Karen O And Willie Nelson Release A Gentle, Election-Inspired ‘Under Pressure’ Cover

Queen and David Bowie’s classic collaboration “Under Pressure” is a daunting track to cover because the original was executed so darn well. That said, Karen O and Willie Nelson have taken the song on and done an admirable job with it. Their take on the track is more country-leaning than the original and also much more serene and stripped-down in nature.

Press materials note that Karen O decided to cover the song after the lyrics resonated with her in regards to the upcoming election: “Pressure pushing down on me / Pressing down on you, no man ask for / Under pressure that burns a building down / Splits a family in two / Puts people on streets.” Karen O says of the song’s origins:

“A friend on the board of NIVA asked if I knew of any country artists who could sign a letter to Congress asking them to help save independent venues from going extinct due to COVID. I recalled my buddy Johnny Knoxville being friends with Willie so I asked to see if he could check in with Willie about it, and then out of sheer audacity I added, ‘And if he ever wants to do a duet I’m ready and willing!’

Johnny came back with the news that the signature was in the works and Willie’s daughter Amy very supportively said, ‘Have her send him the song and he’ll sing on it!’ At this point my mind was melting, but I had to focus and pull a song out of the ether that was worthy of a living legend and spoke to the people in troubled times, not an easy assignment. Then like a bolt out of the blue, ‘Under Pressure’ came to mind — I’ve heard this song countless times without processing the gravity of what Bowie and Freddie were singing about, maybe because their performances are so exhilarating you get swept away in the high of that duet.

Our cover was meant to be more intimate but just as saturated with the power of love. I can’t listen to this song without tearing up every time Willie comes in, one of the purest voices which of course reflects a pure heart, and I get to sing alongside it. I never knew if it was actually going to happen but you must dare to dream. I hope the song brings as much light to the listener as it has to me in dark times.”

Listen to Karen O and Nelson’s cover of “Under Pressure” above.