I love cover songs. There’s something brilliant about them when they’re done right. I should preface this by clarifying what a real cover song is to me, versus what is considered a cover song by many people. In my opinion and definition, a cover song is a reinterpretation of a track previously written and/or recorded by another artist. A cover song is not a tribute song, or the near-exact copy of the original song in the near-exact same style and instrumentation with a different vocalist. There are cover bands that do only cover songs, or mostly cover songs. Most of these acts put their own twist on the music they’re covering, but they add their own style or bit of creativity to reinterpret the original and make it their own in a particular way. Tribute bands are quite different. They really try to mirror nearly everything marketable and likeable about the original. Elvis tribute acts dress like Elvis with the clothing, hair, leg swings and so forth. They mimic the King’s style as much as they can because they are trying to be as close to the real thing as possible. There are countless tribute bands for any artist who has had success or prominence at one point or another from The Beatles to KISS (two of the biggest acts with countless tribute bands for them).
I’m not a fan of tribute bands. If I want Kiss, I’ll listen to KISS. The only way a tribute act is relevant in my world is if the original is deceased or no longer performing, then getting a show similar to the real thing might be worth it once in a while. But tribute bands and tribute songs are not covers. This is what separates a quality cover track from a nominal or ordinary cover song, and certainly what differentiates it from a tribute songs. Below are song videos of some of my favorite cover songs. You’ll notice that the artist covering the song has taken an original track and reinterpreted it into their distinct style or method. The lyrics are the only thing really comparable to the original. To me, it shows more respect to an artist to take an original work and do something with it that the original artist didn’t. It shows that the cover act saw the song having more than one way to play it, and that is a cool thing.
Enjoy these covers. I sure have!
Kina Grannis- White Winter Hymnal (Fleet Foxes Cover)
Lindbergh Palace- Wicked Game (Chris Isaak Cover)
Jackson Harris–Empire State Of Mind (Jay-Z Cover)
Horse Feathers–Drain You (Nirvana Cover)
Emm Gryner-Pour Some Sugar On Me (Def Leppard Cover)
Iron & Wine-One More Try (George Michael Cover) *personal favorite
Iron And Wine covers George Michael