jordanCovering a Prince song is a dicey proposition. Not only with the man himself, as he’s not terribly fond of others recording his music, but…how can you outdo Prince? A couple of artists have gotten it right. Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You” is better than the original, as was Sinead O’ Connor’s take on “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which he wrote for The Family back in ’85. That said, for every “When You Were Mine” by Cyndi Lauper, there’s a “When Doves Cry” by Ginuwine (ugh) or “Purple Rain” by LeAnn Rimes (double ugh…and yes, LeAnn Rimes re-recorded “Purple Rain”. Go listen if you think you have the stomach for it).

So, the last thing you’d imagine would be a credible Prince cover by a former New Kid on the Block, right?

“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” was one of my favorite songs from Prince’s magnum opus, “Sign ‘O the Times”. It’s a near-perfect slice of pop-rock with an interesting narrative and some fantastic guitar playing (although it’s kind of buried in the mix). It’s deceptively peppy, considering the subject matter (Prince meets unhappy girl at a bar, girl falls in love, Prince says hey, I’m good for a quickie but I’m not the type that’ll stick around forever). Knight’s version (which you can find on his 1999 solo debut-I believe it’s out of print but you can find copies cheap online) completely recasts the song as a sorrowful ballad, bringing out the heartbreak of the lyrics. It’s a pretty ballsy move, but it works. It’s also helpful that Jordan doesn’t try to oversell the song, instead letting the story unfold without adding any extra drama to an already dramatic scenario.

Somehow, despite the fact that it was the follow-up to a Top 10, Platinum single (“Give it to You”), “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” didn’t chart. Perhaps the stigma of being an ex-NKOTB prevented the song from doing so (it certainly prevented a lot of people from taking the album seriously, which is a bad move, because the album is a satisfying slice of blue-eyed soul that beats the pants off of both Justin Timberlake albums and stands head to head with all three Robin Thicke albums…probably because Thicke co-wrote and co-produced almost this entire album), but this is one that definitely should have been a bigger hit than it was.

I’d love to post Prince’s original, but I might get drawn and quartered by the man himself if I do. Besides, if a copy of “Sign O’ the Times” isn’t in your record collection, you should be ashamed of yourself. However, here’s the video of Jordan’s version. Turn your volume up.

I could never take the place of your man • Jordan Knight – Jordan Knight