Song 261: Clem Snide, “Any Way You Want It” (2011)

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Eef Barzelay’s voice gets to me in a way that most voices don’t, and I’m not sure why that is. There’s just something in it—clarity, maybe, or vulnerability—that immediately makes me pay attention. It’s also an enormously effective voice no matter the song, and given the range of his band Clem Snide, it could be featured in any kind of setting.

Clem Snide has a handful of great original songs, but they’re equally good at arranging and performing covers. The band put out an EP of Journey songs a couple years ago, and it’s pretty great. The acoustic arrangements, coupled with Barzelay’s voice, make the songs sound sad and wistful. You may think you never wanted to hear Journey’s power ballads, including the immortal “Don’t Stop Believing,” as quiet pop songs. But you may reconsider after hearing them, because these versions highlight just how good the songs are, from the straightforward lyrics to the pretty melodies that you never noticed before.

“Any Way You Want It” is my favorite from Clem Snide’s Journey. It’s arranged simply but impeccably, from that faraway piano to the plaintive background vocals. Journey’s original version of the song made the title sound like a confident guarantee, but in the hands of Barzelay and company, it sounds more like resignation. Like the best covers, this one transforms the song while keeping its primary source’s many strengths intact. That’s hard to pull off.

“Any Way You Want It” isn’t available on YouTube, but you can hear it here.

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