The Craziness of Karma Police

First some disclaimers:

  1. I like to think that I once offered one of the finer defenses of Panic! At the Disco’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. (An album released back when they still rocked the exclamation point.)
  2. I really enjoy Brendon Urie’s voice. Aside from A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, his performance on Forgive Durden’s ‘The End and the Beginning’ is a vital part of a great song.
  3. Any band is free to cover whatever songs they want. I don’t believe any of that crap about needing to leave some things untouched out of respect or whatever. Cover what you want to cover.

ALL OF THAT SAID, I think I can point to a specific reason why Panic’s cover of Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’ doesn’t really work all that well. (And no, it’s not Urie’s crazy sweat levels in this video.)

The problem is Urie’s vocal crazy level. It’s just not up to snuff. He simply doesn’t sound enough like a lunatic.

‘Karma Police’ is a lyrically insane song. Take a look for yourself. Cherry picking a couple of lines you get insights like, “Karma police, arrest this girl. Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill…phew, for a minute there I lost myself.” I mean…what? So which of the following two guys seems best equipped to deliver that level of unhinged insanity?

Hi, I'm whatever.
Hi! I look like Clark Kent.

Or this guy:

[Incomprehensible gibberish.]
Oddly, both of those images are somewhat representative of the respective vocal performances of Urie and Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke. Urie’s is a voice meant for the stage. Yorke’s is meant for a different planet. And with a song like ‘Karma Police’ whose lyrics themselves imply a significant level of insanity on the part of the vocalist/narrator, Urie’s clean delivery just doesn’t quite do the song justice like Yorke’s twisted warble does.

Sometimes it pays to be crazy.

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