(Un)Covered: The Phantom of the Opera

Steve Harley & Sarah Brightman vs Jonathan Young & Malinda Kathleen Reese By | January 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM

“The Phantom of the Opera”
Writers: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe, Charles Hart, Mike Batt
Original Release Date: January 1986

Call it cheesy or complain about the problematic relationships all you want, but when it comes to musical theatre, I’m obsessed with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to be kidnapped and locked away in a dark dungeon lair. But there’s something about the way the musical plays with the idea of love and obsession that makes it so fascinating to me, especially the powerful theme song that sets the stage—literally and figuratively—for the Phantom and Christine’s tragic love story.  Being a Phantom nerd, I have to admit my favorite version is the first Canadian recording featuring Colm Wilkinson and Rebecca Caine, but this original recording with Steve Harley and Sarah Brightman (who was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber at the time) is the most famous. It was released as a single as a way to build the hype for the musical’s premiere, and it ended up on the UK’s top ten charts shortly after its release. What makes the song stand out is the contrast between Brightman and Harley’s voices, as well as the “hard rock” influence that gives it a more aggressive edge compared to the rest of the soundtrack.  

I’m actually surprised there aren’t more metal-tinged covers of songs from The Phantom of the Opera. It practically begs for unclean vocals with those oh-so-eighties electric guitars and the type of lyrical content that could be terrifying with the right type of growl. I discovered Jonathan Young after (Un)Covered’s original mastermind, Hannah Pierangelo, featured his metal take on an Aladdin classic, and he’s fast becoming my go-to cover artist. My favorite part of any metal song is the heavy percussion and he absolutely nails it on this cover, giving an already creepy song a bone-chilling vibe. Listening to the original, you can almost convince yourself that the Phantom’s intentions were pure (if misguided), but with Young rasping out phrases like “my power over you grows stronger yet” against Malinda Kathleen Reese’s angelic vocals, you start to wonder why Christine wasn’t a little more terrified.

I’ll always love how dramatic “The Phantom of the Opera” is—both as a song and as a story—but there’s something enticingly frightening about Jonathan Young’s version that makes me want to listen to it over and over again.