‘Life on Mars?’ Power Rankings

October 14, 2014

Dana Rossi’s monologue on the Infinite Guest premiere of The Soundtrack Series touches on two covers of David Bowie’s classic “Life on Mars?“: One by Jessica Lange from the new season of American Horror Story, which Dana likes, and one by Barbra Streisand from her 1974 album, Butterfly, which Dana does not like.  Lange and Streisand are just a few of the artists who’ve taken a swing at the tune.  I have listened to many of them, and have ranked them from first to worst.  Enjoy.

1. Seu Jorge.  Recorded for the Bowie-centric soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, it’s sung in Portugeuse and the only one that I would put on a mixtape.  It’s great.  The whole soundtrack is.


2. Anni-Frid Lyngstad.  Best known as one-fourth of ABBA.  This dates back to 1975.  It’s in Swedish.  It’s not bad at all.

3. Karen Ann.  Highest-ranking English version for any xenophobes reading this.  I like the strings.

4. Jessica Lange.  I watched most of the first season of American Horror Story and then just kind of stopped.  I think Tami Taylor and Derbel McDillet were poltergeists?  Anyway.  Apparently Stevie Nicks showed up last season, which I approve of sight unseen, and this seems to extend that run of inspired weirdness.


5. The Bad Plus.  Although my feelings on jazz are roughly aligned with Paul F. Tompkins, this is fine, and probably better than fine for those who are genre enthusiasts.

6. The Flaming Lips. From a BBC session.  Their “Strychnine/Peace, Love, and Understanding” medley is better.

7. Phish. Multiple live versions available online, none of which contain much “jamming.” This is a compliment!

8. Michelle Branch.  I don’t like the way she sings the word “affair.” I can’t explain it more than that, but you’ll understand when you hear it.  It sounds weird, right?

9. Barbra Streisand. Bowie’s critique seems sound: “Bloody awful. Sorry, Barb, but it was atrocious.”


10. G4. British dudes who I’ve never even heard of that were runners-up on The X-Factor singing competition. This is just straight-up trash.  Don’t listen to it.  Just take my word for it.

There are other ones out there, but that last one really took the starch out of me. If you have one to recommend or are filled with righteous, noodly anger over Phish’s low placement, let me know on Twitter and/or Facebook.  And make sure to listen to The Soundtrack Series, because it’s good and you will like it.