Willie Nelson and Karen O have joined forces to cover the Queen and David Bowie classic “Under Pressure”. The all-star collaboration also features Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner and production from TV on the Radio member Dave Sitek.
According to a statement about the origins of the cover, Karen O initially reached out to Nelson to see if he would sign a letter to Congress asking them for help to save independent music venues. She also slipped in a request to collaborate on something, though fully expected to be rejected.
Nelson ended up not only signing the #SaveOurStages petition, but also agreed to work with Karen O — much to her absolute shock. “At this point my mind was melting but I had to focus and pull a song out of the ether that was worthy of a living legend and spoke to the people in troubled times, not an easy assignment,” the Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer explained.
“Then like a bolt out of the blue ‘Under Pressure’ came to mind,” continued Karen O. “I’ve heard this song countless times without processing the gravity of what Bowie and Freddie were singing about, maybe because their performances are so exhilarating you get swept away in the high of that duet.”
As Karen O noted, the lyrics of the 1981 smash single could not be more apt given the looming election and all that’s at stake: “Pressure pushing down on me/ Pressing down on you, no man ask for/ Under pressure that burns a building down/ Splits a family in two/ Puts people on street.”
She commented further,
“Our cover was meant to be more intimate but just as saturated with the power of love. I can’t listen to this song without tearing up every time Willie comes in, one of the purest voices which of course reflects a pure heart, and I get to sing alongside it. I never knew if it was actually going to happen but you must dare to dream. I hope the song brings as much light to the listener as it has to me in dark times.”
Stream their “Under Pressure” cover below, which includes additional contributions from Imaad Wasif, Johnny Hanson, Micah Nelson, and Priscilla Ahn.