Is nothing sacred? No.
All Saints were pretty good by early 00s girl band standards – fleet and hummable, and that is all you can really expect.
However this is not something that can be forgiven easily.
‘Under the Bridge’ is a song by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, a song about shooting up under a bridge, alone, and wishing you weren’t such a self-destructive scumbag, and that you could just go home.
The opening riff, performed by John Frusciante, is iconic and the reason why an entire generation decided to pick up a guitar. All Saints honoured this riff by crudely pitch-shifting it, and later on by interspersing it with DJ back-spin effects. So it sounds like incidental music in a sitcom. Thanks, All Saints!
The poetic couplets of writer Anthony Kiedis vividly portray his struggle with addiction and his intense melancholy. “I don’t ever wanna feel…like I did that day” sings Kiedis, sounding like a man grateful to never return to the dark days where he lived as a junkie, isolated from those he loved, propped up under a dirty bridge in MacArthur Park with a needle in his arm.
“I don’t ever wanna feel…like I did that day” sing All Saints, sounding breezy as you like. They’re humming this as they push the trolley down the aisle in Morrisons (or Safeways, as it would have been.)
It’s easy to sneer at covers of course. It’s easy to assume All Saints had no idea what the song was about. I suspect they did. I suspect they’d experienced something similar in their own lives at some point. Not being junkies, obviously. Let’s not incite a law suit. But frustration, failure, loneliness and regret. These are the universal themes of the song despite the crux being addiction, and very obviously so.
The real dong-buster isn’t that the All Saints cover fails to tap into the song’s emotional core, but that it entirely removes the outro, which is its peak. “Under the bridge downtown…is where I drew some blood / Under the bridge downtown… I gave my life away.” Take that away and you essentially lobotomise the song.
It isn’t that the cover is poor on its own merit. Know your limits. If you are a commercial group whose USP is durable, consumable pop, then maybe don’t touch a song about blasting heroine. Just a thought.