Radiohead’s “Creep” Performed in a Vintage Jazz-Age Style

Smashing Pumpkins’ leader—and sole remaining original member—Billy Corgan is a man of many opinions, most of which I find easy to ignore. But in one of his recent made-for-headlines quotes, he referred to fellow nineties alt-rock superstars Radiohead as “the last band that did anything new with the guitar.” It is, of course, impossible to quantify this not-especially controversial statement, but I haven’t found it easy to dismiss either. After Radiohead’s first three albums, we had maybe a solid decade of musicians looking back to a time before electric guitars to find an alternate path forward (as Radiohead themselves largely traded guitars for synthesizers). That said, in the years since Pablo Honey, The Bends, and OK Computer, Thom Yorke and band’s breakout song, “Creep,” has successfully translated to so many unplugged arrangements that they deserve credit for writing a universally beloved new standard as well as reinventing rock guitar—even if they’d prefer we all forget their first, angst-ridden hit.

There’s Mexican actor Diego Luna’s powerful rendition, as the animated troubadour Manolo in Jorge Gutierrez’s Book of Life. There’s Tori Amos’ characteristically intense, live voice and piano version; there’s Amanda Palmer on ukulele, Damien Rice on acoustic guitar, and Korn—believe it or not—in a very tasteful acoustic cover. Now we can add to these the bring-down-the-house swing arrangement at the top of the post, with jazz singer Haley Reinhart, who slides from playful vamp to an almost gospel crescendo, and all, we’re told, on a first take. This jazz-age cover comes to us from pianist Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, a touring collection of ensemble musicians that Bradlee assembles to re-interpret famous pop songs. He previously recorded a sweet, classic soul cover of “Creep” with Karen Marie, above. The list of other Postmodern Jukebox covers ranges from a “Sad Clown with a Golden Voice” version of Lorde’s “Royals” to a klezmer take on Jason Derulo’s club anthem “Talk Dirty” (with the song’s 2 Chainz rap in Yiddish). We previously featured a New Orleans jazz rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” with stage actress and singer Miche Braden. As Ayun Halliday wrote of the Guns n’ Roses’ reimagining, the Radiohead covers above are “not without gimmick, but it’s a winning one.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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