Jun 202013

Let’s review the ground rules here. The Mystery Date song is not necessarily something I believe to be good. So feel free to rip it or praise it. Rather the song is something of interest due to the artist, influences, time period… Your job is to decipher as much as you can about the artist without research. Who do you think it is? Or, Who do you think it sounds like? When do you think it was recorded? Etc…

If you know who it is, don’t spoil it for the rest. Anyone who knows it can play the “mockcarr option.” This option is for those of you who just can’t hold your tongue and must let everyone know just how in-the-know you are by calling it. So if you know who it is and want everyone else to know that you know, click to email The Back Office. If correct we will post how brilliant you are in the Comments section.

The real test of strength though is to guess as close as possible without knowing. Ready, steady, go!

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/MysteryDate6-20-13.mp3 |titles=Mystery Date 062013]

Despite the above “not necessarily…good” statement, I actually am somewhat surprised at how good I think this is. I am not a fan, at all, of the original source (“artist”), musically, personally or even physically. However I really, really like this song, for the first time, as performed by our Mystery Date. Should I give the original source more cred? Might there be more hidden treasures there by this “artist”? Or is this just a case of a cover version injecting life into something otherwise lifeless?

I didn’t even know what this song was about until now, which makes it rolling off the lips of the original source seem counter intuitive. Though research suggests it was based on actual events! Wha?!


  29 Responses to “Mystery Date:
Speaking of Cover Versions”

  1. I trust this will be another case of the unveiling eliciting a “who the hell is that” from me. I do like this version too! Nice to be able to understand that many lyrics. It does make me appreciate the song much more. While I know it’s not Justin Timberlake, I get the same vibe that it is someone like that. Someone who pays the proper respect to his influences, and allows me to understand why he is popular.

  2. sammymaudlin

    We reach!

    “Someone who pays the proper respect to his influences, and allows me to understand why he is popular.”

    True dat…if by “proper respect” you mean Mystery Date treats influences as influences as opposed to something to imitate. As this cover so definitely displays.

  3. 2000 Man

    It’s okay. I was really bothered by his vocal thing at 1:53. It really made me annoyed.

  4. I don’t understand your blowback.

    Someone who covers Billie Jean is obviously a fan of M.J., but this is an original approach to doing it. So it strikes me as someone wanting to honor M.J., but still do something new with the song.

    And my Timberlake comment was sincere. Whenever I see him on TV, I “get” why he’s big. It’s like watching an athlete I don’t root for, but still admire that he’s working hard, and knows what he needs to do to win.

    This cover is the type of thing I wouldn’t be surprised to hear J.T. do. He seems to be a fan of 80s dance music so doing an M.J. song would be a natural for him, but he would want to prove he can do it differently. Not sure what aspect was me reaching?

  5. hrrundivbakshi

    Nope. No, no, no, no, nope. Whoever this is, I cannot agree that this performance has any redeeming qualities. At least the original buried the idiotic lyric in a compelling dance thump and a pleasingly over-the-top vocal. This reminds me of the shitty album I bought once to tease an old girlfriend with; she was a sucker for crappy acoustic/”folk” music (e.g., David Wilcox), and said she hated AC/DC. I found an album of some mediocre acousto-“folk” hipster singing acoustic arrangements of AC/DC songs gently and sweetly. It was terrible, but it fooled her, which was rewarding for me in a vindictive music nerd kind of way.

    But, really, beyond using such “arrangements” as tools for inside jokes and musical pranks, what’s the point? “Billie Jean” was meant to be a glorious Michael Jackson dance floor anthem, and “What’s Next To the Moon” was meant to be a misoginystic single-entendre, caterwauled by a drunken Scotsman to the accompaniment of thundering drums and ear-splitting guitar. This kind of treatment is a wink-wink-nudge-nudge thing that wastes the world’s time.

  6. sammymaudlin

    I meant “reach” as in- we reach across the divide to come together. I didn’t anticipate anyone else to like this cover. So it was all meant in mutual admiration and respect. Did I misuse the term? Regardless, no harm, no foul.

    So, blowback on that!

    “So it strikes me as someone wanting to honor M.J., but still do something new with the song.” is exactly what I was feeling with this. Plus in his honoring, something more came thru that moved me.

    As for J.T. I love that guy. I love him on SNL. I love many of his videos. His flick “In Time” is being Netflixed to me as we speak.

    I respect his music, his look, his sense of humor and his performance skills. I have tried to get into his latest album but it just doesn’t speak to me. I tried though!

    That said. This is not JT.

  7. cliff sovinsanity

    I’m totally down with the HVB’s comments. Sammy wrote “something otherwise lifeless” when describing the original Billie Jean. Are we talking about the music, the singing or both. I doubt it’s MJ’s vocals because like him or not the only time that guy was lifeless was after that last dose of anesthesia.

  8. sammymaudlin

    The dude could dance for sure but by “lifeless” I meant devoid-of-soul. MJ never moved me emotionally. At all. Never even felt his music was fun or “something I could dance to.”

    I expected to get a lot of “acoustic posturing” comments and I’m with ya in general. Not a fan of the sensitive acoustic schmaltz.

    That said I do often realize, viscerally, how good a song really is when I hear it acoustically. Nirvana Unplugged is a prime example for me. Liked them before. LOVE Unplugged as it made me realize how good the songs truly are. Now I love the original versions as well (most of them anyway).

    The Anthology raw acoustic version of Strawberry Fields is mind-numbingly beautiful to me. I can’t say I like it better than the official version but it did give me a deeper love of that song.

    That said, that said, I went back to the MJ version of this song thinking that perhaps I’d have a greater appreciation for it. Maybe a little bit but not much.

    That leads to me to stand by the impression that the Mystery Date brought real life/soul/emotion to this song. I hear it. I feel it. It is so.

    This, like so much here at RTH, is subjective so I can’t bark out that anyone is “wrong” like the MIA epluribus would (though I can throw a Family Feud buzzer in for shitz-and-giggows).

    I can say I feel that to write off this acoustic version based on, what sounds like, a general dislike for cheesy acoustic covers or based on a dislike of some shitty acoustic album that has nothing to do with this track or this cover is to put up a wall blocking potential enjoyment of a truly fine rendition.

    I’m not stacking this acoustic version up there with Strawberry Fields or Robyn Hitchcock’s acoustic cover of Dominoes (also awesome) but I do genuinely like this and feel amazed and somewhat proud that I was able to allow myself to let it out and let it in.

  9. At first, I thought it was this guy…But no.


  10. cliff sovinsanity

    I never bought into the idea that some acoustic versions reveal the greatness in some songs. To me, the acoustic strumming doesn’t reveal much except the base chords of the song. The vocals in this version treat the lyrics as plaintive instead of defiant. “the kid is not my son” is a rejection in the hands of MJ but this guy is more…well…whiny. It just lacks a little for me.

  11. sammymaudlin

    Interesting. Polar oposite of my feeling that a stripped down, no treatments version of a song reveals it pros/cons without distractions. Which isn’t to say a song can’t be better with treatments…but…

    Good point about “plaintive”. I think that is actually one of reasons that I like this better. It is presented as a sad song and question whether he is innocent or not.

    This grey area is appealing to me. In related news: I hated the sequel to 2001 Space Odyssey as it attempted to explain the wonderfully weird and ambiguous end to the original.

    So, proof, this cover version of Billie Jean is the Original Kubrick of music.

  12. I can’t operate the backroom e-mail. Do I play 20 questions? Isn’t this guy currently in a very popular, world-wide successful band?

    A DJ friend of mine used to play this cover back when MJ died and the guy I think this is paid tribute at his shows.


  13. sammymaudlin

    You could be onto something. Send email to thebackoffice[at]rocktownhall.com

  14. Let me try to put aside the fact that I can’t stand “Billie Jean.” Let me put aside the initial feeling I had that HVB pretty much nailed exactly how I was feeling. OK, let me take a deep breath and listen again.,.

    OK, I’m not a big fan of this style of singing. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s very PRO: technically good with a certain “rock star” inflection. I imagine a guy singing as if he had hair like Jon Bon Jovi, despite the fact that he’s a balding power pop cult hero who’s wearing a straw hat – or a jeff cap. The guy’s got really good taste, so good, in fact, that he is bringing to light the finer points of this massive hit that, somehow, was not quite good enough without this artist’s cover to allow it to reach its full potential.

    I keep thinking this is someone like Marshall Crenshaw. Either that, or it’s some uber-ironic ’90s guy, like that Mike someone, the singer from the band that had a popular hit with a video featuring a fish flapping around out of water as the credits rolled. Faith No More – that’s the band I’m thinking of!

    In rare cases a white-boy artist can bring out the finer points of a cheesy, massive hit, like when that Roddy Frame guy (or his band – blanking on the name) covered Van Halen’s “Jump.” Too often, this approach just makes me think how lucky the cover artist is for not having to spend his Saturday nights playing all covers in a shore band.

    I second HVB’s impressions.

  15. What’s he doing, cracking himself up? Thanks for pointing that out.

  16. No offense taken, just wanted to better understand where I was right or wrong. So glad we could reach around to an understanding.

    I like the vocal style. The song (and Billie Jean the character) seem so much scarier than in M.J.’s version. I like that aspect.

  17. sammymaudlin

    Mod enters the Venn Diagram with

    “The guy’s got really good taste, so good, in fact, that he is bringing to light the finer points of this massive hit that, somehow, was not quite good enough without this artist’s cover to allow it to reach its full potential.”

    But then strays. I however commend you for opening yourself up enough to let a bit of this beauty sink in.

    I just played it for Mrs. Maudlin with zero prejudice from me. She said “Nice. He let’s the story be told, Without all of theatrics and bravado of the original, this guy allows the song to shine”

    Then I told her who did it and she said “Wow. I can see that. He has a very non-judgemental, inclusive outlook and this makes sense for him to do.” Meaning covering an MJ song sincerely, not so much the story of the song. She followed that with
    Mr. Mod has a similar outlook I bet he likes it.”

    Sadly the Family Feud buzzer goes off.

    Revelation coming up.

  18. sammymaudlin

    You and I can reach around any time.

    I think we are the only ones who have allowed this in. Glad I’m not alone.

    From Broadcast News

    Paul Moore: It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you’re the smartest person in the room.

    Jane Craig: No. It’s awful.

  19. sammymaudlin

    This was a live on-air performance and one of the guys on stage with him (from 10cc I think) tried to moonwalk while it was being played.

  20. I hate to let you and Mrs. Sammy down, but the sad truth is that I am both inclusive and highly judgmental. I think sometimes I welcome people into my world to increase my opportunities for passing judgment.:)

  21. HVB: I’m guessing you’ve referred to Mark Kozolek, from Red House Painters etc., and in the spirit of some of the comments in this thread, I must say that (being a fan of his slow-core approach) I enjoy those songs, and I previously would not have approached AC/DC (nor Ace Frehley,whom he has also covered) with a ten foot pole.

  22. I like it.

    I was very late to the game on Michael Jackson because when it came out, slick, dance-oriented stuff was the exact opposite of what I was into at the time. A few years ago, my kids were really into it so we would listen to the Greatest Hits over and over again and I came to appreciate it for the superbly crafted pop that it is.

    Normally I don’t like acoustic cover songs because they just seem to be a lazy way of associating yourself with a cool song. The local AAA station routinely plays songs in which women with acoustic guitars will cover classic rock songs. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be poignant or ironic or what, but with very few exceptions it’s just frigging annoying that airtime is being wasted on such a pointless exercise ( “Eye In The Sky” sucked the first time around. And “Don’t Fear the Reaper”? Really?)

    But there’s something about this version of Billie Jean that works for me. As mentioned above, it might be because all of the slick production is stripped away and all that’s left is a cool chord progression and melody (I have the ability to tune out lyrics if they don’t really add much to a song).

  23. sammymaudlin

    This I already knew. The missus is still in tears and refuses to get up.

  24. Great timing: My wife just called. She’s livid because some guy is doing an acoustic version of Purple Rain.

  25. sammymaudlin

    I’m going to ask The Back Office if they can come up with a “High Five Supreme” button that will allow the publishing of an “infinite” high five as that is what I would do on this comment.

    My “glyph” keyboard guide says I can type one, so…this one goes out to you cdm:

  26. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m entering this conversation too late (damn aging moderate talent dance performance rehearsal with neo-classical music) but I stand by a couple of things:
    1. I like covers. I especially admire when an artist covers another in a way that emphasizes a different side to the song. This Mystery Date does that in my book. The original was fun, a good dance tune and MJ’s fuck you attitude worked. I liked this version for brining out the sadder side of the song.
    2. I especially like covers that are good. I don’t think I’d run out and purchase this one, though.

    Here’s an example of a rendition that fits category 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgRD676EIVI I don’t think it’s good; in fact, I think it’s laughable. But I admire the different take on the original and the ability to go out on the limb with it. It highlights the stalker quality that was not evident in the bubbly Cole Porter original.

    Here’s an example, off the same album, of category 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RASG2JmtDeQ&list=PL78C8A81A0AEB4A57

  27. sammymaudlin

    We are in complete agreement when it comes to covers.

    Generally covers that are so close to the originals that the average person might not realize it is a cover are pointless:


    But covers that show another side or even just turn the song on it’s head are cool:


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