BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge 2016 - Review
Review by Jack Foley
ONE of the great joys of listening to Radio 1’s annual Live Lounge album compilations is seeing how various artists cover tracks that aren’t their own.
It’s a shame, then, that there seem to be fewer of those this time around as they still, invariably, provide the highlights.
Olly Murs take on Justin Timberlake’s insanely catchy Can’t Stop The Feeling, for instance, may lack the smooth grooving zest of the original, but it’s a really good cover, complete with striking gospel backing. Admittedly, the beats that gave the original such kick are missing, but the piano backdrop is a nice touch too. And Murs deserves congratulations for doing it justice, while tweaking it a bit (he can’t hit the falsetto notes, opting to leave that to his backers). But he does get people singing along and is clearly having fun.
If that was one pop star tackling another pop star, then perhaps a little tricker and all the more striking is hearing how The 1975 tackle Justin Bieber’s Sorry. And it’s pretty good, albeit once more lacking the slickness of the original. This one feels more deliberate, and sometimes forced. But it somehow still works, sax and all.
One Direction’s take on Kanye West’s FourFiveSeconds sounds like a completely different track. The rap element is gone completely, replaced by something more pop and akin to the One Direction sound. But if this was offered up as a 1D track in its own right, we might be hailing it as an interesting new direction. The inclusion of violins is a nice touch, adding an orchestral element. It would, however, be interesting to see what Kanye West himself thinks of it.
If that cover choice seems brave, then perhaps the most brave is The Maccabees’ decision to take on Adele’s Hello. They put an indie-pop spin on things and somehow make this sombre song more upbeat. But while certainly striking in its own way, the cover doesn’t quite work and it has to go down as one of the more honourable failures.
For sheer ambition, meanwhile, Blonde’s take on Rihanna’s Work, which he also manages to splice together with Robert Miles’ Children, Zayn’s Pillow Talk and Duke Dumont’s I Got U is particularly notable. The Robert Miles element is left to the violins, which adds a striking element, while the main emphasis is on Rihanna, which also works thanks to Blonde’s smooth groove vocal style. Sometimes it doesn’t need to change direction, and mixing the two tracks together would arguably have been enough. But this is slick stuff and reminiscent of the kind of thing that’s done, albeit a capella style, in the Pitch Perfect movies.
One of the out and out cover version highlights, meanwhile, is the ever excellent Biffy Clyro taking on (sometimes in French) Tilted by Christine & The Queens. It’s acoustic, stripped back and beautifully delivered, complete with some spellbinding acoustic guitar.
Of the tracks that artists of their own that artists perform, Coldplay maintain their live quality with a less dance version of their smash hit Adventure of a Lifetime – the more mainstream sound that was apparent throughout a lot of the new material replaced by something a little more old-school. It’s a slower version of the song that actually works to its advantage.
Coldplay are themselves covered by James Bay, whose gruff, raw, stripped down, even bluesy take on Hymn For The Weekend is quite punchy once he’s warmed up. Early on, there’s a little too much mumbling. But once Bay opens up those trademark gruff vocals, the track does pack something of a punch.
Returning to artists redoing their own songs, further highlights come from Grace, whose You Don’t Own Me may come minus the thumping back beats, but is beautifully delivered to bring out the best in her husky, sultry tones. The finger click backing is a particularly nice touch, as are the piano arrangements.
While Jack Garratt’s stripped back, sombre take on Worry is also worth checking out, especially once the guitar kicks in. His vocals are really powerful.
Live Lounge 2016 is one of the more mixed bag offerings. When it’s good, it’s really good. But there are plenty of other moments that underwhelm. It’s still worth checking out but it lacks the must own status of previous instalments.
Download picks: Coldplay (Adventure of a Lifetime); Olly Murs (Can’t Stop The Feeling); Biffy Clyro (Tilted); Grace (You Don’t Own Me); Blossoms (In2)
- The Maccabees – Hello (Originally by Adele)
- The Weeknd – I Can’t Feel My Face
- Blonde – Work/Pillowtalk/Children/I Got U (Originally by Rihanna/Zayn/Robert Miles/Duke Dumont)
- One Direction – Four Five Seconds (Originally by Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney)
- Jonas Blue & JP Cooper – Hotter Than Hell (Originally by Dua Lipa)
- Jack Garratt – Worry
- Lower Than Atlantis – On My Mind (Originally by Ellie Goulding)
- Grace – You Don’t Own Me
- Dua Lipa – The Hills (Originally by the Weeknd)
- DNCE – Hands To Myself (Originally by Selena Gomez)
- Karen Harding – Pillowtalk (Originally by Zayn)
- Tom Odell – The Sound (Originally by The 1975)
- Alessia Cara- Hotline Bling (Originally by Drake)
- Jamie Lawson – Wasn’t Expecting That
- Kygo Feat. Ella Henderson – Wildest Dreams (Originally by Taylor Swift)
- Fleur East – Sax
- Blossoms – IN2 (Originally by Wstrn)
- Izzy Bizu – White Tiger
- Laura Mvula – New Person, Same Old Mistakes (Originally by Tame Impala)
Watch The 1975 cover Sorry
Watch Coldplay perform Adventure of a Lifetime
Watch One Direction perform FourFiveSeconds
Watch Biffy Clyro perform Tilted