If I had to choose one artist to call a genius, it would doubtlessly be Jon Brion. Best known for his scores for such instant-hipster classics as I Heart Huckabees, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Stepbrothers (Find me a hipster that can't quote John C. Reilly and Will Ferrel's "Did we just become best friends?!" speech and I'll show you a phony). I don't like to throw around the word "genuis" because, quite frankly, I think it gets way overused these days, diluting the meaning, much the way I have qualms with the constant use of "awesome" and "old school", but it's just about inarguable that Brion is deserving of such an accolade as "genius". For evidence, you need look no further than any one of his brilliant scores or any odditie-riddled track he lended his deft production values to. Kanye West's "Golddigger"? That was Brion. Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine? That was him, too.
What often goes underappreciated, however, is Brion's amazing solo album, Meaningless. Filled with melodies that stick in your head ("Her Ghost"), eccentric instrumentation ("Walking Through Walls"), and all the clever wordplay that Brion is known for ("Meaningless"), Meaningless is not only one of my favorite cds of the past decade, but one of the best pop albums of all time. Why don't more people adore it? Well, I'll save that for a Wiping Off The Dust, because what's important here is the fact that Brion ends his solo debut brilliantly, with an almost unrecognizably beautiful take on Cheap Trick's "Voices".
Cheap Trick is a band I grew up loving, thanks to my dad's amazing taste in rock and roll, so "Voices" was a track I was anything but unfamiliar with by the time I discovered Jon Brion. Even so, I didn't recognize Brion's take on "Voices" until I read an article in which Brion said it was a Cheap Trick cover. At first, I have to admit I was disappointed that the The power ballad bombast and layered vocals of the original have been replaced with a tenderness, exposing the tenderness of the original that was overpowered by heavy handed production before.
Cheap Trick, naturally, isn't the only band Brion has put his fingerprints all over. Recently, a video of Brion turning Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" has been making the rounds on the internet and, true to form, Brion turns the schlocky pop hit into a beautifully quirky tune that wouldn't be out of place in any one of the films Brion's scored over the years.
Modern pop hits isn't all Brion's taken on in his extensive career. He doubtlessly had the best track on Killer Queen, the 2006 Queen tribute that saw acts such as Jason Mraz, Gavin Degraw, and Joss Stone putting their own (unremarkable) spin on classics from Freddy Mercury and company. Disappointing? I thought so... That is, until Brion saved the day with his dreamy version of "Play The Game".
Lastly, please enjoy this gem: Jon Brion impersonates Tom Waits covering Radiohead's "Creep". Like I said, man's a genius!