Posted by: Jeff | September 29, 2010

A Tale of Two Performances

Ta-Nehisi Coates and his loyal commentariat have strong feelings about The Roots and John Legend’s cover of Arcade Fire’s seminal “Wake Up”.  The Roots and Legend teamed up for an album of covers that is rumored to be at least partially inspired by this Arcade Fire track (hence the album title), but the song mysteriously did not appear on the album.  On Friday, September 24th, they got together for American Express’ UNSTAGED series, and performed the track live for an audience in New York City and on Youtube around the world.

Just last month, Arcade Fire participated in UNSTAGED as well, offering a unique comparison of the two performances.

I’m generally a fan of The Roots and think that Legend is a serious talent, but I think they really missed what makes this track so great – the anthemic, epic nature of the emotion behind it.  Legend is mostly dispassionate on this one, crooning what should be a primal yell of a chorus.  As TNC puts it: “The energy of the original doesn’t come strictly from dude’s voice–it comes [from] the hugeness of the whole band pumping together.  John Legend, whatever his other merits, can’t match that energy. It feels like they rounded out and smoothed off all the original’s edge. Which is kind of funny, because hip-hop excels at finding the edge.”



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Arcade Golf Club, Jeffrey Mervosh. Jeffrey Mervosh said: A Tale of Two Performances #Music #ArcadeFire #JohnLegend […]

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