“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (1968), The Jackson Five (1972)

Another great song that has two definitive versions, IMO. Also, here are the first two entities that have two songs each on this list.

“Real Thing” has been bastardized a bit by being overused in commercials. It’s a testament to Nick, Val, Marvin and Tammi that the overexposure hasn’t lessened its classic status. To me, this version feels warm, and comfortable; two lovers basking in a relationship that’s solid as a rock (sorry, had to.) They may be apart for a short while, but they know “the real thing” is there.

The J5′s version comes from a much more wistful place. The lyric change of “ain’t nothing like the real thing” to “so glad we got the real thing” at the end of Marvin & Tammi’s recording is absent here. Another clear difference is that Marvin and Tammi are singing to one another. Michael and Jermaine are singing to…the same girl? Different girls? Hell, they _could_ be singing to one another, turning Ashford & Simpson’s dedication of romantic love to one of brotherly loyalty…which makes the pathos of this particular rendition unsettling…especially in light of the long-running discord that occurred between Michael and Jermaine for the last 20 or so years of the former’s life.

Also worth noting from a production standpoint- the original version of “Real Thing” is one of the last Motown classics to have that signature Funk Brothers sound. The J5′s version is a bit more indebted to Thom Bell and Philly soul. The arrangement is made a bit more lush and the tempo is slowed down a couple of steps.

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