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People Get Ready To Wait On The World To Change

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-”People Get Ready” by The Impressions

-”Waiting On the World to Change” by John Mayer

-”People Get Ready” by Seal

One of the odd effects of working retail is spending a lot of time with music that at best, you’d never choose to listen to and at worst, is just plain awful. The new Seal album Soul is all soul covers and although most of it’s pretty useless, it isn’t exactly terrible and he’s backed by a band that sort of does its own thing, neither translating soul music grit into ready-for the mini van sheen or trying, trying, trying to sound like Willie Mitchell and friends (something some of Mitchell’s friends did on their own with Cat Power’s The Greatest). Soul’s produced by David Foster who I understand is a big deal if you’re a homosexual.

Most interestingly though, is the album-ending cover of The Impressions’ “People Get Ready”. Backed almost entirely by some scratchy guitar, Seal’s voice (which doesn’t hide his British accent) does a pretty heartfelt variation of this oft-covered song. The prominence of the guitar turns the cover, if you’re not listening very hard, into a cover of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change”, a song Pitchfork hilariously described as “preaching the gospel of non-action and civic apathy”.

Of course, Mayer’s “Waiting” did the thing of quoting “People”s melody and so, it’s partially a case of reading music history backwards, but still, there’s something about the prominence of technically good but still a little messy guitar on Seal’s version that makes it sound like it’s trying to in part, reference Mayer’s song too. Maybe it’s just that Seal, like Mayer, doesn’t have the vocal subtlety of the Impressions, but there’s something interesting and weirder going on it seems.

It’s very hard not to contextualize a cover of “People Get Ready” in the fall of 2008 as having something to do with Barack Obama’s presidency and especially because Mayer’s song was such a mind-bogglingly stupid and problematic variation on political songwriting, Seal’s cover becomes a history of politically engaged pop and a comment on the shift from activism to apathy and back again through America’s recent, historic election.

Written by Brandon

December 8th, 2008 at 8:07 pm