Silvertongue - Single (2020)
Review By Dan Fister
July 20, 2020
Young the Giant’s Silvertongue fuses indie rock with funk basslines and effect-laden instrumentals. The JHU AllNighters discard much of what made the original song attractive and instead produce a square pop tune.
When covering an indie track constructed around effects, the key is in the timbres and the AllNighters miss the mark. Soloist Lucas Polack sings energetically and, impressively, in a key almost a fifth higher than the original. His high falsetto shimmers and he gives sonic shades of pop icon Harry Styles. This tone would be great on many other charts but it sounds out of place on this song.
Arrangers Sebastian Durfee and Tim Jones treat the background vocals as a single unit, which simultaneously diminishes the song’s depth and forces the parts too loudly in the mix. While the tenors and baritones insistently changing every note to a new syllable as an attempt to replicate the original's active accompaniment—particularly egregious in the first verse—the effect becomes a tsunami of consonants and voices that overpower the rhythm section and sometimes the soloist, too. The moments with depth and dynamic contrast, such as the bridge, demonstrate what the entire track could sound like. Liquid 5th’s curious production choice to put the tenors and baritones so close to the front of the mix, without any effects or doubling the soloist, exacerbates the issue further. In doing so, they privilege a track where you can hear many singers clearly, over one with levels and color.
In evaluating the AllNighters’ 2015 EP Night Shift, one of our reviewers noted that the group possessed the ability to lay down a fantastic groove, something this 2020 single lacks. The bass and beatboxing are solid—and the bass’s low range is notable—but for most of the song they don’t work together, resulting in a groove not quite settled between a funky four-on-the-floor and a pop-rock backbeat. The strong transition between the first chorus and second verse is a welcome exception.
It has become something of a cliché for a cappella groups to reinterpret a song into a new genre. In its best moments, this choice can have a revelatory effect for the listener, especially when a ho-hum song suddenly stands out. But when the opposite occurs, as with the AllNighters’ pop rendition of Silvertongue, the group flattens a once interesting song into a run-of-the-mill a cappella cover.