Hip-hop rocker Post Malone got heavy praise from his contemporaries Troye Sivan and 5 Seconds of Summer in two separate episodes of Spotify’s new Under Cover podcast. Both the pop star and Australian rock band spoke about how Malone’s strong melodies and unique vocals inspired them, respectively, to cover “Better Now” and “Stay” for the Spotify Singles series.
5 Seconds of Summer were drawn to Malone’s “Stay” because of the way the song blends elements of older and newer influences. “The Beatles-y guitar with the punk thing he has going on … And it doesn’t feel forced at all. Everything is very free flowing – and the story is almost Bob Dylan-esque,” they said. “We relate to that because we have such a hard time these days describing our genre as music becomes more flexible and understanding of whatever you want to do.”
By default of being a band, the 5SOS rendition of “Stay” offers a richer sound. The distinction is in the group’s take on Malone’s idiosyncratic vocals. As 5SOS point out, Malone’s vocal was recorded to sound simultaneously raw and mechanized. 5SOS took a more organic approach to achieve that effect by having each member rotate lead vocals. “His cadences are so unique to his style that you can’t really change it that much,” one member said.
Sivan took greater creative liberties, embellishing his cover with synths, piano hooks and new melodies. “‘Better Now’ is [an] undeniable 2018 smash song. It sounds exactly like this year and exactly like what the world is obsessed with right now,” Sivan said. He explained that he doesn’t usually cover other artists’ songs, but when the occasion arises, he tries to meld it to sound as if it were his own. “I’m mostly jealous of the people who wrote them,” he said with a laugh, after calling Malone’s hit a “near-perfect pop song.”
Sivan put his ethereal stamp on the rap-rock ballad by doubling the acoustic guitars and his vocals. “It makes everything sound kind of classic and I thought it would be fun to flip a super contemporary song its head in that way.” On the choruses, he replaced Malone’s repetitions with a vocal delay that isn’t in the original. The space created by the delay led to a little hook line Sivan added to his version. “I wanted it to sound a little bit janky,” he said.
Altering the musical DNA of “Better Now” highlighted some unexpected thematic parallels between Malone and Sivan lyrics that aren’t otherwise obvious. “The thing I appreciate about Post so much is that there’s always this real feeling of heart in the music … almost like borderline melancholy in his tone, and I think that really connects with people,” Sivan said. “It’s more like him convincing himself that he’s better off now, that inner monologue … when in reality you’re missing that person.”