It's been five weeks since Taylor Swift's cover of Earth Wind & Fire's "September" fluttered into the world on a cool spring breeze, ready to take its place on a porch swing at sunset. It was an audaciously dull piece of work with banjos in place of horns, whispers in place of choruses, and limp wistfulness in place of joy. It was bad, but not bad enough to be interesting. So it seemed strange when Allee Willis, who co-wrote the song alongside Maurice White and Al McKay, praised the song and referred to Swift as the "absolute cherry on top of a very soulful and happy sundae" in a statement to Billboard.
Willis later withdrew that statement. And last Friday night at a show at the City Theatre in Detroit, she told the audience how she really felt about the track and the uproar around it. "On the same day things happened in Syria, the FBI broke into Michael Cohen's office... the worst thing that happened as far as the Internet was concerned on this 449th day of all of our brains feeling like they've been hurled back and forth like squash balls, the top-trending topic on Twitter was the Taylor Swift cut of 'September,'" she said. "I didn't really think she did a horrible job. Yes, I felt it was as lethargic as a drunk turtle dozing under a sunflower after ingesting a bottle of Valium, and I thought it had all the build of a one-story motel, but, I mean, the girl didn't kill anybody. She didn't run over your foot. She just cut a very calm and somewhat boring take of one of the peppiest, happiest, most popular songs in history."
She went on to say that that she hadn't so much as heard the song when she put the comment out there. She only found out that Swift was going to release a cover at a few hour's notice, and she had pretty high hopes. "I'm imagining she's going to give it a kind of jagged, 'Shake It Off' kind of feel and it's gonna be great," she said. "So I got to sleep happy and excited, but by the time I wake up—on Friday the 13th, I might add—the Internet was already a 28-alarm fire."
Willis, who also co-wrote the Friends theme "I'll Be There for You" and the music for the broadway show The Color Purple, was as perturbed as everyone else by Swift's decision to change the lyrics of the song—she sings about the "28th night of September" rather than the 21st. "Everyone has a right to do with a song what they please, so go on with your own bad self, Taylor Swift," Willis said. "I'm honored you'd choose to do my song and that it meant enough to you that you wanted to personalize it to the goddamn 28th night of September, that you wanted to cover it with banjo... and that you changed the sacred ba-de-ya to the more Caucasian ah-ah-ah and make it sound more like a field of daffodils than a Soul Train line."
Here's Earth Wind & Fire's "September" to cleanse your palette this Monday morning.
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