It’s safe to say that more than a year on, we’re still not over Orville Peck’s March 2019 debut album Pony, a record we’ll be listening to in perpetuity. The cowboy crooner and face mask pioneer has kept on into this disastrous 2020 with a string of new tunes, livestreams, and music videos, all continuing to shape the queer Canadian singer-songwriter as one of the era’s strongest musical voices. Now, Peck taking on something so obvious and yet so damn exciting: An enchanting cover of Bronski Beat’s 1984 gay liberation synth-pop anthem “Smalltown Boy.”
Holy shit. Peck takes the thumping nightclub anthem and gives it a gutsy, solemn veil of weathered substance, his commanding voice adding to the track’s careful concern. It both sounds entirely Orville Peck-ian but also stretches the performer out into new music territory, like a crossover where all the elements — performer, song, and the aura of the classic original — meet somewhere totally new.
The brilliant cover is part of Spotify’s Pride edition of its Singles Series, where LGBTQ+ artists pay tribute to heroes and heroines. There’s a trio included in this offering, Peck’s “Smalltown Boy” saddling up alongside Rina Sawayama covering Lady Gaga’s “Dance in the Dark” and Joesef taking on “Thinking of You” by Sister Sledge.