Even before she utters a single word, Chvrches mouthpiece Lauren Mayberry qualifies her band’s latest move: “For those watching, I’m aware I don’t sound like Beyoncé. I can’t sing like Beyoncé. It’s more of an homage to Beyoncé”. Maybe she thought it wise to issue this disclaimer to spare herself the biblical wrath of the Beyhive. But what’s obvious is that her remarks affirm the hallowed clout the woman upon whom pop culture has bestowed the honourific title of Queen – and which we take more seriously than that of actual Queens’ – and that her band’s take on Beyoncé’s star-reaching, dance-pop single “XO” will be different from the source material. Here’s the original, for reference:
Having sworn off liability, the band turns in a consciously stripped-down rendition of the blockbuster single; its performance of the song is a fillip to the truism that the best songs can have their frills dismantled and presented in the simplest (read: acoustic) incarnation and still sound great. In the hands of the trio, “XO” is simultaneously miniaturised and magnified. The mode of Mayberry singing over plinking piano keys and an acoustic guitar, employed primarily for emotional accent, is a straightforward one. But in mining from a tradition of straight-for-the-heart, complexity-averse love songs, Chvrches surfaces with a powerful, beyond-effective listening experience.
Amidst the collective shimmer of the keys and guitar, Mayberry’s voice is the cynosure. Her voice isn’t made for torch songs but its clipped, sweet, childlike earnestness lends itself well to pop sonics that call for a winsome, starry-eyed lead. It, and everything else, are beautiful here. And the moments when the music wells up with a resounding thrall affirm the standards of pop transcendence. Your eyes will moisten; your heart will swell. This is what the kids tag as “feels”.
Watch it below. And stay tuned for Chvrches’ upcoming third album Love Is Dead, which releases May 25.