Check Out Erykah Badu & The Roots’ James Poyser’s Jazzy Update To Squeeze’s Quintessential 1981 Pop Rock Classic About Infidelity.
Welcome to Song of the Day, where we hip you to all the new local releases you should be caring about. By highlighting one new North Texas-sprung tune every week day, our hope is that you’ll find something new to love about the rich and abundant DFW music scene five days a week.
Song of the Day: Erykah Badu & James Poyser — “Tempted”
RIYL: Jazzy covers of classic tracks you forgot you loved.
What else you should know: Two months ago on Record Store Day, Dallas’ own Erykah Badu teamed up with The Roots’ James Poyser to release a special seven-inch release that featured a cover of one of Squeeze’s best known tunes, “Tempted.”
Now, the song has been officially released to steaming services so those of us who didn’t get up at 3 a.m. and stand in line for hours hoping to score it on Record Store Day can enjoy it.
Badu and Poyser, it should be noted, are by no means the first to cover the 1981 pop rock single. Throughout the years, “Tempted” has been covered by artists ranging from OK Go to Sting to Richard Thompson, with the original version sung by Paul Carrack, Glenn Tilbrook and Elvis Costello getting used abundantly in commercials all the while.
So why listen to yet another version of this popular track? Because it’s an original spin on a great song.
Whereas Squeeze’s version was driven by a sparse drum pattern, a slow up-and-down bass line and a smooth church organ descending melody, Badu and Poyser’s version is a little more upbeat with jazzy, staccato drumming co-existing alongside elegant piano, synthesizers and trumpet lines.
It’s a reworking, for sure — but one that’s neither too far from nor an exact replica of the original.
The song remains lyrically intact in this version, maintaining its perspective of someone in the process of leaving a relationship. But Badu and Poyser’s trade-offs in the second verse bring something new to the table, with Badu’s voice in particular coming across smooth and relaxed, weaving perfectly with the efforts of her backing musicians.
Speaking of Badu’s effort here: Good Records co-owner and Polyphonic Spree manager Chris Penn tells us Badu recorded her vocals for the track years ago in the Spree’s rehearsal space. But with the track being sat on for so long, Penn just assumed the song had been shelved for good.
Fortunately, those behind the track eventually decided it should see the light of day — first as a Record Store Day release, and now on streaming services. That’s certainly a good thing: While copies of the vinyl (which comes with an instrumental version of the track on its B-side) could be found on eBay and other secondary markets in recent weeks, this take on the classic song is worth audiences beyond the Badu faithful and vinyl flippers alone enjoying.
Cover photo of Erykah Badu by Kathy Tran.