One idea I’ve had for an Earn This article for years and years is “things I like the idea of, but don’t like in practice.” If you just explain it to me, I’ll admire it. But once I experience it, I’m tepid (or worse).
Near the top of that list would be Sara Bareilles’s music. I love the idea of a woman singer-songwriter with pop chops and a strong, feminist voice. Great vocal presence and charisma. Wholesome but spunky, confident but not arrogant. Refuses to make her beauty her identity. Funny. The more I learn about her, the more I like her. Take the origin story of “Love Song”: the record label wanted her to write a love song, and she found the most flippant way to do so. It’s fantastic.
And then I listen to the songs, and my response is… meh. The hooks are okay. The lyrics aren’t quite as clever as I expect. The production usually unremarkable. I was never motivated to dig deep on her albums, so I mostly gave up on being a Sara Bareilles fan.
Then I heard the covers.
It turns out Bareilles is a fantastic interpreter and performer, it just doesn’t convey in her original recordings. I’m not sure why. But when she records a song I separate know, she always manages to tap some vein of it that feels new, fresh, and expressive.
Take her cover of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” from the live album Brave Enough. It’s fantastic. It emphasizes the melancholic nature of the tune with a stripped down harmonic progression and an elegant performance. Her vocals are so tender and emotive.
Once you’ve enjoyed “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” just search “sara bareilles cover” on YouTube. There’s an embarrasment of riches.