“I Will Survive”
Album: Fashion Nugget
Released: September 17, 1996
Originally Performed By: Gloria Gaynor
Since its original release in 1978, disco standard “I Will Survive” has been covered countless times. However, Cake is still the only band to take the song off of the dance floor and into the gutter. Gloria Gaynor’s defiant wail is replaced by the lethargic baritone of lead singer John McCrea. Sharp guitar hooks and one of the catchiest basslines in all of rock allow Cake’s cover to hit angles that Gaynor’s never could. Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” is about defiantly moving on from past relationships; Cake’s version shows that moving on is not as easy as it sounds.
“Johnny and Mary”
Artist: Todd Terje ft. Brian Ferry
Album: It’s Album Time
Released: April 8, 2014
Originally Performed By: Robert Palmer
In “Johnny and Mary,” Todd Terje pays homage to the defining new wave artists of the late ‘80s and late ‘70s with none other than one of the genre’s founding fathers at his side—Roxy Music’s Brian Ferry. The original “Johnny and Mary” was endearing, if a bit thin at times. On the contrary, Terje’s version is as lush as it gets. Swirling synths and echoing percussion perfectly cradle Ferry’s near-whispering voice. These qualities complement the song’s dream-like lyrics. When Ferry croons “He needs all the world to confirm / that he ain’t lonely,” we can feel his longing.
Artist: Jai Paul
Album: Jai Paul
Released: April 16, 2013
Originally Performed By: Jennifer Paige
It’s one thing when an artist takes an already great song to another level, but quite another when the artist makes a mediocre one great. The original version of “Crush” is a bit of ‘90s pop fluff, an easily forgotten one-hit wonder. Jai Paul turns it into a slow jam, with booming bass and honeyed falsetto to boot. Paul breathes new life into the song, giving it a level of sexiness and allure that’s completely absent in the original.
“Killing Me Softly With His Song”
Artist: The Fugees
Album: The Score
Released: May 31, 1996
Originally Performed By: Roberta Flack
Is there anything cooler than ‘90s Lauryn Hill? Before she hit it big with her first solo album and then proceeded to drop off the face of the planet, Hill was one third of alternative hip-hop group The Fugees. Make no mistake though, their version of “Killing Me Softly with His Song” is all Hill, with the other members’ roles limited to ad-libs. The production on the track is stellar. Bringing the R&B classic into the hip-hop world is no easy feat, but the Fugees pass the test with flying colours. As for the vocals, Hill’s turn is every bit as emotionally rich as Flack’s and adds a swagger not present in the original song. Wait for the bridge and prepare to be amazed.