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Take Cover: Katy Perry’s ‘Wide Awake’

Rolling Stone’s Jenny Eliscu grades the YouTube stars covering today’s hot songs

Katy Perry, Wide Awake, youtube, covers

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Rolling Stone's Jenny Eliscu grades the YouTube stars covering today's hot songs

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Chloe & Halle Bailey

YouTube Channel: ddbail2

Cleanly presented with live audio rather than lip synched, the Bailey sisters – Chloe, 13, on keys and Halle, 12, on acoustic guitar – offer a beautiful and mature rendition, with the kind of smooth harmonies you can only get with a sibling. They occasionally push too hard or over-emote, but they are better rehearsed for this clip than some of their previous ones, and seem to be growing in confidence as they refine their performances. Among YouTubers, the Bailey sisters are worth paying attention to: Their video version of Beyonce's "Love On Top" nabbed more than two million views, and they were even invited to appear on Ellen last fall.

Presentation: B+

Performance: A

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Julia Farrington

YouTube Channel: fakinglights

Blonde looker Julia Farrington is easy on the eyes, less so on the ears. Singing to a chintzy backing track in her bedroom, she gives the Katy Perry tune Sarah Bareilles inflections. She starts strong, but as she falls in and out of the song's original melody, her attempted vocal flourishes begin fail to camouflage how much she's struggling to sing the tune. Overall, the clip feels half-assed, with Farrington too obviously consulting the lyrics. If she had memorized the song and kept the clip to two minutes or less, it would have made for a considerably more watchable rendition.

Presentation: C+

Performance: B-

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Michael Stanton

YouTube Channel: StantonMusicOnline

Stanton's music channel, with more than five million views for fifty videos, is a mix of his originals and covers of songs by The Wanted, Maroon 5, Jason Mraz and Justin Bieber. His jazzy voice is palatable enough, but on this recording, he undermines the strength of the melody by flattening it with too much production and too breathy a delivery. There's also just something douchey about this character, with his tendency to keep his hood up or make hammy facial expressions in his other clips. His concept video for "Wide Awake" – faux tossing and turning, sped up, cell phone on the pillow – doesn't help matters.

Presentation: B

Performance: B

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DJ Monopoli and Sabrini Abu-Obeid

YouTube Channel: TeraBrite

DJ Monopoli and Sabrini Abu-Obeid from Melbourne, Fla. have built a considerable YouTube following by applying their Paramore vibes – heavy music with female vocals – to "Wide Awake" with only marginal success. Their brash, intense rendition of the song has considerably more energy than other YouTube versions of Perry's tune, and they have clearly figured out a workable formula for their covers, in general. But amping up the guitar and vocals makes the rest of the track sound chintzy, and the correction on Obeid's vocals helps during the verses, but she just can't seem to nail "falling from cloud nine" during the chorus. They also need to chill with the extreme close-ups, especially Monopoli, who tends to make goofy faces straight to camera.

Presentation: B

Performance: B-

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Tim Whybrow

YouTube Channel: TwistedTim01

Not sure how this particular sensitive singer-songwriter dude amassed more than 19 million views for his YouTube clips, but why ask Whybrow? The video for his strummy version of "Wide Awake" looks more appealing than it sounds: Sitting on the lakeshore, surrounded by amber hues, Whybrow looks like a convincing troubador, but his husky voice – a little Billie Joe Armstrong, a little Chris Daughtry, a little Everlast – gets increasingly harder to listen to as the song proceeds.

Presentation: B+

Performance: C+

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