In Response to HmL

My man HmL disagrees with my view on Nguyen Khang’s rendition of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word.” He writes:

So far as I am concerned, no one in the current crop of Viet male singers is capable of doing Elton John’s, without misinterpreting his intention. (For that matter, no one I’ve heard–Viet or otherwise–can do John’s music justice. I love my man Ray Charles, but even he shouldn’t have gone anywhere near this song; in his gravelly voice, he sounds plain exhausted vs. lovelorn.) John’s love songs are meant to be soft, wistful, emotional, and are written specifically for his tenor/falsetto voice (and his peculiar phrasing). Without these elements, they are no longer his songs.

Obviously, no one can interpret his song better than the writer himself. If you cover a song, however, reinterpreting the writer’s intention is not such a good idea. You have to take the song into your own hand, which I gave Nguyen Khang the credit for it. He took John’s “soft, wistful, emotional” and makes it rough, raw, yet still emotional. When Jimi Hendrix covered Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” he made it into his own and gave a much better performance than the writer himself. Even Dylan himself recognized it and made a tribute to Hendrix when he sang his own song, which was odd.

Even though this is where you and I split, your view makes it fun to discuss. I agree that Ray Charles dragged the soul out of the tune, and he’s my main man too. Thanks bro!

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