It is often said that if a good song can be stripped down to its simplest form and still hold up as well as the original, then it can be considered great. Mat Weddle‘s acoustic version of Outkast‘s “Hey Ya” took a catchy popular song and solidified it as a legitimately substantial piece of popular culture. While the song was good before Weddle gave it his own touch, it was not truly great until afterward. This week, I’m highlighting three acoustic versions of songs that are even better than their original counterparts. Since I couldn’t use all of Bayside‘s Acoustic (or choose any particular song from it), the songs come from The Killers, Senses Fail, and Lights. These are three fairly different artists, all achieving something great with little more than voices and acoustic guitars (and/or piano).
1. “Sam’s Town” – The Killers
It took me more than two years to realize how great of an album Sam’s Town is. If every song had been released in this fashion, there would have been no wait. The sheer beauty of Brandon Flowers‘s voice against simple piano chords has the ability to draw listeners in, before they’re swept away by the strings that come in to pull on some hearts (okay, so maybe this isn’t the best example of a song that’s completely stripped down, but it’s too good to pass up). While the original definitely has its strong points and can stand on its own as a solid track, it simply does not have the sheer power that this version possesses. There’s just something special about taking this song and transporting it into a completely different world, something that makes the original feel like it’s missing something, even though it’s the one with all of the added instrumentation. I’d go into some of my favorite lyrics, but it’s hard to choose favorites when they’re all this good. Just give this song a listen, and you’ll understand.
2. “Rum Is For Drinking, Not For Burning” – Senses Fail
I was a little late getting into Senses Fail, with Still Searching being my first introduction to the band. It’s probably a good thing, because I most likely wouldn’t have listened to much else if I’d started with Let It Enfold You. While their later albums find singer Buddy Nielsen finally settling in on a tone that makes me want to listen to him, the earlier releases just don’t do it for me. The exception is the band’s acoustic bonus tracks, which prove their ability to write great songs. It was a difficult choice between “The Ground Folds” and “Rum Is For Drinking, Not For Burning,” but I finally settled on the latter as the direct result of these lyrics, from the second half of the chorus: “And as we grow, emotion starts to die/We need to find a way just to keep our desire alive.” For some reason, they’ve always struck me as especially moving. While I still prefer the band’s later albums on the whole, the acoustic version of this song will always be a highlight of their discography.
3. “Saviour” – Lights
I’m typically not a fan of pop music sung by girls, but Lights is a huge step up from the Britney Spears and Lady Gaga songs that dominate the radio and parties. While the original has a spacey dance beat and its fair share of autotune, the acoustic version (from her aptly-named Acoustic EP) drops those things in favor of guitars and letting her voice soar naturally. This setting allows the lyrics to come across more effectively and for Lights to show exactly how talented she is. The rest of the EP definitely deserves a listen, but this track finds her taking an average single and turning it into something truly special.