At last night’s BRIT Awards, Elton John and Years & Years’ Olly Alexander teamed up for a fabulously retro performance of Pet Shop Boys’ 1987 hit “It’s a Sin.” The duo began their cover with just Sir Elton on the keys and Alexander — wearing a black lace crop top and bell bottoms — stretched out on top of his piano, giving the song a mournful spin before exploding into its more familiar frenetic synth-pop register. What’s not to love, right?
On the heels of the show-stopping performance, John and Alexander released their official studio version of the song. Proceeds from the track, which was produced by superstar Stuart Price and Pet Shop Boys, will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The single marks the second time Alexander has covered “It’s a Sin.” Earlier this year, he released a low-fi version of the track, featuring just keys and vocals, along with a bedroom performance of the song on YouTube. That cover benefited the UK’s George House Trust, which provides services and advocates for people living with HIV.
The singer and actor starred in Russell T. Davies’ rapturously received drama, It’s a Sin. The series, which depicts the lives of a group of queer characters navigating the height of London’s HIV/AIDS crisis, borrowed its title from the song and featured it prominently. It has since become something of an anthem, a call to arms and a eulogy for generation of British men decimated by the disease. The new duet with John combines the mournful, reflective elements of Alexander’s version and the joyously defiant and undeniably camp spirit of the original.
That 80s exuberance is finding its way into the music Alexander is currently making as Years & Years. “During the pandemic, I wanted to listen to super upbeat club music that made me dance around,” he told The New York Times in February. “I found myself wanting to create the fantasy and the energy that I haven’t necessarily been experiencing.”