Cover Me: "Without You" Mariah Carey vs. Harry Nilsson

Cover Me: "Without You" Mariah Carey vs. Harry Nilsson

Your first thought when you see the title "Without You" may be, 'I don't know what song that is.  There must be 1,000 songs named that.'  Maybe there are.  What if we said we can't live if living is without you?  Maybe you'd get it then.  Still no?  When you listen to the hit Harry Nilsson version of this song and then the hit Mariah Carey cover you'll think, 'Duh on me!  I know this.'  And then we'll ask you, which version is better?

Cover Me: "Without You" Mariah Carey vs. Harry Nilsson

Before we go any further, let us listen to the Nilsson version.

Now, on to the version by Mariah (yes, we're on a first-name basis).

What do you think?  Obviously, Ms. Carey is the better vocalist.  And this version, recorded in 1993, is pre-diva Mariah Carey, unlike now, when she needs people to carry her everywhere because she's afraid she just might rub her under-foot skin the wrong way, thus affecting negatively her gait, which would make her almost appear to limp and make her look bad for 3 seconds of her day.  No, back in '93, Mariah was still all-singer.  She was beautiful and talented and all about the music.  She was already over-singing a bit, but it was her style.  She owned it.  

She's changed, of course.  All artists need to change in some way.  She's had surgeries to enhance her look.  She's lost her "girl next door who can sing better than any girl next door ever could before" persona.  For a decade at least, she's been about the cartoon of fame; she's been more about the personality and keeping up with the Joneses (featuring insert name here).  She still has the talent to sing her way out of any situation, but she no longer emphasizes her talent and instead emphasizes MARIAH - THE STAR (featuring insert name here).

That's too bad.  

I wish somebody like Mariah Carey or Madonna could just be their age (43 and 55, respectively) and perform music of their generation, not try to keep up with current trends (featuring insert name here).  How cool would it be if the two made an album together?  How cool would it be if they did what Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Rondstadt did years ago and performed a Trios-type of album.  The music would have to be good - no, great - but they could find it.  Maybe cover tunes, obscure ones updated (but not featuring insert name here).  Who could be the third member of their trio?  Whitney is gone.  Maybe Sheryl Crow.  Maybe Natalie Maines (a Dixie Chick).  Similar age.  Different sound.  Could be cool.  Definitely not Janet Jackson.  She can't sing.

The chances?  Highly unlikely.  Madonna and Mariah are too esconced in their past success; they can't let go of the fact that they used to be giants among young people and, now that they're older, they will stop at nothing to reach that same audience of late-teens/early-twenty-somethings, as if the people with whom they grew up are exactly the same.  It's not true.  Remember that artists change?  So do fans.  Why can't certain artists change with their fans?  Why does Snoop Dog need to be on every album by every artist older than 40?  Is Snoop Dog, sorry, Snoop Lion, the Great Communicator amongst the generations?  Who declared that?  Some lame music critic or out-of-touch executive?

Where did this rant come from?  This was all supposed to be about Nilsson vs. Mariah.  It's turned into Mariah vs. Age.

She's losing.

Harry Nilsson, who isn't with us anymore (he's partying in Heaven with John Lennon and Keith Moon), won a Grammy with "Without You."  While written by the late Pete Ham and originally recorded with his band, Badfinger, it's Nilsson's song.  Mariah made it famous again 20 years after its original chart success.  Yes, she was, and is, a much better singer.  And, like we said, back in '93, she was still a singer, a musician.  Her roots were in music and she still stood strong to the ground.  Nilsson, who died in 1994, never heard Mariah's version.  He actually died 9 days before Mariah's version was released as a single on January 24, 1994.

Would Nilsson have liked Mariah's version better?  Would Ham have liked it better?  

Credit Mariah for this - she's still alive.  Ham hanged himself before he turned 30.  Nilsson died of a heart attack at the age of 53, but had been dying slowly for years before that.  Mariah is married, has a young child, her career is still a career - she's doing okay.  Is that enough for Ham & Nilsson to say, "Good job, young lady"?

Credit Nilsson for finding the soul of the song.  Credit him for throwing his soul on the line and singing like it was the last song he'd ever sing.  His version is better than Badfinger's (see/hear below); it's different from Mariah's.  Is his better than hers?

You decide.  Let us know.  Now!

Dave Philp is Assistant Professor of Music Management at William Paterson University and Chief Organizer Guy of YouChoose, a live events music fundraising and social media company that has raised many, many thousands of dollars for non-profit causes. Join the good fight and help change your corner of the world by visiting YouChoose now: To sign up for our email newsletter, click HERE. Mmkay?