Some people had a fit about Jennifer Lopez’ Motown tribute performance at the Grammy Awards last week. I didn’t. J-Lo can sing, and J-Lo respects the music. If you respect the music and you can cover the songs with equal parts of joy and reverence, I’m good with it. You don’t have to sound like you hired the Van Dyke Six as your backup band, but at least show that you care.
What I’m going to present now are some examples of those who DID NOT CARE when they covered a classic Motown track. As in “I heard this on the radio for the first time and immediately wanted to stick knitting needles in my ears” kind of feeling.
Bear with me. This will be painful.
You Keep Me Hangin’ On
I didn’t think it was possible to wash out all the soul from a Motown classic. Then I heard Kim Wilde cover the Supremes’ seminal hit … and it was completely soulless. This track is the epitome of everything that went musically wrong in the 1980’s. Urgh.
PLAY feat. CHRIS TROUSDALE
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
I think Play was one of those Radio Disney factory-produced twee-pop bands who came and went. And never should have arrived. Not if they’re going to take this Supremes / Temptations classic and grind it into mush. Christ, there’s more runs in this track than in a pair of three-year-old pantyhose.
Yeah, I know I’m taking a chance here, but Bruce Springsteen took a chance here. One of the greatest rockers of our time dusted off this Edwin Starr classic and turned it into essentially a bar-band warm-up track. Not the Boss’s best work. Not in the least.
Stop in the Name of Love
A totally cringy version of the Supremes’ hit. Geez, this isn’t even the best Hollies song with the word “Stop” in it. It’s behind “Bus Stop” and “Stop Stop Stop” and any other Hollies song out there.
And the scary thing is … this isn’t the worst version of “Stop in the Name of Love” I could add to this list.
Stop In the Name of Love
This is why Blotto no longer has a female lead singer. Ugh. Let me repeat. Ugh.
Remember Shalamar? The soul-rock trio with Howard Hewett, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel? Yeah, well that was the classic lineup. THIS Shalamar was a batch of studio session singers who disco-danced their way through the Motown catalog. Yeah, eventually Watley, Hewett and Daniel joined the group proper, but that’s another story entirely. And speaking of medleys…
STARS ON 45
Stars on Stevie
Milking everything they could from their #1 Beatles medley track, the Stars on 45 pushed through at least three more years of medleys and soundalikes – complete with that goofy disco clap track. Granted, their cover of a dozen Stevie Wonder songs was – to put it mildly – adequate, but still… why, God, why?
Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)
I’m sorry, but Peter Frampton doesn’t work unless it’s in front of a live audience. And this track sounds as if he missed his vocal cue to start the song, because there’s a rather long intro that I don’t think should have been there.
That’s what we need. A New Jack Swing version of the Temptations’ classic. Said no one EVER.
THE CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE
I’ve written about this before. For God’s sake, if you’re going to sing a song that was originally written for the male point of view, and you’re a woman, make sure you understand that changing all the gender pronouns in the song might cause the track to stop rhyming properly. Blech.
I’m sure there are other covers that are a great IN-justice to the Motown catalog. And maybe someday, I’ll do a K-Chuck Radio post about the best Motown covers out there. There are plenty.
But for now … you gotta deal with this lineup.