American singer-songwriter Angel Olsen has returned with her second 1980s cover, this time taking on Men Without Hats’ indelibly silly 1982 smash ‘Safety Dance’.
Sounding like a robot malfunctioning in a recording studio, Olsen grinds the exuberant energy of the original to a thudding halt. Syllables are stretched out, and rhythms are at half-speed. It sounds like someone put the original underwater. It’s hard to imagine what kind of dance one might attempt to Olsen’s over of ‘Safety Dance’, but it’s most certainly not anything as giddy or ridiculous as you might see in the trippy original’s renaissance fair-on-acid video.
“I felt this song could be reinterpreted to be about this time of quarantine and the fear of being around anyone or having too much fun,” Olsen says in a press release. “It made me wonder, ‘Is it safe to laugh or dance or be free of it all for just a moment?’”
Despite the anxiety-inducing inspiration, Olsen’s cover of ‘Safety Dance’ just reiterates, to me at least, that Aisles is a completely fun and unserious lark. And you know what: that’s great. Does Olsen’s version of ‘Safety Dance’ change the world, or the pop music landscape, or even just a layperson’s view of Olsen and her non-80s cover songs? No, no, it does not. Is it fun to hear the swirly and mechanical noises that Olsen culls from the Men Without Hats hit? Yes, yes, it is.
If you haven’t heard, Olsen is putting out a whole EP of ’80s covers called Aisles. We previously heard her take on Laura Branigan’s ‘Gloria’, and the rest of the EP will be filled out with takes on Billy Idol’s ‘Eyes Without A Face’, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s ‘If You Leave’ and Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’. What are the chances that these other three songs will be grandiose and slowed-down hyper-dramatic readings? Based on the first two previews, I would say high. And I am pumped.
Check out the audio for ‘Safety Dance’ down below. Aisles will be released on August 20.