Singer-songwriter Natalie Prass covered Dionne Warwick’s 1979 ballad “Deja Vu” for Spotify’s Single series. In a recent episode of the podcast Under Cover, she explained the breezy R&B classic was a childhood favorite that had a profound affect on her future career as a singer.
Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, Prass’ father gave her the Warwick record on her fourteenth birthday. She was immediately struck by the catchiness of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s songwriting and particularly, the opening lick and groove of “Deja Vu.” Bacharach once said that when he heard Warwick singing background, her voice was “like a ship in a bottle.” The image inspired Prass to sing with power and restraint.
“I didn’t realize I could use the soft side of my voice,” Prass said, which was an important revelation since her feathery soprano is, in many ways, the central feature of her sound. Her 2015 debut Natalie Prass was a critical favorite on arrival with plush harmonies and orchestration working impressively together. Warwick wasn’t an obvious inspiration on the album. But listening to “Deja Vu,” it’s impossible not to hear. “I’ve learned so much about my voice from studying [Warwick]’s voice,” Prass said. “I think I was fighting against what my voice naturally does for a long time.”
Prass’ “Deja Vu” cover is faithful to the original. But she adds a rhythmic ping-ponging affect between the Wurlitzer and guitar that gives this new version a more modern, syncopated feel. She says she was inspired by the way Japanese Breakfast covered the Cranberries’ “Dreams” for the series, she said. “They just did it verbatim, but somehow had its own energy.”