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Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' Slowed Down to 33 BPM is a Revelation

By Petr Knava | Videos | December 12, 2018 |

By Petr Knava | Videos | December 12, 2018 |


Dolly Parton is a transcendental American treasure. Her signature song is one that is, I’m pretty sure, disliked by exactly zero people on this planet. ‘Jolene’ was the first single off of Parton’s 1973 album of the same name, becoming her second solo number one single on the country charts when it was released prior to the album itself coming out. We don’t need to go into the musicology of ‘Jolene’; it’s just an eternal banger. For reference, here it is:

And because who needs an excuse, here’s another version:

Over the decades, ‘Jolene’ has been covered by…checks notes…yep, everyone. Those covers have varied in quality but personally I’ve always been quite partial to The White Stripes’ version, as well as Miley Cyrus’. It’s typical of the brilliance of Parton, however, that it turns out that the best alternative version of her classic would be the one sung by…herself. Or, rather: A slowed-down version of herself. The original ‘Jolene’ jogs along at a sprightly 111 beats per minute, its jaunty sway belying its rather bleak and desperate subject matter. A few years ago a thought lanced out of the blue at YouTube user Tom Berry, and he took ‘Jolene’ and its 111 BPM and he slowed that mother down, right down, all the way to 33 BPM. And instead of the usual horrid discordance that results from altering the tempo of a tune so drastically, we get something quite remarkable—Parton’s voice becomes almost Nina Simone-esque, the more mournful tempo now making the song text ride right up front of it, and the experience is transformed into something entirely novel, yet wonderfully familiar. Check it out:

Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.

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