Versions: XO

In this week’s edition of Versions, we pit Beyonce against John Mayer for their respective takes on the ballad “XO”.

What do the charts and critics say?

Beyonce and her management envisioned XO to be the album’s Halo. Surprisingly, no significant chart damage was inflicted. Instead, her departures from mainstream sound, Drunk in Love and Flawless, were the releases that paid off.

Given the little time difference between Beyonce’s version and John Mayer’s release, not much impact was expected from the latter. And the expectation was right.

However, the critics welcomed both. Beyonce’s version was deemed a pop masterpiece. It served well as a stark contrast to the heavily hip-hop album Beyonce. On the other hand, John Mayer’s stripped down version opened the song up to new audiences. The infusion of harmonica, blending seamlessly with an acoustic guitar, gave the crowd a distinct offering.

What do I say?

Taking the production a notch down works perfectly when the original is heavy on instrumentation and sound-altering technology. The perfect cover was David Cook’s take on Always Be My Baby. Or imagine an EDM track being stripped down to vocals with little instrumentation.

However, Beyonce’s version was already subdued and mellow. There was little in the way of her vocals. Her vulnerabilities shone. John Mayer managed to expand the reach. But he doesn’t improve a song that’s close to perfect.

Verdict

By a close call, Beyonce won this battle!

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