Karen O + Willie Nelson Cover Queen + David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure,’ Inspired by the Presidential Election


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“Under Pressure” is an undisputed classic, the collaboration between Queen and David Bowie easily ranking in the upper echelon of all-star musical team-ups ever recorded. A new cover of the song has been shared on Wednesday, this one from Karen O and Willie Nelson, and it’s a very pleasant listen.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer pairs with the country legend perfectly, the two of them sharing vocal duties to a twangy re-working of the song:

This new cover was produced by Dave Sitek and features guitars from Nick Zinner (also of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Imaad Wasif and Johnny Hanson, with background vocals provided by Priscilla Ahn.

A press release notes that this cover was “inspired by the looming presidential election,” with Karen O asking Willie Nelson if he was interested in collaborating given the song’s lyrical content and  context.

“A friend on the board of NIVA asked if I knew of any country artists who could sign a letter to Congress asking them to help save independent venues from going extinct due to Covid,” says O of the collaboration’s origin. “I recalled my buddy Johnny Knoxville being friends with Willie so I asked to see if he could check in with Willie about it, and then out of sheer audacity I added ‘and if he ever wants to do a duet I’m ready and willing!’

“Johnny came back with the news that the signature was in the works and Willie’s daughter Amy very supportively said ‘have her send him the song and he’ll sing on it!’ At this point my mind was melting but I had to focus and pull a song out of the ether that was worthy of a living legend and spoke to the people in troubled times, not an easy assignment. Then like a bolt out of the blue ‘Under Pressure’ came to mind—I’ve heard this song countless times without processing the gravity of what Bowie and Freddie were singing about, maybe because their performances are so exhilarating you get swept away in the high of that duet.

“Our cover was meant to be more intimate but just as saturated with the power of love. I can’t listen to this song without tearing up every time Willie comes in, one of the purest voices which of course reflects a pure heart, and I get to sing alongside it.  I never knew if it was actually going to happen but you must dare to dream. I hope the song brings as much light to the listener as it has to me in dark times.”

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