MTV Unplugged has got to be one of the greatest music segments that has ever graced television screens. It strips back artists and gives us an unseen insight into their musical talents. Since the first episode in 1989, Unplugged has featured the likes of The Cure, Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Florence and the Machine just to name a few.
With the recent confirmation that Unplugged is coming back into full swing, here are 10 acts that would be a perfect to take on the challenge.
Being known for their arena spectaculars and huge, dramatic sounds would make an acoustic performance by Muse all the better. Picture Matt Bellamy serenading us with a stripped back version of ‘Uprising’. His haunting vocals would soar over some simple instrumentation to give the track a refreshing punch. There are a ton of acoustic covers by fans online, but not one by the band themselves, making it the perfect time to swap out an electric for an acoustic.
You don’t get much rockier than these guys, but for a powerful and heavy band they’re no strangers to intimate and acoustic sets. Making the leap all the easier, Dave Grohl is already familiar with the segment after appearing on it with Nirvana back in 1993. This time fronting the band, it would be brilliant to hear Grohl’s vocals translated into an intimate setting. He could even throw one of his signature growly screams into the mix! We’ve seen the likes of ‘My Hero’ and ‘Everlong’ in all their acoustic glory, but how great would rearranged versions of their heavier tracks like ‘All My Life’ and ‘The Pretender’ be?!
This would be an interesting one. Boasting a killer psychedelic sound that is laden with a strong reverb and electro influence, to see an acoustic version of one of their tunes like ‘The Less I Know The Better’ or ‘Let It Happen’ would be compelling to say the least. Kevin Parker and his crew have such a huge amount of talent that I’m sure whatever rendition they did would be just as amazing as the original.
Plenty of Arctic Monkeys tunes have a laid back and chilled vibe going on already, but the main reason they would be perfect for Unplugged is Alex Turner’s voice. His incredibly haunting yet smooth voice has to be one of the most recognisable in indie rock at the moment and it becomes even more so in their acoustic and stripped back performances. Listen to this acoustic cover of ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and tell me you don’t want to hear what their other tracks would sound like in a similar setting! This would be the stuff that sends chills down your spine.
There isn’t much that Courtney Barnett can’t do. On more than a couple of occasions she’s proved that she can hold her own with nothing but a guitar and microphone. Although she has more of a rock sound, her signature vocals and lyrics are really emphasised in an acoustic setting. With that being said, it would be interesting to see a couple of her more upbeat singles stripped back. I’m thinking ‘Pedestrian At Best’ and ‘Elevator Operator’. Watch her full Moshcam set here.
Another band with an electro and synth heavy sound, Arcade Fire would also be an interesting choice to take on the acoustic challenge. Their generally busy and upbeat songs would have to be completely stripped back and to see Win Butler, who has such a powerful stage presence, in a more vulnerable and intimate setting is almost unimaginable. It would be super cool to see them take on ‘Reflektor’ with a guitar, some chimes and a light drum beat only to compliment Butler’s unique vocals.
Easily one of the most energetic and rock driven bands performing at the moment, Foals also boast a huge amount of diversity in their music. Take two of their latest singles, ‘What Went Down’ and ‘Mountain At My Gates’; one is a pure energy track, while the latter holds more of a laid back indie-rock vibe. Given the raw talent of these guys, there’s no doubt that if they took it down a couple of notches (if such a thing is possible!) they’d surely deliver a stunning acoustic performance.
Although Radiohead and Thom Yorke are often known for their hectic instrumentations and detailed layerings of complex loops and sounds (looking at you King of Limbs!), their songs still sound incredibly beautiful in an acoustic setting. The perfect example: Thom Yorke performing the ridiculously complex Atoms for Peace track ‘Ingenue’ on a piano only. Imagine Radiohead belting out a raw version of ‘Lotus Flower’, or even their brand new single ‘Burn the Witch’ in a similar fashion.
Grimes would be another super interesting addition to Unplugged. Self-described as creating “ADD music”, she combines art pop, indie, hip hop and electronic influences to produce the unique and obscure sound we’ve all come to love. To take all this away and hear singles like ‘Flesh Without Blood’ and ‘Oblivion’ in their simplest form would place new emphasis on the structure and lyrics of each track, as well as on the Canadian’s understated vocal range. Known for her charismatic stage presence, it would be mesmerising to see the colourful character in a more vulnerable environment, not sheltered by her energetic and dramatic stage antics.