You can count the times when a cover version wildly eclipses the original on one hand – but ‘Torn’ is proof that it can be done and also that Natalie Imbruglia is basically a genius.
Yes, ‘Torn’ isn’t her song. But let’s be honest: it absolutely is her song, even if she was the third artist to release it.
if you want to follow the forging of the Crown of Torns, it was first demoed by Anne Preven, who co wrote it with her guitarist Scott Cutler and her producer (and former bassist with the Cure) Phil Thornally.
Preven and Cutler then formed a band called Ednaswap in LA and released the song in 1995. And man, it sounds SO VERY 1995. Ah, those glory days of alt.rock…
But they didn’t even get to record it first: that honour went to Lis Sørensen, in 1993 who made it a minor hit in Denmark (as ‘Brændt’, which literally means “burned”).
Imbruglia’s version isn’t all that different to Sørensen’s and keeps the somewhat streamlined chord progression (compared with Ednaswap’s version, at least) and yet is about a billion times better.
It’s also produced by Thornally, which is how our Nat heard of the song. See how it works?
And let’s not underestimate that video.…
And then One Direction made it part of their legend by making it the first song they ever performed together – it was the song that convinced Simon Cowell to take them to the very tippity top. And just look at them emote!
So, in short: the people who wrote the song did the version that the fewest people heard or liked. But at least they still get publishing royalties. That’s gotta be a nice little earner.
And Preven and Cutler have made a hell of a career writing for other artists, including the award-winning ‘Listen’ from Dreamgirls.
So, songwriters: the trick is to work with a former goth superstar, get a Scando pop star to cover it, then have an Australian soapie star make it an international smash, and then have it trigger the formation of the biggest boy band of all time.