When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week the Morning Benders take on the Cardigans’ “Lovefool.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!
Re-visiting “Lovefool” makes me very nostalgic. Arriving in 1996 with an irresistibly saccharine gusto, the song dominated pop-culture conversations for months. We heard it on the way to class (yours truly was a freshman in high school), at lunch and at night on MTV. We heard it as a central piece of Baz Luhrmann’s modernist take on Romeo + Juliet, a film with an imprint on the collective teen mind in those days that only barely overshadowed that of the song’s. “Lovefool” didn’t break any new ground, per se, but breaking new ground wasn’t really the point. It rarely is when it comes to pop music.
The sunny disposition of “Lovefool,” despite its lovelorn lyrics, is, in a way, odd considering its source. Peter Svensson, who co-wrote the single with singer Nina Persson, played in heavy-metal bands before founding the Cardigans. And while this scrap of group history might seem banal, it’s worth mentioning if for no other reason than it reveals the multifarious capabilities of this band, whose diverse palette has produced some of the best pop/rock albums of the last two decades. “Lovefool” will forever be the Cardigans’ popular legacy, to be sure, but the band’s loyal followers know better; that single, while undeniably great, only skirted the surface of the Cardigans’ potential.
If you’ve heard “Excuses” then you understand the Morning Benders know something about potential, too. Leading off the young band’s second LP, Big Echoes, which was released this time last year, that song is every bit as well-arranged and catchy as “Lovefool,” a gleaming representation of principal songwriter Christopher Chu’s obsession with vintage California pop and the band’s taste for texture and experimentation one in the same. That dynamic extends to the Benders’ lovely, understated cover of “Lovefool,” too, making this week’s winner anything but easy to predict.
Cast your vote wisely.