Tuesday Ten: Songs We Didn’t Like Until We Heard Them Acoustic

By | September 9, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Autumn is just around the corner (at least we think so – what exactly has been up with the weather this summer?), and that means one thing: it’s almost time to throw on your comfiest sweater and trade in the upbeat sunny anthems you’ve been singing the past four months for something a little more chilled out. Nothing complements the changing leaves and falling temperatures quite as well as acoustic music, but while it’s always fun to return to your usual favorites, it’s even more exciting to add something unexpected to the playlist –  which is why for this week’s Tuesday Ten, we asked our writers about ten songs they didn’t like until they heard them acoustic.

Lights – Where The Fence Is Low

Let me clear the air by saying I don’t dislike the original version of “Where The Fence Is Low” by Lights. It’s poppy and has a good beat, but it just doesn’t blow me away compared to some of her other songs–in spite of the heavy/borderline dubstep bass trying to, literally. But when I first listened to Siberia Acoustic, this was the song that completely took me by surprise. The bouncy synths have been replaced by a single moody, echoing guitar, completely transforming this song from upbeat anthem to brooding ballad. If you didn’t recognize the earnest lyrics, you’d think it were a different song. In fact, the lyrics suit the slower rhythms and melancholy tone much better, allowing you to see the chorus of, “I’m off on my own here / And I find my hope here,” in a different light–a small ray of hope in the face of darkness. And when she starts singing from afar in the bridge? Chills will run all the way down your spine and leave you shivering for days. The mix of sporadic finger-picking and slow, gentle strumming keeps the melody fragile, making you feel almost vulnerable–as if you’re just as alone as the lyrics suggest. Despite being just Lights and her guitar–a far cry from the original plethora of synths–the simplicity of the arrangement feels more brazen in its honesty, while still remaining completely intimate. (Alex Bear)

Marianas Trench – Cross My Heart

When you’re known for writing pop gems as unforgettable as the boys in Marianas Trench do, releasing a single that’s just average doesn’t cut it. And unfortunately, that’s what makes “Cross My Heart” fall flat – it’s just average, catchy enough to get on the radio but sorely missing the personality and irresistibility you’d expect from the dude who co-wrote “Call Me Maybe”. But the band breathes new life into the song with the acoustic version recorded for Masterpiece Theatre: Director’s Cut, a gorgeous stripped-down arrangement that highlights Josh Ramsay’s stunning vocals and completely shifts the track’s mood. The melancholy at the core of the song –  something that the original hides behind all the major chords and glistening pop rock production –  is thrust into the spotlight in the acoustic version, bringing out a deep sense of longing in lines like, “Take me with you, I start to miss you / Take me home, I don’t wanna be alone tonight.” Where the original lacks impact, the acoustic hits hard; where the original feels typical, the acoustic leaves a mark on you. And while hearing the single may have you glancing at your watch and wondering, “What else does this band have to offer?” the acoustic reimagining will snap you back to attention and make you realize aloud, “Oh yeah – that’s what.” (Eleanor Grace)

Mayday Parade – Three Cheers For Five Years

We all know Mayday Parade are capable of creating some pretty heart-wrenching tunes. But it’s certainly arguable that their 2006 debut EP Tales Told By Dead Friends boasts their most emotional material to date, birthing the unforgettable track “Three Cheers For Five Years” that was later recorded as an acoustic version for Punk Goes Acoustic 2. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember what the original song sounded like off the top of my head; with the juxtaposition of Jason Lancaster and Derek Sanders’ voices and Sanders’ notable piano skills, the acoustic version of “Three Cheers” pulls at your heartstrings in a way that makes the original version become virtually nonexistent. The seamless mix of Lancaster’s edgier vocals and Sanders’ more delicate voice makes you crave the duo frontman combination of this era of Mayday’s career. With only the recognizably eerie piano notes found in most Mayday songs, the acoustic version of “Three Years” proves vocals are key; nothing else is needed in this track. Anything else would only disguise the raw, gut-wrenching lyrics and powerful emotion of the song. (Alyson Stokes)

Paramore – Brick By Boring Brick

On first listen, Paramore’s “Brick By Boring Brick” just didn’t do it for me. It felt like Hayley Williams’ powerful voice was being masked by the rest of the instruments in the song, like there was way too much going on in the song, and that what I was looking to hear wasn’t the most important part. I certainly didn’t dislike the song or feel let down by the band; I had simply come to accept that this would not be my new favorite Paramore song and moved on. That is, until their MTV Unplugged session premiered. I could have never imagined that my perception of a song would change so drastically. The contrast of Hayley’s voicing soaring over the mellowed-out instruments allowed me to fall in love with the rest of the song. And hearing it in a stripped-down, more intimate version was what made me appreciate the song as a whole. (Alex Rudisill)

Passenger – Let Her Go

This may make me biased, but the first time I heard Passenger’s “Let Her Go” was on the Lydia Pandora station, which only streamed the acoustic version of the track. I was drawn to the intimacy and simplicity of the track, which featured a bare-bones structure of four basic chords, finger plucked and arpeggiated smoothly, as Mike Rosenberg humbly croons about his heartbreak. The minimalist approach and folky aesthetic really sold me. At that point I had zero clue that the song was massive in more than one country, but after hearing the full-band album version on a Superbowl Budweiser commercial, I was quickly turned off to the song. All it took was a minor tempo change and extraneous instrumentation to take away what I thought was the complete integrity and intent of the song. The acoustic version is the only redemption of me liking this tune. Rosenberg mentioned to NPR in an interview, “I wrote ‘Let Her Go’ three or four years ago backstage at a tiny gig in Australia. It wasn’t set up to be a global smash. I made a song I loved and believed in.” The acoustic version of this song is much more aligned with the effortless simplicity that was intended for the song; less is more when it comes to writing about heartbreak and loss. Passenger songs tell stories, and I think the point is to let the narration speak for itself and have the music underscore; otherwise, the song sounds lifeless, repetitive, and a lot less genuine. All you need is an acoustic guitar and a story to be effective. Ditch the fluff. (Ethan Rose)

Pierce The Veil – I’m Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket

Pierce The Veil are one of those bands I can’t stop going back to–they always end up surprising me in the best of ways with each album release. Undoubtedly, I fell in love with Collide With The Sky when it first came out in 2012…except for one particular track: “I’m Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket”. The song felt unbalanced, with the guitar riffs and drumming seeming as if they were trying to overwhelm each other at some parts. With such a lyrically powerful song, the focus should be on the emotions that drive it; instead, I found myself distracted by sparkling guitar effects, and it’s safe to say I wasn’t sold on the track. That is, until I discovered the acoustic version lead singer Vic Fuentes recorded over at KROQ. With just a guitar and his voice, he strips “I’m Low On Gas And You Need A Jacket” to the bare minimum–and in this case, less is certainly more. The acoustic guitar complements Fuentes’ raw voice in a way that captures every ounce of emotion this track contains. Without any effects to distract from the sheer power of the song, I couldn’t help but play it again and again, thinking about the lyrics for days to come. (Emily Yee)

Sam Smith – Latch

You know Sam Smith; your mom knows Sam Smith; hell, your great grandma probably knows Sam Smith. But those of you not up on your knowledge of English production duos may not know that he originally released a version of his hit single “Latch” with Disclosure that’s more heavy on glitched-out, club-ready synths and less focused on his beautiful voice. I was pretty so-so with the Disclosure version of the tune, but thankfully he dropped an acoustic video shortly after that won me over. Backed only by a cello and an array of piano chords (and dressed in a super suave jacket), his voice is the main focus and it is an absolute treat. It’s the kind of voice–particularly in this video–that makes your jaw hit the floor with how fine-tuned, powerful, and just all-around soulful it is. With Adele taking some well deserved time off to focus on her family, the world needed a voice like Smith’s to come around and take over the pop music world–and he’s done just that. (Tarynn Law)

The Summer Set – Young

Don’t get me wrong, The Summer Set are one of my favorite pop rock acts, and “Young” is a fine song. However, the original track pales in comparison to the intensity held by the acoustic rendition. The version found on 2009’s Love Like This is urgent, pop-infused, and driven by an electric guitar, all of which contribute to the adventurous spirit given off by the song. The stripped down interpretation, however, is a slow, intimate declaration of love. Reimagining the track with a six-string at their side made for a prettier version of its repetitive tempo and put the enamored feeling the song is based around in the spotlight. A soft, sweet nature makes the song perfect for legions of instrument-equipped lovestruck teenagers to replicate for the objects of their admiration. The first edition of “Young” has too many distracting features (like an almost electronic edge and the requirement to singalong) to truly capture what it’s like to be crazy for someone the same way the acoustic performance does. When in need of a slowdown, give the lullaby-esque track a listen…kind of makes you want to fall in love, doesn’t it? (Emillie Marvel)

Young Guns – Bones

I’m a big believer in original songs, but sometimes the acoustic version can be so much better. The acoustic side of Young Guns’ “Bones” starts out as cool and calm as drizzling rain, which is part of why I am so attached to it–I mean, nothing goes together quite as well as rainy days and moody acoustic tracks. The delicate piano softens the song’s sharp edges and chills the energy into something like a lullaby. Vocalist Gustav Wood’s deep timber opens the song with a flawless melody that takes on a haunting quality before pouring into the chorus. Though it seems to lose a touch of its potency with acoustic guitars as opposed to electric, Wood’s vocals make up for it later in the song; he lets the grit of the song seep in through the tense part of the chorus, serving to drive the emotion like a stake to the heart. As it progresses, the song starts to pick up a thunderous beat and clapping to add dynamic and keep it from feeling too slow. All together, it’s enough to induce chills. I still listen to the original when I’m looking for something a little more aggressive, but this acoustic version is deeper, darker, and just better–hands down. (Hannah Pierangelo)

Zedd feat. Hayley Williams – Stay The Night

Zedd is probably my biggest EDM guilty pleasure thanks to “Clarity,” so I was beyond excited when I heard he was collaborating with Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams. But when the song was finally released, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. I was pleased that he didn’t overedit Williams’ vocals like many other DJs do, but the chorus felt incredibly repetitive to me, and the song lacked the soaring intensity that I loved so much in “Clarity”. Zedd’s production, rather than enhancing the song, also felt slightly distracting at times. I realized my favorite parts of the song are the verses when Williams sings just over a piano or acoustic guitar–so the acoustic version released several months later was a greatly improved take on the track. It allowed Williams to inject more emotion into her voice and Zedd to prove his musicianship when he can’t just use a drop to fill up half the song. The acoustic version feels like pulling back the curtain and allowing you to truly appreciate the heart of the song. Overall, while the original version feels too busy at times, the acoustic version is a much more seamless display of Zedd and Williams’ combined talents. (Catherine Yi)

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