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As the Glee cast sends five songs onto this week’s Billboard Hot 100, the most dramatic reinvention of its quintet of debuting remakes is its transformation of Cyndi Lauper‘s uptempo No. 2 1984 party anthem “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as a ballad.
Sung by Cory Monteith (aka, “Finn Hudson”), the song starts at No. 59.
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(Additional “Fun” fact: the Glee cast looks in line for a lofty debut on next week’s Hot 100, as its cover of “We Are Young,” by alterative act Fun., is, at press time, the No. 1 song in the iTunes Store).
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was previously stripped down, however, four years ago by singer/songwriter Greg Laswell. Released as a single, his take was later included on the Confessions of a Shopaholic movie soundtrack.
Why make “Fun” sound so sad?
“I’ve always loved Cyndi Lauper,” Laswell tells Billboard. “I must have heard ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ hundreds of times before I actually listened to the lyrics. (Once I did), I remember thinking, ‘Wait a second, that might be a sad song!’ “
(“My mother says, ‘When you gonna live your life right?!’,” read Robert Hazard‘s lyrics. “Oh, mother dear, we’re not the fortunate ones”).
“So, I slowed it way down,” says Laswell, “changed the melody so that people wouldn’t recognize it right away and played it only on piano, in hopes of shining a spotlight on the lyrics.”
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While Laswell has not yet heard what Lauper thinks of his version, fan responses “have always been polarizing,” he says. “Some people love it. Others really hate it, which is going to be the case anytime that you cover a well-known song in a completely different way.”
Laswell is frank in stating that he wishes that Glee would’ve referenced that his creative vision paved the way for its version of “Fun.” (In the show’s first season, Glee similarly shook up Billy Idol‘s “Dancing With Myself” in the spirit of Nouvelle Vague’s more obscure, less rock-leaning version).
“Of the Glee version, I think they have enough talent over there that they shouldn’t need to go rummaging through other artists’ work.
“Public acknowledgement of their note-for-note rendition would have gone a long way.”
Listen to both versions below. Does Laswell deserve credit? In addition to Touchstone’s Shopaholic, his rendition has also appeared on MTV’s The Hills in 2007, FX’s Damages in 2008, and New Line’s My Sister’s Keeper in 2009.
As the Glee cast charts with its (uncredited) ode to his creativity, what better opportunity to note that Laswell has enjoyed his own share of Billboard chart success. His most recent album, Take a Bow, debuted at No. 3 on Heatseekers Albums last year and yielded the No. 5-peaking Triple A single “Take Everything.”
Laswell also scaled Heatseekers Albums with Three Flights From Alto Nido (No. 13) and his Covers EP (No. 38) in 2009.
The makeover of “Fun” into a ballad isn’t the only such current reinterpretation. Michael Buble‘s slower version of Mariah Carey‘s jangly “All I Want for Christmas Is You” spends a second week atop Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Buble credits his bass player, Craig Polasko, for the idea of reworking the carol as a ballad.
Beyond the Glee cast’s version of “Fun” and Buble’s new leader, Adele‘s “Someone Like You” this year become the first ballad to top the Hot 100 since 2008, as well as the first-ever No. 1 featuring only vocals and piano accompaniment.
After many months of hi-NRG dance/pop dominated by the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Usher, perhaps a trend is shifting toward a more welcoming acceptance of slower-paced songs.
I.e., not only can “Fun” be a ballad, but ballads can be fun, too.
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