Five Other Orchestral Versions of Pop Songs

mixalot 630x300The internet was abuzz when Anthony “Sir Mix-a-Lot” Ray had a full orchestra perform his 1992 song “Baby Got Back.” Unfortunately it doesn’t include that annoying woman at the beginning commenting incredulously on how someone’s butt is so big, which of course was key to the whole experience.

For some reason much of the internet treated this as some sort of novelty even though of course “Baby Got Back” was always meant to be done with a full orchestra. So what other pop songs out there have gotten a full array of classically trained musicians to do a version of it?

5. Paparazzi by Lady Gaga

This one is actually an excellently-edited fraud. KokoMcMoney used symphonic software to create this cover and then took footage of the San Francisco Orchestra and made an amazingly convincing video. Given Lady Gaga’s reputation for relying on cheap promotional stunts to become as high profile as she did, this sort of phoniness is completely appropriate.

4. Roar by Katy Perry

“Roar” has terrible lyrics like “I went from zero/to my own hero!” That’s so bad that Vanilla Ice said essentially the same thing in 1990’s Cool as Ice. But like so many things with Katy Perry’s name on them, it has excellent production value to it. This point was made abundantly clear on January 12, 2014 when the Chinese National Orchestra played it for a crowd that included Perry herself in 2014. Disappointingly, the video does not end with the conductor turning to Perry and yelling “That’s how it’s done!”

3. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen

This song¬†already feels from so long ago that it might as well actually be a piece of regular classical music even though it’s barely two years old. God knows it’s the sort of song you probably heard thousands of times through muzak, parodies, or just because the thing played over and over again in your head even as you tried to sleep. But this cover by the volunteer chorus and orchestral group Three Penny Chorus and Orchestra makes the song something great again. If you haven’t already, we recommend checking out their Facebook page.

2. Final Countdown by Europe

Most times that an orchestra does a cover of a song like this, they try to play it cool and sit nice and dignified as they play. This is of course supposed to be part of the joke, the contrast between the formal musical setting and what they’re playing. But it’s great to see the cellist in this video shot in Kipsala Hall (which is in Riga, Latvia) headbanging away and visibly into it.

1. Unfaithful by Rihanna

And so the list comes to an end with a 2006 performance for the Oslo Nobel Prize Concert featuring Rihanna herself. It seems an odd choice of music to go along with celebrating people’s outstanding achievements in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine, literature, and peace. But what are these musical covers about if not finding beauty in odd musical choices?