Solemn Valentine: Sarah Walk’s Poignant Cover of ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
When it comes to musical matters of love, somehow it seems there’s always no more than a few degrees of separation from one Prince Rogers Nelson. To wit, back in December former Prince protege Ingrid Chavez released her own version of the 1990 Madonna mega-hit ‘Justify My Love’ – which was co-written by her, and clearly influenced by Prince.
Now, just in time for Valentine’s Day self-reflections, young Minneapolis-bred (now living in LA and London) songstress Sarah Walk releases a poignant cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – which was a massive chart topper for Sinead O’Connor…also in 1990. As opposed to ‘Justify…,’ which was about the searing passion of newly minted love, ‘Nothing…,’ addresses the emptiness of loss as incisively as perhaps any song ever has.
Ms. Walk gives the song a bluesy overtone, set against a backdrop of haunting, ethereal atmospherics. Yet she almost sounds more resigned, less anguished than did Sinead. For spectral inspiration, two of her collaborators on the track, Abe Rounds and the illustrious Meshell Ndegeocello, had previously done recording time in Prince’s Paisley Park Studios – and some of the sonic magic surely transferred over.
“I’ve always wanted to do a Prince cover,” Walk reveals, “and it felt particularly fitting because I’m from Minneapolis. Truthfully, it had been a really long time since I heard ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, and I thought that may work in my favor – I didn’t want to get too inside the other versions, because I wanted to make sure I approached it my own way.”
And she does indeed infuse the song with a whole new sort of emotional tenor, her version eventually building to a particularly visceral climax. It’s kind of like that moment we’ve all experienced, where you finally stop pretending you’re alright, and allow yourself to just fall apart.
“I recorded the main piano part first and sort of just improvised that ending build up,” she recalls. “I liked the idea of repeating the title over and over, almost trance-like, with these ominous chords and angry guitar sounds building up behind it. I kept seeing this visual of me singing that repetitive lyric on stage, almost trying to convince myself I was okay…while the curtain opened up behind me without me knowing it, exposing all of the memories and anger and heartbreak I was really feeling but not able to accept or admit yet.”
The Prince cover is a follow up to her very-well-received second album Another Me, which was released last August.