Many hit songs over the years have been powered by “love is a drug” metaphors. Examples like “I’m addicted to you, but I know that you’re toxic” and “I get so high when you’re with me, but crash and crave you when you leave” come quickly to mind.
The Weeknd, golden child of Toronto’s disco-funk scene, achieved one of the most mesmerizing examples of this trend yet this year with “Can’t Feel My Face,” anchored by the ode to cocaine of a chorus: “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you, but I love it.” This became one of the most deservedly-ubiquitous singles of 2015, and one which is sure to maintain a constant presence on the “Best Songs of the Year” lists which, as graven-in-stone tradition dictates, all music publications must compile come December.
Like many such year-defining singles — see Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (2006) and Rihanna’s “Diamonds” (2012), for instance — the covers and acoustic versions have come flooding in before the original has had practically any time to age (here’s a sample which Billboard gathered three whole months ago) IYES, a British-Czech duo created in 2013 by Birmingham’s Josh Christopher and Prague’s Melis Soyaslanová, has become the latest to have a crack at it.
Listen: “Can’t Feel My Face (The Weeknd cover)” – IYES
This version is at once fairly similar and strikingly different from The Weeknd’s hit original. Aside from the addition of a few “da-da-da’s” and “doo-doo-doo’s,” none of the lyrics have been significantly altered, and therefore the message of the song remains intact: coke makes for one hell of a complicated lover. But the fast-paced, disco-friendly nature of The Weeknd’s original has been toned down significantly. IYES’ version is far less of a “club banger” but still every bit as hypnotic (a word which apparently has been used to describe the band’s output from early on) as before. Slowing down the song’s pace to a calmer and more soothing tempo is one of several interesting switches which IYES have made from the original format of “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Another significant altercation lies in restructuring the song as a duet. Soyaslanová sings the opening lyrics, “And I know he’ll be the best of me, the worst is yet to come,” while Christopher repeats the same verse immediately afterwards. As a solo cut, “Can’t Feel My Face” sounded like The Weeknd presenting his own personal insight on a toxic relationship. Recast as a duet, that same insight becomes mutual: The feelings of dread, regret, and pure addiction are the same coming from both sides of this situation. In a sense, that makes the narrative all the more compelling: Knowing that the precariousness which The Weeknd first described puts two people, not just one, at serious risk.
As a cover, IYES’ work becomes a worthy entry in the steadily growing pantheon of “Can’t Feel My Face” amateurs. In the context of the pop duo’s own catalog — which is thus far mainly comprised of two EPs, a handful of live tracks, and a cover of “Crazy in Love” in which Beyonce is given a similar treatment to that to which The Weeknd was made subject here — this new gem should help to distinguish IYES from other Wikipedia-page-less music acts. IYES take several wise creative liberties in this new cover version, while preserving the infectiousness of the original — and, in some ways, even improving on it, by remolding the setting of the song into a risky two-person affair.
Read Atwood Magazine’s feature on The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness
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Watch: “Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd