Artist – Sleeping at Last
Album – Covers, Vol. 1
Year – 2014
Genre – Acoustic
The best moments of discovery in music are the random ones. I discovered this absolutely breathtaking cover of Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance,” because I thought the song would be great for a pop-punk cover. But lo, I discovered an incredible acoustic cover and stripped down cover instead. Totally not what I was looking for, but supremely appreciated. So I guess I should review it now, since I’ve literally been listening to it all day.
First off, I must say this, as it’s an incredible feat this cover pulls off and a facet that is really a beautiful thing to keep in mind when listening to this version. The original song, while good in its own right, always had that stigma of another cheesy 80’s song that was more of a rallying cry to a large group of people trying to have a good time. Singer/songwriter Ryan O’Neal (aka Sleeping at Last) manages to create a totally different meaning for the words. In this cover, the words seem to come across as being sung by a guy or girl to the love of their life. It’s still an expression of youth and exuberance, but it’s also a sweet, endearing, intimate, and tender love song. It becomes about the things that couples do together that are those little shows of affection and love towards each other, and escaping all the rules and confines of the world and being secure and wild in each other’s love. I think that’s quite beautiful, don’t you? Even the title “The Safety Dance” seems like a clever and lovely title for the song when hearing this version.
The song begins simply with O’Neal strumming a guitar. His voice is sweet and high, sort of like Passenger but a little less British and high pitched. I always liked the melody of the original song, and he doesn’t really change too much in that department. All in all the song doesn’t change much musically, until the end when things get intense and a piano comes in and creates this great rich crescendo in sound. O’Neal’s singing is vulnerable and his voice wavers as he sings the verses, but it adds to that mood of young love I spoke of. As you listen, you may find yourself amazed at how much the words change meaning.
Let’s just take a look at some of the lyrics that change:
We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
The lines that most everyone knows now become a testament to recklessness and living in the moment and trusting each other, even in your silliest moments.
Say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
Wow, what a change in this one. Again, it’s escaping all the rigidity and rules the world lays out and just letting yourself go with the one you love, and finding those spaces where nothing else in the world matters, just the feelings and affection between you and your partner.
We can go when we want to
The night is young and so am I
And we can dress real neat from our hats to our feet
And surprise ’em with the victory cry
This one is about just living in the moment again, and being a bit silly. But it’s those moments that have the most power in a relationship. Those are the moments you remember forever.
Say, we can act if we want to
If we don’t, nobody will
And you can act real rude and totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile
I love this verse. I love the first two lines especially. It’s about breaking the normal boundaries and finding independence within yourself and within one another. Again, being totally comfortable in your own silly and ridiculous moments. That’s sometimes where we truly bond with others.
During the bridge of the song, I love the lines “Everything is out of control” and “Everybody’s taking the chance.” It’s really a testament to the wild, crazy experience that is love. Also, the repeated title of “the safety dance” really has the connotation as this connection that you feel in a loved one. That bond of two people that have found safety and security in each other in the dance of life. Is that cool or WHAT! I think that’s so cool, but that’s just me.
Anyways the last verse that’s actually different is also great:
We can dance if we want to
We’ve got all your life and mine
As long as we abuse it, never gonna lose it
Everything’ll work out right
How totally in love is the guy who’s singing this? He want’s to spend every waking moment with her. If the song was about one crazy moment, he wants to live in that moment forever with her. Damn, this song just became crazy meaningful, right?
Anyways, this is definitely the definition of what I love about music. Taking something that I initially thought one way about and now I think a totally different way about it. It’s amazing how that works. Listen for yourself. I guarantee you won’t see it as that cheesy sports stadium song that they play sometimes.
Thanks for listening and reading! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!