Which Cover of No Scrubs is a Scrub?

I love Scrubs. I haven’t binged that show in a long time, but I think I might be overdue for a JD and Dr. Cox and Carla and Turk and Second Becky marathon. Wait wait, no, that’s the wrong kind of Scrub. Today’s article is about the kind of scrubs you would find in TLC’s classic song. Today I shall examine several covers of No Scrubs. This cover vs original will be particularly challenging, because, in all honesty, I’m not too familiar with the song. I think I only heard No Scrubs in its entirety less than a year ago. Still, it’s quite a catchy tune, and there have been enough covers of No Scrubs that this should be fun. And my lack of attachment to the song means that I’ll just be that more objectionable. Right? Right?

Ok, so maybe this will end in disaster. Whatever. It’s going to be fun to watch me squirm at least. So read on. This is Cover vs Original: No Scrubs Edition!

Covers of No Scrubs
©1992 LaFace / Arista

Orginal: TLC (1992)

Again, No Scrubs is a catchy tune. The chorus and the verses have a similar hook that will stay in your head for days. And that acoustic guitar part we hear throughout the song is surprisingly infectious. Name one other mid-90s R+B / Pop classic that relies so much on an acoustic guitar. There aren’t many. As far as the vocals, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas does an adequate job during the verses. However, Thomas really shines with the bridges. Her singing in these sections is just beautiful. Still, the best vocals come with the chorus. TLC has some pretty tight harmonies. All in all, No Scrubs is a pleasant listen.

Looking at the lyrics, TLC immediately defines a “Scrub.” This is important, especially for people like me, who defined a scrub as a naughties era TV show. So what is a scrub? Basically, a broke jerk who thinks he’s all that – but he’s not all that. The overall thesis of No Scrubs seems to point to female empowerment. No Scrubs shows, by example, that it’s ok to have standards when choosing a significant other. It’s ok to say no to Scrubs. You’re better than that, girl! I will say the lyrics could use a little refinement, but I can look past that because damn. It’s such a catchy tune and a decent message.

Cover: Avi Wisnia (2010)

Avi Wisnia takes a different approach to No Scrubs. Instead of an R&B song, Wisnia restyles No Scrubs into the Bossa Nova genre. There’s an electric organ, a catchy beat, and all the fixings of a 1950s dance club. Just like the original, the Wisnia version sounds nice. Really nice. However, I feel like Wisnia kind of forgets the message of No Scrubs. Wisnia sings a pretty song without much thought to the lyrics. Still, Avi Wisnia gives us a first wave cover of No Scrubs.

Cover: Bastille Featuring Ella Eyre (2012)

Technically called “No Angel,” Bastille (and Ella Eyre) takes No Scrubs in a totally new direction. Firstly, like Avi Wisnia, the Bastille cover of No Scrubs jumps genres. Bastille gives us an overproduced brit-pop version of the song. We hear a simulated orchestra. And we hear a song that’s perfectly orchestrated.

The genre switch, however, isn’t the only major change. Bastille and Ella Eyre make No Scrubs, err, No Angels a duet! Dan Smith sings the first verse and the chorus (in an amazing English accent by the way). However, when we get to the second verse, Ella Eyre jumps in with a high soprano vocal. The two vocalists trade-off for the rest of the song.

Another interesting feature of this cover of No Scrubs, we hear samples and quotes from old movies sprinkled all the way through. I can’t identify which movies, but the samples add an interesting texture to the song.

This cover might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, this is totally MY cup of tea. I love everything about this song. It’s truly one of the best covers I’ve heard in a long time.

Cover: Weezer (2019)

I swear Weezer would just record covers for the rest of their career if their record company would let them. Weezer has covered everything from Toto to Michael Jackson. And while sometimes Weezer’s covers fall flat, I really do enjoy their cover of No Scrubs.

There’s not much innovation in Weezer’s cover of No Scrubs. However, they still seem to make the song their own. Maybe it’s the impassioned vocals of Rivers Cuomo. Cuomo sounds like he’s in love with both the song and the message of No Scrubs. The backing vocalists also convey this passion. Their harmonies sound well planned and well-executed. We clearly get the impression this cover is a love letter to the song.

One final note. That staticky guitar after the last bridge makes me want to play air guitar!

Cover: Klingon Pop Princess jenbom Featuring Mary Chieffo (2020)

This cover of No Scrubs is a non-stop nerdgasm. Firstly, Klingon Pop Princess jenbom sings the entire song in Klingon. Secondly, Mary Chieffo provides background vocals. For those of you who don’t know Chieffo’s work, she plays the absolute badass High Chancellor L’Rell in Star Trek: Discovery.

Another feature, Klingon Pop Princess jenbom translates the word “scrubs” to the Klingon word for losers. This is more of a limitation of the Klingon language, as the slang word “scrubs” does not exist in the fictional Klingon language. Of course, if this were a proper translation, jenbom would just say “Scrubs” instead, but that wouldn’t sound as good. So I defend jenbom’s choice.

Whatever, “lujwI’pu’ vIneHbe'” is something every trekkie dreams about. By the way, look for a new rendition of this cover on her upcoming EP.

Which cover of No Scrubs dethrones the original?

Long story short, there’s no winner here. The original No Scrubs is catchy and fun. If you’re a Trekkie, you’ll love lujwI’pu’ vIneHbe. Weezer’s version is a love song that needs to be sung. And like I said, the Bastille cover of No Scrubs might be the best cover I’ve heard in the year 2021! Avi Wisnia’s genre experiment is my least favorite version of No Scrubs, but it still deserves merit.

A cover is, essentially, a collaboration between the original artist and the cover artist. While some covers transcend the original, the original artist provides the foundation. Without a solid foundation, a cover cannot achieve success. Considering all these covers of No Scrubs succeed, I must argue that this proves the original song is a great song. So, make of that what you will!

I hope you enjoyed this exploration. Is there a cover you would like me to explore? Let me know in the comments. Until later, rock on, and rocksteady!

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