Elton John's 'Revamp': Which Pop Stars Soar While Covering the Rocket Man?
Even though Sir Elton John will retire from touring after his upcoming international farewell run, the legendary musician is bestowing some of all his all-time greatest hits to some of today’s biggest acts.
The new LP, Revamp: The Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, is a 13-track tribute album featuring artists ranging from Lady Gaga to Queens of the Stone Age to Mary J. Blige.
Here’s our thoughts on each cover, in order of the track listing.
“Bennie and the Jets,” P!nk and Logic
The first voice you hear on Revamp is none other than Sir Elton himself. The 2018 reimagining of the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road staple kicks off with a snippet of John billowing the iconic line, “She’s got electric boots/A mohair suit/You know I read it in a magazaaaayne/Oh, ho/B-b-b-ennie and the Jets.” For all intents and purposes, P!nk is exactly the right person to take it from here. She has the range and her persona fits the glam rock aesthetic of the song. What really doesn’t work here, however, is a mid-song rap from Logic. The magic of “Bennie and the Jets” gets really lost in this overstuffed cover that starts the album off on a very WTF note.
“We Fall in Love Sometimes,” Coldplay
Exactly what you’d expect from a Coldplay cover of a very Coldplay-friendly track. It’s sad and sweet and…sounds just like every Coldplay song of that ilk. It doesn’t quite pack the emotional wallop of John’s 1975 tune (or even Jeff Buckley’s) but it’s definitely a vast improvement over that “Bennie and the Jets” opener. It doesn’t take any big chances, but it’s wildly listenable.
“I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues,” Alessia Cara
It’s not hard to imagine this track as an audition song on The Voice and it would definitely get all four judges to turn around. Again, not nearly as strong as John’s thundering 1983 soft rock smash, but best case scenario, the pop star introduces his catalog to a new generation.
“Candle in the Wind,” Ed Sheeran
A surprisingly, almost inappropriately, peppy take on a song that pays tribute to two departed icons (in 1974 and 1997, respectively), Ed Sheeran goes a bit more guitar-guy-at-the-party route than 'somber reflection of lives lost.'
“Tiny Dancer,” Florence + the Machine
Okay, now this one makes perfect sense. Florence Welch already gives off some serious Almost Famous vibes and her pitch-perfect cover of the 1972 ballad would sound just as fitting if you’re singing along to it in 2018 in a tour bus.
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” Mumford & Sons
Just like Coldplay’s track, Mumford & Sons' take on John’s 1974 heartbreaker sounds pretty much exactly how you’d expect it to. Then again, there’s a surprising lack of mandolins and banjos and most things Mumford, so maybe it’s a little bit more of a risk-taker than you might expect.
“Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige could cover the Wiggles and make it sounds compelling as all hell, so, c’mon, of course she totally nails this R&B reimagining of the 1976 adult contemporary weeper. Blige simultaneously makes it all her own (this would legitimately do well as a single) and keeps the spirit of the original completely in tact.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” Q-Tip featuring Demi Lovato
Let’s be real: Elton John and Kiki Dee’s 1976 duet is as cheesy as it gets. (Good cheesy, of course.) The only thing more surprising than Q-Tip and Demi Lovato taking the reigns of this song is how decidedly how non-cheesy their version is and how much of it actually works. Who would have guessed these two would make such sweet music together? Here for it, honestly.
“Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters,” The Killers
Of all the artists on Revamp, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers surprisingly sounds the closest to classic Elton John. It’s especially noticeable in the band’s take on the 1972 soft rock opus. The Killers pretty effortlessly tackle the song, which is arguably the loveliest non-single John and Taupin ever crafted.
“Daniel,” Sam Smith
You want a sad song done right? You go to Sam Smith. Unlike Ed Sheeran’s baffling cover of a sad song, Smith smartly taps into his sorrowful sound. It’s not much of a departure from the 1973 heartbreaker, but hey, if it ain’t broke....
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me,” Miley Cyrus
The bad thing about Miley Cyrus grabbing headlines for her antics is how much it can overshadow what an obscenely talented singer she is. Cyrus thrives when she’s belting out the bigger ballads (there’s a reason why “Wrecking Ball” lives on well past that music video) and this 1974 single is as meaty as they get. Cyrus definitely doesn’t throw away her shot here with her own pop/country version.
“Your Song,” Lady Gaga
Was there any doubt? If anyone makes the most sense covering the theatrics and the soul of Elton John’s voice and Bernie Taupin’s songwriting, it’s Gaga. A strong contender to take the crown away from the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack version of the 1970 pop ballad as the best cover, Lady Gaga does what she does best here. It’s big and booming and beautiful -- and you’re made of stone if it doesn’t give you serious goose bumps.
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Queens of the Stone Age
Oh, hell yes. Queens of the Stone Age turn their usual 11 a few notches down for their stunningly awesome and slightly subdued take on the 1973 glam rock favorite. Lead singer Josh Homme really hits those “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiighs” and ends the album on an unexpectedly moving note.