Covering Prince is a tricky undertaking.
First, there’s the fact that the Prince doesn’t look favorably upon others’ renditions of his songs. Of course, I can’t recall reading any stories that he’d refused the piles of cash that surely came his way when Sinead O’Connor took “Nothing Compares 2 U” to #1, elevating the tune to classic status. Plus, if you’ve seen Prince live, his setlist often features several songs he didn’t write. The Purple One doth protest too much, methinks.
Still, since Prince has gone on record with his feelings about cover songs, tackling his tunes in light of those words should give one pause. But if one chooses to forge ahead anyway, the next steps aren’t easy ones. Prince’s songs are so singularly his artistic vision that even a remotely slavish re-do automatically pales in comparison.
So is it any wonder that Maroon 5 steers well clear of lavender on their new cover of “Kiss”? A bonus track on the deluxe edition of the band’s new album, Overexposed, Adam Levine and Co. leave the funk behind and take Prince’s 1986 hit to the blues bar. Their rough and tumble, ’50s rock ‘n’ roll rendition of “Kiss” runs seven minutes long.
While I appreciate Maroon 5′s 180-degree approach to “Kiss” — a chance for the band to let loose and show off their musical chops on what is otherwise a tightly produced, very pop album — I can’t help but want to hear a second take that sticks closer to the original hit. Having recently revisited their 2002 debut, Songs About Jane (now out in a deluxe 10th anniversary edition), Maroon 5 wore their Prince influences proudly at that stage of their career and would probably acquit themselves well now.
Either way, Maroon 5′s cover of “Kiss” could be the sign the Purple One needs to offer a more compatible point of view.