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Song of the Week: Karen O Rages on Smashing Pumpkins Cover “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”

on February 08, 2019, 10:11am

Each week we break down our favorite song, highlight our honorable mentions, and wrap them all up with other staff recommendations into a New Sounds playlist just for you. Be sure to subscribe here.

Karen O is having quite a year. Along with working with Danger Mouse on a joint album, Lux Prima, she still had time to record a cover of a Smashing Pumpkins classic for the new Amazon series Hanna. Billy Corgan’s iconic vocals and minimalist instrumentation are traded in for Karen’s more haunting approach to the song. She adds uptempo drumbeats, which give the track a macabre dance spirit. The message behind the song is still the same, if not raised to darker peaks. The lyrics “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage” also open themselves to new perspectives when sung by a woman in 2019.

When you cover an iconic song that’s over two decades old, it’s almost impossible to trump its quality, but it leaves you with infinite ways to experiment in order to make the song your own. Karen O succeeds with a vocal delivery that ranges from soft to gravelly frustration. The song’s production literally adds more to the original by widening its atmosphere to allow more foggy layers to explore. It’s clear Karen O didn’t just want to do your basic cover; she wanted to relay the song’s central theme of anger and bring it into a brand-new world. The anger may still be there once the song is over, but her cathartic release of emotion can lead to a small victory for anyone who relates.

–Brad Dountz
Contributing Writer

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OTHER SONGS WE’RE SPINNING

Jamila Woods – “ZORA”

“ZORA” hails the announcement of Chicago musician and poet Jamila Woods’ second album, LEGACY! LEGACY!, and if its choral checkerboard of sound and convincingly assured lyrics (“You don’t know me, couldn’t possibly”) are anything to go by, we have a lot to look forward to. –Laura Dzubay

Rodrigo y Gabriela – “Echoes”

An 18-minute-long song is a tall order, but classical guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela pull it off in spades on “Echoes”, with a journey that is at turns energetic and reflectively melodic, yet ceaselessly inspired from start to finish. –Laura Dzubay

Foxygen – “Livin’ a Lie”

Smooth, grand, and just a touch of shaky vocals from Sam France. Sounds like Foxygen. The Californian psych-rock duo have been at it for over a decade, and this cut from their upcoming sixth album, Seeing Other People, is a sturdy and seductive look into a promising statement. –Parker Reed

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Cyboogie”

Giving into pop tendencies the only way they know how, King Gizzard return with a bouncy new bash with impressionistic drums, far-out theremins, and vocoder-slashed vocals that give the song more dimensions with each passing minute. What is left is a weird, but rollicking blast from beginning to end. –Brad Dountz

Beck feat. Robyn and The Lonely Island – “Super Cool”

This oversized joyride could’ve only happened thanks to a movie about Legos. There is a lot of blissed, sleek production that lets everyone have time to shine, but it’s The Lonely Island’s ode to end credits that ties the exuberance all together. Don’t be surprised if thousands of kids start dancing to this in the theater. –Brad Dountz

EARTHGANG feat. Young Thug – “Proud Of U”

A man is only as good as the woman who stands by him, so EARTHGANG and Young Thug want to make their appreciation crystal clear. Fast-flowing lyrics describe all the good deeds she has done for him and all the ways he’ll reciprocate. It’s good to see a little wokeness with volcanic trap roots in music today. –Brad Dountz

Girlpool – “Hire”

Los Angeles indie-rock duo Girlpool’s gradual build on “Hire” shows a patience in songwriting that proves to be a huge payoff for the listener. Always melodic, always jangly, this cut from the band’s latest LP, What Chaos Is Imaginary, is a great jump-in point for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to check them out. –Parker Reed

Lil Peep, ILoveMakonnen, Fall Out Boy – “I’ve Been Waiting”

For as eclectic as the artist list is, “I’ve Been Waiting” actually turns out to be a fairly concise and enjoyable piece of dance-pop. With vocal contributions from ILoveMakonnen and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, this track turns out to be a varied, dance floor-ready song that can serve as a safe addition to anyone’s weekend playlist. –Parker Reed

The Avett Brothers – “Neapolitan Sky”

The time was ripe for yet another single from one of the most prolific groups currently working in folk, and The Avett Brothers delivered; lovelier with every listen, “Neapolitan Sky” wields the brothers’ trademark talent for acute poetry and acoustic nostalgia. –Laura Dzubay

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