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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Femme Fatale (Over and Over Again)

Posted by Ezra Ace Caraeff on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Legend has it that "Femme Fatale" was written in honor of Edie Sedgwick, a request that Andy Warhol relayed to Lou Reed and the rest of the Velvet Underground. Then again, maybe Moe Tucker wrote it in honor of Sarah Palin? Who knows? Regardless, it's a damn good song, one of the best Nico-sung tracks in their brilliant catalog. Let's have a listen, shall we?

LISTEN:

The Velvet Underground - "Femme Fatale"

Lovely. Following the demise of VU, the song took on a new life, becoming a standard for plenty of other bands to cover. Some did Reed (and Sedgwick) justice, while others, well, not so much. Duran Duran leave their glossy '80s pop fingerprints all over their version, which ironically was released in the '90s.
LISTEN:

Duran Duran - "Femme Fatale"

In either a tribute or a horribly misguided parody, Dramarama do a Lou Reed impersonation (that catcall after "see the way she walks" was not necessary) during their take, which for all your Dramarama fans out there can be found on their Cinéma Vérité debut. In case you were wondering—which you were not—the band's version of Mott The Hoople's "I Wish I Was Your Mother" is far superior to this.
LISTEN:

Dramarama - "Femme Fatale"

A few years later R.E.M. had a go of the song on the B-side to the "Superman" single (another cover, this time from The Clique), and eventually on their odds-and-ends Dead Letter Office LP. Thankfully the results much more positive than what Simon Le Bon and Dramarama did.
LISTEN:

R.E.M. - "Femme Fatale"

Chillax gays, you have your own version of the song as well. Pansy Division cover "Femme Fatale" on Pile Up and even swap the gender in the lyrics—just in case one would question the sexuality of a band that wrote "He Whipped My Ass In Tennis (Then I Fucked His Ass In Bed)."
LISTEN:

Pansy Division - "Femme Fatale"

One of the better reinterpretations is courtesy of Owen, the nom de plume of Mike Kinsella (of the famed midwest Kinsella clan of emo brothers). With its slight lyrical twist at the end ("she just a little cocktease"), this is the dumped ex-boyfriend version, a tempered, yet seething cover that reminds listeners that most emo boys have issues with the fairer gender, fatale or not.
LISTEN:

Owen - "Femme Fatale"

Switching it up some is the marvelous Aloe Blacc, who gets a little soulful in his cover, which is just one of the many highlights on his new Good Things album. If you are dimming the lights and knocking boots to "Femme Fatale," go with Blacc's version. You should totally make a baby to this.
LISTEN:

Aloe Blacc - "Femme Fatale"

My personal favorite—other than the original, of course—comes courtesy of Big Star. Recorded about seven years after the Velvet Underground did it best, but not released until later on Third/Sister Lovers, Alex Chilton and company get a little sloppy at times, but maintain the same level of wounded sadness that permeates through the original version. It's raw and a little clumsy towards the end—the faint steel drums lingering in the background is a very bad idea—but Chilton's voice fits the song so well.
LISTEN:

Big Star - "Femme Fatale"

There are a few additional versions floating around, but really, isn't a half-dozen covers enough for you people?

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