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Jonas Blue and Dakota's Fast Car is the Most Misguided Cover Song Ever

12:32Ciaran McCormick

Covers of the Tracy Chapman classic ‘Fast Car’ have surged up the charts in recent months. The song tells the heart wrenching story of a woman experiencing the deadening reality of poverty. It scored Chapman a clutch of Grammy’s when it was released in 1988 as the lead single from her debut album. However, recently artists including Jonas Blue/Dakota and Tobtok have tried to reinvent the song as a dance and tropical house track.


It is an abysmal failure, despite the Dakota attempt reaching higher on the charts than the original, which peaked at No. 6 on the US Billboard. They have hollowed out the soul and meaning of the song. This is not a happy song and feel-good, cash cow, dance beats are not welcome.

At a glance, the song might appear to be about driving a car, feeling drunk and like you could ‘be someone’. It is not. It is a powerful expression of the human experience of poverty and a narrative ballad about the life of a woman. The lyrics obviously resonated with Tracy Chapman who has spent her life as a social activist fighting for human rights and against poverty. It appeared on an album that felt social issues deeply and even wanted to inspire a revolution to overthrow the pain of poverty.



These new artists have tried to turn it into an uplifting song by latching onto the current tropical house trend and making it a dance track but this undermines its message. The sound isn’t even original, because it rips off every song Kygo has ever remixed. The grotesque commercialisation erodes its message, which should be listened to carefully with only the light strumming of the guitar and her raw voice to transport you to its scene. The video of Jonas Blue and Dakota's version is bland and meaningless, showing people riding motorbikes and horses across a desert.



Through talking to people, few have actually paid attention to its story. It’s about a young woman with an alcoholic father and a mother who left. She was forced to quit school to keep alive the remnants of her broken family. So she goes out in search of a better life, trying to break free from the pain of the past. She faces the grim reality of poverty, living in a shelter and yet still feels hope. However, the song closes with her hope fading and the man she thought was her ticket to freedom becoming a deadbeat like her father. There is no happy ending. Just her driving, mulling her decisions, with no plan and only the smallest pleasure of an arm wrapped round her shoulder.


It is a tribute to its classic status that people still want to reinvent the song. The strange thing is that it doesn’t need to be reinvented. Poverty is still very real and dominates the news and people like Ed Sheeran have shown that a human, an acoustic guitar and a message can still deliver popular music.

The track has a history tainted by misguided covers. It was featured on Britain’s Got Talent by a man living in a caravan with an expecting partner, where at least the lyrics could still mean something. However, the show dialled up the obvious comparisons until it was saccharine. Most distressingly, it cut the verses so brutally to fit it into a single minute that it was left bland and devoid of the lyrics that tell the actual story.

Even Sam Smith, whose raw voice could have made a triumph out of the song, covered it. But sadly it lacked heart and had a bizarre instrumental arrangement that sounded like elevator music or a segue at an awards show, undermining the entire song.


Popular music has a history of jazzing up old songs with fresh beats to make them commercially popular. I am not against covers that enrich the original and add new power and meaning. But sad songs that dissect the social ills of our society should never even be considered as nighclub floor fillers.

Buy the original Tracy Chapman album on Amazon for only £4.71.

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