Driving Cadillacs in Our Dreams
October 4, 2013 5:41 PM   Subscribe

 
Nice! It's almost too clean, though - It's not a song with a ton of fancy instrumentation as it is, so it just doesn't sound that different.

I actually like their (not-totally-acappella) Radioactive better, though. And the video is gorgeous. And Thrift Shop is fucking hilarious, largely because it's totally bowdlerized.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:57 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this is in some sort of uncanny valley of cover song verisimilitude here for me. On the one hand YAY WELL DONE, and on the other hand there's bit's where it's actually hard for me to convince myself this isn't just lip-syncing to the original.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:00 PM on October 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nice! It's almost too clean, though

I was thinking the same thing; sounds pitch-corrected and too tightly sample-level-gated to my sensitive ears.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:05 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love it.
posted by bearwife at 6:12 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, would make a good mashup with Zep's Black Mountain Side
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:17 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm so intensely not a fan of a capella groups that I couldn't even sit through Pitch Perfect, but DAMN. Damn.

Goosebumps.

Agreed, though, that the song is minimalist enough that there's not really any there there, a capella-wise. It's good, but they're not taking it in a different direction from the original in that cutesy a capella way. That said, maybe this is why I like it so much? It's just fucking pretty and not trying to be anything much.
posted by Sara C. at 6:21 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That makes sense - it's acapella for people who aren't super into acapella. (I adored Pitch Perfect, both because of the singing and because it was the gonzo little sister of Bring It On, which I also love.)
posted by restless_nomad at 6:24 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strangely, I like this a lot more when it's open in another tab, so I'm not watching the video.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:27 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


unknowncommand: I think it's because they're too well dressed. The whole song is about how we're never going to be drinking Cristal or wearing diamond-studded jewelry but then the singers are all dressed up and pretty and adorned in gold and silver.
posted by JDHarper at 6:40 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


the song is minimalist enough that there's not really any there there, a capella-wise.

Pentatonix can bring it to pretty much whatever level you require.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:41 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I like it!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:43 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


hhhm. yeah, i gotta say, it seemed pretty over-wrought to me. Well done, but not quite what i was expecting
posted by rebent at 6:47 PM on October 4, 2013


i'm partial to the lazerdisk remix.
posted by Mach5 at 6:53 PM on October 4, 2013


I agree that the song is too minimal to really work as an a capella cover. The Thriftshop cover is a better fit.
posted by radioamy at 6:57 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about this is, when I read the post, my reaction was "Isn't it already a capella?"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:21 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


This was nice, but it felt pretty scrubbed. It feels better delivered with the dose of bitter irony in the original. Thanks for turning me on to Lorde, though. Something about it really moved me tonight.
posted by Otherwise at 7:27 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man, I love Pentatonix. Thrift Shop is good, but my favourites are We Are Young and Somebody You Used To Know. Also Love Lockdown, Startships,Dog Days Are Over, Gangnam Style, Payphone, You Da One...


Also, Avi sings classical opera and Kevin is a killer cellist.
posted by Alnedra at 7:32 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


See, that Somebody You Used to Know cover is genuinely a reinterpretation and is interesting. Granted, it's of a song that's been covered a trillion times, but still, it's interesting. (I kind of loathe We Are Young, so I can't really gauge that one.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:40 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to like acappella, but I don't get why acappella groups always go with those hyper-clean Glee/broadway-style vocals. I feel like this fundamentally fails to understand what resonates with most people about popular music.
posted by threeants at 7:41 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will inflict some Pitch Perfect on everyone - the Riff-Off. The last song in the, um, medley - the show-stopper - exactly encapsulates what I like about a capella. Just that feeling that everyone is contributing to a larger whole in a way that's a little more comprehensible to a non-musician than instrumentals.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:44 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The beatboxer has been featured here before...
(edit: links in original are dead, here is the video)
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:44 PM on October 4, 2013


Embarrassing.
posted by jcruelty at 7:50 PM on October 4, 2013


I feel like this fundamentally fails to understand what resonates with most people about popular music.

I think that's the whole point, though.

They're completely not-for-profit competitive Ivy League singing clubs, typically (in my understanding) meant for students with no professional music aspirations.

It's like the 2013 American equivalent of the elite sporting clubs that gave rise to the Olympics.

It's its own insular little phenomenon, deliberately inaccessible to the outside world.
posted by Sara C. at 8:14 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought it was ok. I feel like the original version is more a capella, more raw, than this version. I love love love Lorde, and I have a hard time imagining that anything could be better than the original (though I hate the US video, and when I want to watch her singing I watch this video of her in KCRW's studio. Watching the original video, even though I had never seen her before in anything else, I thought it was painstakingly obvious that she was uncomfortable playing the roll of the dolled up kitten a la Lana Del Rey.)
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:37 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


threeants, that seems to miss how wildly popular, you know, Glee just happens to have been. Not to mention that while liking Broadway may not be totally conventional, there's at least a fair-sized minority of high school kids who have always swooned over Phantom of the Opera or Rent or Avenue Q or whatever the big thing is now. If that's the sort of music they like, then why shouldn't that be the kind of music they make?

Some part of me assumed when I first discovered Pentatonix that they were probably--well, religious. Like the way they cleaned up Thrift Shop so aggressively. And working with Lindsey Stirling, whose work I love, mind, but she's done commercials for the LDS church, that kinda thing. And then found out that Scott and Mitch are both openly gay and, you know, maybe this is just the kind of thing they like doing and that should be okay and not seen as some kind of referendum on anybody else's tastes.

So I've come around to thinking that "whaddup I got a big duck" is brilliant, and go them. I think there's something a bit different about the tone and message in this versus the original, but I don't think it's lesser for that.
posted by Sequence at 8:53 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one part of it that enables the whole scene to be so aggressively non-commercial is that the whole thing is low key enough that they're able to appeal to that very niche audience of hardcore Glee fans and drama nerds.

If you're Ke$ha or Miley Cyrus, you need to keep the money coming in to bankroll your huge star machine. It's like a self-feeding beast.

If you're Pentatonix, you can play a few shows and sell a few albums and do pretty well playing to the built-in niche for the music you like to play. Especially since the vast majority of your competitors are amateur college kids not doing it for money.

Re the "religious" angle, there's always been a "just good clean cut wholesome fun" angle to a cappella. I don't think any/many of the groups are Christian[TM], they're just aggressively not pop.
posted by Sara C. at 9:01 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zen Master This, you're right about the Zep. Just played them both at once in separate windows, and the ky match is perfect. A tiny bit of messing with timing and you've got something more interesting.
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


i enjoyed them on "the sing off" - it's a fun show and they were great for it. that season was also notable because the generally forgettable group the collective - a group of working musicians trying out the acapella thing to try to grab some of exposure - included ruby amanfu who is most known for singing with jack white.
posted by nadawi at 9:04 PM on October 4, 2013


Lorde's version is so sparse, as to put more emphasis on the grittiness of the lyric. The Pentatonix version is so much more of a vocal performance that it obscures the meaning (to me)...they are talented vocalists, to be sure, but the song choice is not to my taste.
posted by Exchequer at 9:18 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Definitely liked the Thrift Shop cover more. I've seen a bunch of a capella Royals videos passed around, but nothing is as cool and gritty and charming as the original. That girl is something else.
posted by sweetkid at 9:55 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're just being introduced to Lorde by this, please allow me to recommend her EP The Love Club over the new album, Pure Heroine. It will be cheaper on digital media and I actually prefer it, although the new album is also good. (Both feature Royals.)
posted by maryr at 10:43 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh. YouTube just "suggested" this: Mayer Hawthorne covers Royals. (It is kinda weirdly loungey. But I thought I'd share it anyway.)
posted by maryr at 11:09 PM on October 4, 2013


So kiwis didn't win the America's Cup back but one of us made number one in America.

Fair trade.

Thanks.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:05 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lorde's version is so sparse, as to put more emphasis on the grittiness of the lyric. The Pentatonix version is so much more of a vocal performance that it obscures the meaning (to me)...they are talented vocalists, to be sure, but the song choice is not to my taste.

Yeah, it's 'better' in every single way apart from not being better at all.

If you were to subtract the Pentatonix version from the original, you would end up with pure essence of music.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:40 AM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Count me as one of the ones who can't understand why the original deserves any sort of attention, much less a cover.

I'd say this to those who wonder why acappella sounds the way it does: it's convention, mainly, along with singers who actually sing "properly". They generally don't sound rough around the edges because they aren't, and wouldn't sacrifice their vocal chords to sound that way.
posted by sutt at 4:35 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Find the Pentatonix performance of OMG by Usher they did for Sing Off! and you'll learn that Kevin is the religious member, and that they worked very hard to scrub and rework that song so that his morals did not object to the song. As they put it, they like to give 100%, and as he put it, if the lyrics are against his morals, it is hard to give 100%.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:51 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pentatonix does an a capella cover of Lorde's "Royals"

Oookaaay. I guess it's ... nice ... that they liked the song enough to cover it. Bless their hearts.
(Am I doing it right?)
posted by Catch at 4:59 AM on October 5, 2013


The whole song is about how we're never going to be drinking Cristal or wearing diamond-studded jewelry but then the singers are all dressed up and pretty and adorned in gold and silver.

Yeah, but at the end they're in regular street clothes. I don't think they missed the point at all.
posted by Hamadryad at 5:06 AM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cornell a capella!!!!!!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:02 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was introduced to Lorde via a co-worker (who is also a Kiwi, and a pretty damn good singer in her own right) one night when I was hosting a pre-Oktoberfest beer appreciation evening at work. I'm blown away that she's only 16.

That said, I quite liked the Pentatonix version, though yes -- it is very "clean". I'll be seeking out some more of their stuffs.
posted by nonspecialist at 6:57 AM on October 5, 2013


Pentatonix's stuff is always really clean - they're soulless automatons. They are technically very very very good, and they're pretty, and that's all they've got. They're also a group that put themselves together for the purpose of winning The Sing-Off and nothing they've done has struck me with the sense that they are doing this out of a love of a capella music, and they entirely lack the sense of "we are ridiculous" that any good a capella group who does covers has.
posted by FritoKAL at 10:06 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a huuuuuge fan of The Sing-Off. The first season was only 4 episodes, broadcast over the course of one week in December 2009. I don't remember seeing much advertising for it, just stumbled on it the first night was hooked - here's the opening number of all 8 groups performing Under Pressure. And here's the first performance by Season 1 winner Nota singing "I'm Yours (that's the show format - cheesy intro by Nick Lachey, some band backstory/rehearsal footage, performance, judges' comments, band reaction clip).

Pentatonix did a terrific job on Season 3. I loved their arrangement of Since You Been Gone + Forget You for the mash-up challenge. Their cover of "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye is so sexy, and judge Sean Stockman's reaction to it is pretty fun. And The Dog Days are Over was amazing. Third-runner-up group Urban Method was great that season too - here's their last song "All of the Lights" by Kanye West featuring Rhianna. And every season has some college acapella groups, the Dartmouth Aires made 2nd place, here's their Queen medley

There's such a diverse range of groups on the show. From Season 2 you've got former Persuasions lead singer Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town - Save the Last Dance, House of the Rising Sun, Mercy, Nashville-based Streetcorner Symphony - Down on the Corner, Creep, and a team-up of former college accappella singers The Backbeats Landslide, If I Were a Boy, Love Shack. And from Season 1, the Baltimore-housewife barbershop quartet Maxx Factor - Love Story. It's just the best, and I'm so glad it's coming back for a 4th season in December.
posted by oh yeah! at 11:00 AM on October 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Good find! I also love their Thrift Shop cover… it's more my speed than some of the more traditional acapella Sing-Off stuff that's super polished and choreographed.

maryr, I dug that Mayer Hawthorne cover right up to the point where he smoothly executed a Truck Driver's Gear Change..
posted by a halcyon day at 11:06 AM on October 5, 2013


I still can't see Lorde's name without reading it as "Lordi" instead.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:26 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


After years of lurking on MetaFilter, I paid $5 simply to tell you all you are fucking impossibly hard to please.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:00 PM on October 5, 2013 [32 favorites]


That's our secret, DrAstroZoom— if we liked everything, nobody would pay $5 to tell us that.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:14 PM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Googling around after this post was how I found out that the show was uncancelled, which is really great. I enjoyed it very much, though I really hope we get more diversity in the groups this time (and fewer groups of all boys in college).
posted by jeather at 2:22 PM on October 5, 2013


It's a pyramid scheme of dissatisfaction.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:31 PM on October 5, 2013


We are all the people, all of the time.
posted by Catch at 7:02 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well I don't know about the rest of you people but i liked it all. I like the original, I like the Pentonix version, I like Mayer Hawthorn version mentioned upthread and, just putting it out there, I would enjoy the HELL out of a Tom Waits version.

It's a fucking great pop song and BONUS it's not about the same thing the most of the pop songs are about. Yay! Music is fun! Weeeeeeeee!
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:14 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not a fan of Metafilter reflex-o-snark either, but I think it's sort of justified here. It's an amazingly well-done cover, for sure - it's just that the original is also amazing and swapping heartfelt grit for pretty, winking, technical virtuosity isn't a great swap unless you add something new (e.g. an interesting new arrangement).

Cf that amazing 2x cello cover of Smooth Criminal - that was the sort of cover that opens up and enlivens a piece of music.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:04 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]




Wow, that article is a microcosm of why I stopped reading Feministing a few years ago.
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 PM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


agreed, Sara C. - it came up over at ontd and got an eye roll out of me. it's like the author doesn't listen to pop radio or watch the corresponding videos.
posted by nadawi at 5:50 AM on October 9, 2013




That feministing piece could have been written as an exercise in illustrating the term 'sophomoric'.

Once upon a time, it might have made the Student Union newspaper.
Now, the opportunity to publish the cringey shallow, ignorant, smug, stuff you write when you have read enough good writing to want to try the academic gotcha yourself, without having read enough to do the thinking-it-through bit properly, is boundless.
posted by Catch at 1:45 PM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno, my main issue with it -- and all of those sorts of Righteously Angry At Innocuous Pop Culture Thing posts there -- is that there just seems to be this fucking ENDLESS list of stuff we're all supposed to hate because it's something-ist. Like some nice-enough pop song about being poor and happy (and subtly hanging a lampshade on the way that escapist entertainment preserves the class structure status quo), which is like WAY LESS AWFUL than every single other thing in pop culture right now.

I mean, yeah, the patriarchy, white supremacy, rape culture, oppression, etc. are omnipresent and it's important to deconstruct the ways they underly our culture. But Feministing takes it to a place that reminds me of Iran or the Chinese Cultural Revolution more than anything else, where basically all art is WRONG and anytime you enjoy anything you need to self-criticize and find reasons it's counter-revolutionary and you are a bad person for enjoying it.
posted by Sara C. at 7:33 PM on October 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ugh that Feministing article. I hate being all "liberal racism" but there's something really gross about saying that white people can't be talking about poverty based on their personal experience, or that poor white people can't look up to rap culture and should only talk about polo shirts.
posted by sweetkid at 7:37 PM on October 9, 2013




This stinky bogan approves of the above.
posted by Catch at 4:45 PM on October 10, 2013


See that Walk off the earth cover - that's the shit.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:53 AM on October 11, 2013


Sara C.: "I dunno, my main issue with it -- and all of those sorts of Righteously Angry At Innocuous Pop Culture Thing posts there -- is that there just seems to be this fucking ENDLESS list of stuff we're all supposed to hate because it's something-ist. Like some nice-enough pop song about being poor and happy (and subtly hanging a lampshade on the way that escapist entertainment preserves the class structure status quo), which is like WAY LESS AWFUL than every single other thing in pop culture right now."

I totally agree on the topic of that Feministing article. I hadn't seen it, and now that I have I dislike it. I think throwing around terms like "racist" with abandon and demanding that people disavow things they like because of some notion of cultural wrongness is counter-productive.

But I will say that this song really grates on me. That's mostly because it really doesn't seem to be about "being poor and happy," which is a damned hard thing to write a song about anyhow. That's hard to write a song about specifically because everyone's tried, and it's almost become a doomed effort.

We've got things like Pulp's "Common People," which is catchy and satisfying but ultimately just coasts on its snideness. I don't think it's actually about anyone's lived experience; it's a statement about a cultural relation more than anything else. And "Common People" is satisfying in the end because it's exposing to ridicule the cultural pretension that treats poverty as a badge of honor or a touristic adventure. Even then, that satisfaction is only maintained because it deftly avoids the difficult question of authenticity by simply not addressing it; is a guy going to St Martin's College really an authority on what it's like to be poor? I suspect that Jarvis feels that doesn't matter because he's mocking people who fake poverty for the cultural value of it - and if that means he's mocking himself, all the better. He seems to be okay with cultural self-criticism.

And here's the thing - "Common People" could be about this song by Lorde. "Royals" hangs all of its sweeping statements of private glory on an equation of superiority - "we're not caught up in your love affair" - thus putting on the badge of poverty; who knows if Lorde actually earned that badge. Why does that matter? Because it's using poverty as some sort of marker of authenticity or spiritual honesty. And because, while Lorde apparently doesn't realize it, she's basically pitting poor teens in New Zealand (or wherever) against poor urban teens in the US who actually live on these songs about Krystal and Maybachs and so the rest. Their way of coping with being poor is to dream, is to imagine beyond hope a day when their ship comes in and their yearnings will be quenched. Like it or not, that is the subtext of the hip hop glorification of luxury items: not the self-loving narcissism of wealth but the ever-hopeful longings of poverty.

That's why it's kind of crushing and crude when she says "we're not caught up in your love affair." I don't blame Lorde too much for that; it is a mistake, but it's the kind of mistake 16-year-olds make, seeing the world in stark categories and seeing "us" as necessarily juxtaposed against "them." I forgive her for that, and in my kinder moments I can even enjoy this song. But I do so in the knowledge that she's being incredibly tone-deaf and a little childish about what authenticity and poverty mean and how they should be approached.

In my less charitable moments, I contemplate the fact that I can't wait for Kanye to sample this song. It'll be glorious.
posted by koeselitz at 9:37 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


kanye loves this song, as does his betrothed. it was played by a string section at their engagement. rumors swirl that he wanted lorde to sing it and she turned him down. she denies this. some think she actually turned down appearing on the kardashians special. anyway, here's lorde covering kanye. i wouldn't be terribly surprised if they end up doing a track together one day. the public seems to know him for naming all the shit he's got, but his introspective songs could mesh well with her style.
posted by nadawi at 11:37 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Koeselitz, I later read another article written much more thoughtfully (which I wish I could find again and link here) that made a lot of the points you're making, and really quite a few of the ones the feministing piece tries to make. And I agreed with that article -- so a lot of this may just be poor quality writing at feministing, or even just my own particular axe to grind with them (because it seems like they hate on Every Single Thing, forever). There's an element of crying wolf to feministing's style.

I can definitely see the problematic aspects to the song. Though I guess I'd also question whether Lorde is part of the "we" of the song, and whether she's literally talking about "Me and my actual friends in our real lives" vs. telling a story, of which I/we is the narrator, but may not be specifically Lorde herself. Who has been in and out of professional singing pretty much since childhood, so who knows how that affects one's class status/perceived class status/relationship to all this Bling stuff in pop music. I mean, it strikes me as pretty unlikely that Lorde herself has ever taken the bus anywhere, unless it's because she doesn't have a driver's license yet (or maybe taking the bus isn't the class marker it's used as in the song, in NZ).

Besides which, pretty much every hiphop superstar since Jay-Z has been, well, let's just say potentially less poor and less street and less criminal than they were pretending to be in their songs, and nobody really has a serious problem with that.

Some kid in some liberal arts college somewhere really needs to compare "Royals" to Kanye's take on "Diamonds Are Forever".
posted by Sara C. at 2:19 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Um yeah I just checked and Lorde's parents are an engineer and an award-winning poet. So I really don't think we can talk about authenticity and Lorde speaking about her own actual experience in "Royals", at all.

Now, that throws into question whether you see the song as a total sham, knowing that, and some kind of frugal middle class points-scoring on hiphop culture, or whether that frees us up to think of the song more as a text, not necessarily connected to Lorde herself.

Like, does Lorde have to be poor to sing a song about poverty?

And, frankly, considering that this song has been compared to "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, does the fact that Tracy Chapman has a BA in anthropology from Tufts negate that song? What's interesting is that "Fast Car" is also often parsed as a text rather than a literal account of something that happened to Tracy Chapman.

And how does race come into it? What does it say that decades of listeners have assumed that "Fast Car" came from a place of authenticity, whereas a lot of those same listeners probably see Lorde as a rich bitch white girl appropriating something that doesn't belong to her?

I guess I just wish feministing were able to talk about this stuff with more nuance than THIS SONG IS RACIST AND YOU'RE A BAD PERSON FOR LIKING IT.
posted by Sara C. at 2:27 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is possibly the first time I've ever seen being a poet used as evidence of being well-off, or even middle-class.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


You missed the part where her other parent is an engineer.

Engineers are typically middle class.

And I never said Lorde was rich, just that she wasn't poor.

Not a lot of award-winning poets living in actual literal poverty these days.
posted by Sara C. at 2:59 PM on November 2, 2013


« Older Red Napoleon   |   The Beast is Back: Campbell versus Dacre Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments