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Neneh Cherry - The Versions Music Album Reviews

Neneh Cherry - The Versions Music Album Reviews
Robyn, Sia, ANOHNI, Jamila Woods, and more all try their hand at some of Neneh Cherry’s greatest hits revealing just how erratically wonderful the UK singer has been across her four-decade career.

Neneh Cherry thrives on unpredictability. Her four-decade career included stints as punk provocateur, street soul ambassador, trip-hop icon, and jazz singer, just to name a few. The same mercurial spirit that has made her career so thrillingly disparate has also made Cherry hard to pin down, which makes The Versions, a 10-track compilation of covers (and one remix) of Cherry’s songs by female and non-binary artists, a predictably confounding but mostly successful venture through a vibrant pop catalog.

Certainly, there is a lot to celebrate here. The artists who contribute include family members (TYSON is Cherry’s daughter), fans turned friends (Sia), and a number of musicians who operate in the lineage of Cherry’s borderless pop adventures (notably Robyn and London neo-soul/psychedelic R&B restless spirit Greentea Peng). Between them, they cover many of the musical genres that Cherry has embraced in her itinerant catalog. ANOHNI’s “Woman” reflects Cherry’s skill with a world-burning ballad; Greentea Peng’s amusingly grubby take on “Buddy X” nods to the song’s status as a UK Garage anthem (as remixed by scene figureheads the Dreem Teem in 1999), while Sia’s take on “Manchild” is pure pop, a glimmering reflection of the brief period in the late 1980s when Cherry was touted as the new Madonna.

It is “Manchild,” in fact, that provides this album’s two obvious highlights, with distinctive covers from Sia and Los Angeles singer/cellist Kelsey Lu proving the wonderful malleability of Cherry’s work. Sia’s faithful but not overly sincere cover dusts off the tear-jerking pop sincerity that sent the original single up the global charts, while Lu’s gorgeous string-heavy remake locates the jazz influences at the song’s heart. (Neneh Cherry’s stepfather, celebrated trumpeter Don Cherry, once called the song “kinda jazz” with its “seven chords in the verse.”) Crucially, neither version of the song sounds too in thrall to the original, or a victim of change for change’s sake, nimbly escaping the two obvious pitfalls tribute albums easily fall into.

Cherry’s other big hit—the classic “Buffalo Stance”—comes off far worse, despite the attentions of singers Robyn, Mapei, and Dev Hynes on production. Their remake was inspired by Maria “Decida” Wahlberg and Karl “Kyaal” Lund’s “Nostalgia for What Never Was” remix of “Buffalo Stance”, created for a 2017 exhibition in Stockholm on hip-hop as a cultural force. Interesting as this is, though, The Versions’ take on Cherry’s debut single has none of the original’s outrageous self-confidence, which suggested the arrival of a new pop paradigm, somewhere between UK street soul and U.S. hip-hop. Instead, their remake feels limp and unsure of what to do with itself, a combination of polite guitar lines and apologetic beats that drain “Buffalo Stance” of all its vigor, leaving a taste in the mouth like wilted lettuce.

This failure is symptomatic of The Versions’ other principle shortcoming, which is an over-reliance on good taste that edges out Cherry’s rogue-ish, rebellious spirit and sense of humor. (Let us not forget that “Buffalo Stance” included a thoroughly absurd interlude, in which Cherry asked “Wass he loike?” in a blustering faux-Cockney accent.) It’s hard to ask contributors for irreverence on an album celebrating one of the most fascinating pop talents of recent decades. But the cumulative effect of four very respectful covers in a row from Jamila Woods, TYSON, Sudan Archives, and Seinabo Sey—each perfectly satisfying in their own right—makes you wish for the same Neneh Cherry who once rapped about “Chocolates, bananas, doughnuts, and salami/Ain’t gonna fit coz you're full of baloney” (on “Heart”) to break down the studio door and seed some anarchy.

Full of baloney The Versions isn’t. But its muted—and sometimes rather predictable—approach only occasionally gets close to capturing the erratic wonder of Neneh Cherry in full flight, a truly singular star who operates above and beyond the demands of playlist pop and, it appears, major-label tribute albums.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Neneh Cherry - The Versions Music Album Reviews Neneh Cherry - The Versions Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 Rating: 5

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