Paul Anka is an influential singer/songwriter of the 20th century most closely associated with swing who just happens to be Canadian (point us). He’s written such memorable songs as “My Way”, “Put Your Head on my Shoulder”, and “She’s a Lady.” But once the 21st century rolled along, I guess he started to feel behind the times so in 2006 he released an album entitled Rock Swings composed entirely of hit rock songs from the 80’s and 90’s performed swing style. How he thought this would make him seem relevant is unknown, but one thing’s for certain: the results are hilarious. I present to you a selection of songs from that album that I find particularly enjoyable.
Eye of the Tiger (original by Survivor)
Whenever I listen to this cover, I picture Rocky going through his famous training montage. But instead of practicing to be a better boxer, he’s training for a segue race. I get more pumped up from listening to Sourdough Slim the yodeling cowboy. Paul Anka took the song that practically everybody associates with exercise and perseverance, and turns it into something so tame that even your grandparents would get bored of it after thirty seconds. In an effort to combine the music of two generations, Anka fails to appeal to either. This is the first of many times where he completely misses the point to a song and fails to realize what the song is about or what made it popular in the first place.
Eyes without a Face (original by Billy Idol)
“Eyes without a Face” is a song about barely repressed anger so of course, Paul Anka gives it the mellow treatment. It’s so relaxed that the in the video I linked to you, somebody synched it up with their European vacation photos. He replaces the bitchin’ guitar solo with what appears to be a ukulele and he skips over several of the verses that follow it. Clearly, Anka desperately wanted this tune to be a love song and he wasn’t going to let things like reality stand in the way of his vision. I don’t know what’s worse: how bad his misinterpretation of the song is, or the fact that he thought it was a good idea. My favourite little touch: after one of the refrains he whispers, “I miss you.” Seriously?
Jump (original by Van Halen)
Right off the bat this song is a complete joke. It begins with a couple pitiful little toots on the horn in what can only be described as the most laughably depressing attempt to imitate a popular tune. Somehow, Paul Anka manages to take this all time low and dig a crawlspace beneath it. In what is supposed to be a high-energy song, Anka decides to see how it would sound if you sang it lethargically. Unsurprisingly, the result is a terrible song that goes against everything the original stood for. This may actually give Johnny Cash’s “Little Drummer Boy” a run for its money as the most apathetic rendition of a classic song. The best (or worst) part is when he says (he doesn’t really sing) the “Jump” part of the song. Each time it is accentuated by a male chorus repeating the line as if to emphasize just how pathetic this song is.
Black Hole Sun (original by Soundgarden)
Okay, so it opens with some sad violin music. I don’t see how that has anything to do with the original song which as far as I can tell is about tripping balls and maybe consumerism, but I’ll roll with it for now. And then the piano plays and he starts to sing, at which point it becomes apparent that Paul Anka decided to make this into the “intimate” song on the album. Why “Black Hole Sun”? Well, why the fuck not, I guess. It makes just about as much sense as anything else on this album. Wait, what’s the piano doing now? Oh, shit. For no apparent reason, things just got jazzy. Well at least it’s not over-the-top, because that would just be ridiculous given what this song is about. Ah, hell. I spoke too soon. I wonder how it will end. OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Smells like Teen Spirit (original by Nirvana)
Listening to the instrumental opening of this song, never in a million years would I have guessed that it would somehow lead into “Smells like Teen Spirit,” the definitive grunge anthem. And even once it gets going it takes me a minute to figure out what it is I’m listening to. If this cover proves anything, it’s that grunge and swing are fundamentally at odds with one another and share no overlap. On no level does this make any sense. Its existence staggers my mind. Can somebody please tell me what this is? Why would Paul Anka do this? The fact that he made this song clearly demonstrates that he doesn’t understand grunge. And why would the remainder of Nirvana let this happen? For the lols?
Paul, I think you should have quit while you were ahead. Much in the same way that Christmas in the Heart made Bob Dylan look like a complete joke after a long, distinguished career, Rock Swings has made you into a laughing stock, and shall forever be emblematic of your failure.
Bonus points to whoever can think of something they’d rather do than listen to Rock Swings.