Picking up the pieces of “Torn” | How Ednaswap’s Alt-Rock Gem Became Natalie Imbruglia’s Pop Smash

The debut single off of Natalie Imbruglia’s debut album, Left of the Middle, released in 1997.

If you are a millennial, or just have the radio on the right channel, chances are you are familiar with Natalie Imbruglia’s 1997 smash hit “Torn”. The song was everywhere in the late nineties and was perfect for the softening sound of alternative music in the mainstream. One thing many are probably not privy to is that the song is actually a cover from the alternative rock band Ednaswap. What I find to be extremely interesting is how the song has transformed since its inception in the early ninties. Lets go back piece back together the history of pop-rock hit.

The song was written by Ednaswap band members Anne Proven and Scott Culter back in 1991. It was subsequently recorded by Danish singer Lis Sørensen with its lyrics rewritten in Danish by Elisabeth Nielsen. The song appeared on Sørensen’s 1993 album Under Stjernerne Et Sted as “Braendt” or “Burnt”. Although sounding a little aged due to its heavier use of synths, the vocals and instrumentation sound extremely similar to what would become the Natalie Imbruglia version 4 years later.

The official music video to “Braendt” by Danish singer Lis Sørensen in 1993.
The debut self titled album by Ednaswap release in 1995.

Anne and Scott formed the band Ednaswap in 1995 and released their version of the song on their debut album in 1995. This version is much more in the vane of artists like Veruca Salt, That Dog, and Juliana Hatfield with its more alt-rock edge. The song itself takes on a love doesn’t burn as brightly for her as it does for him. You can see how much he loves her in the opening lines, “I thought I saw a man brought to life/ He was warm — he came around like/ He was dignified/ He showed me what it was to cry/ Well you couldn’t be that man I adored/ You don’t seem to know — don’t seem to care/ What your heart is for”. The problem is that she doesn’t have the same feelings for him. The song’s chorus puts this all out on the table, “… Illusion never changed / Into something real/ I’m cold and I am shamed and bound/ And broken on the floor / And I can see the perfect sky is torn/ You’re a little late/ I’m already torn” . Should she stay with him and try to find that spark he has or should she brake it off and move on. You can definitely tell this absence of infatuation has put a lot of guilt on her, “So I guess the fortune teller’s right/ I should have seen just what was there/ And not some holy light/ But you crawled beneath my veins”.

Ednaswap’s original version of the track “Torn” on their 1995 debut album.
Trine Rein’s sophomore album Beneath My Skin including her version of “Torn” which was released in 1996.

This song would be picked up by Norwegian artist Trine Rein in 1996. The track would this time be sung in English. Rein’s version of the track is very similar to Imbruglia’s. The acoustic guitar strumming pattern and key even sound identical to what would be heard internationally just two years later. Unlike the Danish version, Trine opted to keep the original lyrics that Anne and Scott had written. It would prove to be mildly successful for Rein in Norway, making it number 10 on the charts.

The official music video to Trine Rein’s version of “Torn” released in 1996.
Ednaswap’s sophmore album Wacko Magneto which includes a retooled version of “Torn”

The track would be reinvented again on the band’s 1996 E.P. Chicken. This version would be subsequently added to their sophomore album Wacko Magneto. This re-recording of the track slows the tempo a little and gives the song a much more raw edge compared to its 95 original. The electric guitar is prominent here. The track picks up at the second verse where the bass and drums come in. Compared to their first recording, the end section has be completely reworked into a more darker descending closer. Phoebe Bridgers would go on to cover this version live during one of her shows in 2018.

The retooled version of “Torn” that appears on their sophomore album released in 1997.
The promo single of the radio remix of “Torn” off of their sophomore album Wacko Magneto.

The band would also release a radio edit of the track that has a more pop edge to it in late 1997. This last iteration marries a little bit of both the original and re-recorded version. The electric guitar part of the re-recording has softened, opting instead to play this section on acoustic guitar. A spacey synth has been added along with synth strings in the chorus to give a lighter feel. Anne’s vocals continue to add a raw emotion to the track that marries perfectly with how alternative rock was going in the late 90s. They have brought back the trademark ending that is present in the other recordings of the track. I could do without the backing “la la/ la la” which seem to cheapen the song.

The audio of the radio remix of Ednaswap’s “Torn” from 1997.
Natalie Imbruglia’s debut album Left of the Middle released in 1998.

The song would be picked up by Australian actress Natalie Imbruglia by way of producer Phil Thornalley, who co-wrote the track with Anne and Scott back in 1991. Imbruglia was know for her work on the soap opera Neighbours, the same show that gave pop diva Kylie Minogue her break before her singing career. The track was released as the first single off of her debut album Left of the Middle and became a huge hit in the US. This is the version almost everyone is familiar with. The song would skyrocket Imbruglia to top of the charts in the US and UK (making it to number 2 in the UK, and number 1 on the several US billboard lists). She would receive several awards from the success of the track: 2 Aria Music Awards, a MTV Music Video award, a Billboard Music award, and a MTV Europe Music award. Her follow up album, White Lillies Island, would go platinum, but wouldn’t see the same success as her debut.

The official music video to Natalie Imbruglia’s version of “Torn” released in 1997.

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Z-sides: Music Reviews

Z-sides: Music Reviews

Welcome to my personal blog. This is a place where I discuss any of my musical finds or faves. Drop in and have a listen.