Margaret Durante – “Use Somebody”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | November 12th, 2009

margaret-duranteSongwriter: Anthony Caleb Followill

When a new artist releases a cover song as his or her first single–especially a cover of a non-country song–there are two ways it could flesh out.

A cover song comes with a built-in audience, or at least an “Oh-that-sounds-familiar” audience. And those 20-some extra seconds a familiar tune may buy can make all the difference between a listener turning the radio dial (or clicking the “Next” button on Pandora) and hanging around long enough to become invested in a new voice, one of the biggest obstacles hanging over an emerging artist’s head.

But, as Randy Travis would remind us, there’s always the other hand: A cover song can signal an artist’s reliance on material that may be more commercially profitable than artistically worthwhile, and it invites inevitable comparisons between the new version and its predecessors.

Newcomer Margaret Durante’s debut release “Use Somebody,” a cover of Nashville-based pop/rock band Kings of Leon’s chart-topping hit, falls somewhere between the two. While Durante’s performance doesn’t show any symptoms of laziness, the same can’t be said for her success in making the song her own or providing potential fans with any signs of her point of view as an artist.

Of course, there’s a reason the song was popular and often-covered: Its lonely urgency is underscored thoughtful, interesting lyrics like “Off in the night, while you live it up, I’m off to sleep/Waging wars to shape the poet and the beat/I hope it’s gonna make you notice/I hope it’s gonna make you notice/Someone like me”.

Established singers Paramore, Nickelback and Kelly Clarkson have taken their own stabs at the hit, albeit as one-offs featured during concerts and special acoustic sets. However, Durante–or, more likely, her handlers at record label Universal Republic–chose to introduce herself to the country music world with a “country” version of the song.

By “country,” I mean Durante delivers the song from a female’s point of view in the stylings of Taylor Swift and Colbie Caillat: She finds a natural rhythm that complements her vocals, but any brief glimpses of her interesting twang are disrupted by “whoa-whoas” featured throughout the song. And even though the original song’s hipster edge is shaved off with superfluous strains of steel guitar and fiddle, the production and arrangement remain disappointingly similar.

Although Jimi Hendrix famously covered “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” just two days after its initial release, it feels a little soon to reinterpret a song that debuted just under one year ago; however, because her target audience may be largely unfamiliar with the tune and its writers, that probably won’t be a hindrance for Durante.

Still, in terms of bringing a convincing female perspective to the song, Durante doesn’t come close to indie singer Laura Jansen’s version of the tune, which marries an original arrangement with a genuine delivery. Here’s hoping Durante brings original material like “Put Yourself in my Blues” (a tune featured on her MySpace profile that’s worth the click) on her next go-round at a bid for a slot on country radio.

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  1. Matt B.
    November 12, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I am not a big fan of this single either. I even think it was a bad calculation. The song is so ‘huge’ that it’d take an established artist like Sugarland to make it into a hit on the country charts.

  2. Rick
    November 12, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Gosh, is she related to the long departed entertainer Jimmy Durante? Does she start her shows off with his old line about “That ain’t no banana, that’s my nose!”. (lol)

    Judging by that picture I think she should have covered a Bellamy Brothers song instead and reworked it a bit! I can just see her purring to some hunky cowboy in a honky tonk bar “If You Say I Have a Beautiful Body, I Might Hold It Against You!”.

  3. Billy
    November 12, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I think that she does the song well enough, but it’s too soon for a cover of this to be released. It’s a great song though.

    By the way, in Sugarland’s “Take Me As I Am” one of the lyric says: My name’s Maggie Durante/I said ain’t that something. Coincidence?

  4. Kelly
    November 12, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Brooke White has a version of this on her new album…not sure why I know that…or am i??

  5. JCH
    November 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Poor choice of cover from a new artist. When considering the level of notoriety that Kings of Leon are currently experience, the comparative factor alone may draw some interest but I expect to see this flounder.

  6. Boots
    November 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Smart moves. Margaret Durante gives a nod to Nashville-based KOL. She owns this version with heartbreaking, urgent loneliness. The music video all over the web and CMT. Her myspace shows writing and recording. More to come…

  7. Robin
    January 1, 2010 at 8:02 am

    I’ve never heard of her before. I just saw the video on CMT pure and wanted to find out more about her. So, appearantly the song/video stood out enough to get a country fan up from the TV over to the google bar. I like her alot. I’m not crazy about her name, but what’s a girl to do about that? :)

    I hope to see more of her on CMT and hear her on radio. I’m off to hear some more of her songs on myspace.

  8. Jonny M
    November 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Know this is an old post but I just heard Margaret do a song called “Mississippi’s Crying” on the local station here in Baltimore and what a song! While I felt she did a very nice and unique job w/”Use Somebody”, you gotta here her latest. Girl can sing.

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