Sometimes the right thing to get the creative juices flowing is to take an existing and influential song, put one’s own spin on it, and unleash it upon an unsuspecting fanbase. Whether taking a page of a genre playbook similar to one’s own or covering a track clear out of left field, why not shake shit up here and there? Within the last few weeks, the alternative world has seen a number of its best and bleakest offer up their interpretations of some popular tracks, ranging from a Nine Inch Nails Grammy winner to a cut from the Queen of Pop.
Poppy modernizes nu metal darlings Kittie’s first salvo “Spit” from 1999 debut
The post-genre princess known simply as Poppy has paid homage to the women that have rocked before her, namely t.A.T.u (“All The Things She Said”) and Jack Off Jill (“Fear of Dying”), but the once-YouTube sensation tends to wear her musical influences on her sleeve. The title track from Kittie’s 1999 debut album was a rattling of the metal cages, as the Canadian four-piece challenged the entire concept of women in heavy music in a way that hadn’t been done since the heyday of Doro Pesch. A shame it may be that the lyrics of “Spit” are still relevant nearly a quarter of a century after its initial release,
Poppy’s update picks up the pace and adds in more electronic elements, making what was already a mosh-ready track a mule kick to the teeth. If Kittie’s original was pissed off, Poppy’s is an exasperated, infuriated howl along the lines of “god damn it, we’re still debating this shit?!” It’s urgent, dangerous, and an improvement on an iconic song from the heart of the nu metal era, and for that Poppy should be proud.
Danny Blu & Moris Blak confirm what we all knew: Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” is, in fact, industrial
In 1989, Janet Jackson invited us all to join a nation without geographic boundaries, united by a common mission. The title track from her landmark fourth album was set to bring people together through the power of music, addressing social calamities in a concept album for which Jackson fought tooth and nail to maintain creative control over. Given the rising influence of industrial music in the late Eighties, some have quipped, albeit only semi-seriously, that Rhythm Nation 1814 is an industrial album, but leave it to two of today’s best and brightest in the game to take that and run with it.
The SHVDOW Records duo of singer Danny Blu and producer Moris Blak bring the legendary track into modern times, tweaking the lyrics ever so slightly to reflect the problem du jour (namely, “with music by our side, to break the gender lines,” whereas the original named “color lines”). The live out loud mantra and attitude of Blu, with the pounding rhythms and thought-out production and arrangement by Blak, amounts to a smash for both. May this collaboration never end, and may the Rhythm Nation never stop.
We found Garbage hiding, and they finally uncovered their take on Siouxsie and The Banshees’ “Cities in Dust”
The godmother of goth that is Siouxsie Sioux championed the post-punk sound that populated the Seventies and Eighties, influencing innumerable alternative music acts for decades to come. The Madison, WI quartet Garbage has gone on record saying that the Banshees frontwoman was integral to their sound from moment one, and as a loving tribute, the band’s recent Record Store Day special Witness to Your Love EP included a version of “Cities in Dust.” Part electropop, part noise rock, and all driven by Shirley Manson’s smooth yet commanding voice, this cover may take a bit to grow on the more diehard Siouxsie fans, but such a careful and thought-out tribute cannot go unnoticed.
Ego Likeness mark their return with a rendition of Madonna’s “Live to Tell”
Madonna is an artist that invokes an old adage from wrestling manager extraordinaire Captain Lou Albano: often imitated, never duplicated. The Queen of Pop has a body of work and a sound all her own, making any artist’s go at reimagining one of her songs a tall task. Leave it to the seasoned Ego Likeness, breaking their yearslong silence following the reissue of their Dragonfly album and the release of their Wolves EP, to put the “power” into a power ballad. Donna Lynch’s dynamic and haunting vocals with the instrumentation and production of the multi-talented Steven Archer give this song about lies and mistrust an even darker, more ominous cloud to hang over it.
Otep’s take on Billie Eilish’s “you should see me in a crown” rules with an iron fist
The music of Otep Shamaya has always been confrontational and boundary-challenging, and her handling of covers has been no different. Be it her faithful cover of Nirvana’s “Breed” or even the transformation of Lorde’s bedroom pop smash “Royals” into an alt-metal banger that begs to be belted, the edge which Otep adds is one that is razor-sharp. On her first studio release since 2018’s Kult 45, Otep tackles Billie Eilish’s “you should see me in a crown,” one of the anchoring singles from the young singer’s debut full-length. Through death-growled choruses and gritted teeth, Otep adds plenty of bite to the track, going for aggressive where Eilish’s original approach was more understated.
Tony Hawk enlists a bevy of heavy to cover Nine Inch Nails’ “Wish”
If you had “Tony Hawk sings Nine Inch Nails” on your 2023 bingo card, no you didn’t, you fucking liar. Fairmounts frontman Mike Hawdon hosts “Mikey and His Uke” on YouTube, a music show featuring a who’s who in music creating all-star covers of rock and metal classics. For a more recent video, Mikey recruited Tony Hawk, who I’m convinced still doesn’t know how famous he really is, along with guitarist Ben Weinman (ex-Dillinger Escape Plan, Suicidal Tendencies), bassist Brad Magers (The Bronx), keyboardist Kat Lucas (ex-P!nk, stormylovechild), and drummer Ryan “Legs” Leger (ex-Norma Jean, ex-Every Time I Die), to cover a song which Hawdon himself always wanted covered on his show: Nine Inch Nails’ 1992 smash “Wish.” In the music video, Trent Reznor himself makes a brief cameo, giving an emphasis to the phrase “fist fuck” while still keeping well within YouTube terms and conditions. The cover itself is crunchier and more guitar-forward, with Hawk’s vocals staying faithful to Reznor’s original takes, albeit with a bit less inflection than the genuine article.