Covers Corner: “Champagne Kisses” by Conchita Wurst

Note on pronouns used in this post: Conchita is the drag persona of Thomas Neuwirth. He uses she/her pronouns when referring to Conchita and he/him pronouns to refer to himself.

Conchita Wurst was the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest and became known for her distinctive flowy hair and equally luscious beard. Her song “Rise Like a Phoenix” became an anthem for outcasts everywhere. The song is sweeping, dramatic, and soulful, just like its themes. Conchita has a surprisingly delicate voice in the midst of the drama.

That lightness is well-suited to her cover of Jessie Ware’s “Champagne Kisses.” The song has a steadier, snappier electronic beat than the original, layered over with an intriguing little twang. Conchita’s voice is deeper than Jessie Ware’s, but still soft, and she carries the chorus beautifully. I love the bridge: the beat here is sweet and bubbly. It’s a good replacement for the heights that Jessie Ware’s voice reaches.

As tends to happen with covers, the new vocal tone can change the meaning. I think that Conchita’s deeper voice makes her cover sound more wistful and reflective, as if the relationship is happening in the (recent?) past. Jessie Ware’s version always seemed much more head-over-heels to me. Then again, I was pretty head-over-heels when I first heard her version, so maybe I’m biased. Still: the run-up to the end where Jessie Ware sings oooooooo and all the synths are happening at once just crashes over you in the best way.

I can’t really say which version I like better in this instance. I think it depends what kind of mood you’re in.