Triple J began airing alternative music to Australian listeners in 1975. It was not until 2005 that the radio station introduced what is now their main attraction. Former presenter Mel Bampton is credited with the creation of the popular segment, Like a Version (a year before the creation of the BBC’s Live Lounge). The weekly show features an artist who plays an original song, followed by a cover. Like a Version was first a part of Bampton’s Mel in the Morning and continues to air on Breakfast. While listeners can tune in to the segment on the radio, most get their Like a Version fix through Triple J’s YouTube channel.
What makes Like a Version Special?
The Like a Version format is completely curated by the guest artists. It is an opportunity to hear the artists who write our favorite songs play their favorite songs. The simple nature of the studio requires the songs be simplified, often resulting in a nuanced spin of the original. Artists accordingly remix their selection with a song of their own or an additional cover. Similarly, rappers often write their own verses, revitalizing alternative classics.
Below are six selections from the Like a Version catalog. They offer a wide range of styles, as well as a taste of what Triple J has been up to since 2005.
Denzel Curry – “Bulls On Parade” (Rage Against the Machine)
“Ultimate” rapper Denzel Curry delivers one of the highest intensity Like a Versions in existence with his cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade.” RATM’s legacy in the genre of rap metal and rap rock make the song a fitting selection for Denzel Curry. Although there are few stylistic deviations from the original version, Curry uses the guitar solo as an opportunity to rap his own lyrics, truly making the cover his own.
Stella Donnelly – “Love Is In the Air” (John Paul Young)
Triple J prioritizes focus on local artists, explaining why three of the six artists on this list hail from Australia. The first is Stella Donnelly, covering “Love is in the Air.” The 1977 original by John Paul Young is highly rhythmic and rigid in tempo. Donnelly slows her version down, bringing an airiness to the love song, while also modernizing the keys and bass.
Baker Boy – “Song 2” (Blur)
Perhaps the furthest departure from the original comes from Indigenous Australian rapper Baker Boy’s cover of Blur’s “Song 2.” Baker Boy sings the few original lyrics of “Song 2” and adds his own rap in both English and Yolgnu Matha, an Indigenous dialect. He also closes the performance with a bonus cover of Baha Men’s “Who Let The Dogs Out.” Did I mention the didgeridoo solo?
Catfish and the Bottlemen – “Read My Mind” (The Killers)
Catfish and the Bottlemen’s frontman Van McCann pays tribute to The Killers with his stripped down cover of “Read My Mind.” The Wales singer’s cover is intimate and realistic. His humorous mid-song mishap shows just how live and relaxed Like a Version can be.
Little Simz – “Feel Good Inc” (Gorillaz)
British rapper Little Simz performs a mellow rendition of “Feel Good Inc.” This cover pays respect to the original through the reuse of its electronic sounds, but deviates in delivery. De La Soul’s energetic verse is replaced with Little Simz’s own lyrics and smooth style. The dense production of the original is stripped down to a bassline and light electric guitar.
The Wiggles – “Elephant” (Tame Impala)
Who better to cover Tame Impala than this Australian national treasure? The Wiggles perform “Elephant” with three of their original members, Anthony, Jeff and Murray. Lachlan Gillespie and Simon Pryce perform vocals with Emma Watkins on drums. Those who grew up with The Wiggles are sure to be pleased by this cover. The band effortlessly mixes in the chorus of their 1994 hit, “Fruit Salad.”
The legacy Like a Version has created for itself ensures quality and nuanced performances from the featured artists. Even if one is familiar with the artist and the song they are covering, it is difficult to predict what concoction the combination will yield. This flawless format keeps listeners on their toes, as it allows artists to roleplay across genres and decades.