A new discovery! The Replacements are one of my all-time favorite bands, and “Swingin Party” came up just now while I was listening on shuffle. I needed to confirm some lyrics, so I googled, and lo and behold: Lorde covered it. I love how rabbit holes work like that.
Anyway, I like this cover a lot. Lorde sings much more clearly than Paul Westerberg does. That’s a trend I’ve noticed in my years of doing Covers Corner: covers tend to articulate lyrics much more than the originals. I’m not sure why that is. I also think as an artist overall she fits. “Swingin Party” has the dismal, atmospheric tone that “Ribs” does, or even “Royals.” Those songs also talk about looking for a party somewhere, but maybe when you get there, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The backing trip-hop is quieter than “Ribs,” and its sparseness makes her vocals stand out even more. Its gloominess is also poignant somehow; see also “Here Comes a Regular,” one of my other favorite Replacements songs.
I did say that I was going to talk about this album eventually, and now here we are! Pure Heroine came out in 2013 and felt new, experimental; like Lady Gaga before her, Lorde was rewriting the pop rules. In Lorde’s hands, pop became sonically darker and thematically emptier: torn-up towns, hollow bottles. Yet the aimlessness of Lorde’s protagonists is intentional. She captured the #aesthetic of driving with the windows down, clean teeth and tennis whites, both riding the wave of Tumblr moodboards and inspiring them.
It’s a cohesive album, and though Lorde definitely likes a droning beat, it never feels like too much. Part of that is the neat production; another part is because Lorde has a throatier voice than her contemporaries, which provides nice depth. She has incredible confidence right out of the gate.
I didn’t immediately connect with this album when it came out, but “400 Lux” definitely holds memories. Although “Royals” was obviously inescapable, I’m always one to look for the deeper cuts.
I have Lorde’s seminal album Pure Heroine on my list for a Throwback Thursday retrospective. In the meantime, I wanted to share a fun cover of her most famous song. The Boss did his own version a few years ago, and there’s lots to unpack.
At first glance, Springsteen doesn’t seem to pair that well with Lorde. Many of his songs are blue collar in nature; see Born in the U.S.A. or Thunder Road. Meanwhile, Lorde’s aesthetic is a slightly darker side of pop. Give the cover another listen, though, and The Boss is a better fit for a cover than you might assume. “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh…/And I’m not proud of my address/In a torn-up town, no postcode envy.” Doesn’t that sound like an echo of “Born to Run”? “In the day, we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream/At night, we ride through mansions of glory/In suicide machines.” Let’s go back to Lorde: “We count our dollars on the train to the party.” Springsteen peoples his albums with “tramps like us” and shell-shocked veterans; in “Royals,” Lorde is also looking in from the outside.
Vocally, Springsteen is also a good match. Lorde stands out from her teen idol peers because her voice is so much lower. The Boss’s voice more grizzled now than when Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. came out, carries the cover without sounding strained or awkward.
I also like hearing Springsteen say “You can call me King B.” In the audio, there are a few laughs in the audience at the line. He’s completely unselfconscious, and the vibe extends to the casual, even country-esque vibes that his cover has. (That harmonica alone!)
In terms of comparing cover to original, I’ll definitely go for Lorde’s version. But again, as with so many of my “Covers Corner” posts, I love seeing what other artists bring to the table when they try their hand at recording something completely different. And in this case, it’s a rock’n’roll institution singing a teenage pop song.
It has to be heard to be believed:
And here’s Lorde’s original, just in case you haven’t heard it in awhile: