I LOVE cover songs.
Let me rephrase that: I LOVE cover songs that are done right.
How do I know when a cover song is done right?
Let me answer this question by first talking about BBQ. I live in Texas which means almost every restaurant offers it. But not every restaurant does BBQ right. Some people think that if you slap some sauce on a slab of meat you get BBQ. But the best BBQ cooks have a method that includes skill and creativity offering the diner something unique but also familiar. These are not only the restaurants that do it right, but they have the customers to prove it.
The same is true for cover songs.
So, what is a cover song? It is a reinterpretation of a track previously written and/or recorded by another artist.
In addition, a cover song is NOT a tribute song, which is a near-exact copy of an original song with the same style and instrumentation but different vocalist. Basically, a tribute song is LAZY. Here’s why: A reinterpretation requires the musician to think creatively and to be a creator in the process. Any musically talented person can mimic another musician. However, musical talent by itself does not draw the listener in. Creativity is what people appreciate about art, regardless of its form.
For this reason, I’m not a fan of tribute bands. If I want KISS, then I’ll listen to KISS! The only way a tribute act is relevant in my world is if the original artist is deceased or no longer performing. Then and only then would watching a tribute act be somewhat worthwhile.
But a cover song done right? Well, now we’re talking BBQ!
A cover song done right is one that can stand on it’s own apart from the original.
Let’s take, for example, Johnny Cash’s version of Trent Reznor’s Hurt. Many people think that Hurt is Cash’s song but what they don’t know is that the original version was played in the grunge/electronic style of Nine Inch Nails (Reznor’s band). However, because Cash breaks the song down to its foundational elements, the listener experiences the anguish of the piece in a totally different way.
Hear the song in video:
Another great example of a cover done right is Chris Cornell’s version of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. Before Cornell put his mark on the song, I never paid ANY attention to the lyrics of this highly popular pop track. But after listening to Cornell’s bluesy, melancholy version, I discovered that Billie Jean is a tale about a man who, after engaging in nothing more than a sexual fling with a woman, wants nothing to do with the child they created together. WOW. I guess due to Jackson’s slick dance moves and “A-hee-hee’s” I didn’t capture the sad truth in the lyrics themselves.
In closing, great BBQ is more than a combination of meat and sauce. It’s a unique experience made possible by the creative and thoughtful hands of the cook. Likewise, a cover song done right offers the listener a whole new experience with what used to be just “a cool song.” There are many other examples of a cover done right. Feel free to share you favorites in a comment!
And if you want great BBQ in Texas (namely in Abilene where I live), check out Harold’s BBQ located at 1305 Walnut Street Abilene, TX 79601 (Phone-(325) 672-4451). It’s a staple for local business in town and THE BEST stop for BBQ in the Big Country. You have to get the jalepeno cornbred and the Damn Hot Sauce. It’s Awesome!