There are certain artists that are hard to cover because, well, how can you live up to the original? Take Michael Jackson, for instance. Many of his songs are considered classics. But what happens when you change up the arrangement completely and manage to make people forget that it’s a Michael Jackson song? That’s where today’s Music Battle comes into play.
Everyone knows “Billie Jean.” But Chris Cornell included a completely brand-new rendition on his 2007 album. And it looks like that is the version that has become standard on singing competition shows.
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Enter American Idol: in season 7, David Cook was known for changing up the arrangements of all sorts of songs, including Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” among others. The latter is without a doubt considered The Moment of that season, and one of the best performances ever on Idol.
This song and the original artist are iconic, but when it comes to singing competition shows, David’s has become iconic as well. This was yet another brilliant choice for the rocker, and just one of the many reasons to prove why he deservedly won season 7.
Then during the inaugural season of The X Factor USA, Drew Ryniewicz took on “Billie Jean” and also blew it out of the park. Here’s another singer who wasn’t afraid to change up arrangements at times; just look at her audition of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” — that change in the chorus when the notes go up instead of down is fantastic.
The theme that week was Michael Jackson, and so Drew performed the Chris Cornell version of “Billie Jean” just as David Cook did three years earlier. And she also nailed it. The thing with Drew is, with the right material, she does great, as this example shows. She’s got a unique voice that needs certain songs that will fit her right, and going with the original would not have worked for her, but because the new arrangement was slower, it allowed her voice to be showcased in just the right way.
Unfortunately, this was the week that Drew was eliminated, along with Astro. She landed in the Bottom 3 and had to sing for survival against Marcus Canty. It’s tough because there were certain singers you knew would be sticking around, but the above performance made her worthy of staying, though that didn’t happen.
Chris Cornell made an impact on yet another singing competition show — just this week, in fact. It was the semifinals on Rising Star, where the remaining singers performed for a spot in the finale.
Jesse Kinch covered that version of “Billie Jean.” He didn’t start off as good as the others did, though. For some reason, his voice during the first part of the song sounded really strange to me; I don’t know what it was. But when the music kicked into high gear, he was on track and sounded great the rest of the way, receiving 83% — the highest of the night.
Our Rising Star recapper Esther Gim said of this performance, “All I’m thinking is ‘been there done that’ with David Cook on American Idol.” Yes. For us watching at home, that was the big elephant in the room because for some strange reason the judges and host weren’t aware of David Cook’s performance or that the arrangement is by Chris Cornell. Back in season 7, Idol was still one of the biggest shows around, and everybody was aware of David Cook singing this song. Maybe the judges just didn’t want to mention a show from a rival network, but they were so in awe of what Jesse did to the song, as if nobody has ever done it like this ever. But as we’ve proven so far in this article, the opposite is true.
Before I narrow the field down, I just want to say that I don’t think there’s a bad performance in this group at all. But I am going to narrow it down to David Cook and Drew. David obviously advances, but when deciding between Drew and Jesse, I picked Drew because her voice was more captivating during the performance than Jesse’s voice.
Between David and Drew, as much as I like the latter, there’s no question that David Cook wins this Music Battle. He set the precedent for performing the Chris Cornell version on these shows. And put simply, his rendition is iconic at this point — it was back in season 7 and still is today. I don’t think anyone covering “Billie Jean” will ever be able to top what David did because we’ll be thinking of him the entire time.
Which cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is your favorite? Do you agree that David’s is iconic? And how come the Rising Star judges seemed completely unaware of the arrangement until Jesse performed it? Vote for your favorite rendition in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
The Rising Star finale airs next Sunday at 9pm on ABC.
(Images courtey of FOX and ABC)