×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hear Vanessa Carlton’s Haunting Cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle in the Hay’ (EXCLUSIVE)

It’s been nearly 15 years since Elliott Smith — one of the most influential singer-songwriters to emerge from the 1990s indie-rock boom — passed away in an apparent although mysterious suicide. He released just five albums during his life but most of them are great, and these days every time one hears a hushed, haunting singer-songwriter performing beautiful and incisive songs as if they were embarrassed by them, it’s hard not to note Smith’s influence on that artist. (Anyone curious should start with his 1997 classic “Either/Or,” which inspired filmmaker Gus Van Sant to use three songs from it in his Academy Award-winning film “Good Will Hunting,” with Smith’s “Miss Misery” itself being nominated for Best Song Oscar; Smith performed the song on the 1998 Academy Awards).

Vanessa Carlton is a formidable artist herself — and a formidable person as well, as evidenced by her contribution to the harrowing recent New York Times accounts of victims of high-profile sexual harassers. After training as a ballet dancer, she pursued a career as a singer-songwriter and met mainstream success in the early 2000s, but has since embraced the indie route full force, releasing her most recent album “Liberman” in 2015. This year she’s been releasing a cover per month — others include Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams and Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” — and here she performs a stripped down version of Smith’s 1995 song “Needle in the Hay.”

“This is one of my favorite songs, period,” she tells Variety. “Elliott was a great poet and the metaphors in this lyric split me open. This song is a juxtaposition, because the song is about excruciating pain and the brutal moments of an addiction spiral, and yet it’s formed in this drone-y meditative manner. Such restraint… ”

More Music

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify Sued by India’s Oldest Label, Will Remove Catalog From Platform

    Just weeks after Spotify launched in India without securing rights from Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, it is being sued by the country’s oldest record label, Saregama, and will remove that company’s 120,000-song catalog from its platform within 10 days, according to reports in Inc42 and Music Business Worldwide. The streaming giant had approached the label for [...]

  • DJ Mormile and Jeff Burroughs Def

    Def Jam Appoints DJ Mormile, Jeff Burroughs to Senior Posts

    Def Jam Recordings has appointed industry veterans DJ Mormile and Jeff Burroughs (pictured above, right and left, respectively) to senior executive roles in its Los Angeles and New York offices, respectively. The announcement was made today by label Chairman & CEO Paul Rosenberg. Mormile — the L.A.-based manager who counts producer Mike Will Made It and [...]

  • DJ Mustard Signs With Sony/ATV Music

    DJ Mustard Signs With Sony/ATV Music Publishing (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sony/ATV Music Publishing has signed Grammy-winning songwriter, artist and producer Mustard to a worldwide deal. The Los Angeles-based hitmaker has worked with artists including YG, Rihanna, 2 Chainz, Drake, Migos, Chris Brown, Nipsey Hussle, Big Sean and many others, and won Best R&B Song at this year’s Grammy Awards for co-writing Ella Mai’s smash single [...]

  • Tribeca Film Festival'Venus in Fur' film

    Tribeca Film Festival: 10 Music Docs We’re Excited to See

    While the Tribeca Film Festival usually has strong music entries, this year has such a bounty that narrowing our top picks down to 10 was a challenge. This year’s offerings range from documentaries on the legendary Apollo Theater, the Wu-Tang Clan and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman to music-adjacent films like Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” (about [...]

  • Pandora Acquisition Bites Into SiriusXM’s First-Quarter

    Pandora Acquisition Bites Into SiriusXM’s First-Quarter Profits

    SiriusXM today announced first quarter 2019 operating and financial results — the first since the company completed its acquisition of Pandora Media on Feb. 1 — and its quarterly profit was down 44% from the previous year. It attributed that drop to approximately $76 million of acquisition and other costs related to the Pandora deal, a $31 million one-time benefit [...]

  • ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny

    Film Review: ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’

    Very much in the manner of an “unplugged” acoustic album that showcases the musicianship of a major artist without distracting flash and filigree, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” is a tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary that attempts nothing less than to delve past familiar myths and illuminate the soul of its fabled [...]

  • Taylor Swift attends the Time 100

    Watch Taylor Swift's Time 100 Gala Performance and Speech

    Just two nights out from Taylor Swift D-day spring 2019 — i.e., Thursday’s release of a new single — Swift made an appearance Tuesday at the Time 100 event in New York, where she did not let loose with any spoiler performances of new music but did sing a few fan favorites, including “Style,” “Delicate,” and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content