May 23, 2008

Survival Mode

Sometimes coincidences are hard to ignore. This morning I heard from one of my best friends that he and his wife may be divorcing. It was a hard email to read because his family and ours, though we live a state apart, are close, and we've shared some great times together. The coincidence came when my teenage daughter came into the den singing "I Will Survive" just when I was reading my friend's email. I was surprised she knew the song, and when I asked her who sang it (just testing her, since I knew), she said "some woman." I was even more surprised because she had heard the 1970s Gloria Gaynor version, and not the newer version by the band Cake, who I know very little about. It's also an interesting note that I remember my mom using Gaynor's version as her strength during the time of her divorce from my dad.
Anyway, as I played the Cake version of the song for my daughter, I came to a very solid conclusion: The band did something pretty miraculous. They turned a '70s disco anthem about a woman's survival into a pretty great rocking tune. Not only does it sound good but it also keeps the survival message strong. I'm really impressed that it works so well. Apparently, there is some controversy concerning this version though. Some critics feel the band's snide-sounding vocals are making fun of the song. I totally disagree. I think that sneering attitude is fitting for the lyrics. It's true, it's not a "woman" song anymore, but I think it still carries the same "FU" message. In comparison, take Eric Clapton's own reworking of his emotion-drenched classic "Layla," which he turned into an acoustic waltz. It may sound OK, he totally cut the balls out of the tune. There's no angst anymore. If the idea of covering a song is to give a new perspective without losing the meaning of the original, Cake's version of "I Will Survive" is damn-near perfect.
To my friends Karen and Jeff, this song's for you.
Listen to Cake's version HERE.
Below, YouTube videos: Gloria Gaynor's original, followed by Cake's.

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