In the event you missed this last week on “Conan,” She & Him’s cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins‘ “I Put a Spell on You” deserves a viewing. Never would have guessed that Zooey Deschanel and M Ward would make such a fine match, but they sure do and continue to prove it with performances like this.
“I Put a Spell on You” is one of those great songs that’s so familiar and overplayed it’s almost completely lost it’s impact. After Hawkins’ original made it’s mark, tons of people have covered it, from Nina Simone to Bryan Ferry. It was probably Creedence Clearwater Revival who made it a radio standard, and it’s their version I like to play on vinyl, pitched way down so you can hear that menacing guitar like you’re hearing it for the first time, while the girls dance their slow, sinful dances. Shane Macgowan and Friends’ recent cover for Haiti relief featured Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones and Johnny Depp on guitar. It’s fun to watch, but the song’s not that good.
I wasn’t convinced at first, for the first minute or so, but Deschanel brings something distinct to the song I haven’t quite heard before. It’s still got that classic voodoo, but when she sings “No! I ain’t lyin'” it’s more of a little bratty pout, than a threat. It works for her. And then like a viper that’s been slowly coiling it’s way around your throat, Ward brings that wicked guitar in for the kill at the end.