When 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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