Back in 9th grade, I took a day trip with my biology class to explore tidepools at the coast. I taped a bunch of songs off the radio, and was listening to the songs on my walkman (as was the practice of teenagers at that time). “Enjoy the Silence,” by Depeche Mode was on that tape, and oh how I loved this song. I remember, as the drums played after the first chorus, I start bobbing my head back and forth to the beat (one of my classmates chimes up “Look, Aaron’s headbanging“). I was so into that song. Seriously, I thought it was the coolest song ever!
I still think “Enjoy the Silence” might be one of the coolest songs ever. I admit, you can still catch me headbanging to the drum machine parts from time to time. As far as composition, I give the song a solid 9.5. AS far as the lyrics, they get at least an 8. “Enjoy the Silence” is truly a classic song. I’m not the only one to think so, as I’ve encountered at least ten covers. I’ve juxtaposed four of these covers with the original. Read onwards, and join me in an amazing adventure of exploration of a truly classic song.
Original Version – Depeche Mode (1990)
Like I said before – I feel like Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence is one of the coolest songs ever written. The composition is solid, but the lyrics really drive us home. “Enjoy the Silence” describes the closeness of a relationship, and how actions and feelings in this relationship say so much more than any words can. It’s truly a romantic song.
I will say the synthesizers sound incredibly dated in 2018, but I still hold my rating of a 9.5 as far as composition goes. Besides – the synths give the song an eerie feeling. This fits in beautifully, as the singer’s partner finds the silence eerie. She just doesn’t quite understand that silence on its own can say so much more than words. She still hasn’t learned to enjoy the silence.
Cover Version – Tori Amos (2001)
The Tori Amos version of “Enjoy The Silence slows things down quite a bit. Amos minimizes the accompaniment. During the verses, you hear almost nothing in terms of instruments – just a few notes plunked on a piano (in a minor key) in between song lines. During the chorus there’s more of a piano part, as well as some strings, but even this is minimal – especially considering the original.
Surprisingly – the original version might have sounded a lot like Amos’ stripped down version. According to song facts, “Enjoy the Silence” was originally a ballad until keyboardist Alan Wilder got the idea to speed the song up. So, maybe this was what Amos had in mind. Regardless – I feel as though the slow tempo and minimal instrumentation certainly plays into the aforementioned “eerie” feeling of the song. Amos has a way of making any song sound creepy, and her version of “Enjoy the Silence” is no exception.
Cover Version – LaCuna Coil (2006)
A gothic metal band seems like an unlikely type to cover a 90s dance hit, so when Lacuna Coil covered “Enjoy the Silence,” I was kind of shocked. Then again – there’s that creepy, eerie fact that I’ve mentioned twice already. Gothic metal loves that kind of thing!
LaCuna Coil’s version makes a lot of use of guitars and uses almost no keyboards, though there is a bit of a keyboard part at the end which ties the whole song together. There’s a whispering voice after the first chorus, and while I can’t make out all the words, I can certainly hear, “There is no help.” These lyrics actually makes me wonder if LaCuna Coil misses the entire point of the song.
As I watch the video – I realize maybe they do get the point after all. There’s a bunch of shots of (my hometown) Portland, OR (which seems random as LaCuna Coil hails from Italy). As the aforementioned keys play – the scene switches to the coast. As though the talking in the relationship represents the loud city, and the coast represents the feelings and closeness – the silence we are supposed to enjoy.
One personal note, I have no idea which coast they use in the video, but I want it to be the Oregon coast. It makes sense as they show Portland – and it also ties very well into my introductory paragraph – of a 9th grader listening to the original version of “Enjoy the Silence” at the coast.
Cover Version – Anberlin (2006)
Anberlin gives “Enjoy the Silence” a modern rock sound. We hear a lot of loud(ish), melodic guitars, a lot of drums, and a lot of rhythm and blues. A key feature of the Anberlin version of “Enjoy the Silence” is the key change in the vocals. During the second chorus, and again halfway through the last chorus, the singer transitions to a higher octave.
The key change gives a sense of urgency to the listener: there’s something that needs to be said and I don’t think you’re paying attention! Of course, what needs to be said is “we don’t need to talk,” which seems a bit ironic as the speaker uses words to say this. We find this irony in all the versions – but Anberlin’s version seems to emphasize it more as the higher octave mimics yelling.
One last thing about the Anberlin version of “Enjoy the Silence:” there’s an homage to the original. I mentioned “headbanging” to the drums after the first chorus. In Anberlin’s version – there’s an actual drum solo after the first chorus. I like this. It makes me happy.
Cover Version – Nada Surf (2010)
Nada Surf’s version of “Enjoy the Silence” might be the most catchy and infectious version yet! This cover of “Enjoy the Silence” gets a jangle pop treatment, and one can only enjoy the lack of silence. Seriously – Nada Surf’s version is such a feel good version, it spits rainbows. Aside from the jangle pop sound, we also see another key distinction in Nada Surf’s version of Enjoy the Silence; they change the melody.
Jangle pop certainly serves “Enjoy the Silence” well. Through Nada Surf’s version of the song, the listener can imagine themselves, on a sunny day, driving down the road with the top down. Their sweetheart besides them, trying to talk. Instead, you put your arm around her, pull her close, and reassure her that the silence is all you both need. She nuzzles you, and enjoys the moment. What a groovy day!
Which version of “Enjoy the Silence” wins?
As with other cover vs original entries, there is no clear winner here. All five versions of “Enjoy the Silence” have their merits. Having said that, the rock versions by Anberlin and LaCuna Coil, are my least favorites – though they should not be discounted. Tori Amos’ stripped down version sounds utterly haunting and beautiful. Still – I really don’t want to listen to her verison very often, as it does sound so disturbing.
I feel like comparing the Nada Surf Version and the original Depeche Mode version really feels like comparing two different songs; a jangle pop song and a 90s dance song. Both versions give the listener a clear picture, though the two mediums are not the same. Nada Surf uses warm fuzzy vibes, while Depeche mode uses ethereal, eerie feelings to paint the picture – but comparing the pictures – we just cannot do that! So there’s my answer. The best version of “Enjoy the Silence?” It’s a tie between Nada Surf and Depeche Mode. Both should be listened to and enjoyed. If you have to break the silence – enjoy the noise of Depeche Mode and Nada Surf.