The Trouble with Covers


So I was listening to what I think is a pretty good cover of The Eurhythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain Again,” and it hit me:

Original recordings of songs are usually about whatever the song’s actually about. The emotion of the song is usually the artist’s focus.

Cover songs are very often about paying homage to a song the artist loves, and about doing justice to the original, as in Joss Stone’s “Here Comes the Rain Again.”

Other times, they’re about giving a new singer a quick hit by having them do a poppy, gritless version of a respected, fierce song. It often succeds in the short term, but I can only think of one case where the singer actually had any type of career afterward:

The original,  for comparison:

Here’s one of the many who didn’t: 

The original for comparison: 

Of course there is one other kind of cover, a kind that’s amusing our clever at first but just gets shockingly smug after a few listens:  ironic covers.

I’m not talking Richard Cheese parodies, but smug white indies singing rap and r&b:

Postmodern Jukebox makes probably the least obnoxious and most interesting of this type of cover. I think it’s because they explore and preserve historical musical styles, and because they keep the racial smugness out.

They still all seem to lack the emotion and sincerity of the originals, though.

Ok, for those of you who’ve made it this far, I’ll leave you with the greatest cover of all time, when the greatest pop punk metal self proclaimed martial aets master ever crossed genres to cover Wyclef Jean’s part of his duet wit Shakira. It was truly magical, as you can plainly see:

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