Thanks a ton for the comment!

  3. Sam says:

    No problem. And it’s interesting that she’s calling her new album “Male.” Maybe she’s just been thinking a bit too much about Lukas lately. 😉

  4. @Sam: She is calling it male because all the songs on the album are covers by male artists.

  5. Sam says:

    I guess you mean “covers of songs *originally* sung by male artists.” 😉 That’s interesting—thank you for the explanation.

    Incidentally, while I still haven’t heard the original version, apparently “Instant Crush” has also been covered by a Swedish band named Say Lou Lou. I don’t particularly care for their cover, though—I find it rather languid. You can hear it on YouTube. Imbruglia’s cover is much better.

  6. @Sam: Yes- that is exactly what I mean! I did hear of the Say Lou Lou cover but have never actually heard that version. I will check it out tonight. I am hoping we can add “Instant Crush” to our high-rotation playlist tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed.

  7. Frannie says:

    I love it. It’s great to hear some new stuff from her. The concept of this album is actually very similiar to a covers album by Tori Amos awhile back called Strange Little Girls. That was also covers of songs written by males, which also had a lot of songs that weren’t really that well known. I generally don’t like covers albums because they tend to do songs that are too well known or have been done so many times. But if you do less known songs, it’s almost like getting a new original album. My favorite song from that is her cover of Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. I wonder if Natalie is familiar with Tori’s album since the concept is quite similiar.

  8. @Frannie: On a bunch of pop forums, there seems to be a common response that Tori Amos got it right first and that Natalie might be a little late to the game in terms of the innovation around the concept. I still think the real innovation lies in the treatment that she gives these songs – and it seems like she definitely got it right on “Instant Crush”. I would be VERY surprised if she was unaware of Tori Amos’ album.

  9. Frannie says:

    I totally agree with you that the innovation lies in the treatment of the songs. I’m a huge Tori Amos fan, but for me personally Strange Little Girls is one of her weaker albums. I really don’t listen to it too much. I only like a few songs. So it’s not that hard to surpass it! I guess maybe the difference is people see Tori as a supreme songwriter who’s known for her very personal lyrics so fans really aren’t looking for or relate to her doing covers. They want to hear what Tori has to say in her own songwriting voice. I don’t think most people are quite as connected to Natalie as a songwriter and a person in the same way so I think they may be more open to a covers album from her.

    Tori’s album was actually done when she was pregnant with her daughter and so she really wasn’t that into doing intense songwriting and she owed her label at the time a final record. So for me it wasn’t an artistic highpoint for her that she was super committed to.

  10. @Frannie: Actually, Natalie is quite a competent songwriter. Some of her finer moments musically speaking are the ones she has penned herself. While I know Natalie has legions of fans worldwide, I don’t know any of them personally so I cannot really speak to the connection with her songwriting with any degree of authority.

  11. Frannie says:

    I think Natalie is quite a good songwriter. I was referring more to Tori Amos’ fans who are very personally connected to her and her lyrics about rape, relationships and the role of women in society. I don’t think there is any fanbase that is so personally attached as Tori Amos’ fans. I think people see Natalie as someone who writes nice songs but they don’t say she saved their life or stopped them from committing suicide as you often hear from Tori’s fans.
    I just remember when Tori announced she was doing a covers album the moaning and the disappointment from her biggest fans. I don’t see the same response from Natalie’s fans.
    I actually think a covers album is great from someone like Natalie who has been out of the spotlight awhile. I hate to call it a gimmick but it’s a hook to get people interested in and talking about her again rather than just another album of original songs.

  12. @Frannie: I am glad she is back but a part of me wishes there was some newly written material too.

  13. Frannie says:

    Perhaps there will be if this is successful. Hopefully, she doesn’t feel like Annie Lennox who basically says she isn’t going to write new material anymore because she is too happy now!
    It must be very frustrating for Natalie that her career has kind of stalled. She has so much going for her but somehow people don’t seem to be interested and her albums/singles haven’t done well. The music industry can be so unfair sometimes.

  14. Frannie says:

    Lovely interview with Natalie and the video for the Instant Crush. I’m liking this is more and more! I think it’s interesting how she said she didn’t do some of her songs by her favorite female artists because she didn’t want to touch them. I totally see what she’s saying. As a woman, there are some female artists like Madonna and Tori Amos that are so iconic to me, if I were a singer I just would feel how could I ever compete with that.

  15. @Frannie: Which interview are you referring to?

  16. Frannie says:

    I just realized I totally forgot to paste the link! Silly me. My apologies! Here it is!

    I did read on an online forum that people didn’t like the video and the reaction was negative. But I quite like it!

  17. @Frannie: I just read it a few minutes ago. Thank you so much for the link. I think she looks stunning in the video but I wasn’t too crazy about the premise of the video. I didn’t think it was bad though.

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