Radio 1’s annual Live Lounge compilation gathers together the best live performances from the station’s Live Lounge show. Artists stop by daily to perform their own hits and covers of current songs in the charts. Inevitably the quality varies immensely but sometimes artists get it absolutely spot on when they cover hits of their contemporaries.
This new collection features 39 tracks from the current crop of chart-topping stars. The 2-disc collection opens with Ed Sheeran’s take on Sam Smith’s Stay With Me. It’s a decent start for the album, even if Sheeran’s version of the omnipresent hit isn’t all that much different from the flawless original.
Live Lounge comes into its own when artists cover songs you simply wouldn’t expect them to. One such example is Ben Howard who puts a darker take on Kiesza’s smash hit Hideaway. The electronic 90s house beats are replaced by atmospheric instrumentation and haunting vocals. Another standout moment comes courtesy of Ella Henderson who puts her emotive take on A Great Big World’s hit Say Something.
Kasabian’s grungy take on Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX’s Fancy is another such moment where a popular song is transformed into something completely different than what was originally intended. Little Mix serve up a surprise on the medley of Holy Grail/Counting Stars/Smells Like Teen Spirit. The former X Factor winners really don’t get enough credit for their vocal abilities and they harmonise incredibly on this medley. It’s one of the best moments on this release.
As always with these releases not everything works. Bastille strips out everything that makes Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop the great song it is, Angel Haze delivers a pretty poor vocal on her cover of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Drunk In Love, and Example ruins Katy Perry’s Dark Horse.
Of course it’s not all about the covers. There are some cracking live versions by artists singing their own hits here. Gorgon City featuring MNEK do a great version of their hit Ready For Your Love, Paolo Nutini proves himself to be one of the best vocalists of the moment on Scream (Funk My Life Up) and The Script do a solid rendition of their recent hit Superheroes.
Live Lounge 2014 is a real hit and miss affair. It will depend on how much you like the artists and the song’s they are covering and singing. The artists involved here are a disparate group and it’s unlikely that fans of Little Mix are going to care much about Nick Mulvey and vice-versa. As with every Live Lounge release there’s plenty to enjoy but if we had the choice we could have turned it into a 1-disc release.