“If I Can’t Have You”
Written by Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, and Robin Gibb
Sara Evans has recorded a disco song and I’m not entirely sure how to process its existence.
“If I Can’t Have You” is a solid Bee Gees number, and it was properly immortalized with Yvonne Elliman’s chart-topping cover, which was a highlight of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Sara Evans apparently loves the song. Grew up loving it, I’m sure. So it’s a logical inclusion for her upcoming covers set, Copy That.
But here’s the thing about covers. If you’re going to stay faithful to the original, you’ve got to work within the boundaries of the hit version. This works best when an artist is covering something within their own wheelhouse. That approach has made for some classic records over the years, like Mark Chesnutt’s “I’ll Think of Something” and Reba McEntire’s “Fancy.”
The other way to skin the cat is for an artist to take a song from outside of their wheelhouse, and rework it so it fits within their own style. Think Dolly Parton’s Grammy-winning cover of Collective Soul’s “Shine,” or Johnny Cash’s landmark recording of the Nine Inch Nails classic, “Hurt.”
What doesn’t work is trying to force yourself into someone else’s wheelhouse. That just sounds like a drunken Karaoke night toward the tail end of a bachelorette party.
Sara Evans makes no changes to the disco arrangement of “If I Can’t Have You.” Yvonne Elliman could sing over this backing track in her sleep.
But she also makes no changes to her own vocal style, which is all hillbilly twang. Isolate the vocal, and you could be listening to something from the Stanley Brothers catalog.
She sounds great, but it’s a vocal performance that meshes as well with a disco beat as peanuts do with bubblegum.
Sara Evans can sing better than most, but her talents are undermined here.