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Listen to Soko's Sweetly Haunting Cover of "The Great Pretender"

We talk to Soko and director Tannaz Hazemi about their collaboration on this tune which soundtracks short film 'Before the Bomb.'
March 3, 2015, 5:06pm

Soko is back, back, back in a big way this year. Just the other week we premiered her wet and rowdy video for "Temporary Moodswing" and now here's another exclusive—one that won't be appearing on her forthcoming LP, My Dreams Dictate My Reality. "The Great Pretender" was originally recorded back in the '55 by The Platters, but their swoony original has been covered many times since by the likes of Dolly Parton, Sam Cooke, and in '87, by Queen, which gave the classic a whole new lease of life. Now Soko's reworked it once more, her husky, poignant tones crack and croon over plinkety pianos. It's a real heartbreaker. At the behest of Brooklyn-based filmmaker Tannaz Hazemi, Soko recorded this rendition to soundtrack Hazemi's short film Before the Bomb (watch the trailer below).

We talked to Hazemi about getting hold of Soko for this project and the song's relationship with the film below. Plus a word from Soko…


Noisey: Why did you want Soko to cover this song for the film and how did you get hold of her?
Tannaz Hazemi: As soon as I realized "The Great Pretender" was THE song for this movie, I wanted to have a female artist cover it, to connect us with the little girl in the movie. I didn't consider anyone else but Soko. Aside from being one of my favorite vocalists, there is a childlike bittersweetness to her voice that captures not only the feelings of the little girl character but the whole movie. Her voice cracks and sooths at the same time, it's heartbreaking, which is exactly what I wanted. I have known Soko for a few years now and was really psyched she was into the project.

What's the story behind Before the Bomb?
Set in Staten Island, it tells the story of 10 year old Elsa who's been taking care of herself and her younger brother for some time now, as their father is in jail and their mom has a prescription drug problem. We come into their lives on an ordinary morning when happy alone in their filthy house Elsa's about to cook them breakfast before they head off the school but there's a phone call: Child Services is coming to visit them in two days. Worried, Elsa asks her boy crush at school what he did when the CPS visited him and he tells her she'll be fine as long as she's dressed nice. And so Elsa sets off on a mission to make herself and her brother look nice, first by abiding by the rules, and then by stealing, just as CPS knocks on their door.


Where can we see it?
The movie was only completed in last month and is making the festival circuit now for a year, so people can only see it wherever it's been selected. Currently it's playing at Albany Film Fest 3.29 and in Paris at the ECU European Independent Film Festival on 4.10-12. After the festivals it'll be available online.

How did you feel when you heard Soko's version?
To give you an idea of how I've obsessed over this song—I started working on it about a year ago. Since then it's been a game of juggling waiting and editing, between Soko's schedule and the various engineers mixers and composers who have worked on this from LA to NY. It's been THE most expensive element of my movie and I've worked on it as hard as I have the movie. How do I feel? Ecstatic. Elated. Overjoyed. It's a song that I want to hear over and over and I couldn't be more proud of it.

Soko meanwhile had this to say about their collaboration: "Tannaz wanted something really raw and almost like the inner voice of the little girl. [In the film] it's the first time she feels free, a happy moment, a little parenthesis where she gets to be in charge.

"The script was so emotional and rich and felt so true and it taps into everything I love about life—childhood, raw emotions, vulnerability, feeling left out, abandoned. It was easy to perform something along the lines because that's always what I'm looking for with my music: to feel real feelings."

Check out the trailer for Before the Bomb below. Soko's rendition of "The Great Pretender" is out now.

BEFORE THE BOMB Trailer HD from tannaz hazemi on Vimeo.