From its humble beginnings on the Mel in the Morning show in 2005, triple j’s ‘Like A Version’ has grown to become the country’s most beloved radio segment.
Every Friday morning, a homegrown talent or an international star takes a crack at a cover. Sometimes, the songs covered are international hits. Other times, they’re weird obscurities. In either case, the name of the day is always reinvention.
After all, the joy of ‘Like A Version’ is watching something be revealed. Maybe it’s something about the act doing the covering — some new dimension or sense of fun that’s gone unnoticed in them for years. Or maybe it’s something inside the song itself — a fresh mood that can only be discovered by slowing things down, or speeding them up, or throwing a couple of banjos into the mix.
There’s a reason, after all, that ‘Like A Version’ has hung around for over a decade. This is radio at its most surprising; at its most genuinely transformative.
May we have 14 more years of it.
#1 Dads — ‘Two Weeks’ (FKA Twigs)
Might have been hard to imagine that anyone could carry off a FKA Twigs song with the emotional honesty of, y’know, FKA Twigs, but #1 Dads step up to the plate.
Beautiful, and impossibly moving.
Denzel Curry — ‘Bulls On Parade’ (Rage Against The Machine)
Denzel Curry brought a new level of fury to Rage Against The Machine’s already ferocious 1996 classic ‘Bulls On Parade’, endearing himself to a legion of new fans in the process.
Gang of Youths — ‘Blood’ (The Middle East)
Sydney’s Gang of Youths delivered what might be the saddest ‘Like A Version’ of the decade with their gorgeously arranged cover of The Middle East’s ‘Blood’.
Fair, it was already devastating to begin with — but Dave Le’aupepe’s pained vocals and the blown out orchestral bridge breathe into it a whole new life.
A.B. Original & Paul Kelly — ‘Dumb Things’ (Paul Kelly)
There are few ‘Like A Version’ performances with the sheer force of this modern classic, a guest-saturated slice of bombast that seemed to instantly redefine the limits of Australian hip-hop.
DMA’s — ‘Believe’ (Cher)
A lot of ‘Like A Version’ pop covers can feel a little forced — indie artists giving a sly, ironic wink to a triple j audience that, until recently, was very much too cool for pop.
But DMA’s stunning acoustic version of Cher’s ‘Believe’ had none of that cringe: pulling it back to ringing guitars and Tommy O’Dell’s vocals, the Newtown crew simply laid out one of the best written pop songs of all-time.
Luca Brasi – ‘How To Make Gravy’ (Paul Kelly)
Taking on an Australia classic is a ballsy (and often very bad) choice — if you fuck it up, you can be sure that failure is going to follow you. Thankfully, Tasmania’s Luca Brasi didn’t do anything of the sort.
Instead, they cranked up the reverb on the guitars and kicked the bridge into grungy overdrive, and singer Tyler Richardson comes as close as humanly possible to capturing the emotion of the original.
Meg Mac – ‘Bridges’ (Broods)
If you want to hear what just what perfect vocal control sounds like, speed ahead to the 4 minutes and 18 seconds mark and listen to the way Meg Mac’s wildly impeccable vocals soar up the register, locked tightly in harmony with her sister Hannah’s.
The rest of the arrangement is sparse: a metallic snare, steady piano chords — a simple bed for Mac’s incredible melody. ‘Like A Version’ at its best.
Ngaiire – ‘The Less I Know The Better’ (Tame Impala)
You could strip away every instrument from Ngaiire’s 2015 cover — throw the keyboard out the window, put the trackpad in a blender — and it would still be among the best in LAV history.
Ngaiire’s vocals are goosebump inducing, elevating a fairly straightforward melody to magnificence.
Tame Impala — ‘Confide In Me’ (Kylie Minogue)
Kylie is a favourite of ‘Like A Version’: Peking Duk had a crack at ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ in 2014, and alt-j attempted to squeeze together ‘Slow’ and Dr Dre’s ‘Still D.R.E’ in 2012 (attempted being the operative word).
But the best homage to the Princess of Pop came in the form of Tame Impala’s sweeping ‘Confide In Me’ in 2015.
Childish Gambino – ‘So Into You’ (Tamia)
Who has better pipes than Donald Glover? With his cover of Tamia’s underrated R&B classic ‘So Into You’, Childish Gambino shows off every inch of his treacle-soaked voice, managing to be both raucously sexy and romantically composed.
We don’t deserve the man.
Matt Corby – ‘Chains’ (Tina Arena)
Corby’s music is defined by its straight-faced sincerity, so maybe it’s unsurprising that he took such a genuine, emotional look at this Tina Arena classic.
He could have reduced it to a meme. Instead, he took the entire project deadly seriously.
Sarah Blasko — ‘Life On Mars’ (David Bowie)
Mere days after David Bowie tragically passed away, Sarah Blasko picked up the torch and delivered one of the most stingingly emotional ‘Like A Version’ performances in recent memory.
But this version would move even if we hadn’t just lost a legend — full of heart and grace, it’s Blasko at her most understated.
Haim – ‘Strong Enough’ (Sheryl Crow)
When they dropped into the triple j studios in 2013, HAIM were still a relatively unknown entity — they had a couple of singles creeping up the charts, and had gathered a curious crowd at that year’s Splendour in the Grass, but they were still a few months away from the debut album release which would catapult them to fame.
Their cover of Sheryl Crow’s ‘Strong Enough’ had everything a great LAV requires: a stellar song choice, a new twist, and the feeling that the artist has a genuine connection with the song. Clearly HAIM did — the cover became a high point of their set lists for long time after.
Ecca Vandal — ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ (Rihanna)
Ecca Vandal twists Dizzee Rascal and Kelis into this scalding Rihanna cover. Savage, fun, endlessly classy — with the best synth line to have ever graced the triple j studio.
The Herd – ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ (Sam Cooke)
The Herd have always been modern masters at making the political feel personal — theirs is music that reduces grand, weighty issues to the minutiae of daily life. That’s the power of their version of ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, both urgent and keenly felt.
The Bamboos – ‘Lost’ (Frank Ocean)
Bringing the trademark Frank Ocean soul to the very forefront, The Bamboos make a new song feel old again. This is pop done classical, as warm and inviting as an antique leather armchair.
Lisa Mitchell – ‘Zombie’ (Jamie T)
Jamie T was hot property in 2014, and Lisa Mitchell got well ahead of the action by covering ‘Zombie’ just as it was starting to enter the stratosphere. She remade the indie charger into a soothing acoustic hug, about as perfect a Friday wake up as you could ask for.
B Wise – ‘Under The Bridge’ (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
If the Red Hot Chili Peppers had attempted to add bars to ‘Under The Bridge’, it would have been an interminable mess.
When B Wise did it, however, it turned into a song 10 times better than the original.
Joyride – ‘Since U Been Gone’ (Kelly Clarkson)
Joyride took Kelly Clarkson’s explosive pop track and made it into something you could walk hand-in-hand into the sunset with. Plus, it contains arguably the sexiest saxophone interlude of any LAV ever.
Kira Puru – ‘T.G.I.F’ (Katy Perry)
In 2018, pop came to triple j and decided to stick around. With artists like G Flip, Amy Shark, Kota Banks, and CXLOE hanging around the airwaves on the regular, pop covers were no longer being delivered with a hefty dose of irony.
So when Kira Puru rocked up and bounced her way through Katy Perry’s sugary sweet ‘T.G.I.F’, it sounded right at home. May pop reign forevermore.
Alex Lahey – ‘Torn’ (Ednaswap via Natalie Imbruglia)
You can’t improve upon perfection, but Alex Lahey came damn close by kicking Imbruglia’s version of ‘Torn’ into hyperspeed with lashings of distorted guitar and ringing crash cymbals.
Methyl Ethel – ‘Cry Me A River’ (Justin Timberlake)
Methyl Ethel turn Justin Timberlake’s saccharine ‘Cry Me A River’ into a beguiling mess of basslines and sweetly plucked guitars. Timberlake may have claimed to bring sexy back, but the Perth outfit actually did it.
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ (Tame Impala)
In decades to come, when scientists bottle Alex Turner’s voice and attempt to study its origins, they’ll look to this cover. Turner and Arctic Monkeys were at the absolute peak of their popularity in 2014 following the release of AM, and his slicked back, gorgeous acoustic cover of Tame Impala only raised their stock price even more.
Bluejuice – ‘Video Games’ (Lana Del Rey)
Sometimes mashing up two very different pop acts feels like a cynical ploy for the attention of the internet. Not so in the case of Bluejuice’s sultry, nostalgic take on a Lana Del Rey classic.
Angie McMahon — ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ (ABBA)
The best ‘Like A Version’ moments come when a pop artist reveals dimensions to a song that were hiding right under your nose. Case in point: Angie McMahon’s bold take on ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, which uncovers a rich vein of sadness running right through the centre of ABBA.
Music Junkee will be rolling out a stack of content celebrating the end of the decade in the coming weeks — keep across all of it here.