(Un)covered is idobi’s exclusive take on the world’s best cover songs.
Songwriters: Sia Furler, Thomas Pentz, Andrew Swanson
Original Release Date: January 9, 2015
I’ve got pop fever this week, and I’m completely obsessed with Sia’s enormous electro-pop hit “Elastic Heart” (and the music video, too!). What’s amazing is how well this song lends itself to different genres. This week, we’re getting into an intense hard-rock version by Hearts and Hands and a relaxed acoustic version by All Time Low.
On a purely superficial level, “Elastic Heart” is fun. It’s a power-pop ballad with a huge hook of a chorus with layers upon layers of technologic sonic elements (courtesy of producers Diplo and Greg Kurstin) and fresh lyrics to boot. Sia proves to be quite impressive with her vocal range and lyrical content on this track, which was featured first on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack and later on her album 1000 Forms of Fear. Capturing the bitter emotions of an ended relationship at first, the song encompasses the strength of one’s self by the chorus and stays true to the end. It makes me want to throw a fist in the air and sing along: “I’ve got thick skin, and an elastic heart.”
On another level, Sia has directed truly magnificent art with her music video for the song, featuring actor Shia LaBeouf and dancer Maddie Ziegler, who represent two versions of one self battling each other inside a cage. The video sparked some initial controversy, but the artistic story of the performance was recognized after Sia’s behind the scenes explanation with The Edge. I’ve watched Shia and Maddie dance it out maybe fifty times today alone, just to watch their intoxicating movements. Sia is tackling a trilogy of music videos, and after “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart,” I can’t wait to see what she and her creative team put together next.
Hearts and Hands keep this song as big and loud as it feels, but add a bit more tension with their naturally heavier style. I love the sheer fury of the guitars on this version; they hit you with a wall of sound by the chorus. Add in the group’s dueling vocals and thunderous drums–well, you better just grit your teeth and jam out with the volume up loud. The two clean vocalists bring a unique dynamic to the cover. One sings smooth and velvety with perfect tone, the other gets a little gritty with his forceful vocals, and the two both battle and cohere in duet. Sonically, it’s almost similar to the the dance battle between Shia and Maddie in Sia’s video. Hearts and Hands absolutely kill it on this cover of “Elastic Heart” by turning the mood (and the volume) way up.
For a completely different take, All Time Low completely turns the sound around. Instead of the huge ballad, inflicting each of Sia’s emotions on the listener, the band opted for making it sound small and intimate. The volume and theatrics are removed in favor of a gentler acoustic performance. Still, it manages to do just as much emotional damage by keeping the focus square on the lyrics and heartfelt vocals (plus awesome harmonies). All Time Low brings their pop-rock flair to the song, even acoustically, which takes this intense pop song down a notch and into a different musical style, attesting to the pure dynamic versatility of “Elastic Heart.”