BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge has been a big part of British radio for years, calling in artists to perform their own material or to cover artists of completely different genres and offer their own spin on the song. The yearly compilation is just as important a part of it, as well; usually reaching the top spot on the UK charts, it’s an annual event in its own right. BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge 2016 is this year’s trip to the studio, but it also faces the same caveats that these compilations do every year.
From Clean Bandit covering the likes of Fifth Harmony to CHVRCHES covering Calvin Harris and Rihanna, it’s a veritable mixed bag of styles and artists. With 38 tracks over two discs, there’s a lot of chances for things to fall flat, and it happens quite often this year. The first disc of the collection is largely solid, with Clean Bandit’s take on Fifth Harmony’s Work From Home mixed with Daniel Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Thru This being one of the higher moments, and Fifth Harmony’s own minimal take on Elle King’s bluesy track Ex’s and Oh’s being the other highlight. It’s still got many covers that sit in a mediocre space, but largely remains enjoyable.
The second disc is less successful, but also features the best performances to be found here. Alessia Cara’s version of Hotline Bling takes it in a pop rock direction which doesn’t suit the song or do it any favours, while Jonas Blue and JP Cooper’s cover of Dua Lipa’s Hotter Than Hell falls similarly flat, without any real hook or sparkle to it that makes you want to listen to it again. However, Jack Garratt’s rock performance of his own track Worry and Lower Than Atlantis’ hard rock version of Ellie Goulding’s On My Mind are far and away the best things you’ll hear on the compilation.
This is too much of a mixed bag for the general listener to really click with it, but for Live Lounge fanatics it’s exactly what you’d expect. There’s no real rhyme or reason to anything here, which makes for as many surprising and catchy moments as it does complete flops. Experiments aren’t always successful, and for most people this isn’t really something worth pursuing, but if you’re interested in seeing how things go along the way then BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge 2016 will give you what you need, as it does every other year.