Miguel’s “Bennie and the Jets” Cover Is Weirdly Fascinating

Slate's Culture Blog
March 21 2014 6:36 PM

Miguel’s “Bennie and the Jets” Cover Is Weirdly Fascinating

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Miguel has recorded an offbeat take on the Elton John classic.

Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Arms Around the Child

Elton John’s career-defining Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is celebrating its 40th Anniversary, and to celebrate a new reissue is on its way, complete with a (perhaps unnecessary) tribute album of famous musicians covering the original songs. One of those contributors is singer and songwriter Miguel, who, along with rapper Wale, has created an interpretation of “Bennie and the Jets” that’s at once bizarre and dazzling.

The cover is doing a lot here—distorting and minimizing the instantly recognizable piano line, emphasizing the electric guitar, adding fake cocktail chatter in the background. When compared to the minimal, more straightforward delivery of the original, it feels like near sacrilege upon first listen. And it probably could have done without Wale’s verse, which adds nothing except eye-roll-inducing lines like “Music has lost it’s soul/ And the females selling sex.”

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But it’s also an incredibly bold take from the R&B singer that barely tries to mimic its source, while still staying true to its creator—Miguel’s take is just about as unabashedly vibrant as the many amazing outfits John has donned over the years. And John himself seems to approve: “Miguels done a fantastic job,” he said. “It’s important not to copy, and that’s what Miguel did."

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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