Thursday, October 1, 2015

Divas vs. Queers

What happens when queer musicians dare to cover songs made famous by divas?

If you're not familiar with the infectious, effervescent music of '70s Swedish supergroup ABBA, then I'm going to assume you just arrived here from another planet. Welcome, visitor! ABBA consisted of two men and two women -- Bjorn, Benny, Agnetha and Frida -- but the ladies contributed lead vocals to almost every one of their hits.

Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad & Agnetha Faltskog
My favorite ABBA song is "S.O.S." I'm not alone in my admiration: Pete Townsend, The Who guitarist, has said it's one of the best pop songs ever written, and John Lennon declared it a favorite, too. The arrangement is pure genius, beginning with a subdued D-minor key, shifting tempo and easing into major key electric rock. There's the right amount of emotional nuance in Agnetha's lead vocal; Frida's voice augments the chorus perfectly. ABBA was also at the forefront of the music video revolution. Watch their charming, low-budget little masterpiece...

Now, The Young Professionals, a popular Israeli electro pop band fronted by Johnny Goldstein and Ivri Lider, have reimagined "S.O.S." in an energetically alternative way.

The Young Professionals: Ivri Lider (left) & Johnny Goldstein
The assertive guitar work and drumming neatly amplifies the original's rock inclinations. Lider's vocal work is free of histrionics, but there's a hint of vulnerability around the edges. Watch and listen...

You can find this version of "S.O.S." on their latest -- and excellent -- album, Remixes & Covers.

For the record, the absolute worst version of "S.O.S" can be found in the film version of Mamma Mia. It's staged as a kind of clunky duet between Meryl Streep, who can sing, and Pierce Brosnan, who cannot. Brosnan's performance of the song is not simply lamentable, it's abominable and excruciating. It is, in fact, one of the worst things ever. Let me help you understand how bad it is:

The Top 5 Worst Things Ever, ranked...
1. The Holocaust
2. What we did to Native Americans and African Americans
3. Bubonic Plague -- "The Black Death" of the 14th Century
4. 9/11
5. Pierce Brosnan mangling "S.O.S." in the film version of Mamma Mia

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