Taken By Trees Drop the Sax and Go Cumbia for Striking Cover of 'Careless Whisper': Premiere

Eugene Kim
Taken By Trees

There's no big secret why Victoria Bergsman wanted Taken By Trees to cover Wham!'s "Careless Whisper," premiering exclusively below.

"I've always been a fan -- of Wham! since I grew up, and then George Michael. I felt when he passed I wanted to do one of the songs," Bergsman, the former frontwoman for the Swedish group the Concretes, tells Billboard. "My older sister was the bigger fan; She definitely had the posters and everything up on the wall and she was in love with George. But I always really liked the music."

That said, Bergsman found "Carless Whisper" to be something of a challenge as she recorded it with producer Dan Lissvik in Stockholm and Aaron Drake in Los Angeles. "It's so hard to sing, I don't know why I picked that song," Bergsman says. "I've heard that for him it was one of the hardest ones to sing, too. There's very low and very high parts. But I decided on that one and was stuck with it. I think I got it, but it was tough." Taken By Trees' arrangement, meanwhile, blends a number of different elements, including cumbia, into the cover.

"Everyone knows his songs so well, I wanted to make it something different -- not too far from the original but different," Bergsman explains. "We changed the rhythm up a bit and made it a few beats per minute faster. The cumbia rhythm makes it feel more laid back and groove-y. There's a bit of, like, early '90s, Ibiza sunset flavor to it, in a way." The cover is also missing the original's saxophone hook. "Oh, I couldn't do it, Bergsman says. "It was already taken."

The "Careless Whisper" is a one-off single for Bergsman, though a remix is coming from Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn & John. But the singer is already thinking about a new Taken By Trees album to follow up last year's Yellow To Blue. "I'm writing songs," she reports. "I felt like that last album passed people by. We didn't have the label support, so I need to write some more songs and make another one, and hopefully people will hear that one."