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Talking Heads’ ‘This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’: Who Covered It Best?

We all know the original's the best, but who else gets it right: The Lumineers, Arcade Fire, Kyp Malone, Kishi Bashi or Miles Fisher?
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Shannon Carlin
Shannon Carlin Shannon is an associate music producer for Radio.com....
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No matter how you feel about the Talking Heads, you can’t deny the beauty of their sweet, sad love song “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody),” off 1983′s Speaking In Tongues. You just can’t.

On the DVD of the band’s concert film, Stop Making Sense, David Byrne describes the song as “a love song made up almost completely of non sequiturs, phrases that may have a strong emotional resonance but don’t have any narrative qualities.”

“It’s a real honest kind of love song. I don’t think I’ve ever done a real love song before,” he said. “Mine always had a sort of reservation, or a twist. I tried to write one that wasn’t corny, that didn’t sound stupid or lame the way many do. I think I succeeded; I was pretty happy with that.”

Most people would agree that he succeeded with “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody).” It’s not the band’s biggest hit; that honor goes to “Burning Down The House.” But as the New Yorker pointed out in 2012, it’s the Talking Heads song you hear most consistently. It’s played in bars, where it’s awkwardly danced to. It’s featured in movies, specifically ones starring Ryan Gosling–2007′s Lars and the Real Girl and 2011′s Crazy, Stupid, Love. It’s even the title of a Sean Penn film nobody saw, which also features original music from David Byrne. Most of all, it’s been covered many, many times, by everyone from MGMT (who didn’t do so great) to “Sunny Came Home” singer Shawn Colvin.

The most recent artist to take on the track is The Lumineers, who put their own folky spin on the song for the forthcoming deluxe edition of their album. It got us here at Radio.com wondering: Out of all those who have covered “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody),” who among them actually made it their own, while still honoring the song?

We focused in on five covers of “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” and rated them on a scale of 1-10. We judged how original the cover is and also how well the artist executed the cover. (Meaning, that a cover might be an inventive take on a classic but when it’s all said and done, do you actually want to listen to it anywhere near as much as the original?) Then we chose a winner based on the scores. Feel free to disagree with us in the poll below.

THE LUMINEERS

Why? The band’s been covering it (along with other classics like “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac, “The Weight” by The Band,“Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan) in concert for the last year, but a studio version is included on the deluxe edition of the band’s 2012 debut, out Aug. 20. 

The band keeps things mellow with a very ho-hum rendition that is comprised mostly of an acoustic guitar. This softer take on the song makes it kind of boring.

Originality: 6
Execution: 6
Total: 12

ARCADE FIRE

Why? The band started performing the song live in 2005 and snagged Byrne for a live duet in New York that same year.

With a steel drum, a xylophone and a downright pretty violin solo, Arcade Fire construct their own quirky version of an already very quirky song. Win Butler beautifully struggles to hit the notes and makes our hearts melt in the process.

Originality: 8
Execution: 10
Total: 18

TV ON THE RADIO’S KYP MALONE

Why? Malone covered the song all by his lonesome for Our Show with Elliot Aronow, a variety show shot live in NYC that has featured artists like LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and Andrew W.K. showing off their talents.

Though Malone sticks pretty close to the original, he gets an extra point for prefacing his cover with the warning: “A lot of people told me this is their favorite Talking Heads song and not to s*** on it, but I’m just gonna do what happens. It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.” Using his quivering vocals, Malone turns his cover into the best karaoke version of “This Must Be The Place” you’ve ever heard.

Originality: 7
Execution: 8
Total: 15

MILES FISHER

Why? The song appeared on the singer/actor’s self-titled EP in 2009. The American Psycho-inspired video helped make it a viral hit that same year.

The electronic take is an interesting change, but the glitchy, robotic vocals strip most of the sweetness out of the love song.

Originality: 7
Execution: 4
Total: 11

KISHI BASHI

Why? The multi-instrumentalist, who has toured with of Montreal and Regina Spektor, released the song, along with covers of Beirut’s “Sunday Smile” and “Prologue/Twilight” by ELO, on his 7″ singles series.

Bashi created a full orchestral arrangement of the song, using a small string section to capture the subtlety of the original. A few little vocal tricks help channel the longing of the original, while allowing Bashi’s own charm to shine through.

Originality: 9
Execution: 8
Total: 17

WINNER: Arcade Fire for making a version so good that little kids, at least in the movies, think it’s actually their song.

Do you agree? Vote below and let us know who you think covered it best.

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