Paul Young, ‘Hungry Heart’ – Terrible Classic Rock Covers
If you’re going to go to the trouble of covering someone else’s hit song, you should bring something new to the table. It helps, however, if it’s also something worthwhile.
Paul Young forgot the second part of that equation when he decided to record an altogether different — and utterly unnecessary — version of Bruce Springsteen‘s classic ‘Hungry Heart.’ Part of Young’s 2006 ‘Rock Swings’ LP, which recast well-known favorites by other artists in a big-band setting (including Metallica, whose ‘Enter Sandman’ never sounded less ominous), Young’s ‘Hungry Heart’ departs from the original in ways that suggest he’d not only never listened to it, but that he actively despised Springsteen.
In fact, not only does it not work as a Springsteen cover, Young’s version of the 1980 hit barely manages to function in the context of its own album; it neither rocks nor swings, opting instead for a bizarre arrangement that herks and jerks between somnolent verses and stuttering splashes of brass in the chorus. It’s easy to mock, but it’s also actually kind of surprising — although he’s remembered today as an ’80s balladeer, Young was always more than that, and the albums he released during his commercial heyday were dotted with smart, empathetic interpretations of other people’s hits.
In fact, Young’s biggest singles all found their way onto the charts because he knew how to inhabit someone else’s song: He rescued the Hall & Oates album track ‘Everytime You Go Away’ from obscurity, delivered a solid re-recording of the Chi-Lites’ ‘Oh Girl,’ and even managed to breathe new life into ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ for the ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ soundtrack. But by the mid-aughts, Young had tired of chasing pop stardom, and ditched his blue-eyed soul sound to front a seven-piece Tex-Mex party band called Los Pacaminos.
While it isn’t hard to guess why Young decided to record ‘Rock Swings’ — Sony presumably offered a healthy advance, and few serious singers would pass up the chance to work with a big band — and most of the album can be kind of fun in a tongue-in-cheek way, his gift for picking material deserted him with ‘Hungry Heart.’ Lacking the expansive drama of the Boss’ version as well as any apparent connection to the story told in the lyrics, it’s just an embarrassing snooze.
Listen to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Hungry Heart’