I really like song covers. One of my absolute new favorites is I Wanna Dance with Somebody, as done by David Byrne.
It’s maybe the perfect cover. Of course, David Byrne can do no wrong in my eyes. So I am inherently biased, but aren’t we all?
The other best cover of all time has to be Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ cover of Just Dropped In.
I love Kenny Rogers’ original. Of course I do–I also love The Big Lebowski. But have you heard this version?
What is the term for a cover that becomes more popular than the original? What do we do with songs like Tainted Love, made zeitgeist by Soft Cell in the 80s, covering Gloria Jones’ original?
I think I will call them “fitted sheets,” these songs that get overshadowed and covered up by other versions.
I guess I don’t have much of a story about song covers, except the reason I truly enjoy them is that they’re retelling stories, reframing a narrative, and finding ways to make something known their own. I guess my problem with covers like the one done by Soft Cell is that I get the impression they weren’t paying homage to the original, or building on top of it. (It feels like we weren’t meant to know there was an original? What do I know, though! Not my generation.)
I don’t know what to think about Weezer’s cover of Africa. It’s so similar, except where it’s not. What do we do with ironic covers, like Cake’s I Will Survive and Ben Folds’ B*tches Ain’t Sh*t? (Actually, I know what to do with the latter–throw it out. It’s a fun song, but it fetishizes an entire genre for a joke, and I don’t have a lot of room for that, personally. And I love Ben Folds.)
Is this really about storytelling? Surely.