I know what you’re thinking… why am I posting about a string quartet cover of a pop song? Well, the answer is because sometimes a different angle on things can make you hear something totally new about a song, and in this case, the cover by the Vitamin String Quartet did just that for me and “Starboy.” Don’t get me wrong, I already loved “Starboy” — it was literally the first song I played in my new car when I bought it last December. Great timing, eh?
But hearing these chords rendered on cello and violin drove home the hedonistic joy of the song in a new way, magnified it to Phantom Of The Opera levels, and renewed my love for the track. While our culture still tends to devalue pop songs as “low brow” and maintain that orchestral arrangements are the epitome of culture, the juxtaposition here wasn’t what really led me to a different perspective.
Peeling back the percussion and Abel’s voice made it much more clear how aching and arrogant and powerful the melody itself is. In a weird way, hearing a vocal line translated into strings reminded me of what Delicate Steve does with his instrumental guitar work. The idea that so much can be communicated not with words but everything else that’s available for us to use in communication.
The lyrics to “Starboy” communicate something about life and death, disappointment and glory, and peaks and valleys that already resonated with me, but without them, all those things still came through in the strings. Now that I work in music sometimes I forget that it’s a language all its own.