0110: “Our Lips Are Sealed” by Fun Boy Three

My personal opinion on cover songs is as follows: any cover is acceptable (which is not to be confused with good) if it involves the genre of the cover being different than the source material, or if the vocals on the cover are by the opposite sex. Rare are the covers done in the same genre and sung by the same sex that are truly great, or even above average—rarer still is when this happens when the source material was either A) really popular or well known or B) the artist was popular or well known. “With A Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker is an example of the former and “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix is an example of the latter. Covers done in a similar genre or sung by the same sex are open to more scrutiny by default in my eyes because the burden of respectability on the artist to reinvent the sound of the original or outperform the original is way heavier, especially if the source material is a well known song or a deep cut produced by a well known artist. “Glad Tidings” isn’t a super well known Van Morrison song but I doubt any male rock artist could ever cover it with any success or redefining skill. It’s easier when the genre and/or the sex of the singer are opposites (see: “Respect” by Aretha Franklin or “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor). With Fun Boy Three’s cover of “Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s you not only have guys covering a track produced by women, you have British guys covering a song made by American women. This version exchanges American pop for British new wave at a wholesale clip. The synthesizer is replaced by a piano, the airiness and high notes replaced with mellower effects and almost tribal drum beats, and vocals that don’t really bother to reach the cheeriness and sorority posture of the original. Fun Boy Three consisted of 3 members that split off from The Specials and wound up making 2 albums before disbanding. Their small catalog contains some good early ’80s new wave pop but “Our Lips Are Sealed” is far and away my favorite song from. This is one of my favorite covers of all time.

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