Rock icons Metallica are rereleasing The Black Album, a pioneering work that refined their sound with such songs as “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters.” We’re getting another treat along with the rerelease: it’s called The Metallica Blacklist and it’s a behemoth of a covers album. Over 50 artists are reinterpreting their favorite Metallica tracks from The Black Album. One such cover is “Nothing Else Matters” by Phoebe Bridgers, which came out a few days ago.
The cover starts with delicate piano and a shuffling noise of some sort in the background. The piano sounds admittedly twee in the beginning, but quickly turns sinister. Bridgers sings very close to the microphone. Her voice has that signature slight tremble to it, which I think works well for the cover. The Metallica version is full of heavy metal confidence; here Bridgers sounds like she’s trying to insist that “nothing else matters” but doesn’t seem to be quite sure if it does. I like both interpretations.
At the chorus, Bridgers adds another layer of her own voice. That extra padding helps the song turn lush – soft, even, especially with the continuing piano. When we hit the bridge, her voice gets higher and we hear strings enter the cover for the first time. It’s eerie, but it works. Then the song breaks open and there’s an unsteady hiphop-esque beat underneath the whole thing. I didn’t like that part as much; it felt too heavy for Bridgers’s voice.
Overall, it’s a unique cover, especially since Metallica is a male band and Bridgers is a female indie solo artist. What do you think?
Phoebe Bridgers is quite the critical darling. She’s already got two albums and four Grammy nominations under her belt. Not bad for a 26 year old! Bridgers has also become known for covering other artists. There are two of them that I’d like to…cover today. (Sorry.)
The first is “Iris,” originally by the Goo Goo Dolls. You may remember the song from angsty playlists of yore, or at least I do: “When everything feels like the movies/yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive!” Man, that really “spoke” to me back in the day. Ahem. Bridgers posted her cover as a limited release related to political events. If you missed the release you can still find a copy somewhere. It’s a duet with Maggie Rogers, another young and talented songbird in the same folk-pop vein. The two make the song much more wistful and less urgent. When they sing that all I can taste is this moment, you really believe it. Then the chorus hits and their voices blend together in perfect harmony. Everything might be made to be broken, but you still know who they are: they completely stick the landing on that last line.
The second cover is of “Whatever (Folk Song in C),” originally by Elliott Smith. This is a solo effort. Bridgers is actually the ideal singer to cover this song. Elliott Smith was known for his soft, even reedy, voice. Bridgers’s voice isn’t quite as thin, but it’s still soft. On the opener, “they come here alone and they leave in twos,” you can hear that same detached and sad observational tone from Smith’s version. Another great thing about covers is that sometimes you can hear the lyrics more clearly in the new version. That helped me get a little bit more out of Bridgers’s cover, and even Smith’s original when I returned to it. I felt like Bridgers really captured the essence of what Smith put into his song. It’s a joy to hear.