Covering iconic songs is a tricky thing especially songs as ingrained in the public consciousness as Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music (White Boy). Many have tired, Euro-poppers Roxette made it sound predictably…well, Europop, Tim Campbell delivered an over-produced, over-polished version, Extreme rocked it out, Prince made it sound like it was his own song and a host of TV music show wannabes have sucked the very soul out of it. The problem with attempting to cover a well-known song is that you have one of two options. Either you bring something new to the song which implies that you think that you can do better than the person who wrote it in the first place or you stay faithfully to it which begs the question why bother covering it at all? The answer, it would seem lies somewhere between the two approaches.
Thankfully that is exactly what is going on in the latest foray into this funky hallowed ground. The original is a blend of groovesome and soulful guitar licks, stomping bass lines and funky, energetic drumming. All good so far. The thing that most people generally get wrong is over filling the space between the backbeat and the vocals, not here, here there is just the right amount of space and anticipation. Brass attacks punctuate the air and backing vocals do no more than underline with raps and shout outs. And the reason for this space is to create a dynamic restraint, which is blown wide open when the white hot, jagged guitar gets its turn in the spotlight.
True to the spirit of the original with just the right amount of originality and freshness to justify revisiting this classic, exactly the fine line you need to walk to make such a cover work. Perfect.