Will Young’s love for a classy cover version runs deep. It’s how we first heard that beautifully gentle yet deceptively powerful voice as he won the first series of Pop Idol, turning iconic songs into his own as best represented on his Number 1 version of The Doors’ Light My Fire.
In the subsequent decades Young established himself as one of our most successful singer-songwriters in his own right with a run of assured pop hits that straddled the breadth of the pop spectrum from gentle balladry to uptempo bangers. Two decades on, he returns to the art form of the cover with a full collection that highlights how he still very much has his finger on the pulse of contemporary pop.
The art of a good cover version has been somewhat diluted in recent years, reduced to a novelty throwaway on something like Radio 1’s famed Live Lounge series, or delivered in an ultra tongue in cheek, look at us, we’re so crazy fashion – hello, Weezer. Crying On The Dancefloor is the antithesis to all that, a perfectly realised and carefully curated passion project from a singer eager to pay tribute to the contemporary artists that continue to inspire him.
The collection finds Young celebrating modern female artists. The tracklist is full of songs from alt pop legends; from people who are still at the top of their game like Bat For Lashes, Robyn and Solange to relatively niche artists due a revival like Clare Maguire and the blessed pop enigma of Sky Ferreira. The album takes its title from a song by Muna, a new exciting pop band that perfectly captures the attitude that Young is looking to harness.
Rather than a collection of disparate songs, this feels like a proper album in the richest sense. It’s produced with his previous collaborator and legendary pop auteur Richard X, and the pair have created a work that stays faithful to the original artists’ visions. It’s the little details that give these versions life. Like how the pair gently accentuate the bubbling electronics and heightened drama of the title track, and how Young’s crystalline pure voice ramps up the aching heartbreak of Ferreira’s peerless Everything Is Embarrassing.
Every song here is obviously a great song in its own right, yet the joy of this record is how they all mesh together. And how they are – bar Everything But The Girl’s Missing – from the last decade, a time in which genre barriers have been permanently torn down and which fluidity of artistic and personal expression has taken centre stage. It’s clear that Young recognises that, and it has deeply inspired him. Indeed, the album even has a song from last year, with a dramatic rendition of Cam’s Till There’s Nothing Left. Crying On The Bathroom Floor pays tribute to artists who in their own way forged a new way of thinking about pop as a woman.
One thing all the songs share is a yearning quality. A rippling desire and deep emotional resonance characterise them. It is first introduced in the escapist voyage of Bat For Lashes’ Daniel which sees Will’s glorious falsetto take full effect, and then it comes to a culmination with the closing grandeur of Maguire’s deeply underrated epic Elizabeth Taylor.
These might be other people’s songs, but Crying On The Bathroom Floor is very much Will Young embodying and challenging the spirit in which they were created to make them his own, just like he was doing right back at the start. In many ways he has come beautifully full circle.