An estimated 98% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times that we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things ever.
We here at Nerdist are dead-set on bringing you those types of songs, if only for the weekend. We’ll be scouring the internet for the best earworms we can shove into your meaty brains!
Cover songs: they just might be one of the more debated musical happenings of all time right next to whether or not DJ Skat Kat was a creep. (Note: he absolutely WAS a creep. You treat Paula with some respect, you pervy cartoon cat! *shudder* The Rule 34 stuff has got to be just awful.) Regardless of genre, when a song is covered, there’s a number of objections that tend to hemorrhage out into the world and muck up the internet with frivolous debate. These range from the civil — “The original is better” — to the unfortunately irrational and vitriolic “That artist doesn’t even deserve to cover it” or “So and so would spin in his or her grave if they heard it.” We’ve all participated in both sides of these sorts of debates throughout our lives. I firmly believe no one has a “perfect” taste in music and wholeheartedly admit I, more than most, have a particularly large soft spot for some musical dreck.
That being said, I know what I’m getting into when I’m about to share some of my favorite cover songs. I’ll also post the originals so you can decide for yourself which is better. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that I am fully aware there are so many awesome cover songs out there; these just happen to be ones that either stick with me or ones I’ve recently been obsessed with. Additionally, I openly invite you to share your favorites in the comments or with me on Twitter (@TheBlakeRodgers). First up…
Mike Doughty – Real Love / It’s Only Life
To me, cover songs are a way to appreciate songwriting and composition of the original artist through the eyes, or more accurately the ears, of the one covering it. You get to climb inside their heads and look at the same idea. Mike Doughty’s cover of a Mary J. Blige song is the perfect example of great songwriting. Listening to the original 1992 version now, it sounds almost comical, as if the track was composed almost entirely on a Casio keyboard. It’s a VERY ’90s song and video but the songwriting is timeless and Doughty’s cover certainly serves as proof.
Then there are covers of songs we know to be great and artists get to have some real fun with them…
Hot 8 Brass Band – Sexual Healing
I will go on record saying that Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” is one of the best songs ever written. It’s an undeniable fact. Know someone who hates the song? That person is a liar. New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band took the risk of covering a perfect song and ended up making an upbeat version that is just incredible. It made a fantastic addition to the film Chef and added to one of the best soundtracks in years. H8BB, as I am now calling them, accomplished an impressive feat when you consider how bad covering a great song could have gone. I’m looking at you, U2 and your atrocious version of CCR’s “Fortunate Son”. It’s a coin toss when it comes to how a song is covered. Both the Hot 8 Brass Band and U2 took the songs they covered in different directions, but there’s something to be said at staying closer to the original style of the song…
Old 97’s – El Paso
This version of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” by the Old 97’s ups the tempo but still tells the same story of a lovelorn cowboy while still staying true to its country roots. You might remember this song from the final episode of Breaking Bad “Felina” (the original, that is) as it played in Walt’s tape deck. The song also poetically parallels Walter’s journey in the series, chronicling a cowboy whose poor choices over what he loves ultimately leads to his demise. It’s almost as if, in some ways, Vince Gilligan was covering this song in television form. That point and this song are perfect examples of why I think covers are so damn great. They’re like watching the same play performed by different acting troupes. The same ideas are on the page, but it’s how the artist lets us see it.
I believe it’s actually quite similar to thoughts about remakes and reboots for films, i.e. similar ideas presented in different ways. More often than not, reboots and remakes just focus on the wrong instruments. That, however, is a topic for another article. Perhaps my editor and I can work on something together as he has some incredible insight on certain remakes in particular. [Editor’s Note: Yeah, sure, let’s do that.]
Alright, I did it! I made it through an article without mentioning SKA music once, and in one about cover songs no less! But seeing as I sort of just did, I would be remiss if I didn’t share…. lets go with…
Big D and The Kids Table – Little Bitch
This cover of “Little Bitch” by The Specials is particularly meta, in a way, since Boston’s Big D and the Kids Table has “covered” their own video over the years, playing the song and drinking beer with friends and other touring bands. Like this one, this one and this one too!
PLEASE make sure to share your favorite cover songs in the comments below!