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Your Cover’s Blown: Gorillaz Vs. the xx


Ever since the xx won the U.K.'s esteemed Mercury Prize for their debut album "xx," it seems like artists from all over the musical map have lined up to cover their minimalist R&B songs. Shakira, Taylor Momsen's band the Pretty Reckless, Brooklyn indie rockers the Antlers and new wave heroes OMD have all covered assorted songs by the xx in the past year, and now even Gorillaz busted out the xx's debut single "Crystalised" during a BBC performance this weekend. So did Damon Albarn and his cartoon buddies pull it off?

• We could listen to Albarn sing anything, from religious psalms to Nickelback covers, so we more than approve of him bringing his hushed vocals to a song by one of our favorite new bands.

• While Albarn stays faithful to the original rendition, Gorillaz also simultaneously transforms the ballad into an understated album closer similar to Blur's "Battery in Your Leg" or "Optigan 1."

• Songs from Albarn's multiple projects -- Gorillaz, Blur and The Good, the Bad and the Queen -- have been covered a thousand times over, but it's extremely rare that Albarn ever covers any other artists. So it's a huge compliment to the young xx that Albarn would opt to cover one of their songs, and cover it well.

• Gorillaz aim to out-minimalize the already minimal "Crystalised," and while the xx's version sounds like a stone cold love song, Gorillaz's end result, with its toy piano and chilling xylophone, shoots past a stark musical landscape and into straight-up scary territory.

• Now this is just nerdy nitpicking, but Gorillaz are known as Albarn's poppy, fun-loving offshoot, so it kind of goes against the animated mythology of that band for Albarn to cover "Crystalised" under the Gorillaz umbrella.

Would Shazam! Recognize It?
Yes, and then it'd ask if the xx are worth the hype. (Yes, yes they are.)

Is There a Better Version?
There's a ton of noteworthy "Crystalised" remixes, but no other decent cover versions. Instead, enjoy Shakira's take on the xx's "Islands":

The xx's original "Crystalised" (which somehow has over nine million views on YouTube!):

[Photo: Jakubaszek/Getty Images]

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