Lead singer of the National, Matt Berninger, has shared a soulful rendition of The Velvet Underground’s 1967 track “I’m Waiting For The Man.” The reimagined song was made for I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico, a track-by-track tribute to The Velvet Underground’s original debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico. The tribute album is set to release on September 24, 2021 via Verve Records.
The original “I’m Waiting For The Man” carries an upbeat energy with harsh frequencies from the distorted electric guitars, the subtle rushing of the drums and percussion and the swagger in Lou Reed’s voice. The original track has an unmistakable groove in the bass line and the constant percussion and drums that makes it almost hypnotizing. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song #161 on a list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The track has always been publicly and critically acclaimed for its lyrical storytelling ability of a man waiting for his drug dealer to come sell him heroin. There is a classic vibe to the song that can never be exactly recreated, and Berninger doesn’t attempt to do that. He makes the track his own.
While the original classic tune “I’m Waiting For The Man” sounds raw and gritty, Berninger’s rendition sounds smooth, classy and clean. Emphasizing the piano’s, tambourines and soft drums, Berninger makes a smooth rock ballad out of the original track. The instrumental is much more understated and Berninger’s vocal inflections are much softer. Berninger seems to tame the song and takes it on a different path from the original. The song as a whole feels very structured and easy on the ears.
Berninger first debuted his cover of “I’m Waiting For The Man” in 2020 on The Late Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Berninger was also recently featured on Canadian Punk Rock group Fucked Up’s latest project, Year of the Horse. His vocals come in at the end of the third act of the band’s zodiac series. In January 2021, Berninger teamed up with Australian singer Julia Stone for their track “We All Have,” a slow and tender track with a light, ambient piano instrumental.
Photo credit: Owen Ela