Viva Elvis' recent reinvention of a familiar hit is shockingly great, but also fundamentally true to the original.
Viva Elvis' recent reinvention of a familiar hit is shockingly great, but also fundamentally true to the original. Getty Images/Staff
Song: "Burning Love"
Artist: Elvis Presley
CD: Viva Elvis: The Album
Unlike a lot of the tracks on Viva Elvis, the excellent soundtrack to Cirque du Soleil's Vegas show of the same name, "Burning Love" doesn't rewrite the song on which it's based. It just re-contextualizes it. Taking the approach that made a monster hit of "A Little Less Conversation" about five steps further, it extracts Elvis Presley's vocal from a 1972 single that, as the King's final Top 10 hit during his lifetime, encapsulated his descent into self-parody and transplants it into a world he couldn't have anticipated.
Once everything that's not Elvis himself has been stripped away, the song grafts what's left onto, among other things, the discombobulated guitar part from The Hives' "Walk Idiot Walk" and a roiling bassline that has the effect of a subway car careening directly underfoot. A furious drumbeat pummels away at full force, supplying muscle unimagined in the original.
It's a mind-blowing, left-field recasting of a familiar song. But even so, it remains fundamentally true to the underlying components that made "Burning Love" what it was in the first place, including the chord progression (a feature that doesn't necessarily survive the transition for all of Viva Elvis' songs). Most importantly, there's that vocal, brash and richly authoritative, rippling with life in its new surroundings and demonstrating that Elvis Presley was still capable of magic, if only his material could keep up with him.
This story originally ran on May 25, 2011.