Monday, August 2, 2010

Excuse me, but can I be you for a while?

I've come across something recently that has changed the way I've thought about cover songs. I can't stop listening to this:

The Bird and the Bee's "I Can't Go For That"
from Interpreting the Masters Volume I: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates

My friend Jacob introduced me to the album a few months ago, but I took a hot minute to pick it up. I mean, who doesn't like Hall & Oates? But enough to listen to a whole album of someone else singing their songs? I didn't think it would interest me. Boy, was I wrong. Though they didn't vary much from the original tunes, The Bird and the Bee somehow still truly "interpret" the song and make it theirs. They took a song that was already smooth and velvety awesome, with just a bit of spunk to it, and turned it into something else. Like their dark chocolate crunch version to H&O's classic Reese Cup. Variant, but not completely different. I love it. The whole album is truly great, and her vocals were meant for Hall &Oates songs. I'm eager to see what Volume II will bring.


I'll admit I love a good cover of a song. (Note use of the word good.) I love when a musician takes a song and truly makes it his or her own, and sometimes makes it better. Cases in point would be Jimi's cover of Dylan's "Watchtowner," Ryan's cover of Oasis's "Wonderwall," and Johnny's version of NIN's "Hurt." These are three widely popular and well-received versions of already beloved songs, by the Grammy folks (what do they know?), fans, and even by the original artists. [Noel Gallagher has been quoted as saying that Ryan Adams was the only person to get his song right, while Trent Reznor likened listening to "Hurt" for the first time as losing a girlfriend, as the song wasn't his anymore.]

But it's hard when you truly love a song, to think about someone else remaking it. People attach themselves to songs. Get personally defensive over them. So it's scary to think that someone might ruin your favorite song (or perhaps the fear is they might make it better and make you question  your loyalty?) Even if when the inspired musician in question is one you actually like. Sometimes you get gems like the Dixie Chicks's version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide." Other times, you get this hot mess:

Tim, you were one of my first true musical loves, but this makes me want to drive down to Franklin and punch you in the face a little bit. (Whoa, killer. See... that just came out of nowhere. Defensive much?)

Regardless, I'm always amused by how many of my beloved songs are actually covers in the first place. What? "Silent All These Years" wasn't an original from my hometown punk rock heroes Hadji and the Turbans?

I wish the sound were better on this, but I assure you the cover was amazing when they recorded it more than 10 years ago. And I'm still digging it, love Tori Amos as I do.

What are your favorite or least favorite covers?


Morgan Sport said...

What the hell is a hot mess? I've heard that so many times lately!

Lauren said...

Definitions for Hot Mess via

Pretty sure this is the definition we're going for:

HOT MESS: a derogatory term describing a situation, behavior, appearance, etc. that is disastrously bad. Think "faux pas" but times ten. Possible origin is literal (think, steaming dogpile).

"She got up on stage and tried to sing Beyonce's "Dangerously In Love" but her performance was a hot mess."

"Girl came in to school this morning looking a hot mess, her hair all jacked up and slouchin' in house shoes."