There’s a reason why not one but two Lissie efforts—her takes on Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” both of which, thankfully, have found their way onto her Covered Up With Flowers EP—topped our list of the Best Cover Songs of 2010: Girl knows how to tackle a track that’s not hers. Few artists can so expertly walk that fine line between making a cover song their own and doing the original justice, but on Flowers, Lissie toes it like a seasoned high-wire artist, delicately dishing out choices that are just unexpected enough to make you turn your head along with a few tracks so far within her wheelhouse you’ll wonder why it took her so long to record them.
“Pursuit of Happiness” has been a staple of the Rock Island, Ill. native’s concerts for a while now, and she was wise to include a spirited live version of the song as the five-track EP’s opener. “I think I’m gonna take a shot of tequila before I do it,” she laughs in the intro, and you can almost hear that liquid courage coursing through her veins as she implores us to tell her what we know about night terrors (nothing). Likewise, her stripped-down take on “Bad Romance” turns the trite pop song into something emotional and perhaps even a bit spooky; the fact that someone as anti-Gaga as I am can tolerate, let alone enjoy it is nothing short of a miracle.
Not all of the choices are that far out of Lissie’s comfort zone, but that’s not a bad thing. Her whiskey-and-sunshine vocals lend themselves perfectly to Joe South’s “Games People Play,” and while her rendition of Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song” doesn’t stray much from the original, it’s positively striking—if you’re not compelled to slow-dance with someone or gaze angstily out your window at the rain after you’ve heard it, you should probably check underneath your sternum to make sure there’s not a gaping hole where your heart’s supposed to be.
The only forgettable track of the EP is a sleepy version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” and ultimately, while it’s not entirely new ground for the singer, Flowers is a success. Overall, it’s a fun listen that does exactly what it’s supposed to, keeping us entertained with interesting variations on the works of others and—perhaps most importantly—leaving us hungry for some new Lissie material.