What Commercial Covers Should Be

I caught this Thursday night on Huffington Post. From what I gather, it was done as a Halloween “trick” with the truncation at the end. It’s a cover of a song from a plucky, sixteen year-old Kiwi (that’s not a pejorative, is it?) called Lorde. It’s interesting to juxtapose an original and a cover side-by-side, or at least it is for me. Observations are my hobby.

The lyrics are untouched, which is a folk music way of covering a song. He’s singing in a female point of view, however the first noticeable departure is the technology. It is stripped down to upright bass, snare/bass-drum, and piano. That means the level of difficulty is much higher. I’ve worked with music before, even if at a compulsory education level, and intonation, synthesis, and timing are a right pain in the ass.

What is enchanting, which shouldn’t be given the nature of the original, is how they capture the message. It’s 100% more effective. The original is done in a faster tempo, which in my opinion is an influential mistake. That’s a product of modern pop music. The cover uses better elements to demonstrate the disparity of wealth (think of poor musicians at a black-tie event), and slap down a message that is sad yet concessionary. The whole picture just got turned on its head and is much easier to relate for the billions unmade in the world.

The reason I say it shouldn’t be so enchanting is that these entertainers are much older than Lorde. She has quite the long road of training, like how to avoid straining her voice (drop your jaw and open your windpipe for airflow), before she would have a level playing field with people like “Puddles.” In the end, though, this is what a cover song should do. If you’re going to sell something you’ve not created, then you better make it interesting. The only straight-em-up cover bands I’ll listen to are the ones I’m paying a $3 cover charge for in a dive bar.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

8 thoughts on “What Commercial Covers Should Be

  1. Oddly enough Kiwis sing very simple duets to protect their territory, and the birds do the same:)

    • Ha!

      When I was little, my introduction to any Kiwi was the shoe polish. As trade became more fluid, the fuzzy fruit appeared at the supermarkets. It wasn’t until later (’90s) that I found out it was the nickname of people from New Zealand. I know Australians poke at them every now and then:

      What disappoints me is that they don’t look like Hobbits. I KEED! I KEED, KIWIS!

  2. kerbey says:

    We were singing this along w/ the radio as we came home from a meal at a restaurant with (of course) a cover band (comprised of two grey-haired men) last night under huge oaks trees strewn w/ Christmas lights. The video for the Lorde song is bothersome to me w/ its zitty pale boys and sparse hotel rooms, but I like the echoing parts of the song “I rule, I rule, I rule” because it sounds like baying hound dogs to me. Technically, the young girl who sings it could wind up marrying Prince Harry and become a royal. But Puddles? Not a chance. For reals.

  3. Laura Lynn says:

    Great post and I love Puddles. I am, however, a huge, HUGE fan of cover songs. At least if you are talking about people like Willy Nelson covering songs. He has a new album out, duets with a bunch of good singers. Is it still a cover song if you are famous and singing it or is it only a cover band if you are unknown?

    • Oh, the notoriety of the signer wouldn’t matter. In fact, I like Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” more than I like Trent Reznor’s original. I suppose the same could be said about the “All Along the Watchtower” cover by Jimi Hendrix and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley. My point is that they should be materially different. All of those songs were taken in a different direction than the original.

      If someone wants to play Lynyrd Skynyrd songs all day, they better be at bar down the street. When people like Stevie Nicks did Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” live, it was a huge disappointment.

  4. I do not understand how we got to the place where covers were bad. Lots of people used to sing covers and not write their own music. Now, it seems like every singer has to at least participate in writing their own songs. (And, many of them shouldn’t, in my opinion.)

    • There are a couple of factors I’ve noticed, as I look at the history of music. First is the advent recorded music. Mozart or Beethoven never had that luxury. Why should I listen to a band like Nickelback cover “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)” when I have the original on demand? That is so, unless the cover artist does it in such a unique way it’s not the same song. In the literary world, the former would be plagiarism.

      We also have a popularization of the singer-songwriter model in the early to mid 20th century. Along with the wild popularity of such bands as the Beatles and Rolling Stones, there’s now an established pattern of songwriting behavior. There may be a time when musical tastes will go back to the composer/musician model, but I haven’t seen a large shift yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: