BADBADNOTGOOD got the goods on Kanye West’s Flashing Lights
Sometimes the epithet ‘cover’ is wholly inadequate. Such is the case with BADBADNOTGOOD’s brooding, jazz-infused instrumental cover of Kanye West’s classic Flashing Lights. At over seven minutes in length and with more twists and turns than your average album, it is certainly not destined for radio. Here’s why it should nevertheless be destined for repeat playback. It is the kind of gem that startles anew each listen.
Formerly a conventional jazz trio (now in fact a quartet), fresh-faced, Toronto-based BADBADNOTGOOD rose to prominence for their inspired interpretations of hip-hop tracks. Flashing Lights is probably the one which really cemented their reputation. Opening with a dark brooding bassline, the track builds momentum until breaking out suddenly into that glorious and familiar string motif. You almost expect Kanye to come in with the classic opening line (‘She don’t believe in shooting stars/ but she believe in shoes and cars’ ). However BADBADNOTGOOD take the song in directions you didn’t think it could go, surprising with swift tempo changes and a brilliant, funk breakdown in the middle. Impressively, it still manages to maintain a coherent whole. There is a constant interplay throughout between darkness and light, restriction and freedom; finally bursting again into that motif at the end, a moment of redemptive release.
The motif in question was itself sampled from an unremarkable outro to a Curtis Mayfield track, and subsequently interpolated beyond recognition (itself a testament to West’s skill as a producer). Yet BADBADNOTGOOD take that motif and build an evolving, cascading sonic journey around it. Variously dark, intense, gleaming, pulsating – it is a prog-jazz improvisation which sucks you in and never lets go. The slower bassline starting at 04:55 is worth the listen alone. As C.Boscolo of the Soundcloud comments quips: ‘I wanna hear this when I die’. Me too, Boscolo, me too. And in the meantime, can someone please tell me the appropriate word for when the cover is more ingeniously original than an already genius original?