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Aug 28, 2015

The Voice Grand Final, INXS and Why-y-y-y

And the winning contestant is . . . plus, how to show respect to INXS' sublime "Never Tear Us Apart".

W H Chong — Culture Mulcher

W H Chong

Culture Mulcher

Voice Champion Prediction: Ellie Drennan will be the 16-year-old winner on Sunday’s Grand Final. Wonderfully gifted with a distinctive tone — Nathan Hawes, himself only 18, has the other very distinctive vocals — Drennan’s extreme youth just adds an irresistible bloom. And if I’m wrong I’ll eat a pavlova.

Ellie Drennan’s individualistic choice and acoustic version of “I Kissed a Girl”.

Laim Maihi tackling the cathartic Why-y-y in “Never Tear Us Apart”.

Hutchence’s famous yowl

Last week’s semi-finals saw the talented Liam Maihi attempt the sublime pop of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart”. He was instructed by his coach, Ricky Martin, to study the original and reproduce it ‘with respect’, ie just like Michael Hutchence. It was a brave stab, though the leather jacket was an overwrought Michael reference. Maihi injected a Hutchensian swagger, though the INXS video has Michael mopey rather than cocky. Maihi unfortunately muffled portions of the lyrics, especially around the crucial last phrase of the second verse:

I told you / That we could fly / ‘Cause we all have wings / But some of us don’t know why

Never Tear Us Apart” is a romantic ballad tipped into melodrama: the chorus iteration of ‘And they could never ever tear us apart’ emphasises the hyperbolic “ever”. Hutchence was 27 or 28 when he wrote the lyrics, but he had a direct access to teenage yearning, which obviously worked for the song: I looked up Spotify and counted over a hundred covers (Tom Jones, naturally).

In the video (Prague in the mist), Hutchence gives a perfectly considered, restrained performance. The second verse, smack in the middle, has Hutchence producing the inspired, upward yowl of Why-y-y-y-y?

That pivot is where all the covers succeed or fail at reaching a tingling catharsis. Maihi more or less gets there in the Voice, but is very shouty compared to the original, which only proves how adept Hutchence was.

Beck, of course, covered INXS’ Kick some years back. He had St Vincent do a breathy, beautiful version of “Never Tear Us Apart” — very tasteful but she didn’t go for the Why climax.

A fascinating cover by the Scottish band, The Twilight Sad, is performed in full accent. The Why is treated as a single anguished howl, most authentic.

For JJJ’s Like a Version, Australian rapper Allday, and friends, mix it up for a curious melange of tones, part respectful, with a jaunty section of rap — no idea what he is saying — abetted by sweet vocals from singer Gab Hyde. No climactic Why-y-y-y.

Finally, a splendid rendition by a contestant during the Blind auditions in the The Voice UK, 2013, egged on by Jessie J.

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