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Thursday, August 21, 2003
Richard Thompson - Oops, I Did It Again
Hillary sent me this--it's from Thompson's 1000 Years of Music CD, available only from his website, and a pretty hilarious concept: a true "millenium of music," reaching back into madrigals and folk songs and like that. But in addition to covering things like "Trafalgar Square" and "Shenandoah," he does "Cry Me a River," "Tempted," Prince's "Kiss," and, of course, this Britney song.
The interesting thing about hearing people cover Britney songs is how they'll make it into something pretty new and interesting, and then this one little bit in the song itself will totally demolish the whole concept and bring it back to Britney herself. So Thompson's version starts off like a minimalist blues/rock song in either an Elvis or Steve Winwood vein, and it sounds very good and impassioned--but then he hits the chorus. And he hits the totally illogical (and totally masterful) mid-bar upswing to a major chord on "I played with your heart," and the whole thing just gets wiped away. It's Britney again, because as of yet, that kind of chord change just doesn't make sense outside of a hyper-pop, electronic arrangement.
My favorite Britney cover is probably Fountains of Wayne's version of "Baby One More Time" (which I have been asked not to post, but which you might be able to track down), which is brilliant because it totally turns it into a 60's girl-pop song; you can almost hear Ronnie Spector wanting to bust in during the choruses. And they wisely leave out the huge jump to falsetto that the backing vocals would require (i.e. "still beLIEVE!"), which helps a lot. But then, again, they hit the bridge, with its totally illogical, radio-pop-only chord changes, and it's a bit demolished. But not really. It only happens once or twice, and the rest of the track is truly awesome.
Do go check out that Thompson CD--both the concept and (what I've heard of) the execution are quite good, and thought-provoking:
The idea for this project came from Playboy Magazine - I was asked by submit a list, in late 1999, of the ten greatest songs of the Millenium. Hah! I thought, hypocrites - they don't mean millennium, they mean twenty years - I'll call their bluff and do a real thousand-year selection. My list was similar to the choices here on this CD, starting in about 1068, and winding slowly up to 2001. That they failed to print my list among others submitted by rock's luminaries, is but a slight wound - it gave me the idea for this show, which has been performed occasionally, and will hopefully receive a few more airings. The idea is that Popular Music comes in many forms, through many ages, and as older forms get superceded, sometimes the baby is thrown out with the bathwater - great ideas, tunes, rhythms, styles, get left in the dust of history, so let's have a look at what's back there, and see if still does the trick. I am unqualified to sing 98% of the material here, but me having a go could be considered part of the fun. Also, trying to render an Arthur Sullivan orchestration with acoustic guitar and snare drum is pretty desperate stuff, but may, at a stretch, be thought "charming."
Right on, Richard.