Saturday, February 18, 2006

Breaking Us In Two (2003) – Mandy Moore (J. J. Jackson)

It’s not often that a cover version arguably surpasses the original—rarer still if that version features a teen pop star who has also starred in movies. Mandy Moore’s rendition of Joe Jackson’s “Breaking Us In Two” is one such anomaly.

Moore’s vocals wash in on a bed of warm tube compression, imparting a soothing ambiance to Joe Jackson’s frank proposal to reevaluate a relationship by spending time apart. Whereas Jackson’s vocals are a bit whiny and slightly tenuous, Moore’s exude a balance of expression, smoothness and control, with a pout in her voice that heightens its appeal. Lingering in her lower register, she emphasizes melody over range and power, avoiding vocal gymnastics which detract from the experience, in the process revealing a subtle understanding of the lyrics that Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson lack, and a welcome restraint that Christina Aguilera does not possess. The production is much more “audible” in the cover arrangement, evocative of a nightclub atmosphere, while the original suggests coffeehouse due to the prominent congas and sparser arrangement. The cover eliminates the unfortunate toy piano from the original, and the tasteful vibe solo is a vast improvement over the original’s cheesy synth solo. Although the fuller arrangement overwhelms Moore’s vocals at times, overall it reinforces them, showcasing her maturation into an adult singer.

  • Listen to "Breaking Us In Two" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
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