Holding Out For A Hero: reviews

Because I’m a bit blah after writing 2000 words of NaNoWriMo today, something entirely different: a review of various covers of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero (1984), as found from Youtube.

The original, for starters, is written by Jim Steinman. This is to me something like “written by Mohammed” would be to a Muslim; I may not be intimately familiar with the man’s whole oeuvre, but I will not hear a bad word said about him. Which is slightly melodramatic, but Steinman is a melodramatic Wagnerian rock writer: Meat Loaf, Pandora’s Box, Tyler, all are gloriously, unreservedly, unapologetically melodramatic, and so is Holding Out For A Hero.

Bonnie Tyler herself has that distinctive haunting hoarse voice which is one of the most beautiful voices I know. (And, note, distinctive — not that everything needs to be wildly asimilar from everything else, but that’s rarely a minus.)

Now, the covers. (And with a cover, “sounds just like the original” may be good for the band, hooray, they’re proficient; but it’s not a good song if it is too close to the original.)

First, one from Frou Frou; an Australian bonus track off their one and only album, Details (2002). Which by this track is a shame, because it manages to be the same song, with everything in it replaced with something different yet just as much distinctive and catchy. A-plus!

Second, one from a Ella Mae Bowen — my ignorance of all artists outside metal is generally speaking vast — from this year’s remake of the movie Footloose. Bonnie Tyler sang the original for the original movie’s soundtrack; I have seen neither. And this remake is… well, it’s slow, acoustic, and sounds like an imitation of Tyler’s hoarseness without the exuberant decibels; it doesn’t have the same energy and demanding note in it. Not that it should; but something of equal or greater value should be substituted, instead of squeaky volume changes. And as I am not fond of this kind of all over the place acoustic, F-minus!

(Why yes, as music is widely seen as a matter of taste, I am free to be harsh; I am Attila the Hun of music critique. You are free to disagree.)

Third, one by a Jennifer Saunders. From the movie Shrek 2, apparently. Starts slow; then gets a hollow background beat; then gets better; but the vocalist remains… well, it is probably my imagination, but I can hear her rolling her eyes as she sings. Still, there’s more drama here than in the previous one, more flash and flair; I’ll give this a C.

Fourth, a televised one from three women, apparently called Lorena, Eva and Vanessa. Spanish, maybe? I don’t mind the accents; or the fact that the performers wear black leather and little else; but the song is, unfortunately, the same as the original, except not as well sung. D-minus.

Fifth, one from a band called Emerald Sun. A metal-ish cover version. Plenty of force; and thanks to the relentless drumwork and the division of labor between two vocalists, to say nothing of the metallian sharpness, this one becomes sufficiently different from the original to stand on its own. B-plus!

Sixth, one from another metal band, Grailknights. Not from the “with more power! power! POWER!” school of metallian covers this time, but from the “everything is better with phlegmy growling!” school. Which I applaud when it’s targeted at Britney Spears; but it manages to not become a joke here, and I appreciate that. (It could be argued that a lot of metal is based on accepting that things may be ridiculous and sublimely glorious at the same time. For example, even that Britney cover is genius; and if you ask me, Spinal Tap is both a great metal-rock parody band, and a great metal band, period.) I’d say this cover doesn’t fear making a departure from the original, but because of age and other accidents, Tyler’s own voice has moved in this direction also. (Not necessarily worse; just different.) I’ll give this a full-metal C-plus.

Seventh, one from an outfit called Spatzen Sound. With an accordion and some horns; very folksy, jocular even. Great promise. But the vocals are so close to the original that the whole just doesn’t stand on its own. D-plus.

To end with — because it turns out there’s a ridiculous amount of these covers — one more from the metal world, by Opera Magna. This is plagued by the same as the previous: the music has promise, but the singing is just a close mimicry of the original. C-minus.

So, A+, F-, C, D-, B+, C+, D+, C-. Mind you, I’m happy listening to anything C or over.

I might review more, if I feel sufficiently blearied by NaNoWriMoing some other day.

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