Ben Folds Five are performing Tuesday night in Prospect Park as part of the Last Summer on Earth tour. Since Barenaked Ladies are also on the bill, we understand the urge to stay away will be overwhelming. Here, then–to balance out the prospect of having to hear the Big Bang Theory theme song in its entirety–are five good reasons to get over there tonight: Ben Folds’ top five best cover songs.
5. Oasis, “Champagne Supernova”
Covering an Oasis track in front of a British audience is dicey at the best of times, so why not just go all out and turn it into a country song? That’s what Ben Folds does here–and, by the sounds of it, no one in that audience minds a bit. Then again, a country twang is only as irritating as Liam Gallagher’s nasal whine. Fair’s fair.
4. Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”
When it starts, Ben Folds Five’s cover of the 1979 classic doesn’t sound vastly different to Buggles’ original version. Once we get to the chorus though, the Folds version has a delightful weight and refreshing punch that was lacking in the tinny, pseudo-futuristic original. The Folds way is far more satisfying.
3. George Michael, “Careless Whisper”
This beautifully harmonized duet, with a suitably-dramatic Rufus Wainwright, takes a song that has long been an ’80s cliche (and an opportunity for saxophone-based comedy), and turns it into something meaningful and beautiful again. The quiet Folds brings and the passion Wainwright throws all over it, turns “Careless Whisper” into a brand new (good!) song.
2. Ke$ha, “Sleazy”
On “Sleazy”, the dirty dance-pop starlet Ke$ha says she’d rather be in her basement with her lady friends, her man and a bottle of booze than deal with all of the materialistic nonsense that gets thrown her way by dudes trying to impress her. Taking the song out of the hands of a young feisty female and leaving it with a sensitive 40-something male (and a team of geeks who know how to harmonize), just brings a whole new level of awesome to this track. The “rat-a-tat-tat on your dum-dum drum” section in the middle is pure joy.
1. Dr. Dre, “Bitches Ain’t Shit”
The greatest way to show up musical misogyny for the absurd bullshit that it is, is to break it down into a ballad and have it gently sung by a charming nerd. Here Ben Folds takes a super-sexist, curse-laden track, flips it on its head and makes Dr. Dre look like an idiotic buffoon. What’s more, taking gangsta speak and enunciating it like a middle-class white guy is always going to be comedy gold for the easily amused, doubly so when British drummer Lindsay Jamieson joins in too.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 30, 2013