October 12th, 2011 | by ROBERT HAM Music | Posted In: Cut of the Day

Cut of the Day: John Heart Jackie, "When You Were Mine"

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You can't really screw up a Prince cover, as long as you don't mess with the formula. Try to do it as a punk tune or some thrashing electro thing, and the whole thing falls apart. But stick to the core tune—as John Heart Jackie does here—and you're golden.

It's because up until around 1996, the guy knew his way around a pop song. He wrote dozens upon dozens, many of them stone-cold classics. He explored them from every angle. Took them apart and rebuilt them. Added unusual sounds and ideas to a well-worn template and subtracted elements that many of us would consider essential. And they all came out sparkling, funky, and often brilliant. With that legacy intact, why would you want to mess with perfection?

The only thing you can add, as John Heart Jackie does here, is through finding the elements of Prince's work that he willfully ignored. "When You Were Mine" is a devastating song on paper, a plea from a spurned lover who can't get over the fact that he was left behind. So much so that he stalks his ex's new man. But on Dirty Mind, the song is done up in funk-pop dressings, as if he was hiding his pain behind a ropy bassline and gooey harmonies.

When You Were Mine by RiotActMedia
Here, the agony is front and center, brought to life by Jennie Wayne's sticky sweet vocal performance and a backing track that lopes along in a nice understated fashion. Nothing pushes the songs too far over the edge or yanks it into the world of kitsch. They pay homage to the Mr. Rogers Nelson while making the song their own. That's how you do a cover song, boys and girls.
 
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