I Wish I Was Special

Radiohead’s “Creep” was a monster hit, a hit kept growing and growing and growing (you all will remember the entire YEAR when you could barely turn on the radio without hearing it.) Nobody in the band appeared to anticipate that this gloomy eerie song would strike such a deep chord. The song’s success took them by surprise. They had been at a turning point as a band, and when “Creep” took off, they rode that wave and toured for something like two years straight, on the strength of that one single. It’s a great song, one of those songs that taps into the anxiety of a certain time of life, a certain TYPE of person (in a similar way that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did), and it’s a song that means a lot to me. It’s so honest. It’s the sort of honesty you might cringe away from, or resist recognizing in yourself.

When you were here before
Couldn’t look you in the eye
You’re just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You’re so fucking special
But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here
I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so fucking special
I wish I was special
But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here
She’s running out the door
She’s running out
She run, run, run, run
Run
Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You’re so fucking special
I wish I was special
But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong here

When I first saw the trailer for The Social Network, I was completely awestruck by the cover of “Creep” that played over it. The song is already eerie, but that cover takes it to another level. It sounds suicidal. Or homicidal. In a very calm and terrifying way. I Googled around feverishly to find out who it was: turns out it is an all-female choir from Belgium called Scala & Kolocny Brothers, and I have since become a big fan of all of their stuff. At the end of their cover of “Creep”, the entire choir whispers, “I wish I was special” and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

The song is great enough to be able to “take” many interpretations. It’s a monologue. It requires honesty, and an understanding of what the lyrics mean. However, if you speeded up the pace and put a pop beat into it, you would need to justify that choice. [To clarify: if a cover is done well, it justifies its own existence.] (Side note, in re: bad covers: I remember watching American Idol, and watching Taylor Hicks dance around as he sang “Living For the City”, and I wondered if he even knew what the hell that song was about. Why are you SMILING, white boy? Nothin’ to smile about in that song. Ignorant. You see a lot of that in today’s music with amateur singers: a total divorce between performance and content.)

I am sure others out there have covered “Creep”, because it is such a fine song and provides the performer with a wealth of opportunities. First of all, it’s deep emotionally, twisty and painful. You can do a lot of acting and personalizing with it. Second of all, while it starts slow and methodical, it ends in a huge finish. If you have the pipes for it, “Creep” can be a showstopper.

I didn’t think anything could top Scala & Kolocny’s cover, but for today, this one has.

Broadway singer Carrie Manolakos, singing a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”, that has to be experienced to be believed. She sang this at La Poisson Rouge, coincidentally (where the Bowie/Presley birthday bash was held).

I am blown away.

Hats off.

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32 Responses to I Wish I Was Special

  1. Jake Cole says:

    That freaking Social Network trailer version KILLED me. I get so irritated with trailers but Fincher knows how to make them into, basically, legit short films and I must have played that one a dozen times.

    Prince also did a pretty good cover of “Creep,” though he keeps having it taken down from YouTube, even over Radiohead’s protests. Prince also came to mind in this passage:

    “I wondered if he even knew what the hell that song was about. Why are you SMILING, white boy? Nothin’ to smile about in that song. Ignorant. You see a lot of that in today’s music with amateur singers: a total divorce between performance and content”

    SO true, and it always seems to be enhanced when some white singer covers black music without any regard for what went into it. But I thought of Prince because sometimes amateurs go the opposite (but equally wrong) way of taking a darker pop song and stripping out the lightness. There are so many awful “When You Were Mine” covers out there that play it like a morose ballad when the song’s weird sexual confusion, anger and acceptance only work when it’s upbeat and contradictory.

    • sheila says:

      Jake – Hi!

      I’m not sure if I have heard that Prince one. How INTERESTING. I imagine he would do something amazing with it.

      I don’t have a problem with re-interpreting a song, or changing the tempo, the arrangement, even the focus. I mean, sometimes turning a song around like that can be awesome and give the song a new life. I think it was Fountains of Wayne who did a cover of Britney Spears’ “Hit me baby one more time”, and it really highlighted how disturbing the relationship in the song is – and was even more interesting because it was a male singing it. Britney Spears’ song was controversial (she was a teenager), but it was a pop hit, with a pop beat – and FOW made it acoustic, broody, and interior. It’s funny, in a way, too – but really good. When asked about why they chose to cover it, they said, “It’s a hell of a song. The second we heard it we wanted to do it.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fyjK1gGhJw

      Or Tori Amos covering “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, totally making it her own. I LOVE it.

      So I don’t mind it – I just think Taylor Hicks bopping around in a purple jacket shows he has zero conception that this is a song of brutality, not “let’s go be free in the city”. Like, the lyrics are clear: this is what happens when you live in the city and you’re a poor black man. It grinds you up. There is no freedom. The MELODY may be rockin’, and it is – but Stevie Wonder sings it in a way where all you can feel is his rage at the situation. Taylor Hicks is just a dumbass who only knows that the melody moves – so he moves – he has no idea what he is moving TO. Ugh – you see this all the time now. There’s just a lack of understanding of context and gesture.

      Did you watch the clip of the girl?

      Now THAT is how you cover a song. I love the simplicity of her body language – her hand gently over her chest a couple of times – almost a comforting gesture – a gesture of hope – “I want a perfect body” … and when she takes the breath before “your skin makes me cry”. Everything is justified, every choice, every gesture, every note. She knows exactly what she is singing about, she has internalized it, she understands the story, and knows how to get it across.

      • Jake Cole says:

        Oh no, I get what you’re saying. There are ways to strip down or rev up songs and deepen their meaning, but oh boy, when it’s bad, it’s SO bad. Like that goddamn Hicks performance. Jesus, Soul Patrol, my ass. I have a feeling he’s only ever heard the radio edit, which fades out before, if memory serves, he even GETS to the city and just bopped along to the melody. Reminds me of the joke in Arrested Development where uncle and niece sing Afternoon Delight at a company picnic because they love the melody, then trail off when both start listening to the lyrics for the first time as they sing it.

  2. sheila says:

    and yes – that Social Network trailer was one of the best trailers I have ever seen.

    This, however, is my #1 favorite:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnSgSe2GzDc

    That should be studied in film classes called How to Make a Trailer.

    I have rarely seen a trailer (of a movie that I hadn’t heard of, and wasn’t already anticipating) that made me think: “Holy crap, I HAVE to see that.”

  3. Melissa Sutherland says:

    Hi, Shela, I get such a kick out of your posts! When I share some of the same experiences, it’s fun, but what’s even more fun is when I find out something totally new and wonderful. Like today! Had never listened to Radiohead, so had not hear CREEP, then heard Carrie M. and that lead to the Belgian choir(?) and finally to Fountains of Wayne. Totally blew my mind in about 15 minutes. What’s so odd is how mood affects everything. First time I saw Spotless Mind I hated it. Saw it a year later and it became one of my all time favorites. I think I just wasn’t prepared to go along with it. And boy, do you have to go along with it.

    Anyway, thanks for making this a wonderful day!

    Melissa

  4. mutecypher says:

    FWIW, Chrissie Hynde’s version is my favorite.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lML2N4xB9GU

    Unsurprisingly, her version emphasizes the ache and longing.

  5. tracey says:

    Holy crap, Sheila! There is an entire universe in that performance. I’m awestruck, literally.

    • sheila says:

      at last someone commented on that insanely honest performance I linked to. Yes – it’s an epic journey, justified emotionally every step of the way. Just blown away by her performance!!

  6. tracey says:

    You know, I just listened to the Chrissie Hynde version — and no offense to Ms. Hynde, whom I love — but there’s no comparison between her version and this version Sheila just posted. She sounds great. She always DOES, but she does nothing emotionally with the song. Her facial expression never changes beyond an”ow, I sprained my ankle” kind of look — in my opinion. And, yes, it sucks to sprain your ankle, but it’s just not on the level of the tsunami of emotions expressed in this song. She went to her “Chrissie Hynde place” not the authentic, rip-you-open place that these lyrics require. Technically, the song is good, proficient, but she didn’t take me anywhere near where Carrie Manolakos just took me. Not even in the same hemisphere. As Sheila expressed, you have to connect with the lyrics, make them yours. You have to own them, not simply perform them. It bugs the crap outta me when singers don’t get this. Sure, it’s vulnerable, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Why be a singer if you don’t want to be vulnerable? Tons of people can sing well. but not everyone can connect and it’s the connection that makes you a star.

    Chrissie Hynde IS a star, but she didn’t do it for me with that one. It felt as if it came from a very safe surface place and why bother doing a cover of “Creep” if that’s what you’re going to do??

    • sheila says:

      Tracey – hahahaha Sing it, sister. I haven’t heard the Hynde one yet. I love her, too.

      My point really in this post was to highlight what I think is the one of the most powerful cover performances I’ve seen – one that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I saw it a couple of days ago.

      THAT is how you “cover” a song. Yes; you must be willing to “go there”, especially with a song like “Creep”. (Same with “Living in the City” – ie: taylor hicks – why even DO that song if you are not willing to meet it at LEAST halfway). This woman in the clip I posted takes the song, knows its emotional power, and succumbs to it. And she rips the top of the roof off.

      I wish I had been there.

      • tracey says:

        Me too! It’s haunting. She seems haunted. She isn’t afraid to completely go there and that’s how you do it — exactly!

        I remember that Taylor Hicks doofus doing that cover of Living in the City. It was cringe-inducing. I think someone — maybe Simon? — gave him a rightly deserved verbal smackdown for not getting it. I was sure embarrassed for him even if he wasn’t able to be embarrassed for himself.

        • sheila says:

          I don’t remember the smackdown. I should go Google it. I was so mortified for him I could barely stick with him through the end. Singing about the black man’s facing of racism in the city, after a life of poverty in the country – how on earth could you justify singing it the way he did? I remember people all raving about it the next day, too – “God, that was so good.”

          I weep for our nation.

  7. tracey says:

    I’m not saying I hated her version. I’m saying for me, there’s no comparison in the emotional journeys when I put the two versions side by side.

    • sheila says:

      Also, it’s thrilling to hear a woman with trained major pipes go after this song. Because that “she run run run run” section is HIGH, and difficult – and Radiohead’s lead vocalist has that kind of soaring high belting voice (I still get goosebumps listening to the original). But there’s something about what this woman did with it that has marked itself on my brain.

      I sent it to Alex. “You must see this.”

    • mutecypher says:

      Hi Tracey –

      I guess this is why it’s good to have choices, I liked the journey I went on with Chrissie more than the one with Carrie. It may have more to do with recalled affection from other journeys with her… but there it is.

  8. tracey says:

    I’ll bet Alex will love it!

    • sheila says:

      She always finds the coolest videos – I was amazed she hadn’t seen this one.

      • sheila says:

        also, Tracey – her very last moment before the video ends – as everyone is applauding – and she suddenly goes “WHOO”. she knows she nailed it too.

  9. phil1.o says:

    Sheila,

    I want you to know… (as I typed I started to sing, I want you to notice…) that I am absolutely obsessed with this post. I have been singing that song all week… out loud… in public. At people.

    I tried to share a thing on your FB timeline (thinking you have that disabled), its a thing where someone has dubbed Lance Armstrong to “CREEP” had I not seen this post it would have simply been cute. But as I am obsessing, it is, I dunno… so fucking special….

    Going Ice fishing this evening. Thats right ice fishing. Fishing, on Ice, What the hell am I doing here, I don’t belong here…

    Love you, Love your blog….you’re just like an Angel
    (ok now I’ve gone too far)

    Phil

    p.s. I don’t even want to tell you how many hours I have spent watching EVERYTHING Carrrie Manolakos has on the inter web… I’m a weirdo.

    • sheila says:

      Phil!! xoxoxoxo Ice fishing! How cool! Did you catch anything? Did you shoot a video of it?

      I miss you. I had to get off FB for a bit for my mental health but I’ll be back!!

      And I am so freakin’ (“special”) – no, wait – PSYCHED – that you are now obsessed with this amazing performer, and loved that you have been watching all of her stuff.

      I saw that Lance Armstrong video and was howling with laughter. The obsession and patience that it took to put that together – so so funny.

      I hope you are well. Glad to see you here. I’m a weirdo, too.

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