I was stuck with this song by Depeche Mode in my head whilst driving and abruptly realized that, despite it being a highly recognizable and ingrained part of pop culture, I had no idea what it was called. So after Google told me its true name, I got on my paid streaming service and searched “Enjoy the Silence.”
What emerged was a deluge of shit.
Firstly, the album version of this track features almost two minutes of silence interrupted by what sounds like a misplaced outtake of the chorus’ lead vocal. After that the search returned a selection of extended live recordings, featuring audience-led choruses (choroi?), 8-minute remixes, and a slew of highly over-dramatized covers of the original track. More than an hour and a half of hate-listening later, I’m still not at the bottom of this dungheap.
I peg this version from the Ghost in the Shell trailer as the most likely reason the song was floating around in my head. But without the compelling images of a 6-Million-Dollar Scarlett Johansson bursting through glass windows into buildings (fenestrating?) or being ambiguously naked to grip one’s attention, the music’s sharp swerve into melodrama is actually pretty funny. This whole cover rendition is an example of the Pixies’ “loud, quiet, loud” sensibility stretched until it pops. (pun intended)
There is a whole category of bad covers of this song that are separated only by how long they wait before turning it into a totally unabashed nu-metal song. Spare yourself. Don’t listen to them. Just take my word for it. Don’t be like me.
Earnest to a Fault
Jesus, Susan fucking Boyle has done a version of this song? I am utterly astounded that this woman has been able to take her 5 minutes of fame and throttle them for a full...seven albums? fuck me. I actually had some hope for this rendition, after drudging through all the distorted guitars that a generation of eyebrow piercings seemed to think this song was missing, but the all-acoustic ensemble is paced at a very slow tempo in an unsubtle attempt to forcibly wring every last bit of tear-jerking emotion out of this song. Also, she completely changes the melody of hook for some stupid reason so that it doesn’t resolve. I think I fucking hate this version the most.
Susan Boyle and Tori Amos both fall into another broad category of versions that, whether stripped down to minimalist piano or arranged for string orchestra and children’s choir, are just trying way too fucking hard. We get it. It’s an emotionally potent song. Attempts to emphasize this aspect over-sell it. It’s like the artist feels the need to justify their desire to cover this song because they just feel it so-o-o much. This is the same reason every cover of Elliott Smith you’ve ever heard absolutely sucks. “He was such a genius. You really have to slow this song down to quarter-time in order to truly evoke the depths of what he was trying to express, or to appreciate it in one listen.” Tori Amos casually pairs that mentality with lazy coffee-shop open mic harmonies and calls it a track.
Why am I still doing this to myself? I don’t know anymore. It takes an especially toxic blend of morbid curiosity and self-hatred. I’m starting to feel a strange kinship with Ducks fans. This must be what it feels like: repeatedly exposing yourself to endless variations on the same doomed-yet-somehow-still-disappointing experiment, voluntarily watching cruel distortions of something you once enjoyed in another context. Every moment I spend confronted with this drivel, a little more of my appreciation and fondness dies. Each time I select another track, I know that it will only be an inferior imitation of what attracted me in the first place and yet...just...just maybe it won’t be! No, it will. It definitely will. And I will give it a chance to disappoint me, anyway. I am with you, Ducks fans.
Just don’t touch me.
Prediction: You wisely don’t listen to this truly fucking bizarre version that can’t decide if it’s a groovy, stripped-down acoustic piece or a dark, tripped-out piece with distorted vocals. Also, whether they want to market this woman as white or black.