Nothing Compares 2 U (Single)
Your writer has collected just about every record this fascinating and forceful singer has ever made, yet has never met Nikka Costa. In the strange world of music – or the spheres I move in, anyway – she now releases her version of a song by Prince, who I DID meet, at the height of his powers…and they say that God moves in mysterious ways….
Nothing Compares 2 U featured on an album by a US aggregation called The Family – not to be confused with the UK’s bleating juggernaut rock band Family – who released just the one forgotten collection. This song wasn’t the best number on it. Yet for some reason it must have caught the ear of the space cadet Sinead O’Connor ..or her producers. She put out what to me was an over-emotive version of the tune as a single with a brief descending vocal phrase embraced which Prince himself detested when he later performed the song himself, he would scold audiences for singing along! Without the Sinead hit I don’t think he would have dug the song out to perform.
The next part of the story is Nikka’s friendship with Prince and their mutual respect. She even appeared on one of his performance videos. So this rendition is a labour of love, if ever there was one. I would rather hear her tackle You Got The Look or Sugar Walls but there you go..this cut is part of an album due from Costa called Underneath And In Between credited to Nikka and Strings, recorded in Chiswick – my home town – at Metropolis Studios where they make rather good job of capturing quality artists’ efforts.
So this is 5 mins 20 of the song, taken at a slow gospel pace and piano-led, with deep bass. Costa’s cruising soul voice is put to good use and she sounds lost in the song, drawing on her original Tina Turner influences. Meantime the strings (arranged Jeff Babko) have a composed, elegiac sense which is a tad out of line with the funk bass. However that is the intended effect and what will make the album different. We are used to soul singing with strings, but more the upbeat Philly-style arrangement type – MFSB, Billy Paul, O’Jays et al. The background chorale beefs up as the song steps along. Pastoral and affecting, if you’re in the mood. A Bob Clearmountain mix, by the way.