“Youth” Songwriter: Jonny Harris, Louisa Allen (Foxes) Original Release Date: September 6, 2013 (official)
If you recall Zedd’s hit “Clarity” from last year, you’ll know that the stunning vocals belong to British singer and songwriter Louisa Allen aka Foxes. It was actually her 2012 debut single “Youth” that earned her a place on Zedd’s song, where she earned a Grammy for Best Dance Recording and consequently took the world by storm. This week we’re looking at an acoustic cover of “Youth” by the British pop rock band Natives.
“Youth” is a beautiful pop song, but it’s not mindless like a lot of things on mainstream radio. It begins with the strikingly melancholy line “They didn’t want me when I was running wild,” and continues with intricate and lovely lines throughout. The chorus drives home the message that only a young person can deliver: “Don’t tell me our youth is running out/It’s only just begun.” Foxes sings with a slow, sultry R&B tone that resonates through a room. She drawls through her words and drags the listener through each verse, but manages to make it work in an upbeat pop setting. As the song finally comes to a close, Foxes layers her vocals over the music, making for a surreal effect of faded and echoing voices. It ends the song on a much happier note than it began with, leaving the listener with a warm sense of what it means to be young.
Fellow British rockers Natives tone down the song a lot at first. A vibrant pop song transforms into a softly sung acoustic piece, vastly different from the original’s upbeat energy. Vocalist Jim Thomas cools off the vocals on the song, and while they’re not quite as deep and dimensional as Foxes’, his are clear and crisp, fitting perfectly on guitar driven version of the song. About halfway through, the band pick up the pace and add a thick rhythm section and accent with electric guitar to liven up the gentle acoustic introduction. Thomas also deepens his vocals, adding to the growing layers and we start to hear a more confident tone. This version of “Youth” goes from bleak to bright in a matter of minutes, and the transition is virtually seamless. Natives made an effort to express their style on the song, and seem to have succeeded in creating a cover that is all their own.
Natives chose a difficult song to cover with “Youth.” What I like about this cover is that the band didn’t match the voice or the style of Foxes’ song at all. Instead, it took on a new kind of potency as an acoustic ballad to the idea of youth. Natives nailed this cover and I look forward to see what other songs the band ventures to cover and transform in the future.