Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Watch a ukulele orchestra cheerily strum the backbone out of a whole bunch of pop songs

The Ukulele Orchestra performs a doll-sized cover of Blur’s “Song 2.”
The Ukulele Orchestra performs a doll-sized cover of Blur’s “Song 2.”
Screenshot: Ukulele Orchestra

The ukulele is a dangerous instrument. A little bit of uke, applied by discerning musicians, can be a good thing. Too much of the four-stringed, beach baby guitar, though, can drown a listener so thoroughly in sonic twee that they may never recover. With that said, we present to you the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, a collection of uke enthusiasts that seem determined to experiment with testing the limits of their instrument by fully embracing that latter category.

Since its formation in 1985 by two friends just looking to have, as the group’s Wikipedia page puts it, “a bit of fun,” the Ukulele Orchestra has covered a ton of songs that were never meant to be associated with their instrument of choice. Over the years, they’ve done everything from Blur’s “Song 2” and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” to Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” by cheerily strumming away in formal dress. Some of these covers, like “Psycho Killer,” work well on ukuleles. Some, like their version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” are... well, they’re pretty funny.

Not content just to share their own performances, the Ukulele Orchestra’s YouTube page also provides lessons in an attempt to spread their dread approach to cover songs across the globe. Though we offer this knowledge with a pit in our stomach, here, as one example, is a guide to defanging AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” so thoroughly that it becomes a gentle little tune to play while sitting in the park on a nice summer afternoon.

If nothing else, we suppose that the Ukulele Orchestra isn’t doing anything worse to its musical targets than what the internet’s already shown itself capable of inflicting. At the end of the day, a ukulele version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” still manages to be less unsettling than the major key remix unleashed on us in the past.


[via Boing Boing]

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.