Janis Ian conceived the song “Society’s Child”, (originally titled “Baby I’ve Been Thinking”) in 1964, when she was 12 years old. She wrote it at 13, and then published it at 14. The single charted high in many cities in the autumn of 1966 but did not hit big nationally until the summer of 1967. The lyrics of the song center on the feelings of a young girl who witnesses the humiliation that her African American boyfriend receives from her mother and the taunts that she herself endures from classmates and teachers. In 1964, Janis lived in East Orange, New Jersey, where her neighborhood was predominantly populated by African Americans, and she was one of very few whites in her school. The song closes with the girl’s decision to end her relationship with the boyfriend because of her inability to deal with the social pressure.
Now decades later, Executive Producer E. Gibson and The Cooper Walker Project, releases a brand new version of the song, entitled “Society’s Child 2030”. Singer, songwriter and producer Cooper Walker has also updated the narrative, which reads: “The Year is 2030; The Place: South Sudan. Post war, the prospect for marriage among women in this region is slim: 100 to 1. The majority of men have killed each other off in war. Efue, a young teenage girl falls in love with an AI (Artificial Intelligence) named Cooper, and her mother is not having it.”
The premise is as intriguing and devastating as the original, because discrimination of any form should always be considered as unacceptable behavior. The Cooper Walker Project and E. Gibson have put together a resonating and tasteful recording. I was expecting the usually overproduced electronic dancefloor fodder designed for moving feet, with the odd rap verse thrown to capture the pulse of current trends. To my amazement, this was not to be.
The Cooper Walker Project certainly roll out a modernized version, but they keep the song’s core essentials intact. It kicks off with some beautiful classically-styled and flamenco-flavored acoustic guitar motifs, which lead to a gorgeously mid-tempo thumping drumbeat.
When the impressive and soulful female lead vocal sets in, the production maintains the acoustically driven backdrop, and gently spices it up with shimmering electric piano lines, and emotional, strings backed by a deep reverberating bass guitar progression.
All throughout “Society’s Child 2030”, the arrangement remains thoughtful of the narrative. The music, for all it’s careful nuancing never encroaches on the vocals, which are allowed to perfectly translate and transport the song’s message.
The Cooper Walker Project clearly showcases a remarkable ability to strikingly reinterpret, and at the same time respect, a classic song. Cooper Walker and E. Gibson, could so easily have got carried away in this reworking, but they chose a more sensible and sophisticated route.
The result is a meticulous revisitation of a classic song that has now taken on a completely new meaning. Kudos are required for the lead vocals too, which absolutely elevate the recording to an even higher level. There is no musical pretension, or vocal histrionics to be found here, only pure powerful authenticity is allowed to filter through the soundscape of “Society’s Child 2030”.