Is there anything better than a really depressing song in the darkest days of January? I'm terribly partial to Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1972 hit Alone Again (Naturally), which he sings so matter-of-factly that one wonders whether men in white coats were waiting for him just offstage. Here it is, with lyrics added for maximum downward spiraling:
He's not alone -- countless others have covered the song to let you know just how terribly they ache inside, and how badly they want to throw themselves off of a tower. As a tribute to seasonal depression everywhere, I'd like to present the very best and worst versions the world has to offer...
Nina Simone, that champion song-stealer and frequently hazy ad-libber, trumped O'Sullivan pretty soundly when she unveiled her starkly autobiographical rewrite:
"I remember this afternoon
When my sister came into the room
She refused to say how my father was
But I knew he'd be dying soon.
And I was oh so glad, and it was oh so sad
That I realized that I despised this man I once called father.
In his hanging on, with fingers clutching
His body now just eighty-eight pounds
Blinded eyes still searching
For some distant dream that had faded away at the seams.
Dying alone, naturally..."
And so forth. However, while her version's on iTunes, there's no video, so we'll have to set her aside for the moment in favor of more faithfully documented covers, like Shirley Bassey's. The ultimate drama queen, she definitely takes more than she gives during her 7 minutes at the bottom of the heap -- Bassey's wringing the life-giving essence out of every syllable, leaving the viewer with the dried-up husk:
If it's rock-bottom inertia you're after, no one can dethrone Cass Elliot. A year and a half before her untimely death, Elliot presses her face against a rain-streaked windowpane, wearing dark garments of penitence and listlessly drifting through the song like she's on pills. The thunderous applause at the end as she finishes and slumps in her chair is heartbreaking:
This dubious club mix is pretty hard to love, until the moment when the pipe-organ starts booming, right as he sings about getting left at the altar. The video is shit, but I've got to hand it to this guy for creating a moment of sick irony that's worthy of a really awesome black comedy:
Sungha Jung's videos have been around a while now and the cuteness is wearing off rapidly, but there's something about the sight of a child nodding out over this song that makes me worry whether he'll make it to adulthood. Some people are too sensitive for this world...
Which brings us up against that near-transparent membrane between official covers and the ad-hoc karaoke attempts that people love putting up on YouTube for some reason. This fellow and his neck-brace is a clear challenger to O'Sullivan's monopoly on grief: