Why I Love Stripped Back Performances

(In an earlier post I outlined why I love demo versions of songs so much. Here is the continued version, where I talk about why stripped back performances of songs appeal to me).

As some may know, I use my satelite radio frequently to discover new music. This year I’ve come to appreciate both SiriusXMU’s (channel 35) and Alt Nation’s (channel 36) in-studio Sessions that they do with bands who are gaining traction in the music world.

Why is it that I like stripped back sessions so much? As I mentioned in a previous post, the first time I ever heard EL VY’s “Return to the Moon,” it was the SiriusXMU Sessions version and I thought it was gorgeous.

A stripped back version captures the original emotion of a track, just like a demo. It’s the closest the song can get to raw bluntness of its first recording.

Like when I heard a piano version of Passion Pit’s “Take a Walk” on Alt Nation. I love the political themes in this song and the sense of desperation in the lyrics, and the original is bombastic with synthesizers, drum machines and backup vocals. But hearing the subdued and quiet pleas of frontman Michael Angelakos over a simple piano line made the message of the song far more haunting.

Or, when Small Black stripped down their songs “No On Wants it to Happen to You” and “Boys Life” from their newest record “Best Blues” on SiriusXMU. Taking away all the synthpop elements and lo-fi production helped bring the stark portrayal of life for New York residents post-Hurricane Sandy right to the front of the tracks.

And, who can forget the hauntingly beautiful version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” that Bono and The Edge played at U2’s Pop Mart tour show in Mexico City? All of the exaggerated vanity and over-the-top theatrics of U2’s 1990’s persona created a brutal contrast with this performance of a song about violence breaking out at a march for human rights on a cold weekend morning in Northern Ireland.

But a stripped back version doesn’t always have to be slow or moody or resigned. I heard POP ETC play an unplugged version of “Vice” on Alt Nation, and honestly, I liked it way more than the original. I’m pretty indifferent to the single; it’s a standard alt rock radio hit, but with no production flourishes, an acoustic guitar and minimal backing vocals, it had a MUCH more fun and playful vibe.

What do you think of stripped back performances? Do you prefer them to the album version? What are some of your favorites?

On an unrelated note, I apologize for the delay in posting. Classes have just started up for me, I’m starting a new job and I’ve been busy moving into a new house. I will try to keep up with blogging in my down time.

Thank you so much for reading, happy Sunday, and as always..

God bless.

-A. L. D.



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