Saturday Songs and Stories

I really like song covers. One of my absolute new favorites is I Wanna Dance with Somebody, as done by David Byrne.

This is a bop.

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?

This is also a bop.

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?

This, too, is a bop.

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.