Album Review: Stop Making Sense Tribute

A grainy, film photo of David Byrne in the iconic oversized suit he appears in for "Stop Making Sense." Behind him is a grainy blue background with a line of orange text that reads "Everyone's Getting Involved." Below that, white text reads "Stop Making Sense." And a third line has orange text reading "A tribute album."
Graphics by Ava Scanlon

Rarely does a piece of art come along that stirs up culture in the way that Stop Making Sense did. The Talking Heads’ concert film and corresponding live album came out in 1984, some 40 years ago. The anniversary has prompted fans, musicians and the alike to revisit engaging with the release in all its wonderful forms. One of the ways we’re most excited about? A tribute album, featuring Talking Heads covers from Blondshell, Paramore, Chicano Batman and more!

Continue reading for a brief history of Stop Making Sense and a track by track review of Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute to Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. And feel free to listen, sing and definitely dance along by streaming the album here.


In the summer of 1983, up-and-coming New York-based film director Jonathan Demme watched Talking Heads perform in Los Angeles, and was immediately inspired. If you watch the band’s performance from this time, you’ll understand why— their liveliness and eccentricity shined on stage, and set them apart from other performers. Demme was able to contact the band through a mutual friend and pitched the idea of filming a live show of theirs. He would forfeit a traditional “musician background” segment of the concert film, he told them, an instead focus on the performance alone.

The unconventional approach sold the unconventional band. In order to retain creative direction and ownership rights, the Talking Heads decided to finance the film themselves (with the aid of an advance from their label). They raised $1.2 million in order to see out the making of the film.

Filmed over three nights in December 1983 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, what ultimately stands is a fluid footage sequence of an exhilarating performance; live audio of sixteen of Talking Heads’ best-known songs; and put more simply, art and expression in some of their highest forms.

Though outshined by future concert films in financial success (especially Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour film, which made over $256 million more than Stop Making Sense did in 1984), the Johnathan Demme-directed film remains one of the most highly-acclaimed concert films today.

From the second that David Byrne walks onto stage and sets down his boombox, the band’s every movement; their fashions; their singing; the crews’ innovative filming and audio techniques, all contributed to something irreplicable.

The Stop Making Sense film’s icon status was further validated when it was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the United States National Film Registry in 2021.


Early last year, the ownership rights to Stop Making Sense reverted back to Talking Heads’ David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison. The band sought after a partnership with a film production company for a 40th anniversary re-release, later striking a deal with A24.

As the film hit select theaters this past November, fans old and young (so young that they weren’t alive for the 1984 release) flocked to the showings. Many broke out in dance— a symptom of the irresistible grooviness and magic captured in the Talking Heads’ performance.

A24 didn’t only reprocess the film footage, they also built excitement and commemoration around the heart of the film— the music. Before there was David Byrne’s iconic oversized suit, and the band’s jog-like dance moves, there were still those sixteen songs. A24 led the compilation of a tribute album from young spirits in the music industry who grew up as aspiring creatives in a post-Talking Heads world (inevitably, one where creative visions are only further celebrated). Covering Talking Heads is no easy feat. While it can feel like some of the covers on Everyone’s Getting Involved: A Tribute to Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense may fall flat, no choice on the recordings felt void of inspiration and intentionality.




From a Madonna pop ballad to exploring her country roots, Miley Cyrus’ covers of songs like “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” by Arctic Monkeys have become cult favorites. Cyrus’ unique range and approach to various styles have proved time and time again that she is a versatile artist. By implementing more distortion and electronic-inspired sounds, Cyrus’ spin on “Psycho Killer” continues this trend and further proves she is an influential voice of this generation. Her reworking is loud, layered and modern which definitely contrasts with the beloved original. This version diverts a bit from the repetitive nature of the Talking Heads’ by slowing down the French bridge and playing with the instrumentation to create a greater dynamic between verses and the chorus. It is without a doubt that Cyrus’ vocal chops are her strong suit, and they shine as she provides a more diverse performance than Byrne’s. To open Everyone’s Getting Involved with Talking Head’s most popular track is no easy feat, yet Cyrus sets a strong precedent for the rest of the tribute album.

- Sofia Giarrusso, Staff Writer


The National has had a successful last few years as a band. From guitarist Aaron Dessner’s six-album collaborative streak with Taylor Swift, headlining festivals, and the release of two of their own albums, they have made quite a few big moves. Their cover of “Heaven” is just another one of those awesome things that the band has accomplished. Lead vocalist Matt Berninger takes a classic National spin on the Talking Heads’ formula. The National’s recent focus on stripped-back sound wormed its way into the production of “Heaven.” The song is slowed and focuses on the acoustic guitar and the piano rather than the drums, updating the song from its original 1979 counterpart. Berninger and Byrne have similar vocal stylings, which is an added bonus for fans of Talking Heads who are listening. Such a simple and beautiful song like “Heaven” making its way onto Everyone’s Getting Involved and covered by one of the biggest names of the credits is a strong testament to how Talking Heads are regarded as deeply artistic.

- Ren Gibson, Staff Writer


After the release of her debut self-titled album in 2023, Blondshell was applauded for her 90s-inspired rock melodies and blunt, quippy lyrics. Now, the musician is taking the Talking Heads’ “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel” — written by frontman David Byrne — and making it her own. Over the course of three minutes and eight seconds, listeners will come to learn that Blondshell is not covering the 1978 song. Instead, she completely reimagines and reclaims the classic track. Most notably, she slows down the song’s tempo to create a beautifully pensive soundscape. Despite this significant tempo change, Blondshell floods the song with gritty guitars, supplying the track with an electric energy that only builds. Piercing guitar feedback screams deliciously as the musician belts the song’s closing lyric: “But first, show me what you can do.” It seems impossible to match the legendary, ecstatic energy of Byrne, but Blondshell does it with ease, all the while, putting her own edgy spin on the vocal performance.

- Claire Dunham, Music Coordinator


From their version of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” to their take on Paramore’s “The News,” the Linda Lindas have proven themselves as masters of covering songs from iconic artists and putting their own spin on them. Their contribution to Everyone’s Getting Involved is no exception. Taking on a song from the Talking Heads — legends of experimental music — is no easy feat. Yet, the band executed brilliantly, especially given the members' young ages, ranging from 14 to 19. Their cover of “Found a Job” keeps the song's heart, including the funky feel of the chord progression. But, the group adds an interesting, pop-punk sound and a faster tempo that give the song extra power. Their guitar solo, which replaced the song’s original keyboard break, was skillfully executed and added the style of the Linda Lindas’ music to the cover. While none of the members in the Linda Lindas are old enough to remember the original song’s release, they clearly understand the genius of the Talking Heads and were the perfect choice to pay tribute to the band and bring new life to the classic.

- Annie Sarlin, Staff Writer


On the fifth track of the Stop Making Sense tribute album, Argentinian rock band El Mató a Un Policía Motorizado, also known as just El Mató, takes a modern spin on Talking Heads’ 1983 hit. “Slippery People” is originally a classic ‘80s jam, with a boppy synth beat and vibrant vocals. In El Mató’s cover, the band takes on a completely different sound. Where there was synth, there is now bass and where there was pulsating percussion, there is now a fluid drumline that beats throughout the song. El Mató, a Spanish language band, also translated the song into their native language. The entire song is sung in Spanish, giving it an entirely different feel. If you didn’t know any better (or any Spanish) you might not realize that they’re even the same song. Still, the heart of “Slippery People” shines through, giving new life to an old favorite.

- Avieana Rivera, Staff Writer


The first single released off of the album, Paramore’s rendition of “Burning Down The House” takes a present-day spin on a classic Talking Heads hit. The Paramore rendition highlights Hayley Williams’ powerful vocals as she takes on the lyrics. Another fun aspect of the production is the vocal layering, which features all three members of the bands’ voices instead of just Williams’, like usual Paramore tracks. The cover is uniquely ’80s despite being produced recently, and holds just as much fun as the original recording. The band has had a focus on producing synth rock with their most recent projects like After Laughter and This is Why, and it shines through when compared to the original recording of “Burning Down The House.” In return for their feature on Everyone’s Getting Involved, David Byrne also covered Paramore’s 2017 single “Hard Times” and Tweeted his praise.

- Ren Gibson, Staff Writer


I was gearing up for a bossa nova-infused Talking Heads cover when I heard the smooth, elongated notes of trumpet and beachy, afro beats that begin DJ Tunez’s spin on “Life During Wartime.” But bossa nova might not quite be the word— it stands in its own lane. Out of all of the tracks on this tribute album, this is the one that has grown on me with each listen. The distinctly deep vocals of Nigerian-American disc jockey Michael Babatunde Adeyinka, better known as DJ Tunez, lack the urgency David Byrne sings with for the original. At least at first. But slowly, DJ Tunez’s even-keeled tone gets more passionate. The weight of the dystopia the lyrics describe comes through as DJ Tunez forces the listener to hear his words; believe his words. Not many people think ‘lyrical genius’ of David Byrne when they hear “Psycho Killer,” but “Life During Wartime” shows a level of prowess that is only amplified when the song is translated by DJ Tunez— a clear sign of a successful cover.

- Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator


Talking Heads capture a “makes you want to dance alone in your kitchen (or the movie theater, clearly)” kind of magic with Stop Making Sense. Out of all the tribute album contributors, Teezo Touchdown comes closest to — or maybe even exceeds — that same funky energy that Talking Heads possess through his cover of “Making Flippy Floppy.” In a song encouraging non-conformity, the Texas-bred rapper’s almost Michael Jackson Thriller-era sound is even more fitting and necessary. Teezo Touchdown released his debut album How Do You Sleep At Night? just this past September. Between that, his Doja Cat collaboration last month and his work on this tribute album, the young artist is proving that he has a lot to say and the talent to command an audience.

- Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator


Sibling duo and Nigerian highlife band the Cavemen covered “What a Day That Was,” a song off of the Talking Heads’ 1984 album Stop Making Sense. The original song is energetic and full of life. It takes off in an instant and makes you want to dance throughout the remainder of the song. The vocals are layered but vibrant, and the band plays a symphony of instruments in the background, creating a sense of organized chaos that contributes to the lively nature of the song. The Cavemen’s cover offers less energy, but just as much fun. The sound is more relaxed, with a few key instruments doing the legwork while the vocals take center stage. The lead singer’s voice is raspy and clear, and the background vocals truly capture the essence of the song, calling back to those of the original. The Cavemen’s style is perfectly infused into this cover, and blends perfectly with this song in particular. The cheery nature and heavy vocals lends well to the band’s musical abilities and makes for a great cover of a great song.

- Avieana Rivera, Staff Writer


With the multi-Grammy-award-winning Norah Jones on vocals and Canadian band BADBADNOTGOOD on instrumental and producing duties, their collaboration on “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” feels less like a reworking of Talking Heads and more like a stripped-down cover. It discards the iconic poppy synths the original track is so beloved for and swaps them for a more lowkey sound that dims its vibrancy. The instrumental changes mimic the difference between Byrnes’ and Jones’ performances as Jones takes this version in a more vocally melodic route. While this may just be a product of Jones’ and BADBADNOTGOOD’s personal styles, it ends up sounding uninspired, especially when you play it side-by-side with the original 1983 tune.

- Sofia Giarrusso, Staff Writer


Kevin Abstract’s take on “Once In A Lifetime” may truly be the most abstract (no pun intended) throughout Everybody’s Getting Involved. Abstract is known for his experimental rap and electronic sounds, primarily through his work in his supergroup BROCKHAMPTON, and there is no doubt that his personal influences are apparent on this track. While his reworking is bold and layered in production value, it lacks almost all of the song’s original integrity. For example, lyrics are scattered with both intensity and lacklusterness that make for an unsatisfying juxtaposition. “Once In A Lifetime” is an essential Talking Heads song, full of Talking Heads-isms and quirks like chants and bumping synths, and, the largest problem here is that Abstract discards these quirks in favor of his style. Kevin Abstract is a talented musician with an impressive body of work, but his track on Everybody’s Getting Involved feels like a loose sample rather than a tribute.

- Sofia Giarrusso, Staff Writer


There is one question everyone is dying to know the answer to: “Who took the money?” The answer has been decades in the making and has yet to be found. Girl In Red, or Marie Ulven Ringheim, a 25 year old Norwegian singer, songwriter, and producer, is the next in line to ask the question in the form of her version of this 1984 track “Girlfriend Is Better.” Like the original, the track is absolutely funky. It has many characteristics I would attribute to a futuristic pop sound. The bass, especially, is the standout and saving grace of this version as it hooks the listener and carries them all the way through to the end. Sticking around proves worth it, if alone to appreciate Girl In Red’s vocal performance when she gets to yell “is it?” and namedrop the album title, “Stop Making Sense.” This version is significantly shorter than the original version, and it feels a bit like a Spark Notes version of the original, but there isn’t much to complain about— it’s efficient and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The production (done by Girl In Red and frequent collaborator Matias Téllez) gets exciting near the end of the song with a mixture of vocal layering and bilateral sound that is satisfying as a headphone user. This song is perfect for existing Girl In Red fans and people who don’t like to make sense, naturally.

- Ella Mastroianni, Blog Assistant


One of the first singles off this album was a cover of a cover of a cover. “Take Me To The River” has had many iterations following Al Green’s classic and the Talking Heads version in 1978. Next to carry the torch is Lorde, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter from New Zealand. This release is Lorde’s first since her 2021 album Solar Power.

Lorde wrote a letter accompanying the release of this single, which was helpful and added a lot of context for what originally confused me about the track. She wrote, “It’s my interpretation of that pixellated spiritual experience. We did it fast, I didn’t let myself tidy it up too much, it had to feel young and imperfect, the peeling posters, the jaw of acne.”

Without the context Lorde provided, the track serves as a groovy time but with a few bumps in the road. Like the original, Lorde’s voice is sort of quiet and pulled back a bit which puts a lot of pressure on the production which doesn’t have too much going for it. It is a very consistent song with little variation as it goes along. The beeping sound later in the song is fun to listen to with headphones on, but the same can’t be said for the purposeful lower quality sound that begins in verse two. While after reading Lorde’s note, this inclusion makes a lot more sense, I found it to be something that pulled me out of my listening experience. The very end of the song falls off with that same effect and it sounds purposeful there, but in the rest of the song it feels a bit out of place. It was undoubtedly an interesting choice that people can feel either this way or that about, but personally it pulled me out of the song.

Lorde’s version of this song is good because it’s Lorde (and I’m biased), but realistically, it’s missing the dimension that was to be expected.

- Ella Mastroianni, Blog Assistant


“Fun” is the first word that comes to mind when I hear the percussion-fueled introduction of Chicano Batman and Money Mark’s “Crosseyed and Painless.” This funky instrumentation is then paired with the striking spoken words: “Lost my shape. Trying to act casual,” and then the song bursts to life. Originally released in 1980, this Talking Heads song tackles themes of identity and the struggle to conform with a quirky sound that is guaranteed to inspire some enthusiastic head-nodding. Its verses are grounded in a bold, upbeat percussion. And its choruses soar, as the vocal line flips into a unique falsetto. Fans of Chicano Batman will pick up on similarities between this cover and the band’s own groovy discography, further highlighting the significance of Talking Heads’ futuristic, and undoubtedly unique, sound. Overall, this cover stays true to the original, with minor changes made by the iconic Money Mark (who is known by many as the unofficial fourth member of the Beastie Boys) to fully modernize its production, making it a beautiful tribute to the band and the perfect closing song for the album.

- Claire Dunham, Music Coordinator

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