Some critics have asserted that heavy metal isn’t capable of delivering the same tonality that a standard pop song can, but I would point anyone who might be inclined to agree with them in the direction of Cleo Alexandra’s “Who Can It Be Now.”
The thoroughly underground Alexandra’s music typically falls under rock categorization, but with the task of reimagining this classic track, her sound is channeled through a melodic metal grid that filters out any of the stock elements in her profile and leaves only the most beautiful gems that she has to offer. Classic rock fans needn’t fear; this version of “Who Can It Be Now” isn’t a total departure from the stylish sway of the original; in fact, I think it’s a fitting tribute to the material’s versatility.
“Can’t you see that it’s late at night? / I’m very tired, I’m not feeling right / All I wish is to be alone” Alexandra croons as riffs bite at her every syllable. The beat won’t leave her alone; it boxes her into a corner and lets the harmony between her voice and the bassline pressurize until it’s as angry as the drums are. Percussion isn’t an afterthought in this song – it’s at ground zero of all the excitement, carefully avoiding the explosions going off in the bassline and fitting into the clean patch of sound situated above Alexandra’s echoing vocal. The multifaceted mix challenges us to play with our volume knobs and find where the sweet spot is, but thankfully it doesn’t tire us with its explorative nature.
When it comes to style, Cleo Alexandra has a very unique approach to recording. Her lyrics are always patient in their design, but they don’t drag out a climax as long as the guitar parts in this song do. With a solid beat to guide the ship, we careen off of the beaten path and into a patch of metallic grooves that aren’t tailored around the singing but also don’t try and take away from their harsh transmissions. The lack of plasticity in Alexandra’s prose also stands in sharp contrast to what many critics anticipate in a modern rock cover song. I’d like to say that I too was surprised by how she attacked this project, but as anyone who has heard Cleo Alexandra’s previous work knows, this performer does everything but blend into the crowd.
The closing thirty seconds of “Who Can It Be Now” might be the most intense portion of the entire single, and they seem to feature a slightly augmented mix compared to the intro to the song. It could be the sonic brutality that we’ve just experienced in the previous four minutes finally coming to a head, but it could also be a spike in the middle that serves to modulate the evenness of the instrumentation and make the ending feel as bludgeoning as the climactic chorus is. Woven from the fabric of a true classic in rock n’ roll history, “Who Can It Be Now” is full of startling but pleasing surprises that will make you excited about an emerging artist who appears to be capable doing of anything she sets her mind to.
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