Of all the song collections iTunes has cooked up to stimulate impulse purchases, this new celebration of covers of 1980s pop music is one of the most intriguing. It has a strong "Wha?" factor — familiar artists doing covers that you never knew existed (when did UB40 do "Every Breath You Take"? Must have been an attempt to cash in after their Elvis cover, "Can't Help Falling in Love," went to Number One). Between the list's obvious selections, such as "It's My Life" by No Doubt and "Cruel Summer" by Ace of Base, there's an arguably too-generous helping of album filler and some live covers by second- and third-tier acts. It's these, however, that prove to be conversation pieces, if not necessarily successful covers.
Some highlights and lo-lights of the 80-song play list:
Too Late for Goodbyes • The Wallflowers
One of the seemingly more off-the-wall covers finds the one-headlighters tackling Julian Lennon's harmonica-with-synth hit.
Tainted Love • The Pussycat Dolls
A horribly misguided effort that strips away the blippy, electronic charm of one of the best of the '80s (which, of course, was also a cover). "Stickwitu," this ain't.
Take My Breath Away • Jessica Simpson
I never could quite make out the lyric, "If only for today / I am unafraid" before hearing Simpson's cover, which could have been much worse.
King of Pain • Alanis Morissette
From MTV Unplugged, this is absolutely friggin' brilliant, although I wish she'd called it "Queen of Pain," which I'm sure she is.
True Colors • Phil Collins
The worst of Phil Collins meets the best of Cyndi Lauper.
Total Eclipse of the Heart • Tori Amos
I can't tell if this is interesting, as iTunes has put the sample squarely within one of Tori's rambling, spoken introductions in which she goes on about who requested the song, magical fairies and what she'll have for dinner after the show.
Jump (Van Halen) • Paul Anka
I love a cover that plants a familiar tune in a wholly new genre — a direction that may even seem inappropriate on the surface. With a perfectly straight face, Anka takes favorites like "True," "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "It's a Sin" to the swing lounge.
I'm So Excited • Le Tigre
These sisters may not have pipes to match the Pointers, but this bubbly remake is one of the best of this list's obscurities.