Video: Willie Nelson and Karen O Release Iconic Cover of Queen, David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’

by Chris Haney
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On Wednesday, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs released a new single with the help of country icon Willie Nelson as the duo collaborated on a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s classic hit “Under Pressure.”

The two musicians make the song their own in a totally different rendition than fans of the 1981 pop hit are used to. O and Nelson adapt the song with a much slower tempo. They utilize an acoustic guitar to lead the tune and listeners can hear hints of a country ballad influence. O’s high-pitched sweet voice pairs well with Nelson’s timeless Texas drawl to give the song a distinctly original sound.

O shared details of how the collaboration came to fruition. The singer said in a statement that she reached out to Nelson through actor Johnny Knoxville. Initially, she hoped Nelson would sign an open letter to Congress for the National Independent Venue Association. Numerous artists and musicians came together to ask Congress to support independent music venues across America that are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to asking for Nelson’s signature, O said that out of “sheer audacity” she had one more request for the country legend. The singer requested that Knoxville tell Nelson that if he was ever interested in collaborating on a song, she was “ready and willing.”

Nelson did not respond directly, but Knoxville relayed a message from Nelson’s daughter, Amy. She said her father was more than willing to sing on a track with O.

Nelson Agrees to Cover “Under Pressure” With Karen O

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

When Nelson agreed to sing the “Under Pressure” cover with O, she could not contain her excitement. However, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lead singer also admits to the stress of finding an appropriate song for the duet.

“At this point, my mind was melting. But, I had to focus and pull a song out of the ether that was worthy of a living legend and spoke to the people in troubled times. Not an easy assignment,” said O. “Then like a bolt out of the blue ‘Under Pressure’ came to mind. I’ve heard this song countless times without processing the gravity of what Bowie and Freddie were singing about. Maybe because their performances are so exhilarating you get swept away in the high of that duet.”

O talked about the new take on the classic song and says she could only dream of the collaboration. She said the final cut of their “Under Pressure” cover brings tears to her eyes whenever she hears Nelson sing.

“(The cover is) meant to be more intimate but just as saturated with the power of love. I can’t listen to this song without tearing up every time Willie comes in,” O explains. “One of the purest voices, which of course reflects a pure heart. And I get to sing alongside it. I never knew if it was actually going to happen, but you must dare to dream. I hope the song brings as much light to the listener as it has to me in dark times.”

[H/T Rolling Stone]

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