Juliana Hatfield Covers an Underappreciated Classic From The Police: Premiere

David Doobinin
Juliana Hatfield

Nearly a year and a half after Juliana Hatfield released an album of Olivia Newton-John covers, she's back with a set dedicated to another act that inspired her -- Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police, whose vibey cover of "Next to You" is premiering exclusively below.

"I still don't know exactly what I'm mining with (the covers albums) -- I'm sort of going back and exploring my formative years, I guess," Hatfield tells Billboard. "The Police and Olivia Newton-John were things that I loved when I was an adolescent and coming into myself and discovering music, and my own music. So I'm just exploring my past, I think, as I come more and more into myself -- but it's hard to answer why."

The Blake Babies and Lemonheads alum did release an album of original songs, Weird, earlier this year, and she says the covers sets provide a bit of valuable creative respite. "Whenever I make an album of my own songs, at the end I feel so depleted," Hatfield explains. "I feel like I've said everything I have to say and will never write another song. But I don't want to stop making music. That's when I go and start looking at other people's stuff...so I can keep working. Recording covers is like a working vacation. It's fun, and it also informs my own stuff afterwards."

The Police, Hatfield says, were an adolescent fixation, attracting her with their blend of pop, punk and jazzy touches and helping introduce her to reggae. Choosing a dozen tracks to interpret was no easy feat; In fact, Hatfield says she could probably manage a second volume of Police material along the way. But for Sings the Police, due out Nov. 15, she "just chose stuff that pleased me the most," included hits and deeper cuts such as "Hungry For You," "Canary in a Coal Mine," "Hole in My Life," "Murder by Numbers" and "Landlord." "I went with stuff I thought sounded cool or that seemed relevant," Hatfield explains. "Something like 'Rehumanize Yourself' seems very modern and current in its subject matter. 'Canary in a Coalmine' is so fun to sing and play. I was really just indulging my whims.

"Obviously I wanted to put my own stamp on them," she continues, "but the structures and foundations are so solid that it's fun and kind of easy to get inside them and mess around and remold them. Even if you dig into them and break them apart, they're not gonna break. They bend real easy."

"Next to You," the first track from the Police's 1978 debut album Outlandos d'Amour, presented a challenge for Hatfield, however. "It really was an intuitive reworking of that," says Hatfield, who abandoned "an awful '80s metal ballad" version of the song before settling on this version. "Their recording of it is so perfect in its imperfection. It's unpolished and raw; That whole album sounds like three guys bashing out a song in a room together. So I didn't even want to attempt to do a rocking version of it like that. I don't want it to be compared to the original. There's no way I could come close. So I just went in a completely different direction and slowed down to half time."

Hatfield has had no feedback on the album yet from the Police camp (Newton-John full endorsed her album last year) and plans to continue the cover sets as a series between original albums. She's currently on break from touring, which she's using as an opportunity to do some songwriting before going back on the road in January. "When that tour is over I'll start to think about recording something," she says. "The Olivia Newton-John album definitely had an impact, so I'll be interested to see what (the Police) album brings out of me now."


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