Every summer has one — that inescapable hit song that blankets radio and TV and becomes so mainstream, so massive, that it enters the repertoires of other artists who just can’t deny its hook.
Call it the “Since U Been Gone” effect.
This summer it seems Gnarls Barkley’s slice of sunnily depressive soul, “Crazy,” is that song, and everyone from Nelly Furtado to British buzz-band-of-the-second the Kooks couldn’t resist putting their own spin on it.
U.K. soul singer Terri Walker, former Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers and singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne have all weighed in with unique versions. And mash-up artists have also been bitten by the bug, chopping up the irresistible bass bounce and hook with everything from old-school Prince and Aussie indie rockers the Avalanches to ’60s girl group the Shirelles, classic rockers Supertramp and ’90s one-hit wonder Skee-Lo in a rash of bootlegs.
Covers of the song — which set a record in England earlier this year by becoming the first digital download to debut at the top of the singles chart — can be found all over the Net. Curiously, the group has tried to stop the “Crazy” train before it gets out of hand. As the record reached its ninth week at #1, the duo of producer Danger Mouse and singer Cee-Lo asked that it be deleted from the U.K.’s list before people got tired of it.
Though the pair declined through their label to comment on the props from their peers, we grabbed as many decent versions as we could and gave them a spin to provide you with a guide to the insanely good and just plain nutty.
Assuming, of course, that you’re not already sick of it.
Who: Nelly Furtado
Why you know her: She’s competing with Gnarls, thanks to her summer smash, “Promiscuous.”
What it sounds like: Furtado performed a quiet version of the song on a BBC radio show recently, accompanied only by acoustic guitar. Breathily crooning the song in a Norah Jones style, her smoky, downtown jazz-club vibe is the most low-key of the bunch.
Verdict: Kinda nutty
Who: Twilight Singers
Why you know them: Singer Greg Dulli was known for doing offbeat Motown covers with the Afghan Whigs, and his latest project has tackled artists ranging from Mary J. Blige and Stevie Wonder to Fleetwood Mac and George Gershwin.
What it sounds like: At a May 29 show at the Paradise in Boston, Dulli mellowed things out, giving Gnarls singer Cee-Lo a run for his money in the gravelly vocals department. The singer takes the uptempo song for a late-night, drunken-crooner makeover, thanks to brushed drums, piano and some spare guitar.
Verdict: Definitely a bit deranged
Who: Ray LaMontagne
Why you know him: The folk-oriented singer/songwriter released the blue-eyed soul album Trouble in 2004, garnering comparisons to everyone from Van Morrison to Tim Buckley.
What it sounds like: Kind of like a Richie Havens tune from 1968. The husky, scratchy-voiced LaMontagne transforms the song into a Woodstock-era acoustic anthem with a healthy dollop of impassioned folk/soul and a bit of improvised scatting at the end.
Who: The Kooks
Why you know them: You probably don’t … yet. The latest English buzz band of retro-rocking teens has released a string of hit singles in the U.K. and recently made its American debut at the South by Southwest music conference.
What it sounds like: Seemingly the ones who kicked off the trend with their cover from March — the same month the song was released digitally overseas — singer Nick Pritchard slathers the song in a slack, British, indie sensibility. The acoustic-guitars-and-spare-drum take is a bit hippy-dippy, but Pritchard’s squeaky, nasally voice and marble-mouthed delivery give it a nice edge.
Verdict: Sorry, but kinda kooky
Who: Terri Walker
Why you know her: Yet another testament to Gnarls’ effect on the British music scene, Walker is a twentysomething North London R&B sensation who has yet to make it in the U.S. but whose 2003 debut, Untitled, snagged her a nomination for England’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
What it sounds like: The female Cee-Lo (scratchy voice and all — do you sense a pattern here?) busts out a kinda bossa-nova soul version of the track in a live recording. A bit Jill Scott, a bit Erykah Badu, the funky cover retains the original’s ragged R&B edge but replaces Danger Mouse’s thick sonic backdrop with a jazzy guitar.
Verdict: A bit mad, a bit sad, but definitely not bad