Covers can be a tricky thing. Artists can trip up by straying too far from the original content, or on the other end of the spectrum, they can go too far and leave the magic of the originator and replace it with something new but not necessarily elevated. Whenever covers are featured on an album, they can act as an actual ‘make or break’ point, giving the audience a fleeting impression that could affect the artist’s own content. It’s often where a listener can first get a read on what they can expect, and with Killing Kenny’s ‘Exactly Different’, they will be the furthest thing from disappointed.
The album hosts eleven tracks, with two covers rising up as highlights of Kenny’s style, artistic vision and presentation. First featured is ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ (Soft Cell), which replaces the heavy synth backing with clean piano whilst maintaining a subtle synth to complement the melody effortlessly. The track takes on a more classic ballad feel due to its stripped-back instrumental and powerful vocal performance. The vocals themselves are bold and unashamed, proving that content can be interpreted differently without losing its spark or passion. The melody refreshed with the slick presentation easily allows the audience to make a solid connection to the Soft Cell original. This is part of what a cover should be, a tribute to the primary performance that elevates the music through its secondary presentation. Maintaining the characteristically 80’s whimsy feel throughout without relying on decade-defining instruments is impressive, and offers an almost softer side to the song.
“I remember this song from school in 1981, when the start of the 1980’s sound began to kick in. Always liked the tune and it brings back great memories of very happy times for me growing up. I wanted to keep the sound still very 1980’s with an uncluttered version of the tune”. – Killing Kenny
The other cover featured on Exactly Different is the closing track – ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ (Bruce Springsteen). The song immediately mirrors the original’s drama, with organ music and gospel harmonies bleeding into layers of guitars and heavy percussion, remaining more faithful to the Springsteen anthem whilst still adding the clean style observed before. The layers easily weave around the vocals, providing swells of emotion without ever becoming overbearing, preventing Springsteen’s classical lyricism from being drowning out. It carries the original’s essence; even the saxophone feature makes an appearance in the second half of the song, bringing waves of appropriate nostalgia that isn’t over-exhausted by this newer presentation. ‘Land of Hope and Dreams (For Aldo)’ is a soul-warming tribute that maintains the modernised style established earlier on, exampling also how content can be mirrored without being reductive.
“I have grown up with the music of Bruce Springsteen, with The River released in 1980, one of the first albums that inspired me to get into music at an early age. I had always wanted to record an E Street Band style song, complete with saxophone, and the opportunity arose for John McLaughlin to call on some of his musician contacts, who were in lockdown, to record a version of one of my favourite songs”. – Killing Kenny
Overall, Killing Kenny has gifted the world not only two top tier covers straight from the 80s but also an example of how covers can be used as different expressions without losing the initial artist’s quality. They are wonderful additions to Exactly Different and should be noted as top contenders to the best cover to come out of 2021.
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