Karen O and Willie Nelson Team Up for Cover Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

Karen O and Willie Nelson Team Up for Cover Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”

Inspired by the Election

Oct 28, 2020
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Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O and country legend Willie Nelson have teamed up to cover Queen and David Bowie’s classic duet “Under Pressure.” The original came out in 1981 and the 39th anniversary of its release was just two days ago. Karen O felt that the lyrics were relevant again, with the election and all the divisions it’s causing. Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio produced the track, which features guitars from O’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs bandmate Nick Zinner alongside Imaad Wasif and Johnny Hanson, and background vocals from Priscilla Ahn. The single is out now via BMG. Listen below.

Karen O had this to say about the cover in a press release: “A friend on the board of NIVA asked if I knew of any country artists who could sign a letter to Congress asking them to help save independent venues from going extinct due to Covid. I recalled my buddy Johnny Knoxville being friends with Willie so I asked to see if he could check in with Willie about it, and then out of sheer audacity I added ‘and if he ever wants to do a duet I’m ready and willing!’ 

“Johnny came back with the news that the signature was in the works and Willie’s daughter Amy very supportively said ‘have her send him the song and he’ll sing on it!’ 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. Then like a bolt out of the blue ‘Under Pressure’ came to mind—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. 

“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.”

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