Massive Attack’s gorgeous and haunting “Teardrop” is now widely and instantly recognizable as the “theme from House,” the only real shame of which is that the cut that plays over the opening credits drops Elizabeth Fraser’s reliably ethereal vocals.1 That aside, I’m not one to sniff in hipster disdain of something cool getting dispersed to the masses; I think it’s actually kind of wonderful that thousands of people who wouldn’t know trip-hop from trance have now spent years getting a weekly dose of high-quality downbeat electronica, even if the legacy of the entertainment it came with has proven to be a mixed blessing.2
Less well-known – by which I mean that I had no idea either until the other night – is that “Teardrop” has been given several worthy and interesting cover treatments. In particular, allow me to draw your eye and ear to this version by Jóse González, set to visuals that may be even more trippy and unsettling than the original.3 It’s a version I find to be powerful and beautiful in its own right, honoring the source material while not attempting to recreate it – qualities, IMHO, of most of the best covers. As a musician who can be perhaps over-enthusiastic about adding songs I fall in love with to my performing repertoire, it’s a good thing to be reminded of – that the material should almost always be a vessel for the voice of the interpreter, and not the other way around.
(Hat-tip to Fred Clark of slacktivist for pointing to this, in case you want to know who to blame for your dreams tonight.)
1 Which, really, though I’m all for wide dissemination of all things Fraseran, Liz has shown every sign of caring sod-all about being ready for prime time. Witness the Cocteau Twins’ first appearance on American network television on The Tonight Show in the ’90s, performing “Bluebeard” – what surely counts as one of the more accessible and radio-friendly tunes in the CT catalogue – when she was unable to resist tormenting the vocals to “Carolyn’s Fingers” levels of abstraction.
2 I’m not quite up for going into much depth about my mixed feelings concerning House, MD, but for now suffice it to say that I’m glad to see that the trope of the Asshole Genius Antihero is showing signs of waning.
3 Which video featured a singing animatronic fetus, so consider yourself duly warned.