Before there were lip-sync battles, there were cover songs. Last night’s 46th annual Songwriters Hall of Fame gala, which inducted seven hit-song scribes, including Toby Keith, Cyndi Lauper, and Linda Perry, was part cover-song concert and part awards show with presenters performing songs by the artists being honored: Lady Gaga — who received the inaugural Contemporary Icon Award — performed a throaty cover of the quintessential 4 Non Blondes song (and top karaoke pick) “What’s Up.”
Gaga then presented Perry with her award and shared how the song has influenced her life again and again: “The song I just performed changed my life a million times over — over and over again, not just once in my life, many times I go and revisit it. Isn’t that what a fucking hit song is all about?” When Perry got onstage, she spoke about how “What’s Up” came out during a difficult time in her past, when she was broke and covered in fleas:
It’s a really humbling and pretty amazing journey when you write a song in your bedroom like with your dog with fleas covered all over you. No money. Trying to figure out how to eat. And sitting there and writing this song based on just where you’re at right at this moment. And my roommate came out from having sex with her girlfriend and said, “What was that?” I said, “It’s a song I’m writing.” And she’s like bring that in to the rehearsal. And it was “What’s Up.” To see that, I was in my bedroom when I wrote this song, and now one of the biggest recording artists just sang it, and it’s like crazy. It’ll never get old. It’ll never get old to hear a song that I wrote on the radio. Or to hear someone tell me what they experienced when they heard a song I wrote. Or to hear if it’s Christina [Aguilera], Alicia Keys, or Gwen Stefani singing a song that I was a part of. And to me, songwriting has always just been a part of who I am. I’ve always been expressive as a child, and I’m expressive now.
Perry also performed Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” which she wrote and produced: