Marina and the Diamonds – “Boyfriend (Justin Bieber Cover)”

Marina Diamandis is a queen and this is why.

I like covers. Scratch that, I love covers. Covers that strip away the production of an original tune, covers that flip genres, covers that add harmonies or change vocal genders, covers that take a song and turn it up to 11, etc. etc. etc.

Some of my favorites include Gorillaz covering The xx, Editors covering Gorillaz, The Dresden Dolls covering David Bowie, Feist covering The Kinks, Yelle covering Robyn, Amy Winehouse covering The Zutons, Arctic Monkeys covering The Strokes, Ellie Goulding covering The Weeknd, Radiohead covering Oasis (for jokes) — these are all covers that take the original songs and tweak them in ways both subtle and drastic, but always creating equal, if not better, versions (okay, excepting Radiohead) (can you blame them though).

In the case of Marina & the Diamonds’ (aka Marina Diamandis and her band’s) cover of Justin Bieber’s attempt at ~~~slow jamz~~, “Boyfriend” turns from a childish Justin Timberlake-lite rap pop confection into a melancholy acoustic analysis of an uneven relationship.

And it’s AWESOME.

I don’t have the patience to transcribe lyrics, so I’ll just link two video tracks one after the other for comparison. First up, JBiebz:

His face is just… so young. And he’s not that much younger than I am. Which is frightening, to say the least.

Then, Marina’s take:

But when I was your girlfriend… I always felt alone. The way Marina (no last name addresses for her, we’re tight right?!) so perfectly flips the tone of the song is amazing, and both the sadness and the snarl of her version add a punch that, alas, Bieber and his perfectly groomed eyebrows will never achieve.

Like, first of all, all that “swag” nonsense in the original? I’ve listened to as much OF and A$AP as much as the next person; those boys have swag. Justin Bieber is a Canadian baby.

I think the main appeal of Marina’s version is that whereas the original “Boyfriend” is a sugar-coated ode to the ideal archetype of the “white knight,” her take is decidedly more realistic, and focuses on the ramifications of those kinds of fairytale dreams. Which is totally up her alley, given the themes behind her latest album, “Electra Heart” — take a listen to “Primadonna” or “Teen Idle” (both of which are also my jams) or hell, most of the songs on that album. She’s got the kind of sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek delivery that makes everything she sings sound almost like a joke, until you hear the real emotion behind what she’s saying. She’s alternately the girl at the party who stands by the door making snarky comments but secretly wants to join and the girl who’s the center of attention but wishes the spotlight on her didn’t burn so much.

Both of these ideas come through in this cover, as the fact that it’s a clever sendup of the original tune shouldn’t mask its heartbreaking undertones. Bieber wants you to be his girlfriend — but this is probably what follows afterward.

(Image: You & Me by Danny Roberts)


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