Oak Ridge Boys – “Seven Nation Army”
Country singers can cover rock songs with great success, like when Johnny Cash did Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat,” or when Dolly Parton gave “Stairway to Heaven” the bluegrass treatment.
This is not one of those times.
The Oak Ridge Boys’ version of White Stripes song “Seven Nation Army” (from upcoming release The Boys are Back) is bad, and not so bad it’s good. It’s “Indian Outlaw” bad, and if this cover were a corporeal entity, the only respite from its awfulness would involve jamming a stake through its cold black heart. While Jack White may occasionally dabble in country and roots music–in addition to producing Van Lear Rose, don’t forget he also included Porter Wagoner as an opening act when the Stripes played Madison Square Garden in 2007–he does it with far more success and grace than the Oak Ridge Boys reciprocate.
For one thing, the song starts out with an approximation of Meg White’s admittedly amateur drum work and Jack’s guitar intro…only the Boys sing the guitar part, with “bah bah bum” noises while a piano plays Very Dramatically in the background. It’s all downhill from there. The men who made “Elvira” a hit just can’t sell lyrics like “And I’m bleeding right before the Lord/All the words are gonna bleed from me/And I will think no more.” Despite their best efforts, it comes off like bad punk rock karaoke sung by your slightly drunk grandfather.
If this is an attempt to court a younger audience, it’s certainly a misguided one.
“Seven Nation Army” is the opening song on one of the decade’s best rock albums, 2003′s Elephant; it’s also the most recognizable White Stripes song, making the decision to cover it a daring one. The Oak Ridge Boys are to be commended for their song choice and willingness to seek out non-country material, but that’s the only thing about this recording that can be commended.
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