Monday, September 12, 2011

Underneath the Covers

Today the lovely @Audra_Smith sent me a great article about cover songs, which listed what the staff of Popdose thought were the 100 best cover songs.

These lists are always subjective, and open to interpretation, but their list was a good one...and after reading, I had to tip my hat to them - it was pretty thorough.

Of course I have some additional thoughts with their choices that I thought were worth sharing:

  • 100: They start the article off with a bang: Did you know Heart's Alone was a cover? Me either!! And much better than the original.
  • 96: Sometimes, magic happens when an artist who has no business covering a rap song covers a rap song. The poster child for this is a song I've highlighted in this blog before...The Gourds covering Gin and Juice (which is a glaring omission from Popdose's list). Popdose did, however uncover this gem: Luka Bloom covering LL Cool J at his twee-est... I Need Love. Speaking of bands who have no business covering rap songs, I'll give you fair warning: This will be a rare Duran Duran-free blog post. You know I love Duran Duran, but in the covers department, the less said, the better.
  • 95: Did you know that the only way you can buy Love Spit Love's cover of The Smiths How Soon is Now is by purchasing the full Charmed soundtrack album?!?! That reason alone should knock it out of the top 100. Forced album buying makes Musicule grumble!
  • 94: I disagree with this one, Tori Amos' cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. I laughed the first time I heard this, and I still giggle when it comes on. It's definitely a different take on the song, but not in a good way.
  • 84: Is Tom Jones' version of Kiss better than Prince's? I don't think so, but I love both of them...Tom's for the sheer vocal bombast and Prince's for the glimpse of his humor in the music video (by the way, good luck finding this video on YouTube with the music!) 
  • 83: Full disclosure time... for a while, David Lee Roth's Just a Gigolo was my go-to karaoke song. Mind you, if I went to a karaoke bar tonight, it might still be.
  • 72: Okay, here's where things take a strange turn in the top 100. At 72, they make the first of two mentions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah...this one by Rufus Wainwright. I'm fine with that. But they also list at #4 Jeff Buckley's version. I wouldn't argue with that ranking if it was in the "Top Ten Overrated Covers" list. Rufus gets the gold star for this song. (I have eight different versions of this song in my iTunes music collection...I know of what I speak).
  • 70: Love the shoutout to Siouxsie's cover of Iggy Pop's Passenger. Well deserved.
  • 61: For a lousy movie, 9 1/2 Weeks did a great job of putting together a kickass soundtrack that almost redeemed the film...almost. It did a perfect job of matching the music with the visuals. Honestly, the movie was one long music video. Nowhere was this more apparent than during Joe Cocker's take on Randy Newman's You Can Leave Your Hat On (although I like Randy's version as well)
  • 48: The English Beat's Tears of a Clown may be one of my favorite "unexpected takes on a classic". Smokey's version was never danceable, but The Beat's version has you bouncing like a crazy person.
  • 47: I will say this to anyone who listens...repeatedly: I hate, hate UB40s version of Red, Red Wine. Hated it the second it came out and have despised it for nearly 30 years. Hated it so much that I only heard Neil Diamond's original recording for the first time a few months ago. It's far more bearable. I can't repeat this enough...UB40's version may be the worst song ever.
  • 46: "...you take a piece of meat with youuuuuuu." I had forgotten how truly scary Paul Young's hair was at the the time:
  • 44: Manfred Mann's cover of Blinded By the Light is a perfect example of converting a song to something transcendent. If you listen to Springsteen's version, you would never hear the song's potential. Despite that, both have the forever misheard "racked up like a douche" line.
  • 33: Remember what I said about #47? The Fugees do a pretty good job of U-B-Fortying Killing Me Softly. And that's hard to do.
  • 32: I never knew George Harrison's I've Got My Mind Set On You was a cover. Mind you, it's not a song worth taking credit for. Weird Al, of all people, sums it up best.
  • 21: I'm embarrassed that I didn't know Superman wasn't an original R.E.M. song. You learn something new every day.
  • 15: I remember the day, many years ago, when I found a rare copy of Gloria Jones singing Tainted Love. Amazing how MP3s have all but eliminated musical rarities (there's one exception for me...once upon a time I heard The Motels perform the original demo for what became Berlin's Take My Breath Away...I haven't been able to get an MP3 of it. I'm still looking). I love the original and Soft Cell's long version.
Like I said...I don't have any overarching issues with their choices. It was well thought out. And of their 100, I own 87 of the originals and/or covers.

Not one to end on a high note, props to Popdose for putting Sinéad O'Connor's take on Prince's Nothing Compares 2U. Wanna hear a bad original? Give a listen to the original by Prince's creation, The Family

Actually...you know what, I can't end on that. Here's a more recent cover that I really like - Katy Perry covering The Outfield's Your Love.




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