Thursday, November 19, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s entry #5: Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

This doesn't sound like a song someone wrote.  It sounds like something found in a time capsule, years after it was systematically created in a lab, and now we are hearing something that contains no obvious influence of the society in which it was created.  It comes from no discernible musical era, sounding like something that would seamlessly fit in with any genre of pop music that has existed within the last fifty years.  Likewise it refuses to be pigeonholed into any particular genre.  I mean the guy from Goodie Mob is singing over a spaghetti western sample, for God's sake.  This is a song that I can't imagine ever aging, specifically because it appears to be without age.  It just seems like something that has always been around, but we just didn't know about it.

Within the universal appeal of the song came a torrent of cover versions, from literally every part of the musical landscape.  Could there possibly be any other song that would inspire versions from Shawn Colvin, Beyonce, and David Gilmour?  And yet, somehow Gnarls Barkley outdid everyone else's take by repeatedly re-tooling the song themselves, coming up with a variety of variations on the original take.  The Top of the Pops performance matches militaristic snares with flight crew uniforms.  An offering on Later with Jools Holland pushes a shuffling guitar distortion to the forefront.  The Star Wars version has Storm Troopers.

But this take from From the Basement is my personal favorite.  It's clearly the sparsest and most restrained arrangement.  Every note on the guitar seems to burst with the weight behind it, sounding like something you would hear under black-and-white film noir opening credits.  Danger Mouse keeps the keys buried in the background, focusing all attention on Cee-Lo, whose vocals echo with equal parts gravity and overall spookiness.  It's unfair how ridiculous the man's pipes are, and how easy he can belt it out. 

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