The latest cover of Adele’s smash hit “Hello” to make the rounds is the polar opposite of the original, aesthetically speaking. The artist in question is Southern University’s 230-member marching band, which performed the tearjerker at the recent Bayou Classic Battle of the Bands.* According to the culture writers of the Internet, this performance is a masterpiece. “This marching band absolutely slays Adele’s ‘Hello,’ ” announces Mashable. “The Drop In This Marching Band’s Version Of ‘Hello’ Is Epic,” kvells the Huffington Post. “This marching band version of Adele’s ‘Hello’ will give you goosebumps,” says SB Nation.
That last statement might actually be true, if you happen to be in a chilly room. But the marching band’s version of “Hello” is terrible. It is one of the most hilariously awful things my ears have ever perceived. I don’t know if all the websites that have praised the video have a “no negative headlines ever” policy, or if they’re just playing a collective practical joke on the world. Either way, their breathless descriptions of this cacophonous mess are bafflingly inaccurate.
It’s not the band’s fault that this cover is so bad—the responsibility lies with the person who arranged the music, and whichever person affiliated with the band has the authority to pull the plug on orchestrations that just aren’t working. Everything about this arrangement, from the plodding tempo to the mournful trombone bassline to the unnecessary woodwind countermelody, is totally at odds with the intimate spirit of Adele’s chart-topping single. The worst part, obviously, is the sforzando chorus—or “drop,” as Huff Post calls it—featuring dozens of trumpet players who have not even had the chance to warm up, blasting their instruments at the very top of their range. (God bless you, trumpet section, you did your best.) The dancers’ incongruously slow, sexy routine is the awkward icing on the cake.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t watch the video—you definitely should, if you haven’t already. Just make sure you’re in a place where no one will look at you funny if you start snorting halfway through.
*Correction, Dec. 3, 2015: This post originally misstated that Southern University’s marching band played “Hello” at a halftime show.