Track of the Day: 'I Want You Back' by Lake Street Dive

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Jeremy writes a wonderful reader review:

Your cover song series is a such a great idea. I’d like to recommend Lake Street Dive’s cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” The original version—with its young Michael Jackson vocals, instantly funky baseline, and infectious riff—has been called “certainly the fastest man-made route to pure joy.” It’s almost impossible to hear it and not want to move, bop your head, and crack a smile.

Lake Street Dive takes the raw material and transforms it into an almost plaintive lament about lost love that fits the song’s lyrics much better. By slowing down the tempo, changing the harmonies and adding a meandering jazz trumpet that echoes and elaborates the joyous guitar riffs of the original, they completely change the song.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the third verse. Whereas the Jackson version features a joyous a-ba-ba-bum-bum under Michael’s soaring “all I want, all I need” lyric, the cover goes all in with an upright base solo. In their reading, it is a jazz/country ballad, not a pop anthem.

Although “I Want You Back” is by far my favorite of their covers, Lake Street Dive has a ton of compelling cover songs on YouTube. Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl,” George Michael’s “Faith,” Annie Lennox’s “Walking Through Broken Glass,” and even “Bohemian Rhapsody” have all gone through their unique jazz/Nashville/’60s Atlantic Records filter with great results.

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